Deception as a Way of Knowing: A Conversation with Anthony GraftonHistorians in the News
Tony, let’s play name that tune. “We have also houses of deceits of the senses, where we represent all manner of feats of juggling, false apparitions, impostures, and illusions…” I have a feeling you’ll recognize this wonderfully strange passage from one of the hallucinogenic masterworks of the early modern period.
I do indeed.
In The New Atlantis, written around 1624, the English prosecutor-cum-epistemologist Francis Bacon dresses up his new theory of knowledge as a sensational travelogue, in which a shipload of Englishmen, having gone astray somewhere in the vast reaches of the southern Pacific, find themselves towed into the harbor of a mysterious island...
And they discover a kind of utopia there, a community built around the continuous pursuit of power over nature. At the center of the life of the island is a huge quasi-religious institution called Salomon’s House where a priestly caste of investigators pursue mastery of natural forces in a suite of dedicated laboratory-like spaces. ...
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