Skip to Main Content
Origin and Authority in 17Th Cent Englnd

Origin and Authority in 17Th Cent Englnd

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 286
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Origin and Authority in 17Th Cent Englnd
    Book Description:

    Writing with economy, clarity, and verve, Snider revises the intellectual history of the seventeenth century, superimposing a new narrative of disintegrating confidence on the old one of the triumph of science over poetry.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7813-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. A Note on Texts
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction: Origin, Error, Ideology
    (pp. 3-18)

    The aim of this book is to describe the seventeenth-century discourse of origin, its construction, reproduction, and dissemination over several decades. My basic claim is that a desire to establish the legitimacy of the present through the recovery and representation of origins figured prominently in the writing of both philosophy and epic poetry. Throughout the seventeenth century writers agreed in locating authority in the pristine, original, and uncorrupted. Establishing truth at an absolute beginning that conditioned and controlled the emergent present, they regarded the pursuit of origins as a basic philosophical activity. Grappling with the problem of ‘certain knowledge,’ philosophers...

  6. PART ONE Francis Bacon:: Organon and Origin

    • 1 ‘Pure and Uncorrupted Natural Knowledge’
      (pp. 21-36)

      Beginning in his own lifetime and continuing into the Restoration, Bacon’s writings have surrounded themselves with an aura of ‘originality/Bacon’s desire to sweep away the accumulated error of the past and begin the enterprise of learning anew involves recapturing a perceptual purity uncontaminated by time. The rhetoric of regeneration and beginning anew is a feature of his work that readers have fastened on to and pressed into the service of different ideologies. Modern studies continue to accept the fiction that Bacon’s work represents a privileged point of origin, a principium, either confirming or denying his presence at the ‘intellectual origins’...

    • 2 Writing Error in the Novum Organum
      (pp. 37-54)

      Origins, as they appear in Bacon, are not just an idea or concept, but an entire system of representations – a myth, a discourse, an ideology. By an ‘ideology,’ as I have argued, I do not mean to signify a form of consciousness or belief system that fails to meet the criteria of scientific objectivity. Objectivity itself has a central place in the history of polemic. We need to remind ourselves, as we take up the Baconian origin as a theoretical and historical issue, that ideologies are indispensable to social life. The seventeenth-century discourse of origin provides a perspective, a framework...

    • 3 Authorizing Aphorism
      (pp. 55-68)

      To resist the incursions of error and false consciousness, Bacon cultivated the aphorism, which he considered preferable to more highly determined prose forms. Just as induction functions as a heuristic, a procedure, or routine, aphorism provides the means for inducing recognition. Consecutively numbered aphorisms attempt to break up thought into particles of experience in the same way Bacon would have us break down syllogisms into words and words into correspondent notions. They are an approximation of ideographs, hieroglyphs, and tabular taxonomies, and subject to similar principles. If individual words are ‘symbols of notions,’ then words chained syntactically together can function...

    • 4 Legitimation and the Origin of Restoration Science
      (pp. 69-88)

      As we have seen from twentieth-century responses to the aphorisms discussed in chapter 3, Bacon’s writings retain a surprising capacity to polarize opinion. Readers either sing Bacon’s praises as a hero of progress and rational enquiry or make him personally responsible for the ills besetting humanity. In our time outright hostility has ceded ground to indifference and neglect: the absence of any twentieth-century complete edition of his writings testifies to his low status among philosophers and literary critics. William Harvey’s famous remark to John Aubrey that Bacon ‘writes philosophy like a Lord Chancellor’ anticipates the modern dismissal of Bacon as...

  7. PART TWO Seeing Double in Paradise Lost

    • 5 Beginning Late
      (pp. 91-116)

      Like most of his contemporaries, Milton admired Bacon, sharing his anti-scholasticism and immersion in history and politics. As a student at Christ’s College, Cambridge, Milton found himself drawn towards the new philosophy and the scientific ideology of the Great Instauration. To most readers, the youthful author of theProlusions(1628–32) sounds unmistakably Baconian.The Advancement of Learningleft an imprint on Milton’s Third and Seventh Prolusions, and the influence of theNovum Organumalso seems probable. Prolusion 7, ‘Beatiores reddit Homines Ars quam Ignorantia’ [Learning brings more Blessings to Men than Ignorance], culminates in a vision of scientific knowledge...

    • 6 Who Himself Beginning Knew?
      (pp. 117-138)

      InParadise Lostthe knowledge of origins is beleaguered by doubt. The opening lines of book i assert the principle of absolute primacy at first emphatically, but then more tentatively: ‘Of Man’s First Disobedience, ‘Eden,’ ‘first taught the chosen Seed, / In the Beginning,’ ‘Things unattempted yet,’ ‘Thou from the first / Wast present’ Milton suspends the crucial phrase ‘in the beginning’ until the ninth line, which has the effect of underlining his own text’s revisionary relation to Genesis. Milton's realignment of this sacred beginning signals the existence of a temporal and creative space between his epic and its scriptural...

    • 7 The Figure in the Mirror
      (pp. 139-160)

      Paradise Lost,as critics often point out, is organized around various moments of birth and origin, including the creation in the Logos, the birth of Christ, and the rebirth of the soul. Milton’s emphasis on origination practically mandates an engagement with questions of sexuality in the context of his domestic epic. As Edward Said notes, Milton ‘unashamedly weaves in the sexual drama, which more than any other image conveys the novelty, as well as the nexus of intention, circumstance, and force, that always characterizes the beginning.’¹ Yet the presence of a debate on gender relations in Paradise Lost invites obvious...

  8. PART THREE Butler’s Hudibras:: The Post-Epic Condition

    • 8 ‘As Aeneas Bore His Sire’
      (pp. 163-182)

      If for most twentieth-century readers, Butler and Milton lie poles apart, from the vantage point of the Restoration they were ‘contemporaries’ in every sense of the word. Born within a few years of each other, they breathed the same air of revolution and dissent, even though they reacted in obviously different ways. Their writings in prose and verse present alternative political and aesthetic responses to the same problematic: the establishment of a normative literary, religious, and political order after the collapse of an established system of values. Both poets opened new possibilities in the writing of epic. Both sought to...

    • 9 Metaphysick Wit
      (pp. 183-200)

      Butler’s views on the necessity of bringing notions into conformity with the world and thus making language subordinate to them postulates the existence of an external, stabilizing point of reference: an origin. We find this origin behind his metaphysic of ‘Reason’ and objective truth, which provides him with a transcendent standard capable of validating the social institutions he values. Truth’s ideal correspondence to something residing in nature merges with his anxieties over religious and political cohesion. Butler adumbrates a theory of truth that rests on a dualistic distinction between two orders of mental experience: the testimony of the senses, and...

    • 10 A Babylonish Dialect
      (pp. 201-214)

      I began this book with Bacon’s confident prediction that correct method and scientific collaboration could lead humanity back to determinate origins. In Bacon’s specular epistemology, language should and can connect to the world but at present does not. For Milton retrieving origins from a distant Edenic site presents an immensely difficult task. His renewal of epic form and recreation of paradisal language testify to the uncertainty of recapturing origins. For all his misgivings about science, Milton sounds thoroughly Baconian on the subject of referentiality inOf Education: though a linguist should pride himselfe to have all the tongues that Babel...

    • 11 By Equivocation Swear
      (pp. 215-244)

      Despite the considerable attention given to Butler’s ‘thought,’ political readings ofHudibrashave stood still with attempts to decode its topical allegory. As a result, we have inherited a strangely divided sense of Butler as a conservative poet whose work nevertheless bears traces of ‘deism,’ anti-rationalism, ‘nihilism,’ and ‘protofeminism.’¹ Christopher Hill is among the few who have tried to explain this apparent contradiction, describing Butler as a ‘radical royalist,’ a thinker ‘abreast of many modern ideas,’ including those of Hobbes and the libertines, a proponent of a virulent anti-clericalism, and a writer who avoided publishing his prose manuscripts during his...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 245-278)
  10. Index
    (pp. 279-286)