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Objectivity in the Making

Objectivity in the Making

Francis Bacon and the Politics of Inquiry

How we arrived at a capacity for taking cold, hard looks at the facts of nature—and whether we ever truly have done so—are questions that continue to engage both historians of science and students of culture. Historians of modern European intellectual history commonly credit Francis Bacon with laying the groundwork for a mode of study that begins without presuppositions, religious or otherwise, the kind of searching we know as research and long have credited as being "disinterested."

In Objectivity in the Making, Julie Robin Solomon shows how "disinterestedness" became a dominant principle of intellectual modernity by examining Bacon's notion of scientific self-distancing against the background of early modern political ideology, socioeconomic behavior, and traditions of learning. Solomon places him between two cultures—Jacobean monarchical mercantilism and the self-distancing strategies of early-seventeenth-century traders and travelers. She shows that Bacon—by virtue of his prominent political position within the Jacobean court, familiarity with prevailing commercial practices, and humanistic learning—made his signal contributions to natural philosophy because of where he stood at a critical juncture.