From Bacon to Banks: The vision and the realities of pursuing science for the common good

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (1):82-90 (2012)
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Francis Bacon’s call for philosophers to investigate nature and ‘‘join in consultation for the common good’’ is one example of a powerful vision that helped to shape modern science. His ideal clearly linked the experimental method with the production of beneficial effects that could be used both as ‘‘pledges of truth’’ and for ‘‘the comforts of life.’’ When Bacon’s program was implemented in the following genera- tion, however, the tensions inherent in his vision became all too real. The history of the Royal Society of London, from its founding in 1660 to the 42-year presidency of Joseph Banks (1778–1820), shows how these tensions led to changes in the way in which both the experimental method and the ideal of the common good were understood. A more nuanced understanding of the problems involved in recent philosophical analyses of science in the public interest can be achieved by appreciating the complexity revealed from this historical perspective.

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The aim and structure of physical theory.Pierre Maurice Marie Duhem - 1954 - Princeton,: Princeton University Press.
The Fate of Knowledge.Helen E. Longino - 2001 - Princeton University Press.
Science, truth, and democracy.Philip Kitcher - 2001 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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