Aristotle had asserted unequivocally that all knowledge has its origins in experience. He was echoed by scholastic Aristotelians, so that the aphorism “there is nothing in the mind which was not first in the senses” became a standard philosophical maxim in the later Middle Ages.1 Despite this fact, many non-Aristotelian philosophers in the seventeenth century had taken to criticizing the approaches to learning about nature that were promulgated by the scholastics for ignoring the lessons of the senses. Francis Bacon was but one among many in his stated view that Aristotle “did not properly consult experience … after making his decisions arbitrarily, he parades experience around, distorted to suit his opinions, a captive.”2 Bacon’s became a common view: Aristotelian philosophy was often represented as being obsessed with logic and verbal subtleties, reluctant to grapple with things themselves as encountered through the senses. The rhetoric of the Baconian Royal Society came equally to incorporate such a picture of Aristotelianism, its spokesmen making frequent remarks dismissive of scholastic obsession with words instead of things.
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- Experiment: How to Learn Things about Nature in the Seventeenth Century
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