The British Journal for the History of Science



The arguments on void in the seventeenth century: the case of Francis Bacon


SILVIA MANZO a1 1
a1 Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina.

Abstract

Francis Bacon's position on the existence of void and its nature has been mostly studied with regard to his views on the atom. This approach is undoubtedly right, but it disregards further topics related to Bacon's account of void, namely the world system and the transmutation of bodies. Consequently, a more comprehensive study of Bacon's view on vacuum seems desirable where all the contexts are taken into account. To address this desideratum, the present paper examines Bacon's different views on vacuum drawing attention to the various contexts of the discussion. It also gives an evaluation of the arguments put forward in support of his positions. The first section presents a reconstruction of Bacon's consecutive positions and the reasons for his changes of mind. The second section lists the experimental facts traditionally cited in debates about vacuum and Bacon's interpretation of these. The final section evaluates the role that these experimental facts played in Bacon's arguments. As a result, it is shown that Bacon fits entirely into the general pattern of the early seventeenth century. Empirical arguments by themselves had little value for solving the question of the void; it was also necessary to have a formerly established theory.



Footnotes

1 I wish to thank Benedino Gemelli, John Henry and two anonymous referees of this journal for their valuable comments on earlier drafts of this paper, and to acknowledge the support provided by Fundación Antorchas Grant 13956-55.