Baconian epistemology and the test for vocation in George Herbert's The temple /

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Haynes, Katherine
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Middle Tennessee State University
While Francis Bacon's The Advancement of Learning was being translated into the elegant Latin of De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum, a translation credited to George Herbert, Herbert was composing a series of religious English lyrics that would be published posthumously as The Temple. Public Orator for Cambridge University and Fellow, George Herbert was a candidate for Francis Bacon's call to begin the great instauration of learning that Bacon believed would ultimately usher in the Solomonic society that Bacon hoped would be established in England during the reign of James I. Part of his call was to open the experimentation to all who would be willing to share their results for the mutual advancement of knowledge.
In addition to being a deeply spiritual and highly trained poet, Herbert was interested in the provocative academic issues of his day and was personally dedicated to furthering intellectual and scholarly inquiry. Although Herbert scholarship has focused largely on issues related to his confessional tradition and religious context, his position on Bacon's philosophy has received little interest. Some conclude that Herbert distrusted and eventually rejected the Baconian agenda. Over the past decade, the paradigm of a scientific revolution that irrevocably split objective scientific method from religious belief has been challenged by sociologists and historians of science and philosophy who recognize that at the core of Bacon's rhetorical argument is a Protestant worldview that believes it is fulfilling a divinely ordained mission to provide the autonomy and method needed in science to root out superstition and ignorance and promote human progress in light of the anticipated millennium. As one of the probable translators of the De Augmentis, Herbert was very familiar with Bacon's epistemology. After establishing the historical context, the following Baconian concepts identified in Herbert's The Temple are considered: avoiding the "idols" of the mind, living out one's vocation in service to God and the state in charity, uses of encryption and codes to unlock the secrets of God's two books (nature and sacred scripture) in providential time and space, matter theory, and the consequences of these ideas for literary form and function.
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