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"And Knowledge Shall Be Increased": Millenarianism and the Advancement of Learning Revisited

Feingold, Mordechai (2014) "And Knowledge Shall Be Increased": Millenarianism and the Advancement of Learning Revisited. Seventeenth Century, 28 (4). pp. 363-393. ISSN 0268-117X. doi:10.1080/0268117X.2013.846230.

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In the early years of the seventeenth century, Francis Bacon (1561–1626) introduced an ingenious and daring exegesis into his apologia for secular learning. Man fell, he argued in Valerius Terminus, his first philosophical essay, not for seeking the “pure light of natural knowledge,” but for presuming “to attain to that part of moral knowledge which defineth of good and evil, whereby to dispute God’s commandments and not to depend upon the revelation of his will.” Consequently, far from proscribing innocent inquiries into nature, God actually “framed the mind of man as a glass capable of the image of the universal world, joying to receive the signature thereof as the eye is of light … And although the highest generality of motion or summary law of nature God should still reserve within his own curtain, yet many and noble are the inferior and secondary operations which are within man’s sounding.” Indeed, since God authored all knowledge, its dissemination and thriving is guaranteed “not only by a general providence but by a special prophecy,” expressly “appointed to this autumn of the world.” Bacon turned to Daniel 12:4, where, “speaking of the latter times it is said, Many shall pass to and fro, and science shall be increased; as if the opening of the world by navigation and commerce and the further discovery of knowledge should meet in one time or age.”

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Additional Information:© 2013 The Seventeenth Century. Published online: 13 May 2014. I wish to thank John Henry, Michael Hunter, Rhodri Lewis, Carol Magun, William Poole, Timothy Raylor, and Richard Serjeantson for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.
Subject Keywords:Millenarianism; science; puritanism; Bacon; Progress
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140620-074111116
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:46380
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:20 Jun 2014 18:13
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 17:24

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