Chapter

The Art-Nature Debate and the Issue of Experiment

in Promethean Ambitions

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2004 | ISBN: 9780226577128
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226577135 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226577135.003.0006
The Art-Nature Debate and the Issue of Experiment

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This chapter examines the art–nature debate and the issue of experiment. The art–nature debate provides direct evidence to dismantle a common view of premodern science, the noninterventionist fallacy. From an Aristotelian perspective, human intervention in natural processes could be seen as one of the defining characteristics of an art, a theme that recurs constantly in the art–nature debate. The art–nature divide could no longer be based on a metaphysical distinction with an essential difference between natural and artificial products. The rich discussion of experiment provided by the art–nature debate was fed into a Europe on the threshold of the scientific revolution. Bacon's entire program of reducing the distinction between nature and art to one of efficient causality is found in the discussion of art and nature stretching from the High Middle Ages through the seventeenth century.

Keywords: art–nature debate; experiment; Middle Ages; nature stretching; scientific revolution

Chapter.  24345 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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