Memory and Empirical Information: Samuel Hartlib, John Beale and Robert Boyle

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Title Memory and Empirical Information: Samuel Hartlib, John Beale and Robert Boyle
Author Yeo, Richard Reginald
Book Title The Body as Object and Instrument of Knowledge: Embodied Empiricism in Early Modern Science
Editor Charles T. Wolfe and Ofer Gal
Year Published 2010
Place of publication United States
Publisher Springer
Abstract Robert Boyle and John Beale had connections with Samuel Hartlib and his correspondence circle. The position of these three figures can be taken as an 'empirical' one in the sense that they favoured 'particulars' over 'systems'. But differences emerge if we consider their attitudes towards the role of memory in Baconian natural histories. Hartlib's call for empirical particulars coexisted with an expectation that information could be reduced and arranged to aid both memory and thinking. As one model, William Petty promoted John Pell's reductions of mathematical knowledge. Beale's letters to Boyle (in the 1660s) urged systematic ordering of empirical data in the service of memory and hypotheses. Although Boyle did believe that a disciplined individual memory could embody multifarious experiences, he resisted Beale's advice. What we accept as Boyle's 'empirical' attitude was not so much a distinctive commitment to gathering matters of fact – something also professed by Hartlib and Beale – but a refusal to condense and arrange material in the way they demanded. Beale's promotion of memory ­techniques that relied on highly structured arrangements of units seems to have aggravated Boyle's existing suspicion of premature systems.
Peer Reviewed Yes
Published Yes
Publisher URI http://www.springerlink.com/
Alternative URI http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-3686-5_10
Edition first
Chapter Number 10
Page from 185
Page to 210
ISBN 9789048136858
Date Accessioned 2010-10-28
Language en_AU
Faculty Arts, Education and Law
Subject British History; Historical Studies
URI http://hdl.handle.net/10072/36651
Publication Type Book Chapters
Publication Type Code b1

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