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Title: Organising natural knowledge in the seventeenth century : the works of Robert Boyle
Author: Knight, Harriet
ISNI:       0000 0001 3600 9849
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2003
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This thesis aims to contextualise the disorder characteristic of Boyle's works at all stages of the compositional process, in terms of seventeenth-century discussions about structuring knowledge. This disorder is discussed by Boyle, his contemporaries and later scholars, but has previously been insufficiently understood in terms of his intellectual project. Chapter one shows that seventeenth-century models present correct ordering as determining the epistemological status of information. In particular, it is understood as the means of moving from 'historical' collections of factual data (including experimental results) to 'philosophical' knowledge. Disorderly works are inevitable in the intermediate stages of a progress from piecemeal, preparatory, probable natural history to natural philosophy. Chapter two opens my exploration of the material processes of Boyle's knowledge creation, by examining Boyle's manuscripts for evidence of his aspirations to and achievement of the systematic redistribution of factual data. His methods are contextualised via the stipulations of the commonplace method, and the practices of his contemporaries. Chapter three investigates the structures of Boyle'S published works (particularly his collections of essays), exploring his development of printed modes which resist characterisation as stable and complete. Boyle's piecemeal publications are situated in relation to those of his contemporaries, and especially the early Philosophical Transactions. Chapter four considers Boyle's prefatory representation of the disorder of his works in print, which emphasises the apparent failure of his work to conform to literary and philosophical expectations. Boyle presents his literary failings as rhetorically appropriate, however, given his subject matter and audience. The disorder of Boyle's works has been criticised from his own time on. Reevaluating their distinctive fragmentation in the light of the seventeenth-century understanding of the significance of the organisation of natural knowledge, my thesis suggests that their arrangement reflects, and constitutes, their intellectual scope. In their provisional forms, Boyle's experimental texts embody the intermediate epistemological status of their content
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available