Toward Understanding 17th Century English Culture: A Structural Topic Model of Francis Bacon's Ideas

92 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2017 Last revised: 1 Aug 2018

See all articles by Peter Grajzl

Peter Grajzl

Washington and Lee University - Department of Economics; CESifo

Peter Murrell

University of Maryland - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 20, 2018

Abstract

We use machine-learning methods to study the features and origins of the ideas of Francis Bacon, a key figure who contributed to the intellectual roots of a cultural paradigm that spurred modern economic development. Bacon's works are the data in an estimation of a structural topic model, a state-of-the-art methodology for analysis of text corpora. The estimates uncover sixteen topics prominent in Bacon's opus. Two are key elements of the ideas usually associated with Bacon--inductive epistemology and fact-seeking. The utilitarian promise of science and the centralized organization of the scientific quest, embraced by Bacon's followers, were not emphasized by him. We provide the first quantitative evidence that the genesis of Bacon's epistemology lies in his experience in the common-law. Combining our findings with accepted arguments in the existing literature, we suggest that the effects of common-law culture can help explain the coincidence of political and economic development in England.

Keywords: Francis Bacon, culture, England, law, knowledge, scientific method

JEL Classification: B31, Z10, C55, N73, K10, P10

Suggested Citation

Grajzl, Peter and Murrell, Peter, Toward Understanding 17th Century English Culture: A Structural Topic Model of Francis Bacon's Ideas (July 20, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2944816 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2944816

Peter Grajzl (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University - Department of Economics ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States

HOME PAGE: http://home.wlu.edu/~grajzlp/

CESifo ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Peter Murrell

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States
301-405-3476 (Phone)
301-405-3542 (Fax)

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