A Structural Topic Model of the Features and the Cultural Origins of the Baconian Program
94 Pages Posted: 29 May 2017
Date Written: July 1, 2018
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: Baconian program, culture, law, knowledge, natural philosophy, politics, religion
JEL Classification: B310, Z100, C550, N730, K100, P100
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