Characterizing a Legal-Intellectual Culture: Bacon, Coke, and Seventeenth-Century England
56 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2019 Last revised: 23 Sep 2019
Date Written: September 20, 2019
A characterization of the ideas of Francis Bacon and Edward Coke, two paramount English lawyer-scholars, provides insights into the nature of the legal-intellectual culture of early seventeenth-century England. To develop the insights we employ a methodology not previously used in this context, applying structural topic modeling to a large corpus comprising the works of both Bacon and Coke. Estimated topics span legal, political, scientific, and methodological themes. Legal topics evidence an advanced structure of common-law thought, straddling ostensibly disparate areas of the law. Interconnections between topics reveal a distinctive approach to the pursuit of knowledge, embodying Bacon's epistemology and Coke's legal methodology. A key similarity between Bacon and Coke overshadows their differences: both sought to build reliable knowledge based on generalizing from particulars. The resulting methodological paradigm can be understood as reflecting a legacy of common-law thought and constituting one key contribution of these authors to the era's emerging legal-intellectual culture.
Keywords: Culture, Bacon, Coke, England, 17th Century, Machine-Learning
JEL Classification: B31, Z10, N73, K10, P10
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