In Francis Bacon, as in the whole Renaissance, we find the ideal of the regnum hominis, of the rational mastery of nature, which is the purpose of knowledge and also of the practical organization of knowledge. Bacon offers an encyclopedia of the various forms of knowledge, an organic arrangement of the various sciences. We have a philosophy understood as rational knowledge, including various disciplines, and a philosophy in the strict sense, or first philosophy, including the more general notions, i.e. the valid axioms for different sciences.
Modern philosophy thus develops in close connection with the sciences, with which it has a twofold relationship: on the one hand, philosophy wants to imitate their methodological rigor and, from this point of view, become a science itself; on the other hand, it claims to have its own specific field of investigation, which establishes the foundations of the sciences. R. Descartes says that it is the “first” philosophy, dedicated to more general concepts. This gives rise to the image of knowledge as a tree, “the roots of which are metaphysics, the trunk of which is physics, and the branches of which are all the sciences”.
T. Hobbes, B. Spinoza, G.W. Leibniz conceive philosophy according to an analogous rationalist scheme, i.e. as the science that studies the ultimate reasons for phenomena, using a rigorous method borrowed from mathematics. But while in Leibniz there is a theological recovery, in Hobbes and Spinoza we find a clear separation of philosophy and theology, because theology concerns notions that are not subject to rational analysis, and because its object is faith, whose purpose is obedience and piety, and not truth, which is the only purpose of philosophy.
With J. Locke, philosophy takes as its essential task the examination of the validity and limits of knowledge, thus becoming a critical philosophy. Before proceeding to the construction of metaphysical buildings, it is necessary to analyze our ability to know. The result of the investigation is that experience is the foundation and origin of all our knowledge, and thus the methodological basis of philosophy.
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