Institutioni Scholasticae Minime Accommodata: De Neufville and Clauberg on not Teaching Bacon
This contribution reconstructs the controversy between Gerard de Neufville (1590-1648) and Johann Clauberg about the comparative merits of Bacon and Descartes in the university classroom. This controversy had a crucial pragmatic dimension, evaluating the question of how Baconian and Cartesian philosophical projects could meet the pedagogical needs of the university as an educational institution. The exchange between de Neufville and Clauberg shows that textbooks of natural philosophy contain important discussions of pedagogical practice. De Neufville fears that a revolution of natural philosophy along Baconian lines may well take centuries. But professors still need something to teach to students. Therefore, he envisions a Baconian philosophia nov-antiqua that reintroduces certain aspects of Aristotelian science into a broadly Baconian empirical investigation of nature. Clauberg’s criticism of his teacher focuses on two perceived weaknesses. First, Baconian doubt renders natural philosophy unteachable; while Cartesian doubt does not, because it can be dissolved comparatively quickly. Second, de Neufville’s evolutionary approach may inadvertently convey false doctrines to students, thereby preventing their epistemic progress. The only defence against unexamined opinions is the suspension of judgment. Besides that, he argues, de Neufville’s pragmatic worries are unfounded: Cartesians are successful professionals in theology, medicine, and in the university itself.