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Feverish Bodies, Enlightened MindsScience and the Yellow Fever Controversy in the Early American Republic$
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Thomas Apel

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804797405

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804797405.001.0001

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Contexts and Causes

Contexts and Causes

(p.11) One Contexts and Causes
Feverish Bodies, Enlightened Minds

Thomas A. Apel

Stanford University Press

Chapter One frames the parameters of the debate and establishes the prevailing intellectual orientation of the investigators. As scientists, investigators cast themselves as the descendants of Bacon, and asserted the importance of inductive reasoning and empirical evidence, which manifested itself in the yellow fever debate as an eagerness for the “facts” of the disease’s occurrences. As pious Protestants, they rejected the perceived excesses of empirical skepticism, which threatened to reduce nature to mere mechanism and science to a cold, passionless pursuit. Investigators celebrated “common sense,” the God-given capacity of the mind that enabled humans to sift through the scattered phenomena of nature and find truth. Casting the issue of yellow fever as a matter of common sense, the localists in particular came to view the debate not only as a scientific question, but one that affected the integrity of their conceptions of nature, the human mind, and God’s purpose.

Keywords:   common sense, facts, empiricism, inductive reasoning, philosophy of science, scientific method, Baconian science

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