, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 677-678
Date: 06 Dec 2011

From vice to virtue: Curiosity and work in early modern England

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How was curiosity rehabilitated from a vice—the cause of the original sin—to a virtue? How was the concept of work reimagined from the punishment for that sin to humanity’s natural state and the means of overcoming the effects of the Fall? And how was innocence liberated from its association with ignorance in order to be considered vital for epistemological objectivity? These are a few of the key questions addressed by Joanna Picciotto in her monumental work, Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England. Her answer lies in the seventeenth century’s appropriation of the figure of the innocent Adam as an intellectual exemplar used to justify experimental science, an emergent public sphere and the concept of intellectual labor itself, an appropriation that began most significantly with Francis Bacon’s Great Instauration: “By transferring the primal scene of discovery from Eve’s eating of the fruit to Adam’s naming the creatures—and by linking the act of naming to the work of experiment—Bac...