Technology Displaces Metaphysics – Bacon’s New Hierarchy of the Arts and Sciences

  • Alexander S. Rosenthal-Pubul


The classical hierarchy of the arts and sciences had subordinated the merely useful mechanical arts associated with technology, to the liberal arts (as philosophy, poetry, music) which have their own intrinsic nobility. This went along with the exaltation of theoretical science over “banausic” or slavishly practical activities. For Aristotle at the top of the hierarchy of the sciences stood First Philosophy (Metaphysics) whose very inutility was referred to as evidence of its superior nobility and excellence. Bacon launched the modern revolution by reconceiving of the aim of knowledge as power over nature. This had the effect of entirely overturning the classical hierarchy of the arts. From the perspective of utility with respect to technological power it is the mechanical arts which have the highest worth and value among the sciences. Correspondingly the liberal arts began a long process of decline. In particular the value of the once supreme theoretic science of metaphysics became in modernity increasingly called into question. In essence technology has overthrown metaphysics.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander S. Rosenthal-Pubul
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Advanced Governmental StudiesJohns Hopkins UniversityWashington, DCUSA

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