chapter  3
How Language Became a Tool
The Reconceptualisation of Language and the Empirical Turn in Seventeenth-Century Britain
ByMiles MacLeod
Pages 17

The dramatic change instituted the idea of language as a tool in the context of experimentalism and natural history. The central theme of this chapter is that language has operated for science over the course of its history and in many diverse contexts as a tool to be applied to purposes both epistemic but also rhetorical and political. This shift reflects the modern understanding of language in the minds of scientists and researchers. The natural history before this revolution of the likes of Gesner and Versalius was built on a different understanding of language distant from the neutral tool-like conception the British empiricists sought. Language thus had to be reconceived as a tool in order to shake it free of all these associations so that the broader philosophical transformations of empiricism could function. Something important happens to the way language is perceived by natural historians and experimentalists in Britain in the 1600s.