First philosophy was the name that Samnel Quiccheberg gave to the type of knowledge he believed could be derived from collecting materials for a Kunstkammer. Contrary to more standard humanist scholarly pursuits, which were largely textual exercises, the knowledge to be gained from amassing collections of objects resulted, according to Quiccheberg, from a first-hand engagement with the objects themselves, and with nature. As Pamela Smith explains, Quiccheberg's notion of the Kunstkammer gave rise to its own type of philosophy that was related to other scholarly attempts during the sixteenth century "to found a new philosophy based on real things rather than words and gained by means of an active engagement with nature. Natural materials and natural objects - things to be apprehended by the five senses - became central" (Smith 129). For Quiccheberg, the emphasis on manual engagement with materials put the first philosophy of collecting in line with the activity of artisans, who used their hands to work directly on materials, rather than using words to describe them. This alignment with the tradition of craftsmen re-framed concepts about knowledge production, re-casting it as a fundamentally active, phenomenologically immediate endeavor. According to Smith, this shift in the understanding of the source of knowledge effectively produced what she calls a "new epistemology," "a mode of gaining knowledge about nature...that originated with artisans and practitioners, and that eventually became central to the 'new philosophy' or new active science of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries" (Smith 131).
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