As Above, so Below: Astrology, Comets, Volcanoes and Earthquakes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

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Abstract Summary
As scholars now agree, astrology played many roles in science, society, and culture in medieval and early modern Europe that we still do not fully understand. The belief that celestial bodies could influence human beings and nature at large was profoundly rooted in the premodern European worldview. Such supposed influences were used to analyze celestial and terrestrial events and to make predictions on many levels. As a consequence, evaluating astrology’s scientific status concerning both analysis and prediction was central to determining whether these practices were legitimate or illegitimate, that is, natural or demonic. Focusing on the medieval and early modern period, this panel presents some current advancements on our understanding of the history of astrological practices and the debates surrounding them. Beginning with a general causal analysis of astrology’s predictive legitimacy by influential medieval authorities and one of its major Renaissance critics, three papers follow on early modern astrological analyses of major irregular celestial and terrestrial phenomena, namely, comets, volcanoes and earthquakes. In these case studies, we can gain insight into how astrology was used to understand these unusual natural phenomena in the work of seminal early modern thinkers who drew on or pushed against ancient and medieval Arabic and Latin astrological and astrologizing theories and techniques. Another contribution will explore some aspects of the debate between Pierre Gassendi and Jean-Baptiste Morin in mid-seventeenth century France. The final talk will be devoted to anti-astrological prophecies issued by late-17th century critics of astrology, including Pierre Bayle.
Abstract ID :
HSS693
Submission Type
Chronological Classification :
Longue Durée
Self-Designated Keywords :
History of astrology in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and Early Modern Europe

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