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Drift 25, Rm. 102 Organized Session Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science
27 Jul 2019 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) Switch to local time
20190727T0900 20190727T1145 Europe/Amsterdam As Above, So Below: Astrology, Comets, Volcanoes and Earthquakes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

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.

Organized by H Darrel Rutkin

Drift 25, Rm. 102 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

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.

Organized by H Darrel Rutkin

Horoscopy in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Reflections on Astrology and Divination in Relation to Fate, Freedom, and Their Scientific StatusView Abstract

09:00 AM - 09:30 AM2019/07/27 07:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 07:30:00 UTC
In this talk, I will explore some of the causal foundations for understanding and evaluating astrological practices in medieval and Renaissance Europe. I will do so in order to approach a topic that has been bothering me for a few years now, namely, whether or not we should call astrology and its various horoscopic practices a type of mantic art or divination, and to probe—or begin to probe—what is ideologically at stake in that terminological decision. Towards this end, I will explore influential texts by Thomas Aquinas (Summa theologiae II.II.92-95), Albertus Magnus (De fato) and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem). My focus here will be on the more philosophical issues that, on the one hand, frame, legitimate and authorize—and on the other, attack and attempt to undermine—the many practical uses, for both individuals and society, of the broad range of horoscopic techniques in medieval and early modern Europe.
Presenters
HR
H Darrel Rutkin
Università Ca' Foscari Venezia, ERC EarlyModernCosmology
Astrology and Comets: Earthly Symbols and Celestial SignsView Abstract

09:30 AM - 10:00 AM2019/07/27 07:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 08:00:00 UTC
In the beginning of the sixteenth century, the interpretation of comets acquired a peculiar dichotomous notion. As phenomena that originated in earthly realms, according to Aristotelian belief, comets were increasingly interpreted according to their accompanying celestial configurations. The apparition of a comet in 1506 heralded the emergence of a novel genre of astrological prognostications related to cometary interpretation. The set of subsequent astrological cometary pamphlets, the first printed in movable type, enjoyed high popularity and wide circulation. Prognosticators followed an Islamic tradition and enhanced cometary interpretation with astrological reasoning. How could their astrological interpretation relate events across the earthly and celestial sphere? The subsequent, different cometary apparitions of the ongoing sixteenth century entailed a growing effort among astrological prognosticators to overcome this apparent gap between distant Aristotelian spheres by an intricate causal structure. This talk explores the ontological amendment of cometary interpretations in the sixteenth century based on Islamic tradition, and analyzes the prognosticator’s endeavor to establish a causal structure that allowed comets to be absorbed into the broader astrological corpus.
Presenters
SZ
Stefan Zieme
Humboldt-University Berlin
An Unlikely Encounter: Arabic Astrology, Seismology, and Vulcanology at the Dawn of the EnlightenmentView Abstract

10:15 AM - 10:45 AM2019/07/27 08:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 08:45:00 UTC
The seventeenth century was an intense period of study of volcanoes and earthquakes. Major European thinkers such as Johannes Kepler, Athanasius Kircher, and René Descartes all had something to say about the causes of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. While none of their theories proved completely right, the fact that an astronomer, a Jesuit polymath, and a philosopher contributed to the debate is indicative of its significance for seventeenth-century intellectuals. While different physical and causal explanations about the formation of lava and the quaking of the earth were proposed, one is often dismissed by historians of geology, namely astrological-astronomical causation. This paper will examine a series of works written by Italian and French authors around the time of the 1631 eruption of Vesuvius and soon after the 1703 earthquake in central and southern Italy to illustrate how, in this period, the Arabic theory of great conjunctions and the study of eclipses, were taken into serious consideration by a number of intellectuals as a possible cause of these earthly phenomena. Despite the alleged demise of astrology in the seventeenth century, this paper will argue that astro-meteorology remained a well respected and convincing scientific discipline, and that the Arabic authors who underpinned this discipline remained frequently quoted authorities in this field.
Presenters Monica Azzolini
University Of Bologna
The Polemic between Pierre Gassendi and Jean Baptiste Morin on Galileism, Copernicanism, and Galileian AstrologyView Abstract

10:45 AM - 11:15 AM2019/07/27 08:45:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 09:15:00 UTC
The polemic between Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) and the astrologer and mathematician Jean-Baptiste Morin (1591-1659) – which followed the publication of Gassendi’s “Galileian” letters De motu impresso a motore translato in 1642 – is widely regarded as a defining moment for the destiny of astrology in early modern France. It is believed to have marked a “public execution,” and the subsequent progressive passing of astrology from modern scientific discourse. Less emphasis has been paid, however, to the significance of such debates in the establishment of Galileian science in early modern France. This presentation reconstructs the phases of this debate, and argues that they show the numerous turns in the fortune and acceptance of Galieian-inspired astronomy, on the one hand, and of astrology, on the other, as well as the strategies that each of the historical actors had to put in place to overcome censorship (or worse) and to credit themselves as legitimate “scientists.”
Presenters
RG
Rodolfo Garau
Università Ca' Foscari Venezia, ERC EarlyModernCosmology
Anachronizing Astrology: Philosophic Prophecy in the EnlightenmentView Abstract

11:15 AM - 11:45 AM2019/07/27 09:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 09:45:00 UTC
Beginning in the 1660s, but especially after 1680, critics of astrology began to make historical prophecies of their own. According to this prophecy, one would soon encounter astrological beliefs only in the past, and reason would soon, once for all, reconquer the popular mind from superstition. Pierre Bayle, in his famous Pensées diverses sur la comète (1683), was one of the earliest voices that issued such prophecies, but he was hardly the last. Throughout the Enlightenment, anachronizing became one of the preferred tactics for neutralizing the threat of astrology, and remains so today. In this paper, I would like to discuss the Enlightenment trend of anachronizing astrology from three angles. First, I would like to present it as an instance of ‘philosophic prophecy’ (a neologism recently coined by historian of philosophy Eric Schliesser). Second, I would like to trace connections between the technique of anachronizing astrology on the one hand, and conceptions of the manufacturability of human culture on the other. Third, I would like to trace the connections between this technique and (self-)censorship in print culture.
Presenters
SV
Steven Vanden Broecke
Ghent University
easy scroll
2019/07/27 07:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 07:30:00 UTC Horoscopy in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Reflect...
2019/07/27 07:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 08:00:00 UTC Astrology and Comets: Earthly Symbols and Celestial Signs
2019/07/27 08:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 08:45:00 UTC An Unlikely Encounter: Arabic Astrology, Seismology, and ...
2019/07/27 08:45:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 09:15:00 UTC The Polemic between Pierre Gassendi and Jean Baptiste Mor...
2019/07/27 09:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 09:45:00 UTC Anachronizing Astrology: Philosophic Prophecy in the Enli...
Università Ca' Foscari Venezia, ERC EarlyModernCosmology
Humboldt-University Berlin
University of Bologna
Università Ca' Foscari Venezia, ERC EarlyModernCosmology
Ghent University
Universitat de València
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