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Drift 25, Rm. 101 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 Nature and Desire: Ioan Petru Culianu’s Éros et magie à la Renaissance, 35 Years Later Drift 25, Rm. 101 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org
The Lure and Corruption of Saturn in Sixteenth-Century Central European Mining and Metalworking

09:00 AM - 09:30 AM2019/07/27 07:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 07:30:00 UTC
This paper investigates the ambivalent character of Saturn in the context of sixteenth and early seventeenth literature on mining and metalworking in relation to desires, vices and virtues. The mythical figure Saturn, the son of Father Sky (Uranus) and Mother Earth (Gaia), was in medieval and renaissance alchemy and astrology related to the metal lead. As the last of the seven planets and in greatest distance to the sun he was qualified as dry and cold. In literature and art, he enjoyed an ambivalent reputation representing plenty and wealth but also death, sexual violence (castration), cannibalism, and transience. He was perceived as the patron over the earth, woods and stones. Along with deviant figures—such as criminals, witches, magicians, frauds—miners and peasants were regularly depicted as the children of Saturn. Representing the changing fortunes of mining, he appeared as protagonist in allegorical mining festivals or as emblems on artworks and coins until the eighteenth century. Saturn in his dual nature as evil and promising figure is both an image of desire, offering wealth and affluence, and an image punishment, infamy and death. These characteristics turned him into an appropriate personification of the uncertain, dangerous, but at the same time promising mining industry. In order to analyze the promotion, provocation and management of desire in Renaissance natural philosophy, it is essential to consider economics and markets as well. In this sense, this paper seeks to qualify and continue Culianu’s thoughts.
Emblems as Magic Tools and Heuristic Devices: Bruno, Bacon, and Culianu

09:30 AM - 10:00 AM2019/07/27 07:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 08:00:00 UTC
This paper proposes a comparative investigation of the use of emblems in two leading vitalist natural philosophies of the Renaissance, Giordano Bruno and Francis Bacon. Bruno and Bacon are rarely treated together. And yet, they share a lot: an“operative” vision of scientia, an appetitive matter-theory, a belief in the powers of imagination. Both see the natural philosopher as a manipulator of the material appetites engaged in a "renovation” of knowledge and power. Further, more precise, similarities are not immediately apparent, mostly because of our own historiographic assumptions. My proposal in this paper is to rely on Ioan Petru Culianu’s more flexible historiographic framework in order to provide a broader and more comprehensive context for my comparison. Culianu sees magic as a very general, “phantasmatic process” operating upon desires and appetites of matter. Since the human mind cannot operate without phantasms, magic is everywhere – intersubjective, intrasubjective and not always crossing the treshold of human awareness. Culianu’s “sciences of the Renaissance” can be interpreted as various attempts to control, operationalize and understand this process. Within this framework, my scope is to analyze Bruno and Bacon’s use of emblems – codified procedures intended to fix the meaning of phantasms – in order to unearth further similarities between their respective attempts to understand and exploit various “phantasmatic manipulations.” I show how for Bacon and Bruno – and, perhaps not surprisingly, for Culianu as well – emblems have not only mnemonic, but also heuristic functions, while also serving as “magic tools” to create patterns and “binds” for the imagination.
Re-Examining Culianu: Cardano, the Roman Inquisition, and the Power of Spirits

10:15 AM - 10:45 AM2019/07/27 08:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 08:45:00 UTC
Girolamo Cardano writes of how people can find themselves in love against their will: if we imagine something beautiful, we cannot withhold our love. Hence, when a beautiful form enters the imagination, the will can be submitted through the inflammation of medical spirits (Cardano then goes on to discuss the vagaries of erectile disfunction). In 1570, the Roman Inquisition put Cardano on trial and began compiling censor reports on his works. The above passage did not go unnoticed. A prominent censor identified it as heretical, saying that the will was not necessarily carried toward anything, however beautiful, except God when He was clearly seen. Only God, it seems, has the true power of the beloved. Above, there emerge a number of themes stressed by Culianu in his examination of Ficino, Bruno, and the repression of fantasy during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. In my talk, I would like both to extend and criticize that reading by applying it to Cardano, showing how his natural philosophy offers a highly naturalized, medicalized reception of Ficino, one very different from Bruno’s. Here, the question of managing desire and its effects becomes an issue of understanding how elemental substances circulate through nature and the human body. I will then suggest that Cardano’s Inquisition trial can help us better understand the Reformation and Counter-Reformation’s opposition to techniques of imagination. This opposition was not due to a denigration of nature, as Culianu believed, but instead to a reaffirmation of divine providence over nature.
The Cosmic Eros of Renaissance Vitalism: A Reassessment

10:45 AM - 11:15 AM2019/07/27 08:45:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 09:15:00 UTC
Vinculum vinculorum amor est. Giordano Bruno’s statement, “the chain of chains is love,” served Ioan Petru Culianu, in his classic on Renaissance magic, to summarize the conception that eros is the universal principle agitating nature. The living cosmos is sentient in all of its parts; desire keeps together reality at the micro-scale of terrestrial beings, and at the level of celestial motions and their metaphysical aspiration towards their unitarian source. According to vitalistic vistas from Ficino to Bruno and beyond, an adequate knowledge of the driving force of eros is the precondition for the effective channeling of nature towards individual and collective goals. The spirit of the incipient “Scientific Revolution” conferred an operational connotation to these ideas of neo-Platonic origin. The speculative character of classical Platonism was dismissed in favor of practice, while Scholastic constructions were cast into doubt as inapt to account for the new worlds opened up by scientific novatores alongside cosmographers and cosmologists. The linkage of science and magic constituted the vitalist philosophers’ specific path to useful knowledge. Culianu regarded Tommaso Campanella as paradigmatic of this trend, although he did not expand on the conceptions of this “attardé de la Renaissance en pleine Réforme.” It is worthwhile considering Campanella’s philosophy of cosmic eros, and the continuity he established between scienza and magia, magic and technology (particularly the three Baconian technologies: compass, gunpowder and press) as a manner to reassess, continue and deepen Culianu’s inquiry into nature and desire à la Renaissance, 35 years on.
Commentary: Nature and Desire: Ioan Petru Culianu’s Eros et Magie à la Renaissance, 35 Years Later

11:15 AM - 11:45 AM2019/07/27 09:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/27 09:45:00 UTC
ETH Zürich
Institute for Research in the Humanities, ICUB, University of Bucharest
Ghent University, FWO
ERC EarlyModernCosmology, Ca' Foscari University of Venice
SPHERE, CNRS
SPHERE, CNRS
Southern Adventist University
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