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Physico-theology: Religion and Science in Europe, 1650-1750

Physico-theology: Religion and Science in Europe, 1650-1750


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This first book-length study of physico-theology questions the widespread notion of a steadily advancing early modern separation of religion and science.

Beginning around 1650, the emergence of a number of new scientific concepts, methods, and instruments challenged existing syntheses of science and religion. Physico-theology, which embraced the values of personal, empirical observation, was an international movement of the early Enlightenment that focused on the new science to make arguments about divine creation and providence. By reconciling the new science with Christianity across many denominations, physico-theology played a crucial role in diffusing new scientific ideas, assumptions, and interest in the study of nature to a broad public. In this book, sixteen leading scholars contribute a rich array of essays on the terms and scope of the movement, its scientific and religious arguments, and its aesthetic sensibilities.

Contributors: Ann Blair, Simona Boscani Leoni, John Hedley Brooke, Nicolas Brucker, Katherine Calloway, Kathleen Crowther, Brendan Dooley, Peter Harrison, Barbara Hunfeld, Eric Jorink, Scott Mandelbrote, Brian W. Ogilvie, Martine Pécharman, Jonathan Sheehan, Anne-Charlott Trepp, Rienk Vermij, Kaspar von Greyerz

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421438467
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 08/25/2020
Series: Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context
Pages: 286
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ann Blair is the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard University. She is the author of Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age. Kaspar von Greyerz is professor emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Basel. He is the author of Religion and Culture in Early Modern Europe, 1500–1800.

Table of Contents

Ann Blair and Kaspar von Greyerz

Part I. Terms and Purview of Physico-theology
Chapter 1. Was Physico-theology Bad Theology and Bad Science?
John Hedley Brooke
Chapter 2. What's in a Name? "Physico-theology" in Seventeenth-Century England
Peter Harrison
Chapter 3. The Form of a Flower
Jonathan Sheehan

Part II. National Traditions
Chapter 4. What Was Physico-theology For?
Scott Mandelbrote
Chapter 5. Physico-theology in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic: The Case of Willem Goeree (1635–1711)
Eric Jorink
Chapter 6. Back to the Roots? J. A. Fabricius's "Register of Ancient and Modern Writers" of 1728
Kaspar von Greyerz

Part III. Styles of Religiosity
Chapter 7. Miracles, Secrets, and Wonders: Jakob Horst and Christian Natural Philosophy in German Protestantism before 1650
Kathleen Crowther
Chapter 8. "Rather Theological than Philosophical": John Ray's Seminal Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation
Katherine Calloway
Chapter 9. Matters of Belief and Belief That Matters: German Physico-theology, Protestantism, and the Materialized Word of God in Nature
Anne-Charlott Trepp
Chapter 10. Pascal's Rejection of Natural Theology: The Case of the Port-Royal Edition of the Pensées
Martine Pécharman

Part IV. Engagement with the New Science 
Chapter 11. Physico-theology or Biblical Physics? The Biblical Focus of the Early Physico-theologians
Rienk Vermij
Chapter 12. Maxima in minimis animalibus: Insects in Natural Theology and Physico-theology
Brian W. Ogilvie
Chapter 13. What Abbé Pluche Owed to Early Modern Physico-theologians
Nicolas Brucker
Chapter 14. Antonio Vallisneri between Faith and Flood
Brendan Dooley

Part V. Aesthetic Sensibilities 
Chapter 15. A Language for the Eye: Evidence within the Text and Evidence as Text in German Physico-theological Literature
Barbara Hunfeld
Chapter 16. A Hybrid Physico-theology: The Case of the Swiss Confederation
Simona Boscani Leoni


What People are Saying About This

Martin Mulsow

"For a long time, physico-theology has been neglected by both theologians and scientists. Finally, bringing together the contributions of leading experts in English, French, German, Italian, and Dutch intellectual history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this ambitious volume overcomes the narrow boundaries of disciplines and national traditions."

Craig Martin

"Physico-theology contributes significantly to ongoing debates about religion and the emergence of the new science of the seventeenth century, the character of the Enlightenment, and, more broadly, the historical relations between religion and science or, to put it more accurately, between divine and natural knowledge. The contributors are extremely qualified, some of the very best in their fields."

H. C. Erik Midelfort

"This volume provides an excellent introduction to the general topic of physico-theology. Its sixteen solid and imaginative essays reveal how scholars across Europe actively learned from and argued with each other. As a guide to recent work on this major early modern religious and intellectual movement, this collection is invaluable."

Michael Stolberg

"This stimulating read reimagines the place of physico-theology in the intellectual history of the early modern period. It brings together fine-grained analyses of different intellectual and national contexts in a way that will prove highly rewarding to historians of culture, theology, and science alike."

Christopher S. Hamlin

"A groundbreaking book. There is no other comprehensive work on physico-theology, nor on the associated enterprise of a posteriori natural theology. This collection of finely grained studies of individuals, topics, texts, and textual traditions is essential to understanding the broader field."

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