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Physico-theology

Religion and Science in Europe, 1650–1750

Beginning around 1650, the emergence of a number of new scientific concepts, methods, and instruments—including Copernicanism, the mechanical philosophy, and the microscope—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.

This book examines physico-theology as a distinctive strand within the long and versatile tradition of natural theology. Sixteen leading scholars in the field of science and religion contribute a rich array of analyses of the terms and scope of the movement, its scientific and religious arguments, and its aesthetic sensibilities. Surveying multiple national and linguistic contexts of early modern Europe, the book examines how the movement grew out of decisive works by British authors, including Walter Charleton, Robert Boyle, John Ray, William Derham, and William Whiston. It traces physico-theology to the Netherlands, Germanic lands, France, and Italy by considering the works of Bernard Nieuwentijt, Willem Goeree, J. A. Fabricius, J. J. Scheuchzer, Noël-Antoine Pluche, Antonio Vallisneri, and others.

This first major study of physico-theology focuses on books which reached a wide audience in their time through multiple editions and translations, even if they are not well known today. It should appeal to anyone interested in the histories of science, religion, and their interactions, or seeking a new perspective on naturalism and the origins of the European Enlightenment.

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

About the Authors

Ann Blair (CAMBRIDGE, MA) is the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard University. She is the author of The Theater of Nature: Jean Bodin and Renaissance Science and Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age. Kaspar von Greyerz (BERN, CH) 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 and the coeditor of Mapping the 'I': Research on Self-Narratives in Germany and Switzerland.

Endorsementss

"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."

- Craig Martin, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, author of Subverting Aristotle: Religion, History, and Philosophy in Early Modern Science

"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."

- Christopher S. Hamlin, University of Notre Dame, author of Hot: A Short History of Fever
Johns Hopkins University Press
Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context
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