166 research outputs found

    Rethinking Leonardo for the Anthropocene

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    The aesthetic grace of Leonardo da Vinci’s depictions of nature—the backgrounds of his master paintings and the meticulous drawings in the preserved codices—has a significance that goes beyond mere visual pleasure. The Renaissance’s naturalism was enormously important for the development of a practice-oriented scientific culture rooted in empirical observation. A broad range of research on the practical foundations of science has highlighted this insight, research that spans from Marxist sociology to newer scholarship on practical knowledge in the history of art and science. This essay discusses Leonardo from the perspective of the current debate on the Anthropocene

    The Struggle for Objectivity: Gramsci’s Historical-Political Vistas on Science against the Background of Lenin’s Epistemology

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    This contribution interprets the intertwined issues of science, epistemology, society, and politics in Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks as a culturalist approach to science that does not renounce objectivity. Gramsci particularly criticized the scientist positions taken by the Bolshevik leader Nikolai Bukharin in Historical Materialism (1921) and the conference communication he delivered at the International Congress of History of Science and Technology in London in 1931. Gramsci did not avoid, at least implicitly, engaging with the theses of Lenin’s Materialism and Empiriocriticism (1909). Gramsci’s reception of these Russian positions was twofold: on the one hand, he agreed with the centrality of praxis (and politics) for a correct assessment of the meaning of epistemological positions; on the other hand, he disagreed with the reduction of the problem of epistemology to the dichotomy of materialism and idealism at the expense of any consideration of the ideological dimension of science

    Heavenly Animation as the Foundation for Fracastoro’s Homocentrism: Aristotelian-Platonic Eclecticism beyond the School of Padua

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    This essay deals with the ensouled cosmology propounded by the physician and philosopher Girolamo Fracastoro. His Homocentrica sive de stellis (1538), which propounded an astronomy of concentric spheres, was received and discussed by scholars who belonged to the cultural environment of the Padua School. Paduan Aristotelians generally explained heavenly motions in physical terms as the effect of heavenly souls and intelligences. Since the time of the polemics over the immortality of the human soul, which had famously opposed Pomponazzi to Nifo, all psychological discussions—including those about heavenly spheres’ souls—raised heated controversies. In the wake of these controversies, Fracastoro discussed the foundations of his homocentric planetary theory in a dialogue on the immortality of the soul entitled Fracastorius, sive de anima (1555). This work also included a cosmogonic myth which was, however, not published in early-modern editions of the dialogues in order to avoid theological censorship. Fracastoro had already discussed problems of celestial physics and the physical problems linked with mathematical modeling in relation to physical causation in an exchange with Gasparo Contarini which took place in 1531. In this exchange Contarini expressed his doubts over Fracastoro’s lack of consideration of the Aristotelian viewpoints on heavenly souls and intelligences. Fracastoro offered a full account of cosmic animation in his later dialogue ‘on the soul’ by taking a different path than his Paduan teachers and philosophical interlocutors. He picked up the Platonic idea of the world soul, which animates the whole, and freely connected it with Aristotelian views about the ensouled cosmos of concentric spheres. Thus, his cosmology resulted from an eclectic composition of Platonic, Aristotelian and Averroistic elements. He aimed to create a renewed mathematical astronomy that would explain planetary motions as the result of the movements of concentric spheres. Fracastoro grounded this renewed astronomy on an understanding of the cosmos as a living whole. Such an animated homocentric cosmos represented, at the same time, both a development based on Aristotelian premises and a step beyond this legacy

    Celestial Physics

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    It has long been recognized that astronomy was a catalyst of the Scientific Revolution, spurring on deeply consequential speculation about the nature of the cosmos and its physical principles. Yet the history of celestial physics is far richer than was thought a generation ago, and there is much to be learned about the origins of the field, particularly in the sixteenth century, when humanist activity brought forth a dazzling array of philosophical possibility—from reconsiderations of Aristotle and Islamicate commentary to the revival of Platonic, Epicurean, and Stoic worldviews. Celestial physics offered some of the most heated arguments for or against the Aristotelian cosmos, with controversial attempts to account for astronomical observation by integrating various causal innovations. This chapter will focus on a number of themes that mark celestial physics and cosmological speculation in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries: the order of the celestial bodies and their nature, the relationship between celestial and terrestrial things, the question of celestial animism or vitalism, and the status of the divine in celestial nature

    Science in Court Society: Giovanni Battista Benedetti’s Diversarum speculationum mathematicarum et physicarum liber (Turin, 1585)

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    Giovanni Battista Benedetti is counted as one of the most brilliant mathematical and philosophical minds of the late Italian Renaissance. However, the theoretical and historical relevance of his work is still obscure in many respects. This is due to several factors, principal among which is the relative rarity of his major work, Diversarum speculationum mathematicarum et physicarum liber (Book including various mathematical and physical speculations), 1585.This work was a major contribution to Renaissance science, especially due to its insights on mechanics, the mathematical approach to natural investigation, and the connection of celestial and terrestrial dynamics in a post-Copernican perspective. The first edition was an elegant folio, which includes heterogeneous writings not only on mathematics and physics but also on technical and philosophical issues. Benedetti presented these as short treatises or letters addressed to gentlemen, courtiers, scholars, engineers, and practitioners of different arts. The Diversae speculationes appeared in a series of prestigious volumes aimed at celebrating the magnificence of the court and the capital. It aimed to make the quality of the court mathematician’s research and skills publicly appreciable. It also bore witness to the intensity of the cultural debates going on in Turin or connecting it with other centers, especially Venice.This open access edition makes the Benedetti’s work accessible to a large scholarly readership. In the extensive introduction, his achievement is presented in its rich complexity. Benedetti is emblematic of his time and of the non-linearity of the historical process of Renaissance science with its multicentric institutions and scientific networks. The apparent fragmentary nature of his work hides a fundamental unity of the conception and the method, both of which rest on geometry. Benedetti regarded mechanics as a model, but he enlarged his perspective to include the most varied fields of investigation and concretely to demonstrate the fruitfulness of his approach to universal knowledge, astronomy, physics, meteorology, and even to ethics.Edition Open Sources (EOS) pioneers a new paradigm in the publishing of historical sources. Academic editions of primary sources in the history of science are published in online, digital, and print formats that present facsimiles, transcriptions, and often translations of original works with an introduction to the author, the text, and the context in which it was written. The sources are historical books, manuscripts, documents, or other archival materials that are otherwise difficult to access. EOS is a cooperation between the University of Oklahoma Libraries, the Department for the History of Science der University of Oklahoma, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
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