Johann Christoph Sturm (1635-1703) and the secularization of early modern science

Lecture hosted by the Centrum voor Universiteits- en Wetenschapsgeschiedenis

Speaker: Dr. Andrea Sangiacomo (NWO/Faculteit Wijsbegeerte.

Time: 25 October at 17.30. Venue: Collegezaal in the University Library.

Eighteenth-century science is seemingly characterized by a progressive ‘secularization’, in sofar as theological and metaphysical concerns tend to drop out of the scientific agenda. This process is difficult to understand if compared with seventeenth-century science, in which God and divine action in nature played a crucial role. In this paper, Andrea Sangiacomo will focus on the German philosopher Johann Christoph Sturm’s account of passive forms as a case study to better understand the conceptual changes that affected the secularization of early modern science. He will argue that Sturm’s account leads to dissociate the explanans of natural phenomena from considerations about the causal power(s) needed to bring about these phenomena. While Sturm maintains that God is the only true cause bringing about natural effects, he also claims that the specificity of natural effects must be empirically investigated by inquiring into natural forms. Forms no longer have any ‘active’ role in the causal process but still account for its specific features. The speaker will argue that this account of passive forms reveals how theological and metaphysical considerations about God’s involvement in nature can be progressively bracketed, by leading to an apparently theology-free science.



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