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Aristotelianism and Natural Knowledge at Early-Modern Protestant Universities

Jun 21, 2017 - Jun 23, 2017

Conference organised by project A06 "Alchemia poetica. Chemisches Wissen und Dichtung um 1600" (Head: Prof. Dr. Volkhard Wels) and project B06 "Premodern Cosmological Formations of Knowledge: Tradition and Change from a Diachronic and Transcultural Perspective" (Head: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Renn)

Concept: Prof. Dr. Volkhard Wels and Dr. Pietro D. Omodeo

This conference is devoted to the investigation of Aristotelianism at Protestant universities during the Early Modern Period from the mid sixteenth century to the mid seventeenth. Protestant Aristotelianism can be described, according the perspective of the Collaborative Research project SFB Episteme in Motion, as a dynamic tradition. In fact, processes of intellectual and institutional re- contextualization and knowledge transfer constantly reshaped and transformed this tradition, despite its constant reference to the Aristotelian corpus.

The main focus of the conference is the interaction between Protestant Aristotelianism and new mathematical or empirical natural knowledge, as well as the manner in which Aristotelianism was transformed between 1550 and 1650 in the wake of debates on astrology, astronomy, medicine, psychology, alchemy/chemistry, physics and biology, along with debates on scientific methodologies (the logic and philosophy of science and their application to natural philosophy). Protestant Aristotelianism was by no means a crystallized or static system. Rather, it constituted a dynamic reaction to the challenges such as those of Ramism, Paracelsianism and Cartesianism. In this conference we will inquire as to how these changes and processes of transfer and adaptation took place by means of assimilation, transformation, differentiation or appropriation.

Natural knowledge in the early modern period often took a confessional dimension. A new way to Aristotelianism was introduced to Protestant universities in the wake of Philippism, by which we especially refer to Philipp Melanchthon’s university reform. The lasting influence of Philippism was by no means restricted to theological faculties; rather, it deeply influenced natural knowledge in general. Melanchthon’s influence spread beyond Wittenberg and affected fields such as medicine (Daniel Sennert), alchemy/chemistry (Andreas Libavius), physics (Paul Eber) and astronomy (Erasmus Reinhold, Kaspar Peucer). At late-humanist universities and gymnasia such as those in Rostock, Helmstedt, Frankfurt on Oder, Copenhagen, Königsberg, Altdorf and Marburg, a lively tradition was established, whose effects on the study of nature has not yet been explored. Religion played a more or less prominent role in the natural discourse, especially insofar as how concepts derived from metaphysics or theology affected natural knowledge.

Furthermore, Aristotelian-Melanchthonian natural philosophy came into conflict with scientific theories and these, in turn, received a confessional over- determination, as was the case with the Ramist disputes in the sixteenth century and the Cartesian polemics in the seventeenth, as well as with clashes between methodological Aristotelianism and Gnesio-Lutheran theology in the sixteenth century. Confessional elements also penetrated the controversies over neo- Platonic and Hermetic concepts, e.g. the disputes over Paracelsian medicine. Harsh polemics such as those between Thomas Erastus and Andreas Libavius and the Paracelsianists, are instances of such disputes.

We welcome contributions on individual authors, works, debates or related issues, as well as on general topics and natural debates taking place at Protestant universities in the period from ca. 1550 to 1650. 



Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Venue: Conference room, SFB-Villa, Schwendenerstraße 8, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem

15.00 Introduction

16.00 Volkhard Wels: Melanchthon’s Logic and Rhetoric and the Methodology of Natural Knowledge

17.00 Günter Frank: Zwischen Naturphilosophie und Naturtheologie

18.00 Coffee break

Keynote lecture

19.00 Barbara Mahlmann-Bauer: Das Ende der astrologischen Prognostik als Wissenschaft


Thursday, June 22, 2017
Venue: MPIWG, Boltzmannstraße 22, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem


9.00 Pietro Daniel Omodeo: The Wittenberg Interpretation of Copernicus: At the Origins of a Tradition

10.00 Coffee break

Novae and cometae

10.30 Anna Jerratsch: Aristotelianism in Protestant Conceptions of Comets 1530–1680

11.30 Miguel A. Granada: Bartholomaeus Keckermann and His Discussion with Astronomers on Novas and Comets

12.30 Lunch


14.00 Bruce Moran: Defending Aristotle, Constructing Chymia: Libavius, Logic, and the German Schools

15.00 Elisabeth Moreau: “Axioms of mixtures and elements:” Andreas Libavius on the Constitution of the Living Body

16.00 Coffee break

Medicine and Natural Philosophy

16.30 Hiro Hirai: Daniel Sennert, Occult Qualities and Renaissance Natural Philosophy

17.30 Bernd Roling: Johann Ludwig Hannemann (1640–1724) und die Verteidigung des Paracelsismus in Kiel


Friday, June 23, 2017
Venue: MPIWG, Boltzmannstraße 22, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem

Natural philosophy

9.00 Anne Eusterschulte: Aristotelische Naturphilosophie an der Universität Helmstedt

10.00 Jonathan Regier: Aristotle against the Pope: Reginald Scot’s Vision of Nature

11.00 Coffee break

Networks and Institutions

11.30 Maria Avxentevskaya: Protestant Polemics and Natural Knowledge in Stammbuch Networking, 1550–1650

12.30 Lunch

13.30 Simon Rebohm: Aristotle at the Academia naturae curiosorum

14.30 Martin Urmann: Die Rekonfiguration von natura und ars in der cartesianischen Rhetorik und die Wissensreflexion in den Preisfragen der französischen Akademien

Time & Location

Jun 21, 2017 - Jun 23, 2017

SFB 980 and MPI for the History of Science

Further Information

The entrance is for free. Please register at: protestant_aristotelianism@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de