Historians of science have become increasingly aware of the connections between religion and science in the early modern period. Science, or more strictly “natural philosophy,” is understood as having pointed to the existence of a designing deity. Conversely, religion is seen as providing a fledgling science with social legitimation. Another connection between seventeenth-century science and religion is less well known, and that is the way in which the experimental practices of the new science were then thought to promote a particular kind of moral and religious formation. As Robert Boyle put it, the study of nature would instill “sentiments of devotion and particular virtues.” This feature of experimental science represents a significant link with the classical notion of philosophy (including natural philosophy), which stressed the importance of the moral formation of the philosopher. The intellectual labors of the experimentalist could thus be understood as a form of spiritual exercises.
Research Article|January 01 2014
Peter Harrison; Sentiments of Devotion and Experimental Philosophy in Seventeenth-Century England. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 January 2014; 44 (1): 113–133. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-2389515
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