Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything

Routledge
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First published in 2004. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.
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About the author

Paula Findlen is Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History and Director of the Science, Technology and Society Program at Stanford University. She is the author of Possessing Nature and coeditor of Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science and Art in Early Modern Europe, published by Routledge.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Routledge
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Published on
Aug 2, 2004
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Pages
480
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ISBN
9781135948443
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Language
English
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Genres
History / General
Philosophy / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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This book offers a comprehensive account of vitalism and the Romantic philosophy of nature. The author explores the rise of biology as a unified science in Germany by reconstructing the history of the notion of “vital force,” starting from the mid-eighteenth through the early nineteenth century. Further, he argues that Romantic Naturphilosophie played a crucial role in the rise of biology in Germany, especially thanks to its treatment of teleology. In fact, both post-Kantian philosophers and naturalists were guided by teleological principles in defining the object of biological research.

The book begins by considering the problem of generation, focusing on the debate over the notion of “formative force.” Readers are invited to engage with the epistemological status of this formative force, i.e. the question of the principle behind organization. The second chapter provides a reconstruction of the physiology of vital forces as it was elaborated in the mid- to late-eighteenth century by the group of physicians and naturalists known as the “Göttingen School.” Readers are shown how these authors developed an understanding of the animal kingdom as a graded series of organisms with increasing functional complexity.

Chapter three tracks the development of such framework in Romantic Naturphilosophie. The author introduces the reader to the problem of classification, showing how Romantic philosophers of nature regarded classification as articulated by a unified plan that connects all living forms with one another, relying on the idea of living nature as a universal organism. In the closing chapter, this analysis shows how the three instances of pre-biological discourse on living beings – theory of generation, physiology and natural history – converged to form the consolidated disciplinary matrix of a general biology.

The book offers an insightful read for all scholars interested in classical German philosophy, especially those researching the philosophy of nature, as well as the history and philosophy of biology.

The search for our elusive human origins and an understanding of the mysteries of the human body have challenged the most inquisitive and imaginative thinkers from Egyptian times through the twentieth century. In The Epic History of Biology, Anthony Serafini - a distinguished philosopher and historian of science - regales the reader with the triumphs and failures of the geniuses of the life sciences. The subtleties of the animal kingdom - anatomy, zoology, and reproduction - along with the complexities of the plant kingdom, have fascinated humanity as far back as 5000 years ago. Astounding ancient knowledge of the arcane curing powers of herbs as well as early experimentation with different chemical combinations for such purposes as mummification led to today's biological technology. Innovative pioneers such as Aristotle, Galen, Hippocrates, and Vesalius challenged the limits of knowledge and single-mindedly pursued their work, often in the face of blind superstition. In superb, lyrical prose Serafini recreates the ideas and theories of these revolutionaries from ancient times through today, against the backdrop of the dogma and prejudices of their time. He explores the inspired revelations that gave birth to such discoveries as the controversial theory of evolution, the humble origins of genetics, the fantastic predictions of quantum mechanics, and the infinite promise of computer technology. Even today the biological sciences are undergoing rapid and kaleidoscopic changes. Every new insight gives rise to a myriad of new ethical questions and responsibilities. The Epic History of Biology confronts these issues head on and predicts the wondrous new directions biology will follow.
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