The 'physical prophet' and the powers of the imagination. Part II: a case-study on dowsing and the naturalisation of the moral, 1685-1710

Abstract : Relying on the results of the fist paper of this pair (Vermeir, 2004), which argued the importance of theories of the imagination in debates on divination, I unearth the role of the imagination in a discussion on dowsing. References to the imagination often stayed implicit because of its negative associations, but I show in detail how the imagination was used to negotiate between the material and the spiritual, and between the natural, the supernatural and the moral. Natural philosophers, theologians as well as moralists struggled for authority over divinatory phenomena. The debate evolved around the questions whether moral states could be naturalised and whether subtle material vapours could have moral qualities.
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Koen Vermeir. The 'physical prophet' and the powers of the imagination. Part II: a case-study on dowsing and the naturalisation of the moral, 1685-1710. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Elsevier, 2005, 36 (1), pp.1-24. ⟨10.1016/j.shpsc.2004.12.008⟩. ⟨halshs-00641622⟩

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