Physico-theology in England and on the European Continent (1650-c.1750). An international conference

Physico-theology in England and on the European Continent (1650-c.1750). An international conference

Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel; Organizers: Ann Blair (Harvard); Kaspar von Greyerz (Basel)
Bibliotheca Augusta
Vom - Bis
14.06.2017 - 16.06.2017
Bauer, Volker

Physico-theology is an understudied phenomenon, hence our plan to devote an international conference to it. To date, it is not even clear whether we are looking at 'currents of thought' or Denkformen going as far back as antiquity or rather, more narrowly, at a new form of natural theology, which reached prominence during the later seventeenth century. Whereas some German specialists see it as a "practical theology of nature" (Krolzik), which, chiefly from about 1650 to the mid-eighteenth century, managed to establish itself as an independent school of thought next to natural theology, British research considers physico-theology to be an integral part of natural theology from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, although it is regularly pointed out that it reached its heyday during the period just mentioned.

Whether we prefer to view physico-theology as a European development spreading from Britain to the continent, or rather as national phenomena with earlier origins (e.g. in (post-) Reformation Germany) hinges on the choice presented to us by research to date between a conception of physico-theology as a distinct form of natural theology spanning the centuries and the notion that we are mainly looking at a phenomenon of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In establishing this conference's program we have given preference to the latter notion. However, we do not exclude at all that the discussions in Wolfenbüttel will ultimately result in a different consensus. However, we do hope that the papers delivered at the conference, as well as the discussion, will help to dissipate some of the fog that continues to obscure our sight on an otherwise fascinating aspect of the early modern history of knowledge and science.

Funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung


June 14th

14:00-14:30 Ann Blair / Kaspar von Greyerz:
Welcome and Introduction


Panel 1: Natural theology and Physico-theology
Sektion 1: Natürliche Theologie und Physikotheologie

Chair: Ann Blair (Harvard)

14:30-15:20 Scott Mandelbrote (Cambridge/Oxford): What was Physico-Theology for?

15:20-16:10 Katherine Calloway (Waco, TX): Reading the Book of Nature in England: 1650-1700

16:10-16:40 Break/Pause

16:40-17:30 Brian Ogilvie (Amherst, MA): Maxima in minimis animalibus: Insects in Natural Theology and Physico-Theology

17:30-18:15 Break/Pause

18:15-19:30 Keynote address; open to the public: John Hedley Brooke (Emeritus, Oxford University): Was Physico-theology bad theology and bad science?

June 15th


Panel 2: Form and Contents
Sektion 2: Form und Inhalt

Chair: Walther Sparn (Erlangen)

09:00-09:50 Barbara Hunfeld (Würzburg): Evidenz im Text - Evidenz als Text: Physikotheologie in der deutschen Literatur der ersten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts.

09:50-10:40 Rienk Vermij (U. of Oklahoma): The Biblical and the natural. Denying a demarcation.

10:40-11:10 Break/Pause

11:10-12:00 Robert Felfe (Hamburg): Design Argument and Pictorial Strategies. A Relationship of Lure and Failure?



Panel 3: Forerunners / Biblical chronology
Sektion 3: Vorläufer / Heilsgeschichtliche Chronologie

Chair: Anthony Grafton (Princeton)

14:00-14:50 Peter Harrison (University of Queensland): What was 'Physico-Theology' in Seventeenth-Century England?

14:50-15:40 Kathleen Crowther (University of Oklahoma): The situation in German Protestantism before 1650.

15:40-16:10 Break/Pause

16:10-17:00 Kaspar von Greyerz (Basel): Back to the roots ? J. A. Fabricius's Register of ancient and more recent writers (1732).

19:00-22:00 Reception (incl. Buffet) at the Anna-Vorwerk-Haus

June 16th

Panel 4: National perspectives
Sektion 4: Nationale Perspektiven

Chair: Monika Mommertz (Freiburg i.Br. / Basel)

09:00-09:50 Anne-Charlott Trepp (Kassel): Matters of Belief and Belief that Matters: Physico-Theology and Lutheran Protestantism

09:50-10:40 Eric Jorink: (Leiden) Physico-theology and biblical criticism in the Netherlands, ca 1660-1730.

10:40-11:10 Break/Pause

11:10-12:00 Simona Boscani Leoni (Bern): A hybrid Physico-Theology: The Case of the Swiss Confederation



Panel 5: Catholicism, Jansenism and the reception beyond 1750
Sektion 5: Katholizismus, Jansenismus und die Rezeption nach 1750

Chair: Anne Saada (Paris)

13:30-14:20 Martine Pécharman (CNRS): What kind of proofs of religious truths? The case of Pascal and Port-Royal

14:20-15:10 Nicolas Brucker (Metz): What Abbé Pluche owes to Early-modern Physico-Theologians

15:10-15:40 Break/Pause

15:40-16:30 Jonathan Sheehan (Berkeley): The Form of Flowers: Teleology and Immanence after 1750

16:30-18:00 Panel discussion (Ann Blair; Brendan Dooley; Andreas Gipper; Udo Krolzik; Matthias Pohlig)


Dr. Volker Bauer

Herzog August Bibliothek, Postfach 13 64, D-38299 Wolfenbüttel

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