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Differentiating Astronomy and Astrology in Early Modern Europe
December 12, 2019, 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
If today there is a sharp distinction between astronomy, the science of stars, and astrology, using horoscopes to make prediction, that has not always been the case. Before the seventeenth century, the words astronomy and astrology were often used interchangeably, and most astronomers (for example, Ptolemy and Kepler) were also astrologers. Putting the two disciplines in opposition is essentially a construction of the seventeenth century. However, the roots of the distinction are far older and can be traced back to medieval times, when ancient astronomical and astrological texts were first recovered. In this talk, we will examine how the distinction between astronomy and astrology had been puzzling scholars for centuries, and how a consensus was finally found in the early modern period. Behind this question of terminology lies the problem of distinguishing good and bad knowledge, and judging the heritage of the past. It is a question about the bases and norms of scientific knowledge. It is a question about building boundaries in the intellectual world.
Jean Sanchez is a PhD candidate at the École Normale Supérieure of Paris in history and philosophy of sciences. At the Linda Hall Library, he is working on his current project, “Conceptions of astrology among Parisian scholars (1570-1680),” a history of the intellectual demarcation between science and superstition in the seventeenth century.
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