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

In the first paper of this pair, I argued the importance of theories of the imagination in debates on divination [Vermeir, K. . The ‘physical prophet’ and the powers of the imagination. Part I: A case-study on prophecy, vapours and the imagination . Studies in History and Philosophy of Science C, 35, 561–591]. In the present article, I will rely on these results in order to unearth the role of the imagination in a discussion on dowsing. References to the imagination were often 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 and moralists all 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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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2004.12.008
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Michael Hunter (1990). Alchemy, Magic and Moralism in the Thought of Robert Boyle. British Journal for the History of Science 23 (4):387-410.

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