Praise of Astrology

Diogenes 46 (182):109-121 (1998)
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Abstract

By the end of the seventeenth century, high culture had banished astrology as a mixture of superstition and imposture. The great astrological treatises of the past - in particular the Ptolemaic Tetrabiblos (whose very authenticity was cast into doubt) - stopped being published; a hodgepodge of minor writings, mostly preserved in manuscript form, lay mouldering in oblivion in the far recesses of libraries. It was only in the latter decades of the eighteenth century that the learned world began once again to pay attention to the ancient art, when historians of ancient religions and science began to realize the impossibility of exploring their subjects without taking into account a presence that could be neither denied nor underestimated. The history of astrology then began to take shape as a specific field of study, and historicophilological research was able to employ it as a tool for penetrating the tie between mythos and logos, at the origin of western civilization. Along with the image of the Greek miracle, an overly simplistic and schematic definition of reason and science began to decline. It was necessary to isolate, as Hermann Usener sought to do, the “wild germ of science” and to acknowledge the fact that logic and magic bloom on the same stem, as Aby Warburg has often reminded us, with reference to Jean Paul.

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