Physics and Magic. Disenchanting Nature

In J. Mildorf, U. Seeber & M. Windisch (eds.), Magic, Science, Technology and Literature. Lit (2007)

Gregor Schiemann
University of Wuppertal
A widespread view of the natural sciences holds that their historical development was accompanied by a constantly widening gap between them and magic. Originally closely bound up with magic, the sciences are supposed to have distanced themselves from it in a long-drawn-out process, until they attained their present magic-free form. I would like, in this essay, to discuss some arguments in support of this plausible view. To this end, I shall begin with a definition of magical and scientific concepts of nature. To exemplify the gap which, over several epochs, widened between the magical and the scientific understanding of nature, I would like to examine two concepts in natural science, both assumed by physics. The first concept I select is Aristotle's concept of physis. It was fundamental to the emergence of physics, and sets its mark on thought in this field right up to the beginning of the modern period. The distinctive characteristic of the second concept of nature is negative, consisting in the elimination of the Aristotelian distinction between physis and techne. I consider Galileo Galilei to be a trail-blazer for this anti-magical position, as well as a co-founder of experimental science with his mechanical and astronomical works. As a conclusion I will say something of the relationship of magic to concepts of nature typical of the following period, both in physics and other natural sciences.
Keywords Natural sciences Naturwissenschaft  Magic Magie  Aristotle Aristoteles  Physics Physik  Physis  Techne  Galileo Galilei  Disentchantment Entzauberung  Concepts of Nature Naturbegriffe
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,579
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Vorwort der Herausgeber.[author unknown] - 1998 - Nietzsche-Studien 27 (1):v-viii.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Friedrich Schlegel, Romanticism, and the Re‐Enchantment of Nature.Alison Stone - 2005 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 48 (1):3 – 25.
Explaining the "Magic" of Consciousness.Daniel C. Dennett - 2003 - Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology 1 (1):7-19.
What Was Dewey’s “Magic Number?”.Larry A. Hickman - 2000 - The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 2000:221-231.
Emotions and the Self.David M. Rosenthal - 1983 - In K. Irani & Gerald E. Myers (eds.), Emotion: Philosophical Studies. Haven.
Towards a Science of Magic.Ronald A. Rensink - 2008 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12 (9):349-354.
What Is and Why Do We Need Philosophy of Physics?Meinard Kuhlmann & Wolfgang Pietsch - 2012 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 43 (2):209-214.
Magic Without Magic: Meaning of Quantum Brain Dynamics.Marj Jibu & Kunio Yasue - 1997 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 18 (2-3):205-228.


Added to PP index

Total views
185 ( #59,095 of 2,461,835 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #448,803 of 2,461,835 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes