Thesis ID: CBB029581408

The Art of Making Rain and Fair Weather: The Life and World System of Louis-Bertrand Castel, (1688-1757) (2016)


This dissertation explores the natural philosophy of the polymath Louis-Bertrand Castel (1688-1757), one of the most prolific and colorful Jesuit thinkers of early modern France. It approaches Castel’s writings as part of a coherent and insightful enterprise and shows the importance of avoiding facile categorizations of his world system as “Aristote-lian,” “Cartesian” or “Anti-Newtonian” in favor of a sensitive biographical and historical contextualization of his oeuvre. Castel believed that God invested human beings with the duty and power to shape the earth, and he developed an all-embracing philosophy upon this notion. He argued that human activity occasioned rains, storms, and natural disasters; perpetuated the existence of plants and animals; caused mountains to rise and fall, rivers to flow, and fire to burn beneath the crust; in short, it ensured the circulation, the organi-zation, and the revitalization of the world machine. Castel’s lifelong, syncretic endeavor aimed to reconcile the mechanical philosophy of his forebears with the tenets of his faith, at a time when he felt a growing number of “moderns” were eroding the dignity and free will of man. Although scholarship has long marginalized his work, Castel’s oeuvre emerges here at the center of eighteenth-century intellectual life. By studying the development of his theories about “the action of man upon nature” in a variety of disciplinary contexts — theology, physics, political economy, geometry, meteorology, and history — this work allows one to better understand the relationship between these disciplines and the evolu-tion of the early modern quest for universal knowledge. This work also participates in the reassessment of the role that the Society of Jesus played in France in the development of early modern science. Castel’s intellectual endeavor helps shift one’s understanding of the scientific revolution and its aftermath, as it features Jesuits as full participants, colleagues and even precursors to better known figures of the canon. It suggests new ways of understanding how science and religion – far from being in conflict – worked together at one point to foster Enlightenment practices and ideologies.

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Authors & Contributors
Carolino, Luís Miguel
Hellyer, Marcus A.
Kelter, Irving A.
van Damme, Stéphane
Magruder, Kerry V.
Zhang, Qiong
Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
History of Science
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
University of Notre Dame Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
SISMEL edizioni del Galluzzo
Carocci Editore
Tinta da China
Science and religion
Natural philosophy
Beati, Gabriele
Kircher, Athanasius
Galilei, Galileo
Riccioli, Giovanni Battista
Swedenborg, Emanuel
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
Early modern
16th century
15th century
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
Museo del Collegio Romano

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