Article ID: CBB632113383

Environmental ethics for a fallen world: Johann Jakob Scheuchzer (1672–1733) and the boundaries of human agency (2020)


This article traces the formation of a (self-)critical discourse around human environmental agency in early Enlightenment Europe, focusing on the Swiss naturalist Johann Jakob Scheuchzer (1672-1733) and the Royal Society milieus to which he was connected. In manuscript and printed writings, and particularly in his beautifully illustrated Physica sacra (1731-1735), Scheuchzer used a combination of biblical exegesis, thought experiments, and ecological insights to reflect about the relationship between God, humankind, and nature. Against claims that the tradition of natural theology in which Scheuchzer belonged “prevented and delayed the acknowledgment of the earth as vulnerable” (Kempe 2003b, p. 166), the article shows how different thinkers could use the Bible to support competing claims regarding the role of humans as agents in God’s creation. While some authors enthusiastically upheld contemporary ideologies of environmental ‘improvement’, others—including Scheuchzer himself—called for greater self-restraint and developed a biblically-grounded form of precautionary environmental ethics.

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Authors & Contributors
Luzzini, Francesco
Enza Del Tedesco
Omodeo, Pietro Daniel
Lehmann, Hartmut
Trepp, Anne-Charlott
Tal, Alon
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Environmental History
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
Fabrizio Serra Editore
University of California Press
Edition Open Sources
Edition Open Access
Earth sciences
Science and religion
Environmental history
Natural philosophy
Science and society
Vallisneri, Antonio
Scheuchzer, Johann Jakob
Kircher, Athanasius
Paracelsus, Theophrast von Hohenheim
Haller, Albrecht von
De Luc, Jean André
Time Periods
18th century
17th century
Early modern
20th century
19th century
Venice (Italy)
Alps (Europe)
Adige River (Italy)
Royal Society of London
University of Padua

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