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Sociological Forum

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 641–660 | Cite as

The merton thesis: Oetinger and German Pietism, a significant negative case

  • George Becker
Articles

Abstract

The Merton thesis identifies two movements — English Puritanism and German Pietism — as causally significant in the development of the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. It attributes this connection to a strong compatibility between the values of ascetic Protestantism and those associated with modern science. This article questions Merton's conclusion regarding one of these movements, German Pietism, by arguing that the Pietist ethos stood in sharp conflict with what Merton has called the normative structure of science. One manifestation of this conflict involves Friedrich Oetinger's articulation of a contending “religious-mystical” conception of science, which assigned a central place to feeling, intuition, the role of the divine, and a qualitative approach to nature. This conception of science, it is argued, provides the clearest indication of the conceptual and valuative distance that tended to separate Pietists from the “new science” of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Key words

Merton thesis Pietism-science thesis Pietism science Oetinger 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Becker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyVanderbilt UniversityNashville

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