Celestial Influence as an Aid to Pluralism from Antiquity to the Renaissance

  • James E. Christie
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 228)


This chapter begins in the classical period, discussing Plutarch’s On the Face which Appears in the Orb of the Moon as an example of how closely connected theories of influence and inhabitation were when considering the nature of the moon as a potential ‘other earth’. The importance of teleology in the discussion is highlighted, as is the prominence of Platonic and Stoic cosmological elements. The chapter then proceeds to the medieval period and looks at the development of an ‘astrologizing Aristotelian natural philosophy’ and in particular its relevance in two areas: the question of natural generation and the question of divine providence. This astrological natural philosophy was the dominant cosmological paradigm against which (but also within which) the plurality of worlds tradition would eventually develop. The chapter then moves on to Nicholas of Cusa, whose work On Learned Ignorance demonstrates how celestial influence was connected to the question of pluralism. After Cusa, the chapter looks at other philosophers who introduced novelties into celestial natural philosophy, such as Marcellus Palingenius, Thomas Digges, Giambattista Benedetti, Francesco Patrizi and Giordano Bruno. In each case the question of celestial inhabitation is shown to be closely linked to questions of influence.


Astrology Extraterrestrial life Plutarch Nicholas of Cusa Aristotelianism Giambattista Benedetti Francesco Patrizi Giordano Bruno Astrobiology 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • James E. Christie
    • 1
  1. 1.SydneyAustralia

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