Competing Concepts of the Cosmos in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
The recovery and revival of ancient philosophy in the Renaissance gave rise to both an acceptance and rejection of the authority of ancient thought, responses that sparked the famous “Quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns.” The Philosophy of the seventh century has often been viewed as a gradual change from the religious, mystical worldview to a modern world characterized by rationalism and empiricism. The driving force ushering forward this transformation usually has been identified with the scientific revolution. This essay will attempt to demonstrate the degree to which the hermetic, organic and mechanical traditions interpenetrated each other during the intellectual transformation of the seventeenth century, a trend which carried forward into the eighteenth century. The works of Francis Bacon, Descartes, Anne Conway and Fontenelle will constitute the framework by which to analyze the issues surrounding those who supported ancient wisdom over the “new philosophy,” as well as the contrary. Their respective works will be discussed within the context of the influence of writings of the Paracelsians and the Kabbalah.