Values in Scientific Revolution Texts
This pilot focuses on 17th-century works of natural philosophy and utopian literature. This period is known as the Scientific Revolution, a historical era of great discoveries and inventions. It was the century of mathematization of nature, mechanical philosophy, laws of nature and experimental method, but also of mathematical magic, curiosity, and discussions concerning the relationship between God and nature. These utopian works were mostly imaginary travel stories or fictional communities of ideal perfection in which the new intellectual achievements were embedded in an imaginary narrative context.
At that time, natural philosophy became poetic and literary, including fiction and imagination. For example, Galileo’s detailed descriptions of the Moon’s surface (Sidereus Nuncius, 1610) initiated new scenarios, which implied that the Moon, since it became “another Earth”, could be inhabited. Few years later, Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1624-7) enshrined the moral value of learning and the advancement of knowledge as a great utopian goal. Other thinkers, such as John Wilkins, were concerned about the theological status of hypothetical lunar inhabitants, and whether they were fallen or unfallen.
Such a shift in the view of the Cosmos brought with it a shift in values. It questioned the centrality of man in the world, bringing forth new scenarios in socio-political and theological discussion, and led to a new consideration of the intrinsic value of nature. Our aim is to highlight the inherent moral values in the utopias of the seventeenth century and evaluate the conceptual context in which they were presented. Furthermore, we will investigate how values are transformed, reinvented and reconstruct a new image of the self and of the world in the early modern period.