Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500-1800

By Daniela Bleichmar; Paula De Vos et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Cosmopolitanism and Scientific Reason
in New Spain
Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora
and the Dispute over the 1680 Comet

ANNA MORE

Recently, scholarship on early modern European science has revised the narrative of a seventeenth-century scientific revolution enacted by lone visionaries, emphasizing instead the collaborative and institutional aspects of scientific debate and change during this period. From this new perspective, it has been increasingly easy to relate changes in scientific theory and practice to the discursive and political context in which European scientific activity took place. Studies of patronage, for instance, have shown how scientific endeavors often reflected the whims of aristocratic patrons and the slippery politics of court culture.1 Likewise, scholarship on early scientific academies has argued that the rules of etiquette that arose to arbitrate internal scientific disputes provided models for an emergent civil society.2 Not only have these new studies emphasized the contingent nature of scientific activity and its dependence on institutional and discursive contexts, they also have shown the ways in which scientific discourse and practice restructured these same contexts and thus contributed to broader political and cultural changes during the period.

Pierre Bourdieu has systematized this new sociological history of science as the study of the “field of scientific reason,” in which “a most specific social logic is at work, affirming itself more and more to the degree that symbolic relations of power impose themselves that are irreducible to those that are current in the political field as well as to those instituted in the legal or theological field.”3 The value of Bourdieu’s notion of

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