Science and the Renaissance - Vol. 1

By W. P. D. Wightman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE EMBODIMENT OF THE
SPIRITUAL WORLD

'IN that age many things that, later on, were to be divided by a critical effort were still closely interrelated: the view of the universe was not yet split into a religious one and a scientific one.'1 Wolfgang Pauli is here speaking of the first years of the seventeenth century when in the mind of Ioannes Kepler the birth struggle was proceeding of the first epoch-making discovery in astronomy since the age of Ptolemy. The purpose of Pauli's extremely important monograph is to show that the driving force behind this struggle to frame a concept of planetary motion which turned out to be the fundamental basis of modern quantitative astronomy was essentially a religious creed springing from archetypal ideas on the relation between God and the world. It is immaterial whether or not Pauli's contention will stand up to detailed criticism; what can not be denied is the importance of his emphasis on the necessity for considering this kind of evidence in the history of science. The case of Kepler is crucial, since he stood on a plateau dividing the Old from the New in natural science: of the latter he was one of the architects, though one shudders to think with what dismay he would have viewed the outcome. It is always possible, and this was the almost invariable custom until the recent past, to ignore such 'confusions' in the mind of a creative genius as human weakness over which it would be kinder to draw a veil.2 Sometimes indeed there may be good reasons for regarding such aberrations as merely incidental;

____________________
1
C. G. Jung and W. Pauli, The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler, The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche, trans. by P. Silz, London, 1955, p. 155. Original German, 1952.
2
Cf. P. O. Kristeller, who emphasises the necessity of reporting and understanding the errors as well as the successes of a thinker like Kepler, 'otherwise the history of science becomes nothing but a catalogue of disconnected facts, and a modern version of hagiography.' The Classics and Renaissance Thought, Cambridge, Mass., 1955, p. 67.

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