By Seth Lobis
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Extra resources for The Virtue of Sympathy: Magic, Philosophy, and Literature in Seventeenth-Century England
85 Charleton treats sympathy not as an unaccountable marvel but rather as one of many “performances of Nature” explicable in mechanistic terms. Sympathy was not suddenly being “forgotten”; as part of the broader philosophical problem of the “occult,” it was, rather, a focus of scientific attention. In “The Prose of the World,” Foucault gives sympathy pride of place; it is marked relative to the other forms of similitude. In his account of the classical age, by contrast, it is itself assimilated, lumped in with the other “noble, rigorous, and restrictive figures of similitude” and tossed into the epistemological dustbin.
Milton represented sympathy in his epic, one both “monumental” and “intimate,” in Weber’s terms, not to animate it but to rationalize and contain it. Only then could the power of sympathy be put to virtuous use. Introduction The focus of my first chapter is the most noted and extensive attempt to account for sympathy in mechanistic terms in the seventeenth century, Sir Kenelm Digby’s treatise on sympathetic cures, a now peculiar-seeming pharmacopoeia of salves and powders alleged to heal wounds though applied at a distance from the patient.
I begin this chapter with a brief history of the controversy over sympathetic cures, emphasizing the account of Robert Fludd (1574–1637) and showing that the controversy was as much about the nature and structure of the world as it was about the action of a cure. It brought to the fore questions not only about natural philosophy and the authority of Aristotle but also about theology and the power of God and Satan. In the controversy we can see the intimate association between sympathy and magic in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The Virtue of Sympathy: Magic, Philosophy, and Literature in Seventeenth-Century England by Seth Lobis