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Special Providence and Sixteenth-Century Astronomical Observation: Some Preliminary Reflections

Charlotte Methuen
Early Science and Medicine
Vol. 4, No. 2 (1999), pp. 99-113
Published by: Brill
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4130029
Page Count: 15
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Special Providence and Sixteenth-Century Astronomical Observation: Some Preliminary Reflections
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Abstract

This paper considers the role of the doctrine of providence, and particularly the distinction between general and special providence, in the interpretation of astronomical observations in the sixteenth century, with particular reference to the discussion of the 1572 nova by Lutheran astronomers. It suggests that the essential difference between the events of special providence and those of general providence could be used to legitimate observations which contradicted accepted Aristotelian physics. The decision that the underlying explanatory system must be revised thus required a theological shift as well as contradiction by observation.

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