Thursday, December 03, 2009

Cavendish on Bruno on Ptolemy

An interesting sidelight to the previous post regarding cosmology. If one is wondering whether the ideas of continental thinkers such as Nicholas of Cusa and Giordano Bruno enjoyed currency in England of Milton's day, from Bruno's bio in Wikipedia we learn:
During the later 16th century, and throughout the 17th century, Bruno's ideas were held up for ridicule, debate, or inspiration. Margaret Cavendish, for example, wrote an entire series of poems against "atoms" and "infinite worlds" in Poems and Fancies in 1664. Bruno's true, if partial, rehabilitation would have to wait for the implications of Newtonian cosmology.
Unfortunately the Wikipedia entry on this remarkable woman fails to follow up on her interest in Bruno, but as a nearly direct contemporary of Milton, Margaret Cavendish is an indicator of the intellectual climate of the day:
Cavendish has been championed and criticized as a unique and groundbreaking woman writer.Samuel Pepys called her "mad, conceited and ridiculous." She rejected the Aristotelianism andmechanical philosophy of the seventeenth century. She criticized and engaged with the members of the Royal Society of London and the philosophers Thomas HobbesRené Descartes, and Robert Boyle. She championed the idea of animal advocacy and was a strong opponent of animal testing.[1] Cavendish was the only seventeenth century woman to publish numerous books on natural philosophy.

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