The Unknowable in Early Modern Thought: Natural Philosophy and the Poetics of the Ineffable

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Early modern thought was haunted by the unknowable character of the fallen world. The sometimes brilliant and sometimes baffling fusion of theological and scientific ideas in the era, as well as some of its greatest literature, responds to this sense that humans encountered only an incomplete reality.

Ranging from Paradise Lost to thinkers in and around the Royal Society and commentary on the Book of Job, The Unknowable in Early Modern Thought explores how the era of the scientific revolution was in part paralyzed by and in part energized by the paradox it encountered in thinking about the elusive nature of God and the unfathomable nature of the natural world. Looking at writers with scientific, literary and theological interests, from the shoemaker mystic, Jacob Boehme to John Milton, from Robert Boyle to Margaret Cavendish, and from Thomas Browne to the fiery prophet, Anna Trapnel, Kevin Killeen shows how seventeenth-century writings redeployed the rich resources of the ineffable and the apophatic—what cannot be said, except in negative terms—to think about natural philosophy and the enigmas of the natural world.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCalifornia
PublisherStanford University Press
Number of pages274
ISBN (Electronic)9781503635869
ISBN (Print)9781503635395, 9781503635852
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

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