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The Limits of MatterChemistry, Mining, and Enlightenment$
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Hjalmar Fors

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226194998

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226195049.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 November 2021

Capturing the Laughing Gnome

Capturing the Laughing Gnome

(p.121) 6 Capturing the Laughing Gnome
The Limits of Matter

Hjalmar Fors

University of Chicago Press

This chapter studies how the new chemists dealt with those objects of knowledge that were now out of bounds. Through active boundary-work, belief in e. g., trolls and the efficacy of magic and transmutation was transposed onto foreigners and ethnic minorities, women and artisanal craftsmen. The chapter also examines some beliefs and practices, associated with spirits and subtle matters, that remained within the permissible discourse of eighteenth century natural philosophy. It also examines what happened when skeptics finally came out in the open. Regardless of whether the doubts concerned magic, alchemy, religious enthusiasm, the supernatural or simply metaphysics, doubts were now put forward openly. However, the eighteenth century’s turn towards skepticism was a highly localized phenomena, and as such limited to certain individuals, groups, and social exchanges. Nevertheless, by the 1760s enlightened debates in Protestant Europe began to enter a more assertive and aggressive stage. These developments, in conjunction with the spread of Kantian philosophy, would turn the chapter on many of the issues and considerations that engaged the protagonists of this book.

Keywords:   Enlightenment, boundary work, subtle matter, spirits, keeper entities, artisanal knowledge, skepticism, rationalization

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