Marco Menin

The ethics of celestial bodies: Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's teleological cosmology

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Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's cosmological reflection is a valuable tool to better understand his philosophy - generally neglected by literature critics - and especially the anthropocentric providentialism which he puts at the center of his epistemol¬ogy. Saint-Pierre's astronomical beliefs are expressed in both of its major theoretical works: the "Études de la nature" of 1784 and, especially, the "Harmonies de la nature", written in the last twenty years of life and published posthumously in 1814. The ninth and final book of this work is devoted specifically to cosmology, as you can already guess from its title: "Harmonies du Ciel, ou les mondes". Here Bernardin firmly rejects the explanation of the cosmos - such as that of Laplace - which declares the futility of recourse to God in the description of celestial mechanics to analyze the single law that he recognizes as universal and timeless - namely, divine providence. Starting from specific methodological premises (the rejection of the synthesis, the rule of feeling, the intuitive method, etc.) Saint-Pierre built a teleological cosmology that combine a «meditated sky», mainly inspired by Huygens and Herschel, and a «dreamed sky», characterized by mystical ideas and an evident element of moral normativity. This synergy of different inspirations, sometimes quite original and fruitful, is especially evident in the issues concerning the plurality of worlds and the habitability of the Sun.


  • Saint-Pierre
  • Cosmology
  • Providentialism
  • Plurality of Worlds
  • Sun


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