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The Decline of MagicBritain in the Enlightenment$
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Michael Hunter

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300243581

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300243581.001.0001

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The Ambivalence of the Early Royal Society

The Ambivalence of the Early Royal Society

(p.67) Chapter Three The Ambivalence of the Early Royal Society
The Decline of Magic

Michael Hunter

Yale University Press

This chapter turns to the rather paradoxical role of the early Royal Society in connection with magic, since as an institution it proved far less supportive of the supernaturalist project of Joseph Glanvill and Robert Boyle than might have been expected. This reveals significant fissures in scientific circles at the time which are often ignored. It was only in the early eighteenth century that the society's avoidance of magic was construed as displaying a systematically sceptical attitude which in practice had never really existed. This formed a part of the process by which the orthodox gradually began to come round to a cautiously sceptical viewpoint. The chapter ends by considering the legacy of their misrepresentation of the society's earlier role down to the twentieth century.

Keywords:   Royal Society, magic, orthodox, scepticism, misrepresentation

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