The Magical Origins of Science. A Look at the Philosophical Tradition

Variant title

Le origini magiche della scienza. Uno sguardo alla tradizione filosofica


The idea that the occult or esoteric sciences – in particular magic, alchemy, and astrology – have played a significant role in the birth of modern science has gained a solid position in the metascientific literature of the last two centuries. This idea is certainly controversial, but not more controversial than other theories of the origins of science. Indeed, the theory that modern science simply emerged from common sense, once all the traditional theological impediments were removed, as well as the theory that identifies the roots of modern science in the Judeo-Christian beliefs, have also both met with severe criticism. This article presents the thought of four philosophers who paved the road for the theory of the magical origins of science, namely Francis Bacon, Auguste Comte, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Their insights have subsequently been developed by social scientists and historians of science. A brief account of these developments will be also given in the conclusions.





Italian (it)


Riccardo CampaJagiellonian University in Krakow


Orbis Idearum Volume 7, Issue 1 (2019), pp. 97-129
Magic in the History of Ideas