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"Because the Authority of My Superiors Commands": Censorship, Physics and the German Jesuits 1

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The Society of Jesus established an extensive range of measures designed to ensure uniformity in natural philosophical questions. These culminated in the Ordinatio pro Studiis Superioribus of 1651. Such measures did have significant effects on the teaching and publishing of physics among the Jesuits in Germany; it was impossible for Jesuits to openly adhere to atomism, the Cartesian view of body or heliocentrism, for example. But many Jesuits did not agree with all the provisions governing censorship and attempted to mediate their implementation in several ways which this study identifies. The most important of these was the use of terms such as true, probable or false. Provided that Jesuit authors identified the orthodox opinions as true or most probable, they could discuss alternative views in great depth. The essay culminates in two case studies from Germany, one from the mid-seventeenth century, the other from the first half of the eighteenth century, which illustrate the interaction of censorship and physics in actual practice.

Affiliations: 1: University of California, San Diego


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