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Aby Warburg and astrology

Grant number: 17/18551-4
Support type:Regular Research Grants
Duration: March 01, 2018 - February 29, 2020
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Arts
Principal Investigator:Cássio da Silva Fernandes
Grantee:Cássio da Silva Fernandes
Home Institution: Escola de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (EFLCH). Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP). Campus Guarulhos. Guarulhos , SP, Brazil

Abstract

This research aims to cover the set of writings of the German scholar, Aby Warburg (1867-1929), on the subject of astrology. The corpus of the research is composed by Warburg's writings on astrology, which consists of 13 texts, of which 10 are unpublished in Portuguese and three unpublished even in the original language (German). Great part of this material, composed by typewritten texts, cand be found in the collection of the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (Italy). Our work will also include the verification of the complementary documentation to this corpus, guarded in the collection of the Warburg Institute of London. The study proposed here will allows us to follow Warburg's writings on the subject of astrology, which fulfill a temporal arc from 1908 until shortly before his death in 1929. Our intention is to identify and analyze the different moments of his research on astrology in the Renaissance, in addition to locating and contextualizing this production, in order to contribute to the debate about the historian's approach to a "cultural science" (Kulturwissenschaft). The final product of our research will consist of comprehensive studies (to be published in specialized journals) and the book with Warburg's texts on astrology, translated into Portuguese.Formed in German universities and with scholars who worked in the institutionalization of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, Warburg frequented erudite environments that communicated the Social History of Art with History of Culture, History of Religions and nascent Anthropology. Thus, religious cults, festivities, book and literary culture, history of magic and astrology, then considered intermediate zones for historical-artistic study, were for him the most important to reveal the complex of problems from which emerged the work of art, understood as a symbolic expression. In fact, astrology occupied an important place in its historical inquiry, alongside magic, halfway between religion and science, being still one of the great themes represented in image by the culture of the Renaissance. According to him, this broad study saw the "task of considering the work of art not only as a mirror of historical life, but also as an instrument of orientation in the celestial cosmos."The product of Warburg's work also allows us to observe the intricacies of his intellectual relationship with the philologist Franz Boll (1867-1924), and the philosopher Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), and the chief collaborator of the final phase of his life. If Cassirer understands the role of mathematics and logic in formulating a new science of nature, as an element that reformulates the relationship between individual and cosmos in the time of Galileo and Giordano Bruno, Warburg conceives parallel the place of the astrolabe as a mental tool to impose limits on late-medieval demonological images as a form of astrological knowledge. For Warburg, it was precisely mathematics, added to the philosophical conception of the infinite, to carry a new organization of the cosmos and to promote the possibility of victory of the reason on the phobias that filled from the demonic images the astrological representations, although the two mental universes coexisted for a long time. The reformulation of the relationship between the individual and the cosmos, proposed by the early conceptions of modern science, was directly related to a new consciousness of man in relation to the stars and, consequently, to their power over practical life. This represented a victory of experience over superstition, of measurement and calculation over speculation, establishing a new logic for the concept of nature. This problem can be found in Warburg's research on the process of overcoming the worldview marked by medieval astrology, based on the sign of the fear of demons and the more primitive forms of religious causality. (AU)