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Bradley, N. (1963). Phantasy and Theory: Notes on a Seventeenth-century Scholar. Am. Imago, 20(4):331-343.

(1963). American Imago, 20(4):331-343

Phantasy and Theory: Notes on a Seventeenth-century Scholar

Noel Bradley, Ph.D.

In the course of an unfinished study of one of the unconscious factors determining partisan attitudes to heredity and environment I have been led to consider the question of the unconscious psychodynamic function of scientific theories, one that is closely connected with that of the degree of relative autonomy optimal for that kind of ego functioning. While this problem was occupying me I came across the short biography of a seventeenth-century inventor and divine which illustrates with particular clarity how unconscious phantasy led him to select certain scientific, or technological, and dogmatic problems for solution. There is an advantage in considering his ‘case’, rather than that of a contemporary, because of the intellectual climate of the period. Scientific and technological interests were becoming widespread then—as indeed they are now spreading even more widely and hence it is appropriate to take a backward look to the period of the emergence of modern science—but they often co-existed in the same person with remarkably unscientific attitudes in other matters, a prime example being Newton. Again the period was not unique in the last respect, yet the distinction between scientific and other intellectual enquiries was not so clear then as now. Like many opposites they initially shared a common basis.

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