Mining Metals, Mining Minds: An Exploration of Georgius Agricola’s Natural Philosophy in De re metallica (1556)
This dissertation examines the unique natural philosophy that Georgius Agricola presented in his comprehensive mining text, De re metallica (1556). Agricola deliberately made rhetorical choices in order to make his version of natural philosophy engage a certain readership. Agricola tailored his approach to the elite, educated, and Christian reader. He gave the field of natural philosophy new character by including the art of mining within its theoretical framework. Historians have regarded early modern natural philosophy as a monolith, but I argue that one single, discrete natural philosophy did not exist. Natural philosophies suited the preferences of each investigator, and Agricola was no exception. He made claims about the natural world that were methodological and normative. He described what a natural philosophy could be if it were to include the art of mining. Agricola obtained his information and communicated his findings keeping in mind that there were competing natural philosophies. In order to legitimize his claims, he stressed the epistemic virtues of precision, faithfulness, and subjectivity. Agricola did not hide his beliefs; he embraced them. These three epistemic virtues appear throughout De re metallica to induce his readership to accept and trust his version of natural philosophy.