Occult qualities


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those qualities whose effects only were observed, but the nature and relations of whose productive agencies were undetermined; - so called by the schoolmen.

See also: Occult

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by G. & C. Merriam Co.
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This was a concept with a long tradition rooted in classical antiquity: Galen himself had advised that 'occult qualities should not be neglected if the manifest qualities could not be discovered'.
(76) Mineral and metallic waters, therefore, possessed life and power which through their possession of occult qualities could act in unexpected ways.
But in contrast with Szeemann's interest in the erotic and occult qualities of machinery, Hulten's was more that of a Swedish engineer with a slightly juvenile bent toward the absurd and anarchic.
It is this approach that causes her to neglect Gassendi's treatment of occult qualities without explaining the importance of this topic in the programmatic treatises on the mechanical philosophy, such as Gassendi's Syntagma Philosophicum and Descartes's Principles of Philosophy.
Descartes had an early flirtation with the Rosicrucians (not mentioned in the introduction); he dabbled in alchemy and tried to account for 'the most rare and marvellous effects', including 'how the wounds of a dead man can be made to bleed when his murderer approaches; how to excite the imagination of those asleep, or even of those awake, and impart to them thoughts that warn them of things to come, at a distance, by having them feel the great pains or great joys of a close friend, the evil intents of an assassin, and similar things' (Principles, Part IV, article 187: 'On the possible causes of all the other remarkable effects usually attributed to occult qualities').
On page 41 they give a quotation by Newton about "occult qualities" as not resulting from 'the specific forms of things', but proceed to discuss it (all the more amazing since one of them is a philosopher) without any reference to the aristotelian doctrine of form to which the quotation refers and without which the very notion of "occult qualities" is simply impossible to grasp; as a result, that notion cannot but be reduced in the mind of the unsuspecting reader to just another weird irrational idea, whereas we are in fact dealing with an important concept in medieval natural philosophy which someone like Newton had very good reasons to take seriously.
Experiments with instruments that explained music's occult qualities further marginalized natural magic from self-conscious articulation within scientific discourse, as it was no longer needed to explain musical phenomena.
His alchemical beliefs and strange effluvial cosmology modified his leaning towards Cartesian mechanism, but they also re-introduced scholastic-type occult qualities and his writings reveal an awareness of such problems.
With this edition of a sixteenth-century treatise on magnetism, previously known only from contemporary references, Monica Ugaglia fills a long-noted lacuna in the history of science, and presents historians with the raw materials for a better understanding of early modern views of occult qualities, experiment, and natural philosophy.
By adopting wholesale arguments that have been criticized as overdrawn (from Elizabeth Eisenstein on printing, to Keith Hutchinson on occult qualities during the scientific revolution, or Lawrence Stone on the decline of the aristocracy), his picture of the transition from medieval to modern is sharp and clear rather than complicated and fine-grained.