Världsmaskinen. Emanuel Swedenborgs naturfilosofi

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The Swedish natural philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) thought in his early scientific career that the world was like a gigantic machine, following the laws of mechanics and geometry. The work presented here is a study of his mechanistic worldview and metaphorical way of thinking up to the year 1734, examining most of his fields of interest, from geometry and metaphysics to technology and mining engineering. After that year he left the mechanistic explanations and turned to an organic worldview, and some years later, in 1745, he entered the spiritual world. The study is based on a cognitive view that there are special cognitive abilities, especially metaphorical conceptualization, that cause human beings to think in one way or another. “Space” is an introductory chapter on the concept of space, about his experiences of space gained through optical instruments and his orientation in the intellectual milieu, and of the spatial world with the aid of geometry. “The sign” treats especially some particular sign systems, such as those of arithmetic and algebra, and the classification of the world by categories in number systems, coinage, measures, weights and volumes. “The wave” follows Swedenborg’s use of the metaphor of the wave, not only in such scientific disciplines as hydrology, acoustics, optics and neurology but also in poetry and music. “The sphere” concerns the sphere as the figure of movement, the relationship between technology and science, and analogies, proportions and mental models as important tools for inventing scientific theories, especially in mechanics, physics and chemistry. “The point” has its point of departure in the indivisible point of mathematics. “The spiral” is Swedenborg’s most admired geometrical figure. He wrote about the windings of the spirals in geometry, particle physics, astronomy, and in the nature of the soul. “Infinity” is limited to Swedenborg’s last mechanistic work, De infinito (1734), where he made a strict distinction between the finite and the infinite. “Conclusion” gives an overview of the major themes of his anatomical and physiological studies from the end of the 1730s to 1745, and his spiritual writings to 1772.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History of Ideas


  • Christopher Polhem, Charles XII, hydrodynamics, technology, optics, acoustics, mechanics, space, theology, number systems, neurology, iatromechanics, body and soul, infinity, mineralogy, cosmology, matter theory, perception, analogy, metaphors, cognition, 18th century Swedish history, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, mechanical philosophy, philosophy, geometry, mathematics, history of science, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), natural philosophy, History of philosophy, history of ideas, Filosofins historia, idéhistoria, History of science, Vetenskapshistoria
Translated title of the contributionThe World Machine. Emanuel Swedenborg's Natural Philosophy
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2004 Dec 3
  • Bokförlaget Nya Doxa
Print ISBNs91-578-0440-0
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2004-12-03 Time: 13:15 Place: Lecture hall 201 External reviewer(s) Name: Sellberg, Erland Title: Professor Affiliation: Stockholms universitet ---