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Terminologische Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft

Zurück zum Heft: Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte. Band 51
DOI: 10.28937/9783787336739_6
EUR 16,90

The term ›catastrophe‹ is nowadays applied to a great variety of scientific as well as public discourses, but its historical roots have rarely been investigated. While its meaning in ancient Greek literature is not unanimous, it became a key word in late Roman poetics where it refers to the happy endings of comedies. In our article we intend to unfold that the popularity of the term ›catastrophe‹ is due to its use in these poetics and their reception during the age of enlightenment. Its special application to natural events is a relatively late phenomenon and can be dated not before sporadic references in the writings of Helisaeus Roeslin and Johannes Kepler. Early English geological theories of the seventeenth century, which introduced and established the term in scientific debates, were also influenced by the Old Testament, where parts of its positive meaning had been preserved. It remains to be shown in the last section of the article, how ›catastrophe‹ has lost all its positive connotation in twentieth century discourses.