From natural history to science: the emergence of experimental philosophy

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Director of project:
Dana Jalobeanu

Team Members:
Mihnea Dobre
Sebastian Mateiescu
Oana Matei
Doina-Cristina Rusu
Claudia Dumitru

 
Associate Members:
Bogdan Deznan
Sandra Dragomir
Iovan Drehe
Laura Georgescu
Madalina Giurgea
Ioana Magureanu
 

Description of the project

PCE grant awarded by the CNCS, 2012-2015 ( PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-0719)

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This is a 3-years research grant awarded by the Romanian national agency for scientific research (CNCS) to a team of 7 researchers and students coordinated by Dana Jalobeanu at CELFIS (Center for Logic, History and Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest) for a project aiming to explore the ways in which observation and experiment featured in various forms of natural history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in view of reassessing the role and function played by natural historical explorations (ranging from cosmography to medical natural histories and from diverse collections of ‘individuals’ to topical investigations of natural phenomena) in the development of experimental philosophy and ultimately of the early modern science.

The project aims, on the one hand, to disentangle the discussion on the nature and function of early modern experimentation from its age-long association with questions of testimony, credibility and evidence. Without questioning the role of experimentation in the assessment of scientific theories, we intend to show on particular cases that experiments have played an equally essential role in the context of (scientific) discovery: as problem-solving devices, tools for triggering creative analogies or devices for generating or ordering works of natural history.

On the other hand, our purpose is to reconstruct a series of particular case studies and discuss them comparatively in order to show how rich and how relatively unexplored is the field of what has been labeled as ‘natural history.’ We also aim to extend the field and the label ‘natural history’ into relatively unexplored writings that defy disciplinary boundaries. Works classified as cosmographies, geographies, travel literature, medical literature, spiritual medicine etc. will be the subject of our investigation, in so far that they can be shown to contain interesting and sophisticated observations and ingenious experiments. Last but not least we aim to trace the ways in which some of these observations and experiments ‘migrated’ from works of natural history into treatises of natural (and experimental) philosophy or ‘early modern science.’

Seminar CELFIS S2 2013-2014

Seminar CELFIS semestrul II:

12 martie Valentin Cioveie, Matricea creației. Sensul istoriei științei și al ideilor.
19 martie Vintilă Mihăilescu, Despre oameni și cîini. Post-umanismul și criza omului
26 martie Adrian Nita, Identitate şi individuaţie la Leibniz
2 aprilie Octavian Buda, Știința barocă – imagologie și experiment medical în sec. XVII
9 aprilie Tinca Prunea, TBA
16 aprilie Constantin Stoenescu, Scrisorile lui Feyerabend către Kuhn și începutul drumului către Structură
5 mai Jurg Steiner, Deliberative democracy. Theory and Praxis
14 mai Bryan Hall, The Two Dogmas without Empiricism
21 mai – TBA
28 mai, Ioan Muntean, Optimality, minimization, evolution in scientific discovery. A tale of three centuries (Descoperirea științifică prin optimizare, minimizare și evoluție. O istorie de trei secole)
Seminarul are loc în zilele de miecruri, de la ora 18 în amfiteatrul Titu Maiorescu, la Facultatea de Filosofie.

Workshop: Mechanicism, mathematics and experiment: Early modern intersections

Mechanicism, mathematics and experiment: Early modern intersections

16-17 January 2014

Faculty of Philosophy

Splaiul Independentei 204, Bucharest

 

Programme

Thusday 16 January
16.30-17.40 Catherine Goldstein (CNRS, Institut de mathématiques de Jussieu-PRG, Paris),

Baconian mathematics in Mersenne’s circle

17.40-18.50 Dana Jalobeanu (University of Bucharest),

Francis Bacon’s experimental construction of “space”

Friday 17 January
10.00-11.10 Sophie Roux (ENS Paris),

What kind of mechanism for Cartesian physics?

11.10-11.30 break
11.30-12.40 Charles Wolfe (Ghent University),

Mechanism and mechanisms: ontological considerations in an early modern context, with a look at embodiment

12.40-15.00 lunch
15.00-16.10 Vlad Alexandrescu (University of Bucharest),

R. Descartes and J.B. Morin about the uses of the infinite (in French)

16.10-16.30 break
16.30-17.40 Tamas Demeter (Hungarian Academy of Science and University of Pécs),

Hume on the Limits and Prospects of Natural Philosophy

17.40-18.50 Tinca Prunea Bretonnet (Romanian Academy),

Kant on Mathematical Method and the Specificity of Philosophy in the Early 1760s

 

Event organized within the framework of the project From natural history to science: the emergence of experimental philosophy.

Curs 09.10.2013: Curs introductiv

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Sursa imaginii: http://www.astroeder.com/images/m81-82_flux_eder150.jpg

1. Ce este cosmologia?

Definiții:

DEX: Cosmologie = „ramură a astronomiei care studiază structura și evoluția cosmosului și legile generale care îl conduc”.

Este o definiție înșelătoare, care sugerează apartenența cosmologiei la astronomie. În Enciclopedia lui d’Alembert, aceasta este prezentată în felul următor:

Cosmology. This word is formed by the combination of two Greek words, κόσμος, world, and λόγος, speech, which signifies the science which speaks of the world; that is to say the reason concerning the world in which we live and such as it actually exists.” (d’Alembert, Jean Le Rond. “Cosmology.” The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by John S.D. Glaus. Ann Arbor: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library, 2006. Web. 9 October 2013. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.678>. Trans. of “Cosmologie,” Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 4. Paris, 1754.)

O definiție mai recentă este următoarea:
Cosmologie = 1. Ramura filosofiei, considerată adesea o subdiviziune a metafizicii, care se ocupă de Univers ca totalitate a fenomenelor, încercând să combine într-un cadru coerent speculația metafizică și rezultatele științei. În perimetrul ei intră în general problemele privitoare la spațiu, timp, eternitate, necesitate, schimbare și contingență. Diferă prin metoda sa de cercetare rațională, de explicațiile pur mitice ale originii și structurii Universului.” (p. 81)
„2. Studiul științific modern al originii și structurii universului bazat pe instrumente de felul investigării spectrale a distribuției elementelor în Univers și al analizei stării spre roșu asociată Galaxiilor”. (Antony Flew (coord.). 1996. Dicționar de filozofie si logica. București: Humanitas, pp. 81-82)

În afara cosmologiei, este important să spunem și ce se înțelege prin univers.
Univers și univers = prezența sau absența majusculei la începutul cuvântului servește la distingerea a două sensuri ale acestui cuvânt. 1. „Universul” se definește ca incluzând tot ceea ce există, cu excepția Dumnezeului creator, dacă acesta este admis. 2. Un univers nu poate fi decât o parte a acestui Univers: despre nebuloasa Andromeda, bunăoară, s-a spus uneori că este „un univers insular”. În acest sens, filosofii vorbesc uneori de universuri de discurs diferite, ca de pildă, cel a fizicii ca opus celui al criticii de artă.” (A. Flew, p. 347)

Conform lui Edward Harrison, cosmologia și universul sunt discutate în felul următor (Harrison, Edward. 2000. Cosmology. The Science of the Universe. 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press.):
„Cosmology, the science of the universe”
Științele se ocupă de decuparea și de fărâmițarea lucrurilor pentru a își putea determina domeniul de aplicabilitate.

Univers = realitatea ca atare.
univers = un model al Universului.

„Cosmology is the study of universes, how they originate, how they evolve” (p. 1).
„The Universe is everything and includes us thinking about what to call it. … It has many faces and means many different things to different people. … Cosmic pictures evolve because cultures influence one another, and because knowledge advances. … If the word „Universe” is used we must distinguish between the various „models of the Universe.” … When used alone, without specification of the model we have in mind, it conveys the impression that we know the true nature of the Universe.” (Harrison, p. 13)
„Cosmology is the study of universes. In the broadest sense it is a joint enterprise by science, philosophy, theology, and the arts that seeks to gain understanding of what unifies and is fundamental.” (Harrison, p. 15)

Consecințele de până acum ar putea fi descrise în felul următor:
• Cosmologia nu are specializarea științelor standard.
• Cosmologia este o disciplină foarte veche: orice imagine despre lume este o cosmologie. Orice model de univers este coerent în sine, fiind relevant pentru un anumit context socio-cultural. (astfel, mitul poate furniza o imagine a lumii, la fel ca modelele spirituale, religioase, filosofice, sau științifice).

2. Cosmologia filosofică vs. științifică – O dezbatere (G. J. Whitrow & H. Bondi, „Is physical cosmology a science?” BJPS, 4:16 (1954), pp. 271-283.

Întrebarea care se ridică acum este ce înțelegem prin cosmologia filosofică? Care este acel element ce face din cosmologie un obiect de interes pentru filosofi? Care sunt acele aspecte ale cosmologiei ce nasc întrebări și reflecții de natură filosofică?

Răspunsuri la aceste întrebări vor fi oferite în diferite stadii ale cursului, în funcție de materialul parcurs și competențele dobândite. Pentru moment însă, afirmația fundamentală asupra căreia vrem să ne oprim este că prin natura sa, o dezbatere asupra aspectelor filosofice ale cosmologiei duce în mod inevitabil la o discuție asupra naturii științei, în general. Iar o asemenea analiză constituie fără îndoială și apanajul filosofiei, fapt dovedit atât de istoria filosofiei cât și de multiplele întrebări cosmologice susceptibile de răspunsuri justificabile din punct de vedere filosofic.

Oferim aici, cu titlu de exemplificare a acestei situații, un scurt rezumat al unei dispute petrecute în anii 1950’, nu între filosofi, ci chiar între cosmologi. Ne referim aici la dialogul dintre G. J. Whitrow și H. Bondi, cel din urmă chiar unul dintre artizanii modelului cosmologic al stării staționare (Steady-state), dialog redat în paginile revistei British Journal for the Philosophy of Science sub titlul: G. J. Whitrow & H. Bondi, „Is physical cosmology a science?” BJPS, 4:16 (1954), pp. 271-283.

În acest schimb de idei asupra statutului filosofic vs. științific al cosmologiei, Whitrow adoptă poziția filosofului și consideră că în cosmologie întrebările cât și răspunsurile nu pot fi separate de interpretări filosofice, pe când Bondi susține cu tărie imunitatea cosmologiei față de filosofie.

Argumentele fiecăruia dintre combatanți merită atenție deplină întrucât relevanța lor este valabilă pentru o discuție generală asupra statutului filosofic al cosmologiei.

Iată câteva dintre aceste puncte divergente asupra științei:

Puncte divergente – natura științei:
• scopul oamenilor de știință este obținerea unanimității în interpretarea rezultatelor științifice vs. scopul oamenilor de știință este obținerea validării experimentale și supunerea teoriilor științifice principiului falsificabilității
[potrivit lui K. Popper, principiul falsificabilității poate fi enunțat astfel: “statements or systems of statements, in order to be ranked as scientific, must be capable of conflicting with possible, or conceivable observations” (K. Popper, Conjectures and refutations. The growth of scientific knowledge, New York: Basic Books. 1962, p. 39)].
• natura și interpretarea principiului falsificabilității: falsificabilitatea este supusă obținerii unanimității între oamenii de știință vs unanimitatea este supusă criteriului falsificabilității teoriilor științifice

Puncte comune – natura științei:
• știința este un demers obiectiv, care nu depinde de opiniile personale ale omului de știință
• teoriile științifice tind către obținerea celor mai simple explicații
• în știință, se acordă o importanță majoră a experimentului
• știința țintește spre un acord general sau chiar universal al oamenilor de știință cu privire la rezultatele lor
• cunoașterea în știință evoluează cumulativ

Pozițiile opuse asupra naturii științei determină la rândul lor interpretări diferite asupra statutului filosofic vs. științific al cosmologiei:

Puncte divergente – natura cosmologiei:
• întrebările filosofice sunt preluate în timp de către știința cosmologiei (analogie: întrebările filosofice clasice despre spațiu și timp au fost preluate în teoria relativității) vs. întrebările filosofice din cosmologie nu vor putea fi tratate complet în cosmologia științifică
• stabilirea statutului filosofic vs. științific al cosmologiei presupune o anumită raportare la istoria gândirii: începe cosmologia o dată cu filosofia sau mai degrabă este cosmologia un domeniu recent, provenind din știința modernă?
• starea de fapt din cosmologie, anume existența unor diferite modele în cosmologie vs. existența unui „singur” univers observabil duce sau nu la opțiuni filosofice între aceste modele?

No Ghost in the Machine: Talking Heads in Sylva

At the end of Century II of Sylva Sylvarum, Bacon mentions the possibility of making a talking puppet by studying the principles that allow for the production of sound in animate and inanimate bodies:

[S]o that if a man, for curiosity or strangeness sake, would make a puppet or other dead body to pronounce a word, let him consider, on the one part, the motion of the instrument of voice; and on the other part, the like sounds made in inanimate bodies; and what conformity there is that causeth the similitude of sounds; and by that he may minister light to that effect. (SS:199)

Talking heads – of natural or artificial provenience – had been an object of fascination starting with the late Middle Ages and would continue to be one up to the eighteenth century (nineteenth, if we integrate them into the larger tradition of the “learned man’s android” as detailed by Sarah Higley [1]).  Yet the source of their fascination changed dramatically during this period, following a larger trend of naturalizing the preternatural and integrating it into “scientific” explanatory paradigms.[2]

On the natural front, Aristotle had declared severed talking heads an impossibility, on account of the fact that the lungs and windpipe were needed to produce sound (On the Parts of Animals, III:10). Despite this pronouncement, severed talking heads continued their career as a literary and hagiographical motif. Virgil and Ovid depicted the head of Orpheus, still calling out to Eurydice as it floated off to the sea. The heads of Christian saints were sometimes said to keep talking even after they were cut off (St. Edmund the Martyr in Abbo of Fleury’s Passio Santi Eadmundi a good example of this).

On the artificial front, brazen talking heads came to be regarded, in the late Middle Ages, as a symbol of dangerous knowledge. There was little insight into how they were produced, besides the fact that learned men studied the stars for favorable conjunctions to make them. Brazen heads were not to be trusted: legends had them telling the truth in a cryptic manner, so that those who relied on their advice were often led to their death. Among those who were said to have produced or owned a brazen talking head were Virgil (probably because he was a source for the legend of Orpheus), Pope Sylvester II (who was said to have died because he relied on the advice of said instrument), Robert Grosseteste, Albertus Magnus (whose creation was sometimes said to have been destroyed by Thomas Aquinas) and Roger Bacon.[3]

The cover Greene's play, showing Friar Bacon's brazen head

The cover of Greene’s play, showing Friar Bacon’s brazen head

Roger Bacon probably became the most famous of the group, as his example was later used in a popular Elizabethan play of Robert Greene’s, The Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (~1594). In Greene’s play, the brazen head shatters, after it utters only a cryptic pronouncement (“Time is. Time was. Time is past.”), and Bacon eventually renounces his magic. In this example, as in earlier others, the source of the brazen head’s powers was demonic. But there is something else worth noting in this play, and that is the skepticism displayed by the Oxford doctors towards Bacon’s discovery, which reflects a wider change in attitude during the period. As one of them says:

Have I not pass’d as far in state of schools,
And read of many secrets ? Yet to think
That heads of brass can utter any voice,
Or more, to tell of deep philosophy,
This is a fable Æsop had forgot.

The possibility that someone had ever built a real, autonomous talking head by consulting the stars was challenged by Della Porta, while at the same time an alternative explanation was given: it was possible that the talking head relied on long pipes conveying the sound of someone’s voice from a distance (Natural Magick, XIX:1). The same disparaging of the initial claim, followed by an explanation based on sound being carried through pipes is to be found in Campanella’s Magia e Grazia. (This explanation also happens to nicely parallel an episode from Chapter LVII of Don Quixote, where, steeped as he is in medieval romances, Don Quixote is deceived by a talking head relying not on supernatural powers, but on a system of pipes with a sharp-witted student at the end of them. The man owning the head claims that it was built by “one of the greatest magicians and wizards the world ever saw” who “observed the points of the compass, (…) traced figures, (…) studied the stars, (…) watched favourable moments, and at length brought it to the perfection we shall see to–morrow.”)

While Bacon, like Della Porta, offers a naturalistic basis for building a talking head, his project is far more ambitious, because it deals with imitating and not merely conveying the human voice, by deciphering what makes it possible in the first place.

Sources/Further reading:

[1] Higley S.L.; (1997) The Legend of the Learned Man’s Android. In: Hahn, T. and Lupack A. (eds.), Retelling Tales. Essays in Honor of Russell Peck

[2] Daston, L., & Park, K. (2001). Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750.

[3] Mills, R; (2013) Talking Heads, or, A Tale of Two Clerics. In: Santing, C. and Baert, B. and Traninger, A., (eds.) Disembodied Heads in Medieval and Early Modern Culture

Bacon on the transmutation of species

In The New Atlantis Bacon presents an image about how science would develop if performed according to his method. Here the members of Solomon’s house have gardens not for beauty, but to grow trees and plants which are useful for sustaining and improving life. In order to achieve their ends, the members performed various experiments which varied the conditions for sowing, growing or altering the plants. In the “laboratories” of the Solomon’s house methods for obtaining plants without seeds are elaborated and even the possibilities to procure new kinds of plants out of combination of old ones or, more strikingly, by performing transmutations of one plant into a new species of plant are contemplated.

The aim of this post is to present a very short overview of this last concept of the transmutation of species, which seems to provide us with one of the most daring ideas in Bacon’s natural philosophy. The discussion will be limited here to Bacon’s reflections on transmutation as elaborated in Sylva Sylvarum (SS). There Bacon introduces it as one of the greatest achievements one can ever get when operating upon nature:

“This work of the transmutation of plants one into another, is inter magnalia naturae: for the transmutation of species is, in the vulgar philosophy, pronounced impossible; and certainly it is a thing of difficulty, and required deep search into nature; but seeing there appear some manifest instances of it, the opinion of impossibility is to be rejected, and the means thereof to be found out” (SS, 525-526)

Bacon’s notion of species is rather a complex one. In the 4th aphorism of Parasceve, Bacon gives us a hint at what species could mean for him. In defining the role of the four elements: air, earth, fire, water, Bacon assigns an important role to them not because they should be taken as the primordial components of all bodies but because they form the “greatest masses of all natural bodies” or the Greater College, sharing in a simple schematism of matter. Whereas the Lesser College of bodies, as Bacon calls it, is made of species of natural things whose “texture of matter is highly structured and subtle, and for the most part determinate and organic [Organicam], such as are the species of natural things – metals, plants and animals” (OFB XI, p. 455.). And if from this one can shortly infer that the organization of matter along those schematisms is the specific determinant of species of plants and animals, one should acknowledge on the other side Giambattista Della Porta’s Magia Naturalis (Naples, 1558) as having a great role in fostering the topic of transmutation in the epoch.

Della Porta reserves a chapter of his book to the issue of transmutation of plants by explicitly acknowledging the transmutation of animal species as the key example for transmutation. This is also why he starts his Magia Naturalis with a chapter on animal copulation for these natural events that were used to be firstly observed to happen in Africa to be closely followed as model for combining species into new ones. Bacon seems to take up this idea ad literam and admits that such a work should be easier to do within the realm of plants than with animals for the former in contrast with the last manifest no voluntary motion: “We see that in living creatures, that have male and female, there is copulation of several kinds; and so compound creatures; as the mule that is generated betwixt the horse and the ass; and some other compound which we call monsters, though more rare” (SS, 477). Bacon also seems to closely follow Della Porta in what concerns the means to accomplish the task of transforming the species of plants, but he ends up with different conclusions. For example, he sets aside the aspect of acceleration of germination so much emphasized by Della Porta for he thinks that changing of some of these properties does not equate with the change of the species per se. This becomes more obvious when Bacon treats of degeneration, which Della Porta favors as a very useful tool for transmutation of species too. At a first sight, Bacon seems to accept the idea of plants degenerating into other species. He gives the example of mint, colewort and rape:

”The rule is certain, that plants for want of culture degenerate to be baser in the same kind; and sometimes so far as to change into another kind. 1. The standing long, and not being removed, maketh them degenerate. 2. Drought, unless the earth of itself be moist, doth the like. 3. So doth removing into worse earth, or forbearing to compost the earth; as we see that water-mint turneth into field-mint, and the colewort into rape, by neglect, &c.” (SS, 518).

One reason Bacon gives for this situation is to invoke the „adventitious nature” of plants of culture, which can be easily altered and modified. However, this does not count as a genuine transmutation for Bacon’s taste, but it is rather a degeneration of one species into a baser species. In other words, what one encounters here is rather an intra-specific variation rather than a genuine transmutation of species: Mint is tranformed again in mint and colewort and rape are both species of the same genus because, as we nowadays know, they pertain to the same Brassica family, together with cabbages, cauliflowers and turnips. Bacon himself observes this subtle link between the species that form the basis for degeneration and some other more specified-species which degenerate into the basic ones, for he explains the degeneration of basil into thyme by saying that “those two herbs seem to have small affinity” (SS, 521).

The issue at stake here is the significance of the “newness” characterizing the plant resulted from transmutation. Bacon seems to work here with a much stronger notion of novelty than Della Porta’s. For Bacon thus, acceleration and retardation are just means to make simple or superficial changes of properties but not of the species themselves. And even when these species change by retardation this does not count as a genuine transmutation for Bacon. The obvious question that opens up here is what this change should actually mean in order to qualify itself as a true transmutation? Perhaps surprisingly, given Bacon’s general reluctance to alchemy, the paradigm for his interpretation of transmutation seems to come from alchemy and from its work of transmuting bodies one into another:

“And there are of concoction two periods; the one assimilation, or absolute conversion and subaction; the other maturation: whereof the former is most conspicuous in the bodies of living creatures; in which there is an absolute conversion and assimilation of the nourishment into the body; and likewise in the bodies of plants; and again in metals, where there is a full transmutation. (…) But note that there be two kinds of absolute conversions; the one is, when a body is converted into another body, which was before; as when nourishment is turned into flesh: that is it which we call assimilation. The other is, when the conversion is into a body merely new, and which was not before; as if silver should be turned to gold, or iron to copper: and this conversion is better called, for distinction’s sake, transmutation” (SS, 838).

The creation of the “new” is thus the aim of transmutation and the model of it seems to come from alchemy: silver turned to gold or iron to cooper play the role of paradigms for the transmutation of one plant species into a “new” one, like say, apples into pears:

“We see that in living creatures that come of putrefaction there is much transmutation of one into another, as caterpillars turn into flies… And it should seem probable that whatsoever creature, having life, is generated without seed, that creature will change out of one species into another. For it is the seed and the nature of it which locket and boundeth in the creature, that it doth not expatiate. So as we may well conclude, that seeing the earth of itself doth puth forth plants without seed, therefore plants may well have a transmigration of species” (SS, 525).

But since most of plants do have seeds, what should one do to overcome this impediment for transmuting them? Bacon proposes the following solution: “First therefore, you must make account, that you will have one plant change into another, you must have the nourishment over-rule the seed…” (SS, 526).

In my next post I will move to the details of this rule of the overcoming of the seeds and to uncovering some of the possible sources of this Baconian paradigm of transmutation of species.

Comments and suggestions are more than welcomed.

Lecture: Spiders, Ants and Bees: Francis Bacon’s Use of Sources

Wednesday,October 9, Doina-Cristina Rusu will give a lecture entitled “Spiders, Ants and Bees: Francis Bacon’s Use of Souces.” The conference wil take place at the Faculty of Philosophy (Amphitheater Titu Maiorescu), starting at 18:00.

Abstract:

Francis Bacon’s last writing, Sylva sylvarum, had been considered for a long time to be a commonplace book. Responsible for this classification is the big number of borrowings from secondary sources. My claim is that through a close comparison with these sources Sylva sylvarum can be depicted as a very original and important book within Bacon’s overall project for the reformation of natural philosophy. Using a metaphor, Bacon describes the work of natural philosophy as being the middle way between a spider and an ant. The spider creates webs only out of his substance, as a philosopher creating theories out of his mind, without confronting them with nature; while the ants only store and use natural things, like empirics, who use nature, but are not able to explain its phenomena. The bee, personification of the philosopher, takes things from nature, but they are transformed and digested. This presentation aims to prove that this was not only Bacon’s ideal of science, but it is exactly what he does in writing his Sylva sylvarum. Many of the theories existing in the sections of plants are the result of a work similar to that of a bee: the middle way between Giambattista della Porta, whose experiments and theories are the result of his own mind, as s spider’s web, and Hugh Platt, who experiments with nature, but does not have any theory about the inner processes of nature, as an ant only using objects. Comparing Sylva sylvarum with both these sources, Bacon’s originality will become evident and important conclusions about the way in which a natural philosophy must be constructed can be drawn.

Prezentare curs Cosmologie filosofica 1

Cosmologie Filosofică 1: De la Platon la Einstein

Anul universitar 2013-2014, Semestrul I

Curs susținut în colaborare de Dana Jalobeanu, Mihnea Dobre si Sebastian Mateiescu

Miercuri, 16-18, Amfiteatrul Titu Maiorescu

 

Prezentare generală:
Cursul își propune o introducere în problematica filosofică a cosmologiei, de la origini și până la începutul secolului XX. Deși vom lucra cu un material istoric, abordarea va fi tematică, problematică, conceptuală și comparativă.

Format:
Cursul va fi construit dintr-o serie de prelegeri introductive organizate în trei module tematice. Fiecare serie dintr-un modul se va încheia cu o discuție de seminar (discuție recapitulativă și seminar pe text). În paralel cu întâlnirile săptămânale, cursul va avea o componentă on-line de tip blog.

Evaluare:
Vor fi două colocvii de evaluare :

  1. În cadrul seminarului (3 întâlniri au fost dedicate activităților de seminar), studenții vor avea de pregătit o prezentare de 5 minute (2 slide-uri ppt.) pe tema “Ce am învățat până acum de la acest curs?” Prezentările vor avea loc în cadrul unei întâlniri evaluative de tip colocviu si sunt obligatorii pentru participarea la colocviul final de evaluare.
  2. La final, vom organiza un colocviu de evaluare. Fiecare student va avea de pregătit un text de max. 3 pagini și o prezentare de 10 minute (4 slide-uri) pe tema : “Cursul care lipsește” (Ce curs a lipsit din lista de prelegeri ? Cum ar trebui el ținut ? Cum ar arăta planul acestui curs ? Ce ar urmări ? Ce bibliografie ați sugera etc.)

 

Tematica cursului:
1. 2 octombrie. Discutie introductiva
Inscrieri la curs. Inscrierea se face prin email: la mihneadobre@yahoo.com pana in data de 15 octombrie.
2. 9 octombrie. Cosmologie si filosofie. Intrebari fundamentale
 

Modulul I : Ordine
3. 16 octombrie Universul “aristotelic”: o lume închisă, sau o lume armonică? (Dana Jalobeanu)
4. 23 octombrie. Universul care decade: „independența” materiei? (Mihnea Dobre)
5. 30 octombrie. Eternitate sau creatie? Design și principiul antropic  (Sebastian Mateiescu)
6.  6 noiembrie Seminar Ordine și Design
Seminar de lectură pe 3 texte ilustrative la care s-a făcut referire în cele trei prelegeri de curs.

Modulul II : Reprezentare
7. 13 noiembrie Reprezentări cosmologice 1: De la alegorii cosmologice la universul armonic al lui Kepler (Dana Jalobeanu)
8. 20 noiembrie Reprezentări cosmologice 2: De la o ierarhie a cerurilor la reprezentări geometrice. (Mihnea Dobre)
9. 27 noiembrie Reprezentări cosmologice 3: Universul static versus universul dinamic. Universul bloc și tipul de reprezentare în geometriile non-euclidiene. Cosmologia în teoria relativității. (Sebastian Mateiescu)
10. 4 decembrie Seminar: Reprezentări cosmologice
Textele vor fi anunțate ulterior.

Modulul III : Spațiu și timp
11. 11 decembrie Spațiu și Timp 1: Timpul în filosofia tradițională  (Dana Jalobeanu)
12. 18 decembrie Spațiu și Timp 2: relativ vs absolut (Mihnea Dobre)
13. 8  ianuarie Spațiu si Timp 3: Modelul cosmologic al universului oscilatoriu, Singularități, modelul „Steady-State”, Big-Bang (Sebastian Mateiescu)
14. 15 ianuarie. Seminar: Evaluare finala

Bibliografie pentru studenți:
Koyre, Alexandre. De la lumea închisă la universul infinit. Humanitas, 1997
Koestler, Arthur. Lunaticii, Humanitas, 1996.
Barrow, John. Originea universului, Humanitas, 1994.

Bibliografie suplimentara:
Barrow, John; Tipler, Frank & Wheeler, John. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, OUP, 1986.
Cornford, Francis Macdonald, and Plato. Plato’s Cosmology : The Timaeus of Plato Translated with a Running Commentary.  London: Routledge, 1937.
Duhem, Pierre. “To Save the Phenomena. An Essay on the Idea of Physical Theory from Plato to Galileo.” To save the phenomena. An essay on the idea of physical theory from Plato to Galileo., by Duhem, P.. Chicago, IL (USA): University of Chicago Press, 120 p. 1 (1969).
Duhem, Pierre Maurice Marie, and Roger Ariew. Medieval Cosmology: Theories of Infinity, Place, Time, Void, and the Plurality of Worlds.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.
Field, J. V. Kepler’s Geometrical Cosmology.  London: Athlone, 1988.
Freudenthal, Gad. “Theory of Matter and Cosmology in William Gilbert’s De Magnete.” ISIS 74, no. 1 (1983): 22-37.
Harper, William L. Isaac Newton’s Scientific Method: Turning Data into Evidence About Gravity and Cosmology.  Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Jammer, Max. Concepts of Space. The History of theories of Space in Physics, Dover, 1993.
Reichenbach, Hans. The Philosophy of Space and Time, Dover Books, 1957.
Sklar, Lawrence. Space, Time and SpaceTime, University of California Press, 1974.
Sorabji, Richard. Matter, Space, and Motion: Theories in Antiquity and Their Sequel.  Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1988.
———. Philoponus: And the Rejection of Aristotelian Science. 2nd ed. ed.  London: Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2010.
———. Time, Creation and the Continuum: Theories in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.  London: Duckworth, 1983.
Westman, Robert. “The Astronomer’s Role in the 16th Century: A Preliminary Study.” History of Science 18 (1980): 105-47.
———. The Copernican Question: Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.
Westman, Robert S. The Copernican Achievement. Contributions of the Ucla Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.

Francis Bacon and the use of measurement in experiments


One central component of experimental philosophy is measurement. Various properties, quantities, degrees and qualities were counted and measured with more or less exactitude starting with the early modern period (see for example, the analysis of temperature measurement in A.Borrelli, “The weatherglass and its observers in the early seventeenth century”, in: Claus Zittel, Gisela Engel, Nicole C. Karafyllis and Romano Nanni (eds.), Philosophies of technology: Francis Bacon and its contemporaries, vol. 1 (Leiden: Brill, 2008) 67-130 (Intersections 11/1)). Seen in itself, measurement was almost universally considered a tool meant to improve knowledge and to give strength to different arguments and to rebut others. This attitude was shared by Francis Bacon too, as I briefly attempted to show in a small presentation I have made for the 4th Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Science. One can infer this from the following example taken from Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum:

“It is strange how the ancients took up experiments upon credit, and yet did build great matters upon them. The observation of some of the best of them, delivered confidently, is, that a vessel filled with ashes will receive the like quantity of water that it would have done if it had been empty. But this is utterly untrue; for the water will not go in by a fifth part. And I suppose that that fifth part is the difference of the lying close or open of the ashes…” (Sylva Sylvarum, SEH 34).

There are many other examples of experiments in which Bacon used to invoke the measurement and counting of quantities in order to champion his ideas (see for instance, entries 1, 19, 21, 32, 33, 46, 59, 60, 76, 88, 104-110, 156, 159, 248, 306, 307, 309, 310, 318, 324, 363 etc, to give just few examples taken from the first three centuries of Sylva). Here are two more extended examples:

“Dig a pit upon the sea-shore, somewhat above the high-water mark, and sink it as deep as the low-water mark; and as the tide cometh in, it will fill with water, fresh and potable… I remember to have read that trial hath been made of salt water passed through earth, through ten vessels one within another, and yet it hath not lost his saltness, as to become potable: but the same man saith, that (…) salt water drained through twenty vessels hath become fresh… But it is worth the note, how poor the imitations of nature are in common course of experiments, except they be led by great judgment, and some good light of axioms. For first, there is no small difference between a passage of water through twenty small vessels, and through such a distance as between the low-water and high-water mark…” (Sylva Sylvarum, SEH 1-2)

 

“The continuance of flame, according unto the diversity of the body inflamed, and other circumstances, is worthy the inquiry; chiefly, for that though flame be (almost) of a momentary lasting, yet it receiveth the more and the less: we will first therefore speak (at large) of bodies inflamed wholly and immediately, without any wick to help the inflammation. A spoonful of spirit of wine, a little heated, was taken, and it burnt as long as came to one hundred and sixteen pulses. The same quantity of spirit of wine mixed with the sixth part of a spoonful of nitre, burnt but to the space of ninety-four pulses. Mixed with the like quantity of bay-salt, eighty-three pulses. Mixed with the like quantity of gunpowder, which dissolved into black water, one hundred and ten pulses. A cube or pellet of yellow wax was taken, as much as half the spirit of wine, and set in the midst, and it burnt only to the space of eighty-seven pulses. Mixed with the sixth part of a spoonful of milk, it burnt to the space of one hundred pulses. Mixed with the sixth part of a spoonful of water, it burnt to the space of eighty-six pulses… So that the spirit of wine simple endured the longest; and the spirit of wine with the bay-salt, and the equal quantity of water, were the shortest.” (Sylva Sylvarum, SEH 366)

I propose the following table as a tool for a concise representation of Bacon’s measurement of the continuance of flame:

  • Spirit of wine = 116 pulses
  • Spirit of wine + 1/6 nitre = 94 pulses
  • Spirit of wine + 1/6 bay-salt = 83 pulses
  • Spirit of wine + 1/6 gunpowder = 110 pulses
  • Cube of yellow wax + ½ spirit of wine = 87 pulses
  •  Cube of yellow wax + wine + 1/6milk = 100 pulses
  • Cube of yellow wax + wine + 1/6 water = 86 pulses

 

This raises a plenty of interesting questions dealing with the way Bacon uses measurement that is worth to be discussed. Here is a tentative list with few of them:

-          What type of measurements does Bacon employ?

-          What type of quantities or qualities is subjected to measurement by Bacon?

-          What other examples of Bacon’s measurements can be represented by such tables?

-          In what theoretical cases is measurement invoked?

-          How important is the exactitude in the measurements?

-          When does measurement help in constructing an argument and when does it help in rejecting other’s arguments?

-          Is measurement an effective tool in building up the theory of matter?

-          Is measurement used independently of Bacon’s theory of matter?

The examples of measurements Sylva Sylvarum presents can be a good starting point for the discussion of these points. Different answers to these questions can also set the stage for a comparative analysis between Bacon’s use of measurement and other philosophical treatments of it.

We would love to hear your comments, suggestions and thoughts on these matters, so please leave us a comment.

CFP: Instruments & arts of inquiry: natural history, natural magic and the production of knowledge in early modern Europe

CFP: Instruments & arts of inquiry: natural history, natural magic and the production of knowledge in early modern Europe

Editors: Dana Jalobeanu, Cesare Pastorino

The second half of the sixteenth-century saw the growing popularity of accounts detailing instrumental practices and experimental recipes in at least two emerging (and extremely popular) fields: natural magic and the tradition of the books of secrets. A typical example of this cultural phenomenon was the influential work of Giambattista della Porta. By the beginning of seventeenth-century, experimental practices and instruments became equally popular in natural history. In fact, almost the same period saw the transformation — in the works of Francis Bacon — of the traditional bookish discipline of natural history into a collaborative, experimental and practically oriented study of nature.

What was the relation between these apparently parallel transformations taking place in these subjects? Does it make sense to think that the Baconian transformation of natural history from a “science of describing” to an experimental and practically oriented discipline was influenced by the technologies and “recipes” elaborated by the practitioners of natural magic and the “Secrets” tradition? How about other forms of natural history? Did the “wonderful” instruments and “magical” techniques so common in the books of secrets “migrated” into more “sober,” more systematic works of natural history? Or, to put it in a different way, did natural historians borrow their instruments, technologies and practices from natural magicians and authors of secrets? And, if so, what were the mechanisms behind such borrowings?

This special issue of the Journal of Early Modern Studies seeks papers exploring the intersections between the disciplines of natural history, natural magic and the books of secrets tradition in the early modern period. We are particularly interested in the various ways in which texts and practices in the tradition of natural magic and the books of secrets were absorbed, transformed and integrated in the renovated natural histories of the seventeenth century.

JEMS is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal of intellectual history, dedicated to the exploration of the interactions between philosophy, science and religion in Early Modern Europe. It aims to respond to the growing awareness within the scholarly community of an emerging new field of research that crosses the boundaries of the traditional disciplines and goes beyond received historiographic categories and concepts.

JEMS publishes high-quality articles reporting results of research in intellectual history, history of philosophy and history of early modern science, with a special interest in cross-disciplinary approaches. It furthermore aims to bring to the attention of the scholarly community as yet unexplored topics, which testify to the multiple intellectual exchanges and interactions between Eastern and Western Europe during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

JEMS is edited by the Research Centre “Foundations of Modern Thought”, University of Bucharest, and published and distributed by Zeta Books.

The main language of the journal is English, although contributions in French are also accepted.
Deadline: 1st of October 2013.