From natural history to science: the emergence of experimental philosophy

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Director of project:
Dana Jalobeanu

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

Former Members:
Sandra Dragomir
Laura Georgescu
Madalina Giurgea
Sebastian Mateiescu

Associate collaborators
Ovidiu Babeș
Bogdan Deznan
Ioana Măgureanu

 

Description of the project

PCE grant awarded by the CNCS, 2012-2016 ( PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-0719; contract no. 294/ 2011)

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Our project aims to investigate the various 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.’

CFP Matter and Perception (Early Science and Medicine)

Call for Papers: “Matter and Perception”

Special Issue of Early Science and Medicine

 

Early Science and Medicine is seeking contributions for a special issue on “Matter and Perception”

Guest editors: Michael Deckard and Doina-Cristina Rusu

Deadline: 1st of August 2016

 

The origins of thinking about matter in early modern Europe did not begin with Francis Bacon, René Descartes, or Anne Conway, but these thinkers formulated systems of matter that replaced Aristotelian form. The characteristics of matter began to be measured, studied, observed, anatomized, or imbued with life, essentially replacing form as an explanatory principle. This development in the history of philosophy, science and culture has been told in different ways, depending on from what perspective the story is based. One way of telling it is to look at the English experimental background starting with Bacon and continuing through Boyle, Newton, and the Royal Society. Another story could be told through the Cartesian development of causation, continuing through Malebranche and Hume. Still another might look at the roots of vitalism. Whether with regards to the senses, sympathy, electricity, gravity, or magnetism, this special issue seeks papers concerning the roots of the relation between matter and perception.

 

Early Science and Medicine (ESM) is a peer-reviewed international journal dedicated to the history of science, medicine and technology from the earliest times through to the end of the eighteenth century. The need to treat in a single journal all aspects of scientific activity and thought to the eighteenth century is due to two factors: to the continued importance of ancient sources throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period, and to the comparably low degree of specialization and the high degree of disciplinary interdependence characterizing the period before the professionalization of science. The journal, which concerns itself mainly with the Western, Byzantine and Arabic traditions, is particularly interested in emphasizing these elements of continuity and interconnectedness, and it encourages their diachronic study from a variety of viewpoints, including commented text editions and monographic studies of historical figures and scientific questions or practices. The main language of the journal is English, although contributions in French and German are also accepted.

 

For Guidelines to Contributors click here.

For further information on Early Science and Medicine, see http://www.brill.com/early-science-and-medicine

Please send your contribution by the 1st of August 2016 to Doina-Cristina Rusu at dc.rusu@yahoo.com

Translation project 2: Philosophical cosmology. Fundamental texts

In the second part of 2015 our main activity at the research seminar was working on the Translation project 2, the selection of fragments for the three volumes of philosophical cosmology (fundamental texts). We have read and investigated texts selected for volume 1 (Philosophical cosmology in the Renaissance) and volume 2 (Cosmology in Early Modern Europe), ranging from mid sixteenth century mixed mathematics and treatises on the sphere to late seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century.

In November 2015, volume I (Philosophical cosmology in the Renaissance) has been submitted to the publisher. For a short summary of volume I see here. Volume I is co-edited by Dana Jalobeanu and Doina-Cristina Rusu.

Volume II (co-edited by Mihnea Dobre and Dana Jalobeanu) will be finished and submitted at the end of 2016.

Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Science 2015

Last week, on 6 and 7 November, our research group co-organized with the IRH-UB the 6th edition of the Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Science. The event marked a good opportunity to bring to Bucharest scholars working on different aspects of the early modern experimentation. During these two days of intensive discussions about early modern natural philosophy, we explored several important themes, such as the role of illustrations in early modern scientific writings; the interaction between mathematics, experiments, and philosophical principles; the role of early modern women in the dissemination of the new science; various aspects of a number of important figures, such as Newton, Leibniz, Descartes, Maupertuis, Spinoza etc. Most of the participants in the Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Science were from other countries, as only 3 out of 16 speakers were affiliated to institutes in Romania. It is worth emphasizing the international aspect of the event, because one of the important outcomes was to strengthen some of the collaborations between the members of the Romanian team and our colleagues from other universities. During the past few days, we opened the way of future collaboration and the possibilities of building together research projects at European and international level. We can only hope that our future events organized in the research project “From Natural History to Science: the emergence of experimental philosophy” will build upon the success of the 6th edition of the Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Science.

 

Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Science 2015

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Institute for Research in the Humanities

&

Center for Logic, History and Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Philosophy

 

 

 

6-7 November

This is the fifth edition of the Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Science to be held at the University of Bucharest.

Invited speakers: Daniel Garber (Princeton University), Paul Lodge (University of Oxford), Arianna Borrelli (Technical University, Berlin).

Programme

November 6, Institute for Research in the Humanities (Dimitrie Brandza str. 1)

9:30 Opening Address, Dana Jalobeanu (Director, IRH)

10:00 – 11:00 Keynote Speaker: Arianna Borrelli (Technical University Berlin) Diagrams as “paper tools” in Della Porta’s optics

11:00-11:20 Coffee break

11:20-12:00 Lucie Čermáková (Charles University, Prague) Searching for “the causes of plants” in the sixteenth century – the case of Adam Zalužanský ze Zalužan

12:00-12:40 Stefano Gulizia (City University of New York) A 1509 List of Euclid Aficionados: Antiquarianism and Early Science in Sixteenth-Century Venice

12:40-14:40 Lunch break

14:40-15:20 Laura Sumrall (University of Sydney) “A Violent Guest”: Demons, Disease, and the Necessity of Magic in Jan Baptista van Helmont’s Medicine

15:20-15:40 Coffee break

15:40-16:20Michael Deckard (Lenoir-Rhyne University & University of Bucharest) Margaret Cavendish as Paradigm Shifter: A Case Study in Perception

16:20-17:00 Melissa Lo (The Huntington Library) Twists of Realism: Cartesianism naer het leven in Wolferd Senguerd’s Philosophia naturalis (1680)

17:20-18:00 Kirsten Walsh (University of Bucharest) Experiment and Observation in Newton’s Opticks

18:00-18:40 Ori Belkind (Tel Aviv University) Newton’s Method of Induction and Hume’s Problem of Induction

19:30 Dinner

 

November 7, Faculty of Philosophy (Splaiul Independentei 204)

9:30 – 10:30 Keynote Speaker: Paul Lodge (University of Oxford) True and False Mysticism in Leibniz

10:30-10:50 Coffee break

10:50-11:30 Andrea Strazzoni (Erasmus University Rotterdam) Physics, Metaphysics and Method in the Philosophy of Burchard de Volder

11:30-12:10 Stefan Heßbrüggen-Walter (NRU-HSE, Moscow) The Knowability of Nature between Clauberg and Wolff: Cartesianism, Eclecticism, and the Epistemic Scope of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics

12:10-14:00 Lunch Break

14:00-14:40 Norman Whitman (Rhodes College, Memphis) Finalism in Spinoza’s Physics?

14:40-15:20 Vincent Legeay (CHSPM, Paris 1) Spinoza’s memoria ordinis against Descartes’ reminiscientia dei

15:20-15:40 Coffee break

15:40-16:20 Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet (University of Bucharest & IZEA Halle) Physics and Metaphysics in Maupertuis

16:20-17:00 Marco Storni (École Normale Supérieure, Paris) Maupertuis’s Argument for Newtonianism

17:00-17:20 Coffee break

17:20-18:20 Keynote speaker: Dan Garber (Princeton University) “As Time Goes By”: Leibniz on Space, Time and the Composition of the Continuum

19:30 Dinner

World-makers: early modern philosophers and their cosmological projects

Oresme sfera elementala

Course given by: Dana Jalobeanu

Guest speakers: Kirsten Walsh (Institute for Research in Humanities, University of Bucharest), Michael Deckard (Fullbright Fellow, University of Bucharest)

Faculty of Philosophy

Splaiul Independentei 204

Wednesday from 2 pm (room Constantin Radulescu Motru)teniers

This is a third year optional course designed for the students following the module of theoretical philosophy (but other students, graduates or undergraduates are welcome to attend). The main aim of the course is to discuss the major figures, ideas and debates of the scientific revolution. We will focus on some of the important scientific and philosophical figures who contributed to the “scientific revolution” of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Here are some of the questions we are going to ask: What does it mean to be a natural philosopher? Are there philosophical/scientific roles? Is natural philosophy a profession, a vocation or a (Christian) duty? How many competing philosophical roles there are?  Are they fundamentally different (say: the Aristotelian and the proponents of the “new” philosophy). Do all natural philosophers have something in common?P5151082

Our work hypothesis is that most of the proponents of the “new” natural philosophy (early modern science) were world-makers: they aimed to replace the traditional view of the universe; they aimed to reform the received knowledge, and sometimes also the received social and intellectual roles of knowledge makers. Our discussion will focus on some primary texts. We will especially look for how natural philosophers reflected on their public role when engaging in “world-making.” What did they claim they were doing? How did they justify the attempt to replace the “old, received view of the world” with a “new philosophy”?

The course will consist of one hour lecture and three hours of seminar. Course and seminars will mainly consist of discussions. Each meeting will concentrate on two readings: a primary source and a secondary source (supplementary reading material can be found in the associated folder in the common drop-box).kepler_chart

Each seminar will begin with a 20 minutes presentation of an author/representative figure of the scientific revolution and will continue with a discussion of the texts. Students are required to write and prepare such presentations (ppt. also required), trying to set the required readings in a historical context aiming to facilitate de understanding.

 

Course syllabus

 

Date Course and seminars Readings
07.10 Introduction: From the Scientific Revolution to the “scientific revolutions”: historiographical debates. Natural philosophy and early modern science. The iconic figures of the scientific revolution.

 

14.10 The cloister and the university: the received view of the world (I)

 

14.10 Seminar: Historiographical biases and the access to the primary sources

 

B.J.T. Dobbs, “The Janus Faces of Genius”
21.10 Teaching and learning natural philosophy in the traditional setting. What is natural philosophy before the scientific revolution?
21.10 The cloister and the university: the received view of the world (II)

Seminar

Reisch, Margarita philosophica (translation and commentary by Cunningham and Kusukawa)
28.10 The public life and the contemplative ideal of knowledge: Francis Bacon

 

28.10 Seminar: Francis Bacon

 

Francis Bacon, New Atlantis (also: Bacon’s letter to Launcelot Andrewes on Seneca, Demosthene and Cicero).
04.11 The Renaissance “mathematician” and the “new world:” Astronomy, astrology and practical mathematics from Copernicus to Kepler

 

Secondary reading:

Omodeo, Chapter 2

 

04.11 Seminar: Johannes Kepler Kepler, Astronomia nova, Introduction
11.11 Teaching the new science, from the university to the court: Galileo Galilei, mathematician and/or philosopher

 

Secondary reading: Biagioli, Galileo’s instruments of credit, Introduction, Chapter 1

Supplementary reading:

11.11 Seminar: Galileo Galilei Galileo Galilei, Dialogue on the two new world systems, Day 1
18.11 Natural magic and experimental philosophy: Giovan Battista della Porta and William Gilbert

 

Giovan Battista della Porta, Natural Magic, introduction (the course will be organized as a reading group too!!)
18.11 Seminar: William Gilbert, experimental philosophy and cosmology William Gilbert, De magnete, book VI, ch. 1-3

Secondary reading: Freudenthal, Gilbert’s cosmology

Suppementary reading: Gatti, Giordano Bruno and the Renaissance Science, chapter IV (Bruno and Gilbert’s group)

 

24.11 The Christian virtuoso and the new science in England. Robert Boyle and the early Royal Society

 

24.11 Seminar: Robert Boyle, Christian virtuoso Boyle, Christian virtuoso
02.12 The first “professional”: Robert Hooke’s experimental philosophy and the Royal Society
02.12 Seminar: Robert Hooke Hooke, Micrographia (Preface)

Hooke,  A general scheme…

09.12 World makers: Descartes and Newton
09.12 Seminar: Descartes and Newton Descartes, Le Monde (chapters 1, 6, 7)

Newton, De gravitatione

16.12 The private and the public face of the natural philosopher: Newton

 

16.12 Seminar Newton Dibner Ms 1031 b

Hypothesis on Light

06.01 Utopia and the Royal Society: Oldenburg, Evelyn, Wilkins, Beale on the reformation of knowledge, the advancement of learning and various utopian ‘scientific’ projects

 

Secondary reading: Lynch, Solomon’s Child
06.01 Seminar on the utopian plans of the FRS Henry Oldenburg – correspondence

RH – the continuation of New Atlantis

Cowley – the plan for organizing Royal Society

13.01 Communicators and promoters of the new science. The public face of science

 

13.01 Women philosophers
20.01 Colloquium

 

Assignments

Seminar presentation: introduce the author (30% of the evaluation)

The seminar will begin with a 20 min presentation of the author whose text is under discussion. Students are required to choose one author and to prepare such a presentation, focusing on the context of the text for the seminar and the relevant details for its understanding. In introducing an author it is important to emphasize what was his/her general plan/project and how does our reading relate to that more general plan. Also, I would like to know more about the intellectual context in which our author’s ideas have developed, about his intellectual sources, friends and foes, about his successes (in his own time: was he read? Did he have students and followers?) and failures (What did he hoped to achieve? How much did he manage to do? What prevented him to do more?  How did he/she reflect on the causes of his/her failure?). Try to reconstruct a portrait as free as possible from the various biases of the various historiographies.

 

Analyze a primary source (from the bibliography) (30% of the evaluation)

Write a 4-6 pages ‘introduction’ to a primary source from the bibliography. Explain its main ideas, define its terms, place it in the context (among the author’s other writings, for example), provide the reader with the appropriate footnotes (definitions, explanations of terms, references to the background etc.) and the running commentary that would help her understand the text better. Show at what points in your analysis the reader might benefit from reading secondary literature and why. What are the difficult problems this text is posing? What kind of problems are they? (terminological, conceptual, contextual, interpretative) What do we need in order to solve them?  Draft a list of questions and a bibliography which might help the reader solve some of these questions.

 

Discuss secondary literature referring to a primary source (30 % of the evaluation)

Select and discuss two secondary sources referring to the author/primary source you have worked on. Use the bibliography and ask for help when you need it.

Date Course and seminars Readings
07.10 Introduction: From the Scientific Revolution to the “scientific revolutions”: historiographical debates. Natural philosophy and early modern science. The iconic figures of the scientific revolution.

 

14.10 The cloister and the university: the received view of the world (I)

 

14.10 Seminar: Historiographical biases and the access to the primary sources

 

B.J.T. Dobbs, “The Janus Faces of Genius”
21.10 Teaching and learning natural philosophy in the traditional setting. What is natural philosophy before the scientific revolution?
21.10 The cloister and the university: the received view of the world (II)

Seminar

Reisch, Margarita philosophica (translation and commentary by Cunningham and Kusukawa)
28.10 The public life and the contemplative ideal of knowledge: Francis Bacon

 

28.10 Seminar: Francis Bacon

 

Francis Bacon, New Atlantis (also: Bacon’s letter to Launcelot Andrewes on Seneca, Demosthene and Cicero).
04.11 The Renaissance “mathematician” and the “new world:” Astronomy, astrology and practical mathematics from Copernicus to Kepler

 

Secondary reading:

Omodeo, Chapter 2

 

04.11 Seminar: Johannes Kepler Kepler, Astronomia nova, Introduction
11.11 Teaching the new science, from the university to the court: Galileo Galilei, mathematician and/or philosopher

 

Secondary reading: Biagioli, Galileo’s instruments of credit, Introduction, Chapter 1

Supplementary reading:

11.11 Seminar: Galileo Galilei Galileo Galilei, Dialogue on the two new world systems, Day 1
18.11 Natural magic and experimental philosophy: Giovan Battista della Porta and William Gilbert

 

Giovan Battista della Porta, Natural Magic, introduction (the course will be organized as a reading group too!!)
18.11 Seminar: William Gilbert, experimental philosophy and cosmology William Gilbert, De magnete, book VI, ch. 1-3

Secondary reading: Freudenthal, Gilbert’s cosmology

Suppementary reading: Gatti, Giordano Bruno and the Renaissance Science, chapter IV (Bruno and Gilbert’s group)

 

24.11 The Christian virtuoso and the new science in England. Robert Boyle and the early Royal Society

 

24.11 Seminar: Robert Boyle, Christian virtuoso Boyle, Christian virtuoso
02.12 The first “professional”: Robert Hooke’s experimental philosophy and the Royal Society
02.12 Seminar: Robert Hooke Hooke, Micrographia (Preface)

Hooke,  A general scheme…

09.12 World makers: Descartes and Newton
09.12 Seminar: Descartes and Newton Descartes, Le Monde (chapters 1, 6, 7)

Newton, De gravitatione

16.12 The private and the public face of the natural philosopher: Newton

 

16.12 Seminar Newton Dibner Ms 1031 b

Hypothesis on Light

06.01 Utopia and the Royal Society: Oldenburg, Evelyn, Wilkins, Beale on the reformation of knowledge, the advancement of learning and various utopian ‘scientific’ projects

 

Secondary reading: Lynch, Solomon’s Child
06.01 Seminar on the utopian plans of the FRS Henry Oldenburg – correspondence

RH – the continuation of New Atlantis

Cowley – the plan for organizing Royal Society

13.01 Communicators and promoters of the new science. The public face of science

 

13.01 Women philosophers
20.01 Colloquium

 

Assignments

Seminar presentation: introduce the author (30% of the evaluation)

The seminar will begin with a 20 min presentation of the author whose text is under discussion. Students are required to choose one author and to prepare such a presentation, focusing on the context of the text for the seminar and the relevant details for its understanding. In introducing an author it is important to emphasize what was his/her general plan/project and how does our reading relate to that more general plan. Also, I would like to know more about the intellectual context in which our author’s ideas have developed, about his intellectual sources, friends and foes, about his successes (in his own time: was he read? Did he have students and followers?) and failures (What did he hoped to achieve? How much did he manage to do? What prevented him to do more?  How did he/she reflect on the causes of his/her failure?). Try to reconstruct a portrait as free as possible from the various biases of the various historiographies.

 

Analyze a primary source (from the bibliography) (30% of the evaluation)

Write a 4-6 pages ‘introduction’ to a primary source from the bibliography. Explain its main ideas, define its terms, place it in the context (among the author’s other writings, for example), provide the reader with the appropriate footnotes (definitions, explanations of terms, references to the background etc.) and the running commentary that would help her understand the text better. Show at what points in your analysis the reader might benefit from reading secondary literature and why. What are the difficult problems this text is posing? What kind of problems are they? (terminological, conceptual, contextual, interpretative) What do we need in order to solve them?  Draft a list of questions and a bibliography which might help the reader solve some of these questions.

 

Discuss secondary literature referring to a primary source (30 % of the evaluation)

Select and discuss two secondary sources referring to the author/primary source you have worked on. Use the bibliography and ask for help when you need it.

 

CELFIS 2015-2016

Weekly research seminar in Logic, History and Philosophy of Science

Wednesday 18-20, Titu Maiorescu Amphitheater, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest

 First semester

 

7 October –Rob Iliffe (University of Sussex), The Newton Project as a solution to the problem of intellectual coherence

14 October – Round table discussion on the book:Psihologia poporului roman, by Daniel David

Invited speakers: Daniel David (Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj), Cosima Rughiniș (University of Bucharest), Ruxandra Ivan (University of Bucharest), Radu Umbreș (SNSPA). Moderator: Sorin Costreie (University of Bucharest)

21 October – Kirsten Walsh (Institute for Research in Humanities, University of Bucharest), Newton as a Modeller

28 October – Fabrizio Baldassari (Institute for Research in Humanities, University of Bucharest), How much living bodies fit Descartes’ natural philosophy. The role of botany

4 November – Daniel Garber (Princeton University), “History not so faithful, as might have been wish’d”: Bacon, Error, and the Royal Society

11 November – F. A. Meschini (Università del Salento),  De L’Homme à la Description du corps humain: sur les traces du parcours du chyle. Descartes et la digestion

18 November – Delphine Bellis (Radboud University Nijmegen), Nos in Diem Vivimus: Gassendi’s Probabilism and Academic Philosophy from Day to Day

25 November – Constantin C Brincus (University of Bucharest), The Nature of Logical Principles

2 December – Adrian Currie (University of Calgary), Hot Blooded Gluttons: Coherence & Method in Historical Science

9 December – Ciprian Jeler (Institute for Research in Humanities, University of Bucharest), On some recent ambiguities of the concept of “group selection” in philosophy of biology

16 December – Sorin Bangu (University of Bergen), Methodological Remarks on the Experiments on Infants’ Mathematical Abilities

6 January – Michael Deckard (Lenoir-Rhyne University/University of Bucharest), Two Cultures Interweaving: Art and Science in Mendelssohn’s Letters on Sentiments

13 January – Divna Manolova (Institute for Research in Humanities, University of Bucharest), Theodore Metochites and Nikephoros Gregoras on philomatheia and polymatheia

20 January – Alette Fleischer (Amsterdam University), Nature, Knowledge and Networks: Exchanging and examining local and exotic plants in 17th century Holland

CFP Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Science

November 6-7, 2015
Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Bucharest
& The Center for Logic, History and Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest

Invited speakers:
Daniel Garber (Princeton University)
Paul Lodge (University of Oxford)
Arianna Borrelli (Technical University, Berlin)

We invite papers by established and young scholars (including doctoral students) on any aspects of early modern philosophy/early modern science. Abstracts no longer than 500 words, to be sent to Doina-Cristina Rusu (dc.rusu@yahoo.com ) by September 10.  Authors will be notified by September 15.

Contacts: Dana Jalobeanu (dana.jalobeanu@celfis.ro) and Doina-Cristina Rusu (dc.rusu@yahoo.com)

Dana Jalobeanu spent five weeks at Max Planck Institute for History of Science, Berlin, working on a project on Giovan Battista della Porta and Francis Bacon on philosophical instruments and experimental trials. See https://www.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/en/staff/members/djalobeanu.

This research project aims to investigate the complex and creative ways in which Francis Bacon read and used Della Porta’s Magia naturalis as a sourcebook of problems, questions and suggestions for developing sophisticated experimental trials. It looks more particularly at the various ways in which Bacon transformed and manipulated Della Porta’s recipes and technologies, by integrating them in experimental series and by subsuming them to (different) theoretical questions. The aim of this investigation is to show that Bacon’s rewriting of Della Porta’s recipes contain a supplementary layer of methodological considerations leading to a better visualization of the phenomenon under investigation.

Bran Seminar Report 2015

In the recent Bran seminar, the Bucharest-Princeton Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy (12-17.07.2015), our research team was well represented. We continued to explore the multi-faced transformations of the early modern science, discussing how experiment, mathematics, metaphysics, natural histories, theology, and metaphysics came together into the discourse of the new science of the seventeenth century. Such a discussion took place in the reading group on “Genesis and the new science. The case of Cartesian philosophy,” which was coordinated by Mihnea Dobre (University of Bucharest) and Daniel Garber (Princeton University).

 

Mihnea Dobre: In the reading group, we discussed various texts from the Philosophical Transactions, Descartes’s correspondence, fragments from Descartes’s writings, and a book written by the Cartesian Géraud de Cordemoy. All the selected fragments concerned the relation between the new philosophy of the seventeenth century and the scripture. In particular, we focused on the relation between the corpuscularian theories advanced by Descartes and his followers and the first chapter of Genesis.

In 1670, the Philosophical Transactions presented two recent books that were dealing with the mosaic history of creation. These books were written accordingly to the new mechanical philosophy and they revealed obvious links with Cartesian philosophy. One of the main claims Oldenburg made in these books was that the story presented by Moses in the Genesis 1 was explained philosophically by the new science. Moreover, as one can learn from the review of the Cartesius mosaizans, they claimed that corpuscles and laws of motion are all that God had to create and the world was set into existence. As the title of the book suggests, this reading was inspired by Descartes’s natural philosophy. However, Descartes did not manage to give himself a full account of this issue. In the reading group, we explored the various places – especially from Descartes’s correspondence – were he referred positively to the explanatory power of his philosophy, which would include an account of the mosaic history of creation. In any case, his claims were defended and further developed by his philosophical heirs. We referred to one of these accounts, Géraud de Cordemoy’s Letter to a learned friar…. By exploring this connection between Cartesian natural philosophy and the Biblical history of creation, our reading group raised important questions about the relation between philosophy and theology, reason and revelation, history and observation.

CELFIS Seminar – Second semester

18 februarie: Alexandru Dragomir (University of Bucharest), Edgington’s Verificationist Thesis in an Epistemic Temporal Framework

25 februarie: Cristi Stoica  (Institutul de Fizica Horia Hulubei), Singularities: tears in the fabric of space-time?

4 martie: Tzuchien Tho (Institute for Research in Humanities, University of Bucharest), Efficient and final causality in the development of Leibniz’s dynamics

11 Martie: Silviu Velica (Universitatea din Bucuresti), The Monty Hall problem in Independence-Friendly Logic

18 Martie: Sorana Corneanu (University of Bucharest) Temperaments and virtues: the care of the mind in late Renaissance medico-philosophical contexts

1 Aprilie: Horia Roman Patapievici (University of Bucharest), Structura cosmologiei lui Dante. Modul de constructie

8 aprilie: Sven Dupre (Max Planck Institute), Secrets and Experiments: Della Porta’s Optics between Reading and Doing 

29 aprilie: Alexandra Ion (Institute of Anthropology “Francisc I. Rainer” & University of Bucharest), Collecting human bodies: early 20th century anthropological knowledge as a culture of visualisation.

6 mai: prof. Gorun Manolescu (Politehnica Bucuresti) “Mihai Draganescu: O noua paradigma a informatiei”

13 mai: Iovan Drehe (Academia Romana, Filiala Iasi), Dialectica ca dar divin: de la Platon la Bacon

20 mai:mEd Slowick (University of Wynona) TBA

Finding a Path Through the Woods

In December, some of our team members (Dana Jalobeanu, Oana Matei, Doina-Cristina Rusu and Claudia Dumitru) attended Finding a Path through the Woods, a two-day conference on Sylva Sylvarum in Paris, organized by Dana Jalobeanu and Koen Vermeir. The event was one in a series of seminars and workshops on Sylva that started in Princeton in 2012 and will be continued with a meeting in Berlin in March 2015.

The most important result of this meeting was putting together a preliminary list of topics or problems that could form the core of a volume of scholarly articles on Sylva Sylvarum. The reading groups were particularly helpful in this respect. You can see most of the issues discussed by our team at the second reading group of the conference, on spirits and pneumatic substances in Sylva, in this post. We also had a chance to meet the French team translating Sylva Sylvarum (Claire Crignon, Sylvia Kleiman), who contributed to the first reading group.

Doina-Cristina Rusu and Claudia Dumitru also presented papers at this conference. Doina talked about Francis Bacon’s use of sources, expanding on his famous metaphor about ants, spiders and bees. By analyzing some of the material in Sylva Sylvarum in relation with its sources (Giambattista della Porta and Hugh Platt), she tried to show that Bacon follows his own methodological injunctions and, far from simply lifting material from others, he reflects on it critically and transforms it. That would mean that the bee (who digests and renders useful the stuff it feeds on) is a symbol not only for philosophy, but also for natural history undertaken philosophically. Claudia talked about a specific set of experiments from Sylva Sylvarum – those dealing with sounds. She tried to show how one problem that was vital to the Aristotelian background theory, that of the irreducibility of sound to motion, shapes much of Bacon’s inquiry in Sylva and arguably puts him against the dominant trend in the later part of the seventeenth century.