About mihnea

Mihnea Dobre is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bucharest. He is working in The Center for the Logic, History and Philosophy of Science (CELFIS) from the Faculty of Philosophy, studying the disciplinary shifts in the early modern period. In his dissertation – Metaphysics and Physics in Cartesian Natural Philosophy: Descartes and Early French Cartesians on the Foundation of Natural Philosophy (2010, Nijmegen) – Mihnea Dobre discussed the problems connected with seventeenth-century possibilities of framing a new physics based on Cartesian philosophy. Dobre participated in numerous international conferences and published various articles on topics such as history of philosophy, history of science, and history and philosophy of science. Together with Tammy Nyden (Grinnell College), he is currently co-editing the volume Cartesian Empiricisms (Springer: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science).

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



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).


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

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.

Scientific report (2014)

Scientific report

From natural history to science: the emergence of experimental philosophy


Director of project: Dana Jalobeanu


The main result of 2014 is that we have placed our project on the map of European research in early modern scientific experimentation. We have established scientific connections with other research teams working on Francis Bacon’s natural histories in Oxford, Paris, Lyon and Berlin. During 2014 the members of the project published 8 papers (of which 1 ISI, 5 BDI and 2 chapters). 7 papers were accepted for publication (1 ISI, 1 BDI and 5 chapters). 2 papers are still under review (both ISI). In addition we have 1 forthcoming book (Jalobeanu, 2015). We are still working at 2 volumes of translations (Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum and a reader of early modern cosmology) which are both included in the publication list for 2015 of the University of Bucharest Press. Our project organized or co-organized 6 international panels, colloquia and workshops in Bucharest, Bran, Vienna, and Paris. All in all, members of our project took part in 20 international conferences. We have edited 3 special issues of journals (Societate și Politică and Journal of Early Modern Studies).


Extended report

The project From natural history to science: the emergence of experimental philosophy had three important objectives for 2014. The first objective was scientific and regarded our attempt to challenge the received view on the origins of experimental philosophy by bringing into the picture a wide array of natural historical investigations. The second objective regarded the dissemination of scientific results. Members of the project took part in conferences and colloquia, organized scientific events, published collective volumes and engaged in various forms of scientific collaboration with colleagues from Europe and the US. The third objective of 2014 was to obtain the first complete draft of a translation of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum.


  1. Scientific work and results: historical and philosophical revaluations of early modern natural historical investigations.


Our first objective was to work towards producing an increasingly refined picture of the diversity of natural historical approaches in the early and mid-seventeenth-century England and France, in order to show that most current historiographical and conceptual models of the “scientific revolution” fail to take into account the multi-layered impact of natural historical investigations upon the emergence and development of mid-seventeenth-century experimental philosophy (science). This was done by extending our historical and philosophical investigations, which, for the past two years, focused on Francis Bacon and the natural histories of the early seventeenth century in such a way as to include works by Giovan Battista della Porta, John Wilkins, Galileo Galilei, Samuel Hartlib, Gabriel Plattes, Hugh Platt, Jacques Rohault and Isaac Newton. Members of the project have traced the influence and impact of Francis Bacon’s natural historical project upon mid and late seventeenth-century experimental philosophers in both England and France. Some of our investigations focused upon key concepts such as “specialized observations,” and “expert reports,” while others centered upon questions regarding the organization and structure of natural historical projects and the inter-relations between natural history, natural philosophy, and natural magic. In terms of results, Dana Jalobeanu has published an ISI paper on the “Elements of natural history in Sidereus nuncius” (Revue Roumaine de Philosophie 58 (1): 55-77); Oana Matei has documented the emergence of a special kind of Baconian natural historical investigation in mid-seventeenth century England in her ISI article on “Husbandry Tradition and the Emergence of Vegetable Philosophy inside the Hartlib Circle,” (Philosophia. International Journal of Philosophy 16 (2015) (forthcoming)) and in another article, “Technologies of Amelioration: Husbandry, Alchemy and Vegetable Philosophy in the Works of Gabriel Plattes,” currently under evaluation at AMBIX. Dana Jalobeanu and Doina-Cristina Rusu have also worked on the investigation of several case studies regarding the inter-relationship between natural history and natural magic in Francis Bacon, Giovan Battista Della Porta and Hugh Platt. Doina-Cristina Rusu has published a paper on “Abolishing the Borders between Natural History and Natural Magic: Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum and the Historia vitae et mortis,” (Societate și Politică 8 (2): 23-42). In parallel with the investigation of such case studies, members of the project were interested in conceptual and historiographical clarifications. Mihnea Dobre has discussed the most recent proposal to define a Baconian natural history in terms of a “Bacon-Boyle-Hooke (BBH)” type of natural historical investigation (Anstey, 2014), and has shown that it applies not only to the English context, but also to French Cartesians (most notably Jacques Rohault). Dobre’s article on this subject is a BDI article entitled “Considerații despre filosofia experimentului în perioada modernă timpurie,” (Revista de filosofie 61 (6): 631-642). Further work by Dobre on this matter has been presented at a number of conferences (see next section) and has been sent for publication (see the list at the end of the report).

An important direction of investigation this year was that regarding Francis Bacon’s reception in mid-seventeenth century France. This particular direction has proved extremely fruitful both in terms of ensuing publications and in terms of initiating international collaborations (see next section). Dana Jalobeanu has published an article on “The French Reception of Francis Bacon’s natural history in mid-seventeenth century,” (in a volume edited by E. Cassan, Bacon et Descartes: Genese de la modernite philosophique, Edition ENS, Lyon 2014). Another article by Jalobeanu investigates the first French translation of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum and has been accepted to publication in a special issue of Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture (2015). Mihnea Dobre has investigated the
“Experimental Cartesianism,” of the mid-seventeenth century in two articles, one soon to be published in a volume edited by Koen Vermeir and Jonathan Regier, Space, Knots and Bonds: At the Crossroads between Early Modern “Magic” and “Science” (Dordrecht: Springer, forthcoming 2015) and another one recently submitted for publication in an ISI journal, Early Science and Medicine (“What can a Cartesian philosopher learn from medicine? Francois Bayle on reason and experience”). In the same direction of investigating the impact of Bacon’s natural historical investigations, some members of our projects have inquired into Newton’s Baconianism and the peculiar “mixture” of Baconianism, Cartesianism and Newtonianism characteristic of late seventeenth-century physics. Dana Jalobeanu has published a paper on “Constructing natural historical facts: Baconian natural history in Newton’s first paper on light and colours,” (Zvi Biener, Eric Schliesser, eds., Newton and Empiricism, Oxford: 2014) and Mihnea Dobre has published a paper on “Mixing Cartesianism and Newtonianism: the Reception of Cartesian Physics in England.” (Gianna Gasiampoura ed., Scientific Cosmopolitanism and Local Cultures, Athens: 2014).

In parallel to these attempts to extend the investigations into early modern natural histories, “scientific observations,” and “expert reports,” members of our project have continued their work on Francis Bacon’s natural history, abstract physics and natural magic. Dana Jalobeanu has published a BDI paper on “A natural history of the heavens: Francis Bacon’s Anti-Copernicanism” (W. Neuber, T. Rahn, C. Zittel, The making of Copernicus, Brill: 2014). Also, two papers by Jalobeanu, on “Francis Bacon’s experimental construction of space,” and “The marriage of physics and mathematics: Francis Bacon on measurement, mathematics and the construction of a mathematical physics” were accepted for publication (in a volume edited by Jonathan Regier and Koen Vermeir, Space, Knots and Bonds: At the Crossroads between Early Modern “Magic” and “Science,” (Dordrecht: Springer, forthcoming); and in a volume edited by G. Gordon, B. Hill, E. Slowick and K. Waters, Language of nature, Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science (2015)). Doina-Cristina Rusu’s paper on “Manipulating matter and its appetites: Francis Bacon on natural laws and contingency,” has been accepted for publication (P.D. Omodeo, R. Garau, Contingency and Natural Order in Early Modern Science, Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, forthcoming). Another paper by Rusu entitled “Critica autoritatii si folosirea surselor: Francis Bacon despre compilarea istoriilor naturale” will appear shortly in a volume edited by C. Stoenescu, Etica cercetării, Editura Universității din București (2014).

In order to achieve these scientific results, two members of our project, Doina-Cristina Rusu and Oana Matei have spent 3 weeks in London (26 August-13 September), working at the British Library and The Warburg Institute. Their research trip proved beneficial for both their paper-writing activities and for the activity of translating Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum.

  1. Dissemination of scientific results

The second objective for 2014 regarded the dissemination of scientific results achieved so far. This was done through conference participation, organizing international colloquia and workshops, and editing collective volumes with international participation. In addition, we have posted some of our scientific results and several questions regarding our current investigation on the project blog (http://blogs.ub-filosofie.ro/pce/).

Our goal for 2014 was to make our results more visible internationally, as well as to establish forms of international collaborations with historians of science, historians of philosophy and philosophers of science. The main result for the year was the establishment of a collaborative project with the two international teams currently enrolled into large-scale projects of editing Francis Bacon’s natural histories in English (The Oxford Francis Bacon Project) and French. Subsequent results were collaborative projects initiated with Laboratoire SPHERE, Paris 7 and Technical University, Berlin. Thus, Dana Jalobeanu has organized an international panel in the conference Scientiae 2014 (Vienna, 23-25.04.2014): A higher kind of natural magic: Francis Bacon and Giovan Battista Della Porta on “philosophical instruments” and the creative powers of experimentation (Members of the panel: Arianna Borrelli (Technical University, Berlin), Cesare Pastorino (Technical University, Berlin), Koen Vermeir (Laboratoire SPHERE, Paris 7), Sergius Kodera (University of Vienna)). The panel proved to be influential towards an extended collaboration between the University of Bucharest and Universite Paris 7 and Technical University, Berlin. One of the first results of this collaboration is the organization of an international colloquium in Paris, Finding a path through the woods: analyzing Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum (December 12-13, 2014). At this international colloquium, participants from France, England, Germany, Argentina, Canada and Romania will discuss several important aspects of Francis Bacon’s natural historical project (in relation to Bacon’s natural magic) and will put together a book proposal for a collection of papers destined to clarify some key issues of Bacon’s Sylva. A second international colloquium also co-organized by our project will take place in March 2015 in Berlin (at the Technical University).

The members of the project also organized four international events in Romania: a round-table in the Princeton-Bucharest seminar in early modern philosophy (on Naturalism: Cardano, Telesio, Bacon; participants Doina-Cristina Rusu, Mihnea Dobre and Daniel Garber (Princeton)); two international workshops in Bucharest: 1. “Mechanicism, mathematics and experiment: Early modern intersections, January 16-17, having as participants Catherine Goldstein (CNRS, Paris), Sophie Roux (Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris), Charles Wolfe (University of Ghent), Tamas Demeter (Hungarian Academy, Budapest) and Tinca Prunea Bretonnet (New Europe College, Bucharest) and 2. “Histories and philosophy of scientific experimentation,” 27 November 2014, with John Henry (University of Edinburgh), Arianna Borrelli (Technical University, Berlin), Cesare Pastorino (Technical University, Berlin), Cornelis Schilt (University of Sussex), and the yearly Bucharest Graduate Conference in Early Modern Philosophy (Invited speakers: John Henry (University of Edinburgh), Arianna Borrelli (Technical University, Berlin), Doina-Cristina Rusu). It is worth noting that the workshop on the Histories and Philosophy of Scientific experimentation was co-organized with New Europe College (more precisely, through a collaboration between our grant and an ERC Starting Grant managed by New Europe College). In the same direction of collaborating with other scientific projects developed in Romania, we have organized two research seminars at the newly founded Research Institute of the University of Bucharest (SSU-ICUB), within the series Archives in the Digital Age: Re-shaping the Humanities. The first was called “Reshaping the Humanities” and brought together papers on Bacon’s manuscripts by Dana Jalobeanu and Angus Vine (University of Stirling), on the Hartlib circle by Oana Matei, and on Henry Oldenburg’s letters by Iordan Avramov (The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences & New Europe College). The second seminar was entitled “Manuscrisul 2001 de la Biblioteca Mazarina. Un exercitiu de istorie intelectuala in jurul scrisorilor lui Descartes despre Euharistie” and was organized jointly with the team of the Cartesian framework project (directed by Vlad Alexandrescu, PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-0998). Participants at this seminar were Mihnea Dobre, Vlad Alexandrescu and Grigore Vida. These events at SSU-ICUB also helped our team disseminate its research results and network with Romanian researchers from other fields (notably history and theology).

In addition to organizing panels and international colloquia, the members of our project took part in the important conferences of the profession, Scientiae 2014 (Mihnea Dobre, Dana Jalobeanu), HOPOS 2014 (Mihnea Dobre, Doina-Cristina Rusu, Dana Jalobeanu). Furthermore, Dana Jalobeanu gave an invited talk at the conference All in pieces? New Insights into Newton’s Thought (The Huntington Library, Los Angeles, 10-11 October 2014) and Doina-Cristina Rusu gave an invited talk at the Hungarian Academy of Science, Budapest. Claudia Dumitru’s papers were also selected at three international conferences: the Dutch Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy (Groningen, 29-30 January 2014), Bucharest-Princeton Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy (8-13 July 2014, Bran), and the Bucharest Graduate Conference in Early Modern Philosophy (28-29 November 2014).

Important and significant contributions to the objective of disseminating scientific results and making the project more visible are the collective volumes and the special editions we have published. Doina-Cristina Rusu has edited a special issue on Experimental Practices and Philosophical Traditions: Organizing and Disseminating Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, Societate si Politica 8 (2) (2014) and Claudia Dumitru has edited a special issue entitled The Quest for Certainty at the Crossroads of Science, Religion, and Philosophy in the Early Modern Period, Societate si Politica 8 (1) (2014). Dana Jalobeanu has co-edited with Cesare Pastorino a special edition of the Journal of Early Modern Studies (Dana Jalobeanu, Cesare Pastorino, Instruments and arts of inquiry: natural history, natural magic and the production of knowledge in early modern Europe, special issue of the Journal of Early Modern Studies April 2014). All these three special issue feature peer-reviewed papers of authors coming from various research universities from the US and Europe.


  1. The translation project


The third major objective for 2014 was to finish the first draft of a complete translation of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum. This was a major undertaking, and the resulting manuscript represents more than 500 pages of text, footnotes and commentaries. All members of the project were involved in the translation project and they have contributed not only with translation but also to the extensive glossary and commentary. In the process of translation we have collaborated with the English team (coordinated by Kathryn Murphy, University of Oxford) and the French team (coordinated by Claire Crignon, CNRS Lyon). We plan to use year 2015 to discuss and correct the manuscript and to submit it for publication.

A second project of translation was developed throughout 2014, namely the attempt to put together a reader on early modern cosmology, containing texts by Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Galileo Galilei, John Wilkins, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton and Berkeley. Texts were translated from English, Latin and French. This project also involved graduate students who, in this way, became natural collaborators of our team.

Brief Report 2014

In 2014, our research team focused on the dissemination of results and networking. Thus, part of the objectives of this year were to collaborate with other scholars working on adjacent themes and to present the results of our research in workshops, conferences, and colloquia. At the beginning of the year, we announced three main objectives:
1. to broaden the context of our research to the entire early modern period. This objective aimed at connecting some of the research of the past year, which explored particular experiments and experimental practices, to the larger framework of early modern experimental philosophy.
2. to write and present papers in international conferences and workshops.
3. to prepare a first draft of the Romanian translation of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum.
In terms of outcome, we fully completed our expectations. We published several articles, as can be seen by visiting our publications page. At the same time, members of our team were involved in several conferences, including Scientiae 2014 (Vienna), HOPOS 2014 (Ghent), Bucharest-Princeton Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy (Bran). Members of our project organized two workshops, Mechanicism, mathematics and experiment: Early modern intersections (16-17.01.) and Bucharest Graduate Conference in Early Modern Philosophy (28-29.11.). Our project was part of the teams organizing the Bucharest-Princeton Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy, “History and Philosophy of Early Modern Experimentation” workshop (27.11.), and a conference on Sylva sylvarum organized in Paris (12-13.12.).
Not least, our team has prepared the first draft of the Romanian text of Sylva Sylvarum (see the Translation project page). For the next year, we are planning to correct the translation and give a final version for publication.

A Cartesian challenge to the early modern philosophy of experiment

Much has been written about seventeenth-century experiments and experimental philosophy. My paper for the CELFIS seminar of October 8 aimed at engaging with that tradition. In particular, I was concerned with the recent discussion by Peter Anstey of the so called BBH model of the experimental philosophy (BBH stands for the name of Bacon, Boyle, and Hooke). As a reaction to Thomas Kuhn and Peter Dear, Peter Anstey’s article provides a very nice introduction into the Baconian experimentation and its main developments in the second half of the seventeenth century. Both Boyle and Hooke engage with a form of experimentation that is labelled here “Baconian.” It is not, however, the purpose of this small blog post to engage with the details of Anstey’s article, but rather to try to complement his analysis with a new example of experimentalism that can be found in a completely different source. This is the case of the experimental work of the Cartesian natural philosopher, Jacques Rohault.

In my lecture, I’ve referred to two experiments that were performed by Rohault: with pneumatic devices, on the one hand, and with glass drops, on the other hand. It is well known that Boyle was the main contributor to the pneumatic or baroscopic experiments of the 1660s. Hooke was among the first to examine glass drops and to provide an explanation for both the production of the small glass objects and for the curious phenomena produced by those. Interestingly, Rohault deals with both of these issues in experimental terms.

Now, one might very well wonder why is important that a Cartesian philosopher was providing an explanation for some intriguing experiments; after all, he is a Cartesian, therefore a speculative philosopher (see the Otago blog here and here), and he would explain all phenomena according to the principles of Cartesian physics. Yet, this classification of seventeenth-century philosophers into “experimental” and “speculative” should not be an impediment in searching for explanations in one’s writings. But there is more than that and I argued in my paper that it is precisely Rohault’s experimental approach to the study of the two phenomena that would make difficult to draw a clear boundary between his work and the works of the most representative experimenters of the BBH model.

I have argued elsewhere that Rohault treats the study of the properties of the air in experimental terms. He does not simply jump from the conclusions derived in the general part of Cartesian physics (which is most often claimed that he does), but actively engage in experiments and observations.

With respect to the study of glass drops, Rohault is also concerned to perform all the needed observations before providing an explanation. This is also what Hooke did in his Micrographia.

As a tentative conclusion for this very sketchy blog-post, I claim that based on these two experiments, Rohault should be placed in the same context with Boyle and Hooke, so as a representative of the BBH model. If, on the contrary, one would like to point to his “Cartesianism,” then, one simply overlooks his experiments and this would raise new worries for the use of historical categories: if one dismisses some experimental practices only on the basis of placing the practitioner to one or another camp, then, the problem is not any more with the use of experiment in natural philosophy, but with the way various natural philosophies of the period were classified in our histories.

Naturalism: Cardano, Telesio, and Bacon


Some notes on the reading group Naturalism: Cardano, Telesio, and Bacon (Bucharest-Princeton Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy, Bran 8-13 July 2014).


Proponents: Daniel Garber, Mihnea Dobre, Doina-Cristina Rusu.

The reading group examined some of the views of Girolamo Cardano, Bernardino Telesio, and Francis Bacon. We selected passages from Cardano’s De subtilitate (book II), Telesio’s On the nature of things (chaps. 8-16), and Bacon’s Sylva (experiments 30-32, 800-830) and the Novum Organum II. From the point of view of our research project, From Natural History to Science: the emergence of experimental philosophy, this was very important as it put in comparison Bacon’s views with some of his sources. We were especially interested in exploring the views of the three philosophers with respect to spirits, qualities, principles, and elements. We discussed the relation between heat, fire, and motion. Further, we compared the nature of air and the notion of “perception” in the three philosophers, asking how this would entail more experimental possibilities.

Our discussion was framed by the cosmological views of Cardano and Telesio. In Cardano, we were interested in his tripartite division of the elements (earth, air, and water) and what would be the status of fire (seen as a quality) in this new cosmological image. Cardano’s investigation of fire and his attempt to provide new experimental techniques for studying it allowed us to raise one of the main questions of the Bucharest-Princeton Seminar; namely, what “naturalization” means? Is this a worthy concept to describe the various attempts of early modern philosophers to pursue a more systematic empirical investigation of nature?

With Telesio we turned to explore the nature of air as the intermediate medium between the sky and the earth. We addressed the problem of how heat and cold act in the world and cause all the phenomena, and we opened the question of subtlety in experimental context. This question was further addressed in the case of the passages selected from Francis Bacon. His use of the weather-glass for exploring the effects of air and heat was discussed in the selected passages. The issue of measurement and how to perform accurate observations with the instruments was singled out in our discussion.

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



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


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

1. Ce este cosmologia?


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?