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.