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.