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Making Modern Science:
tracing the dynamics of a ‘Cartesian Newtonian textbook’ during the Scientific Revolution (CartesianPhysics)


Project Code: PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2019-0841
Principal Investigator: Mihnea Dobre

Duration of the project: October 2020 - October 2022

Abstract. The present project tackles several key-issues pertaining to the history of philosophy and science. It deals with the uneasy question of “nonsense” in the historiography of the early modern Scientific Revolution. It addresses some of the most recent concerns with the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries “philosophical canon” (Shapiro 2016) and “contextual revolution” (Mercer 2019) emerging from the current reshape of the discipline. The project will investigate the complex and dynamic relationship between Cartesianism and Newtonianism, but instead of revisiting Descartes and Newton, it will focus on figures such as Jacques Rohault and Samuel Clarke, who were instrumental in promoting the new science. It will argue for a more inclusive use of historiographical labels—i.e., “Cartesian Newtonian textbook”—which would allow intermediate forms of appropriation of seemingly contradictory views. This will encourage a fine-grained analysis and contextualization, confronting the traditional role ascribed to “major” and “minor” figures in the history of philosophy and science and addressing the challenge of complementing (or correcting) the current philosophical canon. We follow an interdisciplinary methodology, combining digital humanities techniques with historical case-studies. The project will construct comprehensive conceptual and historical digital databases and timelines, making use of the network analysis to model and understand the context of the debate between Cartesian and Newtonian systems of physics. It is due to the methodological edge of the project that we expect to reveal unexplored historical facets of the beginnings of modern science, raising subsequent questions about the historiography of early modern philosophy and science. The project is highly innovative and comes in a timely manner to contribute to the ongoing international debates in the history of philosophy and science.

Research team: Ovidiu Babeș, Ioana Bujor, Mihnea Dobre, Grigore Vida.

The following timeline includes the early modern editions of Jacques Rohault's Traité de physique - in French, Latin, and English - and the key figures covered in the research project: