Progress through eclecticism? The redefinition of metaphysics at the Berlin Academy in the second half of the eighteenth century

Project Title:  Progress through eclecticism? The redefinition of metaphysics at the Berlin Academy in the second half of the eighteenth century

Project Code: PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2016-2299 (funded by UEFISCDI, 23/2018)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Tinca Prunea

Abstract:  This research project analyses the redefinition of metaphysics within the Berlin Academy in the second half of the eighteenth century in response to the crisis of Wolffian philosophy and to the increasing influence of Newtonian and empiricist conceptions coming from England and France. It focuses on the various attempts to reconcile Leibnizian and Wolffian speculative metaphysics with the new science and the English and French Enlightenment as they are developed in the ‘mémoires’ published by the Academy. Furthermore, we aim to identify and describe the nature of the eclecticism promoted within the Berlin Academy and situate it among the particular philosophical movements of the Aufklärung. Consequently, the project will a) explore how this eclecticism is at work in the redefinition of metaphysics, and b) analyse how the eclectic ‘art to philosophize’ is expressly theorized in the writings of the Berlin Academy philosophers. Our research will shed light on the academic form of eclecticism as a specific philosophical development within the German Enlightenment.

Research Team

Tinca Prunea2

Dr. Tinca Prunea (Principal Investigator) is researcher at the University of Bucharest and at IHRIM, ENS Lyon. She was élève étrangère of the ENS Paris and has a PhD of the University Paris IV-Sorbonne (2011) on Kantian metaphysics. She was the recipient of two post-doctoral fellowships, at the New Europe College, Bucharest (2014-2015) and at the IZEA, Halle (2015). Her research primarily focuses on Kant and the German Enlightenment as well as on Kant’s reception in the 20th century. She is co-editor of Kant et Wolff: Héritages et Ruptures (Paris: Vrin, 2011) and of The Experiential Turn in Eighteenth Century German Philosophy (Routledge, forthcoming).

Oana Matei

Dr. Oana Matei (Researcher) is lecturer at the Vasile Goldis Western Univeristy of Arad. She defended her PhD in 2010 at the University of Bucharest, with a thesis on the relations between cynical philosophy and ethics in politics. Her recent research has focused on the reception of Baconianism in the Hartlib Circle and on the contribution of natural history to the rise of modern science (CELFIS research project, University of Bucharest). Her latest publications include two co-edited special issues of the Journal of Early Modern Studies and Early Science and Medicine dedicated to the philosophical study of plants in early modernity.


Dr. Alessandro Nannini (Researcher, starting January 2019) earned his PhD in Philosophical Sciences from the University of Palermo (2015), after being a DAAD-fellow at the University of Halle-Wittenberg (2013). He then held several post-doc fellowships at the Universities of Parma, Jena, Erfurt, Bucharest, and at the Klassik Stiftung Weimar. Currently, he is a member of the research group Philosophie allemande au XVIIIe siècle affiliated with the Institut d’histoire des représentations et des idées dans les mondernités, ENS Lyon. His research concerns the intellectual history and aesthetics of the Early Modern Age, especially the German Enlightenment, with particular regard to the intersections of philosophy, history of science, and Lutheran theology.


Vlad Dolghi (Doctoral Student) is PhD candidate at the University of Bucharest. After studies in sociology and computer science, and an MA in the philosophy of science, Vlad Dolghi is preparing a PhD on “Newton’s laws of motion from the standpoint of scientific structuralism”. His doctoral dissertation analyzes the structural unity of Newton’s laws, on the one hand, and the interdependence of structure and ontology, i.e. the relationship between the mathematical and empirical underpinnings of Newtonian physics and their metaphysical background, on the other.He is particularly interested in the works of several key 18th-century scientists and natural philosophers associated with the Berlin Academy (Maupertuis, Euler, Lagrange). He has published the article “The Role of Mathematics in Maupertuis’ Epistemology and Natural Philosophy” (Society and Politics, 2017).

Project development


May 2018

  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, ‘Plaisir de l’âme’ et bonheur chez Maupertuis, Journée d’étude Etudier les phénomènes de l’âme. Psychologie, esthétique et morale à l’Académie de Berlin (1745-1804), Université de Montréal, 4 mai 2018.

June 2018

  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Reimarus on the limits of human knowledge and the order of nature”, Tagung Wissen, Zeugnis, Religion bei H.S. Reimarus, Göttingen, 14-15 June, 2018.

July 2018

  • Oana Matei, “Plants as alchemical laboratories: transmutation and the science of life” (reading group; convenor with A. Clericuzio and D. Jalobeanu), Bucharest Princeton Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy, Bran June 28-July 4, 2018.
  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Émilie du Châtelet and Christian Wolff on Hypothesis and the Foundations of Physics”, Bucharest Princeton Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy, Bran June 28-July 4, 2018.

September 2018

  • The 2018 Workshop of our research project:
  • Oana Matei, “Writing a more methodical natural history. The transition from natural history to the foundation of nature: merchants of light and lamps”, Arad, 18 September 2018.
  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Kant and Reimarus on creation and divine wisdom”, Arad, 19 September.

October 2018

  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Galen and eighteenth-century German eclecticism” Conference Galen and the Early Moderns, Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, 25-26 October 2018.

November 2018

  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Thomasius at the Berlin Academy: eclectic philosophy and academic spirit”, Lunchtime Seminar, ICUB- Bucharest, 8 November 2018.

December 2018

  • Oana Matei, “John Evelyn’s cosmology and matter theory in Elysium Britannicum”, Conference Philosophical Cosmologies, ICUB-Bucharest, 6-7 December.
  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Matter and motion in Kant’s precritical cosmology”, Conference Philosophical Cosmologies, ICUB-Bucharest, 6-7 December.

March 2019

  • Call for Abstracts: Conference ‘Natural and Revealed Theology in the German Enlightenment’, 23-24 May 2019, Bucharest
    • Organisers: Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet and Alessandro Nannini
    • Deadline for submitting the abstracts: 6 April 2019
    • Details here