Art and Science in Early Modern Europe

Research seminar coordinated by Dr. Michael Deckard (Associate Professor of Philosophy at Lenoir-Rhyne University, Fulbright scholar at University of Bucharest)

The origins of thinking about the body in early modern Europe do not begin with Descartes and Hobbes, but these two thinkers both formulated systems of body that replaced Aristotelianism. The history of natural philosophy has not fully taken into account the rise of flesh, bone, texts, works of art and monuments during the breakdown of mechanism and the rise of sensibility. Scholars such as Vlad Alexandrescu, Dan Garber, Stephen Gaukroger, Barbara Maria Stafford, David Summers and others have commented on this transition, but the relationship of art, literature, histories, and philosophies of a region are not weaved together in the narrative. They remain autonomous from each other in their own academic silos. Whether philosophers provide an explanation of this phenomenon by means of Gadamer’s or Ricoeur’s hermeneutics, Stephen Gaukroger’s emergence of a scientific culture, Charles Taylor’s secular age, Ian McGilchrist’s divided brain, or Larry Shiner’s invention of art, the scientist and the humanist are all searching for an explanation of a merged understanding of what C. P. Snow called ‘The Two Cultures’ (i.e. art and science). Scholars such as Pamela Smith have shown how the body of the artisan influenced the scientific revolution, but not how philosophers and scientists of the time period used works of art, architecture, and music.

This seminar will attempt to examine the relationship of these two cultures in the 17th-18th centuries by selective reading of both primary and secondary texts.

The seminar is open to young researchers at any level. If you wish to participate, please contact All meetings will be held at the Institute for Research in the Humanities and are subject to change.


Friday, 23.10, 16h00: Descartes, Optics, Discourse 4 along with selections from letters

Friday, 30.10, 16h00: Descartes, Compendium of Musick

Friday, 6.11, 16h00: Hobbes, selections from On Human Nature and Leviathan

Friday, 20.11, 16h00: Burton, Boyle, Charleton, Glanvill

Friday, 27.11, 16h00: Cavendish, Hooke, Power

Friday, 4.12, 16h00: Locke, Masham

Friday, 11.12, 16h00: Newton

Friday, 18.12, 16h00: Willis, Whichcote, Norris

Friday, 8.1, 16h00: Shaftesbury, Astell, Brown

Friday, 15.1, 16h00: Addison/Steele, Berkeley

Friday, 22.1, 16h00: Hutcheson, Hume, Hogarth

Friday, 29.1, 16h00: Mendelssohn, Burke

Friday, 5.2, 16h00: Gerard, Duff