Philosophy between Mathematical Method and Experiment: the Berlin Academy (1746-1764)

Project Title: Philosophy between Mathematical Method and Experiment: the Berlin Academy (1746-1764)

Project Code: PN-II-RU-TE-2014-4-2522 (funded by UEFISCDI, 352/2015)

October 2015-September 2017

Principal Investigator: Dr. Tinca Prunea

Abstract: The research project concerns the analysis of the methodological conceptions elaborated and encouraged within the Royal Academy of Science and Belles Letters of Prussia in Berlin between 1746-1764. We wish to inquire into the developments of different philosophical currents (represented in the “speculative philosophy” class) through which the Newtonian doctrine, empiricism and generally speaking, the English and French doctrines enter the intellectual milieu, are combined with Leibnizianism and finally clash with the powerful German mathematics-infused rationalism. The main question may be summarized as follows: Can the mathematical method (also referred to as synthetic or demonstrative) be properly adapted to philosophy and could it be applied to all areas of philosophy, including metaphysics and ethics?

Research Team

Tinca Prunea2Dr. 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). 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).

CostreieSorin94379-picDr. Sorin Costreie (Postdoctoral Researcher, until February 2017) is Senior Lecturer at the Philosophy Department, University of Bucharest. His areas of specialization are: philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, philosophical logic (especially early analytic and Leibniz). His recent publications include an authored book (Fregean Studies, University of Bucharest Press, 2015), an edited volume on analytic philosophy (Early Analytic Philosophy. New Perspectives on Tradition, Springer, 2016) and a co-edited volume  on Meaning and Truth (Bucharest: ProUniversitaria, 2015).

paola-basso-1Dr. Paola Basso (Postdoctoral Researcher, starting January 2017):  After a PhD in Philosophy (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, 2001), she was awarded a 4-year Research Fellowship at the Philosophy Department of the University of Milan (2002-2006). In 2014 she obtained the National Eligibility for Associate Professorship in History of Philosophy. Her research focuses on the foundation of philosophy as a science in the 18th century, particularly via Lambert and the Prize question of the Berlin Academy for the year 1763 about geometrical evidence in metaphysics. Among her publications are Lambert interprete di Euclide (1999), Il secolo geometrico (2004), The Other Side of Euclid (2012). She is a contributor to the Dictionary of Eighteenth-Century German Philosophers (2010) and the editor of the upcoming Über die Deutlichkeit. Die Preisfrage der Preußischen Akademie für 1763.

Remus Manoilă (Doctoral Student) is a PhD Remus Manoilăcandidate at the University of Bucharest. His doctoral  thesis is entitled “The concept of dominion and its implications in Isaac Newton’s thought: an Intellectual History research”. He is analysing the relationship between natural philosophy and theology in Isaac Newton’s works on a historical, philosophical and theological ground, while also investigating the reception of Newtonian thought in the eighteenth century. Between June 2014 and September 2015 Remus was a research Fellow of the Romanian Academy. He spent two terms as a visiting student at the University of Cambridge between April and May 2015 (HPS Department), and November and December 2015 (Faculty of History).

pozaVlad Dolghi (Doctoral Student) is a 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).


Project development 


November, 2015

December, 2015

March, 2016

April, 2016

June, 2016

July, 2016

August, 2016

September, 2016

  • Remus Manoila, “Issac Newton’s ‘God of dominion’: philosophical and theological implications”, Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, September 14, 2016.

December, 2016

  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Kant and Maupertuis on the necessity of the laws of nature”, CELFIS, University of Bucharest, December 7, 2016.

February, 2017

  • Conference Conceptions of Experience in the German Enlightenment between Wolff and Kant; Leuven, February 24-25; convenors: K. de Boer and T. Prunea-Bretonnet.
    • Keynote speakers: Christian Leduc (Montreal), Arnaud Pelletier (Brussels), Anne-Lise Rey (Lille), Udo Thiel (Graz).
  • Paola Basso, “The Berlin Academy towards and ‘experimental experience’ as a touchstone of truths”, Conference Conceptions of Experience, Leuven, February 24-25
  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Merian on experience and natural philosophy”, Conference Conceptions of Experience, Leuven, February 24-25.

March, 2017

April, 2017

May, 2017

June, 2017

September, 2017

  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “‘Un dessin marqué dans la fabrique du monde’: la téléologie dans les Institutions de physique“, Journée d’études Leibniz et la téléologie, Montréal, September 15.



  • Journal of Early Modern Studies 5.1, Spring 2016, Bucharest. Editors: Vlad Alexandrescu, Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet. The issue is published with acknowledged support from UEFISCDI research grant 352/2015.
  • Sorin Costreie, “On the Leibnizian Principle of Continuity”, in Wenchao Li et al. (Hgg.), Für unser Glück oder das Glück Anderer, Vorträge des X. Internationalen Leibniz-Kongresses, Bd. 6-7, Hildesheim: Olms, 2017.
  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “L’entrée dans le corpus kantien par les leçons de logique”, in J.-F. Goubet (dir.), Kant et l’éducation, Arras, 2016.
  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Emilie, Friedrich der Grosse und die ‘Leibniz-Wolffsche’ Metaphysik”, in R. Hagengruber und H. Hecht (Hgg.), Emilie du Châtelet und die deutsche Aufklärung, Berlin: Springer (forthcoming, 2018).
  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Wissenschaft und Philosophie im Kurzen Begriff oder das Erbe Wolffs innerhalb der Berliner Akademie”, in E. Décultot (Hg.), Johann Georg Sulzer: Aufklärung im Umbruch, Hallesche Beiträge zur Europäischen Aufklärung, Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2018.
  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Kant et Mendelssohn sur la question ‘Qu’est-ce que les Lumières?'”, in M. Ruffing et al. (dir.), L’année 1784: droit et philosophie de l’histoire, Paris: Vrin, 2017.
  • Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet, “Newton et la cosmologie kantienne en 1755”, in L. Sosoe et al.Kant et les penseurs de langue anglaise, Paris: Vrin, 2017.
  • Remus Manoila, “Theological Implications of the Concept of Dominion in Isaac Newton’s Thought”, Society and Politics, 11.1/2017, 68-83.
  • Vlad Dolghi, “The Role of Mathematics in Maupertuis’ Epistemology and Natural Philosophy”, Society and Politics, 11.1/2017, 26-45.



  • Regular internal seminars on the project topic.
  • Regular translation seminars on Kant’s Preisschrift for 1763, Inquiry Concerning the Distinctness of the Principles of Natural Theology and Morality.
  • Bucharest Princeton Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy (16th edition), Alba-Iulia, July 12-16, 2016. Participants: Vlad Dolghi, Remus Manoila.