Workshop “Natural History, Mathematics, and Metaphysics in the Seventeenth Century”

Bucharest, 26-27 May 2015

Natural History Poster - ColorIn the recent years, there was a new evaluation of the traditional history of science and its emphasis on the so-called ‘scientific revolution’ of the seventeenth century. Classic themes were complemented with new studies of the multi-faced transformations of early modern scientific views into what we came to label as the “modern science.” New studies reflected upon the evolution of natural histories in the years between the publication of Francis Bacon’s works, the birth of the Royal Society, and the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia. The role of mathematics was discussed beyond the mere statement that modern science rested upon a process of ‘mathematization’. Metaphysics was also evaluated from new perspectives, which broadened its role in the disciplinary transformations that marked the early modern period.

In our workshop, we aim to put together scholars working on all these aspects of the seventeenth-century philosophy and science and to open the discussion in what we hope to represent a series of conferences and workshops on the history of science.

Invited speakers:
Peter Anstey (Sydney University) Locke and Leibniz on cohesion.
Iordan Avramov (ICUB, University of Bucharest) Henry Oldenburg and the Art of Book Reviewing; the Evidence of Philosophical Transactions and his Correspondence, 1665-1677.
Sorin Costreie (Faculty of Philosophy/ ICUB, University of Bucharest) Leibniz on void and matter.
Mădălina Giurgea (Ghent University) Measuring sound: the scientific investigation of the echo at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
Oana Matei (The West University of Timișoara) Experimenting matter in the works of Gabriel Plattes.
Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet (New Europe College, Bucharest) The necessary alliance of metaphysics and mathematics: Kant and Maupertuis on natural philosophy.
Ed Slowik (Winona State University) Situating Kant’s Pre-Critical Monadology: From Leibnizian Ubeity and Geometric Holism to the Subjectivist Turn.
Tzuchien Tho (ICUB, University of Bucharest) Symmetry, Invariance and Force in Leibniz’s Dynamics.
Kirsten Walsh (ICUB, University of Bucharest) Newton: from certainty to probability?

Program:

26 May

12:30-13:30 Iordan Avramov (ICUB, University of Bucharest) Henry Oldenburg and the Art of Book Reviewing; the Evidence of Philosophical Transactions and his Correspondence, 1665-1677.

As a leading scientific communicator of his day, Henry Oldenburg (c. 1619 – 77), the first secretary of the Royal Society of London, worked on many fronts, but two of them were especially important: his correspondence and his journal, Philosophical Transactions. As a person of scientific communication, he was also a prolific book reviewer in both manuscript and print. The purpose of this talk will be to look at how his book reviews were reflected in both his letters and the journal. I shall begin by focusing on the reviews published on the pages of Philosophical Transactions, analyzing their characteristics in terms of various parameters, such as: length, topics, structure, and style. Then I shall look at some examples of how Oldenburg reviewed books in his epistles, showing how these could be similar or different from the printed ones. Finally, I shall point out to examples of reviews in Philosophical Transactions, which had substantial (yet, not always obvious) roots in the correspondence. In this way, I hope to describe the span of situations Oldenburg had to deal with when reviewing books across his major communication forums.

13:30-14:30 Oana Matei (The West University of Timișoara) Experimenting matter in the works of Gabriel Plattes.

This paper will try to show how Gabriel Plattes used (al)chemy and experiments associated with the tradition of (al)chemy to provide general rules able to work in different domains, such as agriculture, metallurgy, medicine. Using as a starting point the idea that there are (al)chemical relations between bodies, Plattes described two types of rules: general, constitutive rules, describing the nature of things (such as ‘every body is composed of a double fatness, the one combustible and the other one incombustible’; ‘water carries incombustible fatness; they tend to work as universal laws’) and experimental rules (i.e. rules that are the result of experimental interventionism; e.g. ‘bodies with one type of fatness in excess are tempered by a certain proportion of the other fatness’; rules of metallic transmutation). The second category is to be developed from the first one by the use of experimentation, and holds that new qualities (in terms of hot, hotter, dry, dryer) can be induced (or, at least intensified) where they had not been before as a result of quantifiable manipulations of matter (expressed in terms of proportions and numbers). I will first present Plattes’ matter theory and its manipulations with focus on the (al)chemical relations quantitatively expressible between bodies and, then, I will show how the experimental rules can be translated in other domains.

14:30-15:00 Coffee

15:00-16:00 Mădălina Giurgea (Ghent University) Measuring sound: the scientific investigation of the echo at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

The paper aims to show how measurement functions in the study of sound where the phenomenon under study (i.e., echo) has an unclear ontological status. I analyse Mersenne’s account of the propagation and reflection of sound, as presented in his treatise Harmonie Universelle (1636). I claim that Mersenne uses the process of measurement as a heuristic to isolate the phenomenon under study, rather than as a test of an already known theory or as a methodology to predict new effects. I show that the measurement of relevant parameters informs the physical model used to investigate the phenomenon, in such a way that a provisional description of its behaviour is provided. My analysis of Mersenne’s account of the echo shows that measurement has two main functions: (1) to identify new physical parameters that are relevant for making intelligible the phenomenon (e.g., density of the medium, temperature, shape of the reflecting surface) and (2) to identify regularities between physical parameters (e.g., the relationship between the density of the air and the speed of the sound).

16:00-17:00 Kirsten Walsh (ICUB, University of Bucharest) Newton: from certainty to probability?

Newton’s earliest publications contained some scandalous epistemological statements: not only did he aim for certain theories, but claimed success!  Some of Newton’s modern commentators claim that although Newton clung to this view for many years, he ultimately gave up claims of certainty in favour of a high degree of probability.  This view has been perpetuated by Alan Shapiro and, more recently, by Niccolò Guicciardini.  If that is right, then Newton changed his views, not only about the aim of science, but also about the nature of evidence, the nature of scientific reasoning, and about his achievements in mathematics and natural philosophy.  I argue that no such shift occurred.  I examine the evidence of a probabilistic shift: a passage from query 31 of the Opticks and rule 4 of the Principia.  Neither of these passages should be interpreted as advocating a probabilistic approach to natural philosophy.  I conclude that, contrary to Shapiro’s and Guicciardini’s arguments, the aim of certainty was an enduring feature of Newton’s methodology.

27 May

10:00-11:00 Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet (New Europe College, Bucharest) The necessary alliance of metaphysics and mathematics: Kant and Maupertuis on natural philosophy.

The purpose of this talk is to analyze Kant’s reading of Maupertuis in the 1750s and especially in the Monadologia physica. Very interested in the natural philosophy of his time and familiar with both Leibniz’ and Newton’s theories on matter and space, but also strongly influenced by Maupertuis, Kant elaborates his own eclectical conception and argues the necessity of an alliance between mathematics and metaphysics. He rejects a pure mechanical conception of nature and the use of the sole experiment in favour of a dynamic perspective in natural philosophy. Some of these arguments are still to be found in Kant’s critical works three decades later.

11:00-11:30 Coffee

11:30-12:30 Ed Slowik (Winona State University) Situating Kant’s Pre-Critical Monadology: From Leibnizian Ubeity and Geometric Holism to the Subjectivist Turn.

This presentation will examine the relationship between monads and space in Kant’s early pre-critical work, with special attention devoted to the question of ubeity, a Scholastic doctrine that Leibniz describes as “ways of being somewhere.” In recent work on Kant’s monadology, commentators have acknowledged that his conception of the monad-space relationship differs from the hypotheses typically offered by the Leibniz-Wolff school, with Kant’s view being closer to Leibniz’ original notion, but they have overlooked various clues within these pre-critical writings that make the connection with Leibniz more explicit. This aspect of Kant’s monadology, in conjunction with God’s role, also sheds light on the transition to the critical period, especially in the context of the incongruent counterparts argument against relational and absolute theories of space.

After Lunch, we move to the Faculty of Philosophy building (Splaiul Independentei 204)

16:00-17:00 Sorin Costreie (Faculty of Philosophy/ ICUB, University of Bucharest) Leibniz on Void and Matter.

In this paper, I discuss Leibniz’s theory of matter in connection with his explicit denial of the existence of void. The principle of the universe qua plenum has for Leibniz two interesting consequences for the conceiving of matter. If there is no void, then everything is full of matter and there are no ultimate atoms of the substantial world, and thus matter should be infinitely divisible.

17:00-18:00 Tzuchien Tho (ICUB, University of Bucharest) Symmetry, Invariance and Force in Leibniz’s Dynamics.

In Leibniz’s most sustained effort at constructing a systematic physical theory, the dynamics, he patiently developed, across two decades (c. 1678-1700), a methodology that borrowed from Galileo and Huygens centered on the equivalence of hypothesis. This principle states that motion and rest in a given physical system are relative and are determined through the conservation of the dynamic invariant of mv2 (product of mass and speed squared) rendered by concept of center of mass frame. This equivalence of relative motion and rest appears to contradict later remarks, made famously to Clarke in the 1710’s, where Leibniz defends “true motion”. This classical problem in Leibniz scholarship has provoked a wide range of different responses. I offer a different perspective on this long-standing problem. I argue for a theory of “true motion” from within the constraints of the principle of the equivalence of hypothesis rather than reinterpreting it to “fit” an appropriately weakened form of absolute motion. As such I argue first that we should first understand the theoretical independence of the equivalence of hypothesis from the theory of forces in Leibniz’ dynamics. Insofar as “true motion” is defined according to the inherence of force in a body, the theoretical independence of the equivalence of hypotheses and the inherence of force allows us to clarify how the inherence of force in a body constitutes “true motion” without contradicting the relativity of motion across different hypotheses. This is argued first by a refutation of recent attempts to identify a source of “true motion” via linear and rotational acceleration. This refutation allows us examine the nature of the two-tiered separation and relation of forces and motion in Leibniz’s dynamics. If “true” motion is the inherence of forces in bodies, then this cannot have any physical meaning outside of particular physical hypotheses. Hence, “true motion” is a necessary condition for the “truth” any particular hypothesis governed by the equivalence of hypothesis. This necessary condition is thus irreducible to the principle of the equivalence of hypothesis itself but is a logically and metaphysically implication of the methodology. The result is that Leibnzian “true motion” is a hypothetical feature of any particular inertial frame for motion conceived as ultimately relative phenomenon constrained by the principle of the equivalence of hypothesis.

18:00-20:00 Peter Anstey (Sydney University) Locke and Leibniz on Cohesion. (CELFIS Seminar)

This paper compares the mature views of John Locke and G. W. Leibniz on the cohesion of material bodies. Beginning with Locke’s treatment of cohesion in the fourth, 1700, edition of An Essay concerning Human Understanding and continuing with a series of closely related texts by Leibniz, including his Nouveaux essais, the paper examines their responses to four putative causes of cohesion. These are 1. pressure of the ambient air or ether; 2. interpenetration; 3. attractive forces; and 4. motion.

 

The event will be hosted by the Institute for Research in the Humanities of the University of Bucharest (IRH-UB).

Contact: mihnea.dobre@icub.unibuc.ro.

Advertisements