Organized by the Research Centre for the Foundations of Modern Thought (FME), University of Bucharest, in collaboration with the Philosophy Department at Princeton University
8 – 13 July 2014
De rerum natura: Naturalism, Supernaturalism, Unnaturalism
Invited speakers include: Daniel Garber (Princeton), Roger Ariew (South Florida), Igor Agostini (Università del Salento), Peter Anstey (Sydney), Olivier Dubouclez (Liège), Justin E.H. Smith (Paris), Tamás Pavlovits (Szeged), Jennifer Rampling (Princeton), Charles T. Wolfe (Ghent).
This seminar is concerned with early-modern conceptions of nature in the broadest sense. We will inquire into definitions of the natural and of what lies beyond or goes against it within several quarters of early modern thought, from the late Renaissance up to the early eighteenth century. In line with the important influence that Lucretius’s great Epicurean poem, “De rerum natura,” had at the time, we will raise the issue of naturalism, and attempts in figures as diverse as Cardano, Telesio, Bacon, Hobbes, or Spinoza to explain everything or nearly everything in naturalistic terms. The Epicurean, as well as Stoic and Platonic, influences are also at work in the traditions of natural history, from Pliny to Bacon and beyond, as well as in the new trends of medicine, natural magic, astrology, and alchemy, where reflections on the scope of the natural went hand in hand with practical thinking about technological and experimental intervention into nature. Drawing the boundaries of the natural and exploring the territory of the un-natural, preter-natural or contra-natural (whether in the form of ghosts, demons, monsters, or diseases) was also a powerful early modern concern. There was also the key development of new definitions of nature articulated in terms of natural laws and of their relationship with God, as well as discussions of the infinite and the finite with reference to both the natural and the super-natural worlds, such as in Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, or Newton. Whether committed to vital(ist) or to mechanical frames of thought, and whether using the instruments of physics, metaphysics, or mathematics, of medicine, alchemy, or the interventionist arts, these early modern inquiries asked fundamental questions about the boundaries of the natural, the structure and potential of matter, the status of the mind and the status of the human being with respect to nature.
The Bucharest-Princeton Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy is an international annual meeting of scholars interested in various aspects of early modern thought. The aim of the seminar is to create a stimulating environment for discussing papers and ideas. It includes workshops in the morning and presentations of papers in the afternoon, where participants can present work in progress. While the morning sessions will focus on the theme of “De rerum natura: Naturalism, Supernaturalism, Unnaturalism,” the afternoon sessions seek to give participants the opportunity to discuss their own special interests with an open and sympathetic audience of students and scholars with broad interests in early modern thought. Throughout we try to maintain a balance between the high scholarly level and the informal friendly spirit of a colloquium.
The Seminar will take place in Bran, a small mountain resort near Brasov, in Transylvania. It will be hosted in a small, friendly Bed and Breakfast (single or double rooms). The participation fee is 150 EUR for faculty and 90 EUR for students (covering accommodation with breakfast). We invite applications for contributions (from researchers) and for attendance (from students). If you want to contribute a paper, please send a CV and a one-page abstract, and if you want to attend, a CV and a letter of intent – by April 20 – to Vlad Alexandrescu (email@example.com), Dana Jalobeanu (firstname.lastname@example.org).