Course presentation

The summer school structure is based on four courses. Each topic will be dealt with in three times, that is 12 classes (12 h) for the whole summer school. Each course will have a correspondent seminar, which will take place during two sessions, which means 8 classes (16 h). The seminars will consist in debates between course coordinator and a group of 7 to 8 students, based on known texts. The debates will enlarge and consolidate the understanding of the issues dealt with in the courses.

Each course and seminar will be organised as follows:

A. Courses 1-4

Objectives and strategies of the course:


  • introducing and presenting the results of the research accordingly with the specific requirements of the discipline;
  • using the handouts, the tools and the skills appropriated to the particularity of the disciplines (texts, maps, statistics, video and audio, OHP, computers, Internet etc.);
  • at the end of the class, the permanent teacher fellow will propose to the participants an assignment for the following seminar (debate);

B. Seminar 1-4

Objectives and strategies of the seminar:


  • the group members will discuss firstly the outcomes of the proposed assignment;
  • the permanent teaching fellows will evaluate the feed back (the comprehension of the other participants, their ability to manipulate concepts and ideas, their capacity to make connections between disciplines);
  • the permanent teaching fellows will choose the most appropriate form of this debate: text and data interpretation, role play, court of inquiry, pyramids groups, syndicates, fishbowl, etc.;
  • the group will identify the difficulties risen by the debate and will inventory and analyse the birth of new ideas;
  • the participants will propose new ways of research and new methods of teaching on the specific topic of the course, which could be adopted in the teaching process.

Seven conferences (14 h) given by experts in various fields will enlighten the main topic of the summer school, by providing, in an interdisciplinary approach, fresh points of view from other different disciplines such as phenomenology, history of mathemathics, theology, anthropology, historical sociology, connected with the issues of the summer school.

Each course coordinator will provide student-oriented tutorials.


The attendance system

Requires every participant (young faculty):

  • to listen four of the seven conferences given by the RP;
  • to follow the two courses of her/his module courses
  • to work in the two related seminars
  • to participate at three interdisciplinary panel discussions;
  • to participate in the methodological teaching panel
  • to participate at four seminars of the invited speakers
  • to chose one professor for the tutorial

Thus, the schedule of each participant will comprise:

4 conferences (8 h) + 6 course classes (6 h) + 4 seminar classes (8 h) + 3 panel (6 h) + 1 panel (3 h) + 2 tutorials (2 h) = 33 h / summer school = 11.5 h/ week

With this system of attendance we hope to fulfil both the need for focus and detail in everyone’s teaching field, on the one hand, and the interaction with another field of work in the second choice course, as well as, wide interdisciplinary information coming from the prominent resource persons conferences.



Course organization

Summer school is structured around two modules of 2 courses, one focusing on the sources of modern science and the other on the formation of the central concepts of modern political thought. The two modules are in English and French and the courses are accompanied by corresponding seminars in which the students will work together. Each course will be centered upon some relevant problems of the topics considered and will stress the interdisciplinarity. A course coordinator will be in charge of each course, giving lectures, moderating seminars, giving and evaluating assignements. The participants will choose from the four seminars two in which they will actually work.

1. Structure of the courses


1. One hour lecture, three times during the summer around the announced topic and with a given bibliography. The lecture will focus on new bibliography and new methods of teaching, with an accent on problematization and critical thinking. Each resource person is responsible for providing new bibliographical materials for the course, and the organizers of the Summer School will realize a reading package for each course and will provide the necessary books.

2. Two hours of seminars two times during the summer school, organized by the course coordinator, on a basis of reading groups or problems-related discussions, stressing interactivity and methods of research and debate. Each seminar will be organized around relevant texts and will be preceded by individual work on specific assignments given during the lectures.

3. Tutorials will be one to one and will take place in a less informal manner during the evenings. All resource persons will give tutorials and each student will have one hour of tutorial per week. As a result of the tutorials, the students will be asked to prepare their contributions to the panel debates.

In addition, each course will end by a session of evaluation connected both with the panel discussions and the specific assignments given to each participant.

1.1. Presentation of the courses

All courses are addressing, from different perspectives and with different methodologies the following points:

      1. The problematization of the « old » concept of the Scientific Revolution and the actual relevance of a competitive model of the « reformation of knowledge »


      1. The emergence of a new model of individual with applications in all areas of knowledge


      1. The actual relevance of modern concepts centered upon this new model and the way in which they relate with current issues


Courses A and B: The « reformation of knowledge » and the origins of modern thought

Module I (English)

Course A – The « reformation of knowledge » and the origins of modern thought
Course D – Bodies, systems & void: re-drawing the trinity of political and natural philosophy in the 17th century

Module II (French)

Course B – Competing models of the individual in early modern thought.
Course C – The modern origins of individualism and democracy


Module I (English)

Course A:

Reformation of knowledge and the origins of modern scientific discourse.

Course coordinator: dr. Dana Jalobeanu

The course proposes an introductory survey of the main problems of the « Scientific Revolution » of the seventeenth century from a contemporary historiographical perspective. I will address some traditional and less traditional questions such as: the nature of bodies, the problems of motion, laws and forces, the nature of space and time in the major philosophical systems of the seventeenth century from a perspective which will take into considerations:

1. The intellectual context in which new concepts and ideas were born – as this context appears in contemporary historiographycal works

2. Some significant changes concerning the actors, works, networks and the public of the « Scientific Revolution ».

I will propose a less frequent division of the subject and some new problem-classification designed to be useful for preparing courses on some part of the other of this large subject.

The course consists of lectures and seminars, both heavily relying on interactive teaching, discussions and case study. The coverage of topics encourages interdisciplinarity.

Justification: There has been a vast amount of changes in the way subjects relating with the Scientific Revolution of 17th century are discussed in the past decades. Most of this material is unfamiliar to Eastern European students. The way in which history and philosophy of science is taught in Romania, for example, still rely heavily on outdated books and theories. In the communist period, the subject was heavity indebted to ideological treatment and traces of this authoritarian way of teaching the « origins of modern science » are still visible. The main purpose of this course is to familiarise students with new information and alternative strategies and methodologies of research and teaching in the field. Meantime, the course focuses on problems and questions that shaped the philosophy (and science) of seventeenth century in opposition with the current view which stresses on authors and major works.

Pre-requisites: Basic knowledge of the seventeenth century natural philosophy is required, as well as some amount of previous reading of Bacon, Descartes, Boyle and Newton.

Rationale: This course provides new information on the bases of which further research or other courses can be constructed. It also proposes an interdisciplinary approach to important questions of the « Scientific Revolution » from various contemporary perspectives, in the context of some new historiographical trands. In the context of the Summer School this course stands as a possible introduction in the fields as early modern philsoophy and science and provides the background for further discussions in the seminars, workshops and pannel discussions.

Goals: Familiarising students with:

      1. recent trends in the historiography of the Scientific Revolution and the way they can affect traditional issues of natural philosophy


      1. several important problems and questions involved in the trasformation of natural philosophy and the origins of modern science from an interdisciplinary, contextual and non- authoritative perspective


      1. various schemes of classification for the major intellectual trends of the period


Raising questions concerning:

 – the relations between the religious Reformation and the « reformation of knowledge »in seventeenth century as, in general, the relation between theologi(es) and natural philosophy

 – the accuracy of various classifications involving « scientific »-« non-scientific »distinctions

 – the usefulness of the name « Scientific Revolution »

The course will focus on problematization, stressing problematic questions of the contemporary intepretations and current debates in the litterature.

Teaching outcomes: At the end of the course students should be able to:


A) get an image of the the main directions of changes in the historiography of the Scientific Revolution and appreciate their potential according to their own problems and questions in the field

B) place the traditional questions of the 17th century natural philosophy in context

C) connect the various possible interpretations and problems (especially thise concerning the individuals, individuation, freedom, laws etc.) with other courses and seminars of the Summer School

D) draw a course plan on some aspects of the subject

General reading list:


  • Zev Bechler, Newtonian physics and the Conceptual Structure of the Scientific Revolution, BSPS, 1991


  • I.F. Cohen, The Scientific Revolution. A Historiographical Inquiry, University of Chicago Press, 1994, Chapters 1-4.


  • Force, Popkin, The books of Nature and Scripture, Kluwer, 1994.


  • Amos Funkenstein, Theology and Scientific Imagination, Princeton, 1986.


  • Daniel Garber Descartes Metaphysical Physics, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1992


  • Margaret Osler (ed) Rethinking the Scientific Revolution, 1999.


  • Margaret Osler, Divine Will and Mechanical Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 1994


  • Margaret J. Osler, « Mixing Metaphors: Science, Religion or Natural Philosophy and Theology in Early Modern Europe » History of Science, 35/1997, pp. 91-113


  • Simon Schaffer, Steven Shapin, Leviathan and the Air Pump, Cambridge, 1989


  • Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, OUP, 1996


  • S.Schapin (1992) « Discipline and Bounding: The history and Sociology of Science as seen through the externalism-internalism debate », History of Science, 30/1992, pg.333-359


1. Garber, Ayers, The Cambridge History of Seventeenth Century Philosophy, CUP, 1998
2. I.B. Cohen, Anne Whitman, Newton. The Principia, Cambridge, Mass, 2000.


Teaching methods:
Because of the introductory nature of the course, all three topics will be presented in a mini-lecture format, which will allow a general presentations of each, followed by discussions. Each lecture will end with giving a writing assignement for the students which are asked to perform various tasks. All assignements will relate with the topic of the seminars: each student may choose between the topics the one considered more realted with his/here own interests. Apart from the three lectures the course will run some individual and group projects to be discussed in the tutorials and seminar (see next section). The third topic, both course and seminar will be given together woth Katherine Brading which will provide as well tutorials for the students of this course.

Methods: discussions, group work, reading group, debate


Reading group on Daniel Garber’s Descartes Metaphysical Physics. The role of the seminar is both to familiarise the students with major developments in the field of Cartesian studies and to provide an open and lively group work session on a relevant text. The seminar will focus on the following topics:
1.The nature of body. Chapter 3
2.Reevaluation of the traditional questions concerning the nature of bodies. Chapter 4,5


Assessment strategies:


Written assignements:

1. Individual projects of a course on the Scientific Revolution. Students will be asked to use a part of their individual work-time to ellaborate a course plan on one of the topics connected with the Scientific Revolution on the basis of the material read/discussed in the Summer School. They will be encouraged to adapt this plan to their own interests and specific academic contexts. The course-plan will be graded according to the level of fluency with the theories discussed, ability to use information in a special context and the level of problematisation.

2. List with major problems in interpreting Descartes’ role in the Scientific Revolution

Each student will be asked to draw a list of the major problems in the field of Cartesian studies on the basis of the course and seminar and to explain why he/she considers them important.

Other assignements:

3. Group work: writing an argument in favor or against the followong statement: « The concept of Scientific Revolution should be abbandoned ». The statement will be the subject of debate in a special panel discussion and the students of course A should present the arguments.


Topic 1 – Major intellectual currents
I. Metaphysics/Epistemology


    • A. Skepticism


    • B. Atomism


    • C. Mechanism and mechanical philosophy

II. Methodology


    • A. Hermeticism


        • alchemy
        • prisca theologia
        • natural magic

    B. Anti-aristotelian sentiment


    • C. Francis Bacon and the

Great Instauration.

    •  Purpose, success and extent of « baconian methodology »


    • D. Scientific Societies, networks and scientific correspondence


III.Mathematics and astronomy


    • A. The « infinite » between mathematics and natural philosophy


    • B. The Copernican « revolution »



1. B.P. Copenhaver, « Natural magic, hermetism and occultism in early modern science », in R.S. Westmann, David Lindberg, Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution, Cambridge, 1990.
2. Garber, Ayers, The Cambridge History of Seventeenth Century Philosophy, 1998, The intellectual setting, vol I.
3. Keith Hutchison, « What happened with the occult qualities in the Scientific Revolution », ISIS, 73, 1982, 233-253
4. Keith Hutchison, « Supernaturalism and Mechanical Philosophy », History of Science, 21, 1983, 245-78
5. McGuire, Rattansi, « Newton and the Pipes of Pan », Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 21, 1966, 108-143.
6. Richard Popkin, The third force in 17th century philosophy, Brill, Leiden, 1990

Seminar – Supernaturalism and mechanical philosophy. Some sources of action in natural philosophy.

Discussions and readings.

Topic 2 – Major intellectual figures in the context and some new ideas

    • A. Descartes and the last Scholastics


    • B. Bacon and the Reformation of Knowledge


    • C. Boyle, Newton and Scriptural Interpretation


    • D. Newton and Alchemy



1. Roger Ariew, Descartes and the last Scholastics, Cornell University Press, 1999
2. J.J. Bono, « From Paracelsus to Newton: The Word of God, the Book of Nature and the Eclipse of the Emblematic World View, in Popkin, Force, Newton on Religion, Kluwer, 1999, 45-77.
3. Daniel Garber « Experiment, community and the constitution of nature in the 17th century », Perspectives on Science, 3, 1995, pg. 173-205.
4. Richard Popkin, « Newton’s Biblical legacy and his theological Physics », in Sheurer, Gebrock, ed. NEwton’s Scientific and Philosophical Legacy, Dordrecht, Kluwer, 1988.

Seminar – Descartes’Metaphysical Physics and the problem of individuation in seventeenth century natural philosophy

Reading group on: Daniel Garber, Descartes’ Metaphysical Physics, Chicago, 1992

Topic 3 – Problems and concepts

    • A. Individuals and the nature of physical bodies


    • B. The problems of motion


    • C. Space and time


    • D Forces and active principles


    • E. Laws of nature



1. R. Woolhouse, « Descartes and the Nature of Body », British Journal for the History of Science, 2/1994, pp. 19-33
2. Daniel Garber, Descartes’ Metaphysical Physics, Chicago, 1992, Chapter:
3. Alan Gabbey, « New doctrines of motion », în Garber, Ayers, Cambridge History of Seventeenth Century Philosophy, CUP, 1998, vol 1.
4. J.E. McGuire, Force, Active Principles and Newton’s Invisible Realm, AMBIX, 15, 1968, 154-209
5. J.E. McGuire, Natural Motion and its Causes: Newton on the « Vis insita » of bodies, în Mary Louise Gill, James G. Lennox, Self motion: From Aristotle to Newton Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1994, pg. 305-329.
6. J.E. McGuire, Space, Infinity and Indivisibility: Newton on the creation of matter, in Zev Bechler, ed. Contemporary Newtonian Research, (1982), pp. 145-190

Seminar – Isolated systems, conservation laws and the reconstruction of Universe (with Katherin Brading)

Discussion and reading of Newton’s De gravitatione, and the Definitions and Laws of Book I of Principia.



Course D:

Bodies, systems & void: re-drawing the trinity of political and natural philosophy in the 17th century

Course coordinator: Brindusa Palade


The main purpose of this course is to sort out some structural affinities between the main strand of modern political liberalism and the 17th Century natural philosophy. The course will thus propose an analysis of some classic political and philosophical views in the 17th Century with an eye primarily on their ontological, methodological and ethical implications, which shall be placed in the ambit of the relation between individuals and system. The course will also aim at encompassing some of the most outstanding contemporary re-readings of the Western « atomistic » or individualistic tradition.

Teaching methods

The course will consist of three lectures lasting approximately one hour and 30 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of class-discussion.
The seminars will consist of two sessions of debate (role-playing), each lasting approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. The debates will concern some possibly controversial issues presented throughout the lectures (the topics for the seminars are listed above). At the end of each seminar, two observers will deliver their conclusions after having watched the debate session.
So the course and the seminars will follow both a lecturing and an interactive teaching technique.

Assessment strategies

Only the students attending the seminars will be able to get a mark for this course. These students should also pass a short writing test of 30 minutes after the end of the course. The test will consist of 7-8 questions requiring very short answers or a multiple-choice selection. It will NOT test the memory, but the accuracy of understanding the views presented throughout the course, so photocopies, lecture notes or books are allowed.
The final mark will be the average of the assessment of the student’s participation in seminars and the grade that he/she will obtain at the test.

LECTURE 1: Bodies/individuals in empty space: Hobbes, Newton and Locke

a. System and individuals in Hobbes

1. Hobbes, Thomas, Concerning BodiesThe English Works, vol. 1, ed. by William Molesworth, London, John Bohn, 1839, II.7., II.8., pp. 91-117.
2. Hobbes, Thomas, Philosophical Rudiments concerning Government and SocietyThe English Works, vol. II., ed. by William Molesworth, London, John Bohn, 1851, from « The Preface to the Reader » p. XIV and from Chapter VIII.1., pp. 108-109.

b. The roots of the method in Newton’s Principia

1. Newton, Isaac, The Principia: mathematical principles of natural philosophy, a new translation by I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman, assisted by Julia Budenz, Berkeley, London, University of California Press, 1999, Book 3, Regula III, pp. 795-6.
2. Freudenthal, Gideon, Atom and individual in the age of Newton: on the genesis of the mechanistic world view, Dordrecht etc., D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1986, from Chapter 1, pp. 24-8, from Chapter IV, pp. 82-4, and from Chapter V, pp. 85-91.

c. Locke’s atomism

1. Locke, John, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. with an introduction, critical apparatus and glossary by Peter H. Nidditch, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1975, 2.2. 13-2.2.26. and 2.27. 3.
2. Locke, John, Second Treatise of Government, ed. by C.B. Macpherson, Indianapolis, Cambridge, Hackett Publishing Co., 1980, chapter 8.

LECTURE 2: Systems in the 17th Century

a. The legal system: Harrington, Locke

1. Harrington, James, The Political Works, ed. by J. A. Pocock, Cambridge etc., Cambridge University Press, 1977, from The Commonwealth of Oceana, « The Preliminaries showing the Principles of Government », pp. 161-4; from The Prerogatives of Popular Government, Book 1, Chapter 2, pp. 401-4; from The Art of Lawgiving, « The Preface of Book I », pp. 602-3.
2. Locke, John, Second Treatise of Government, ed. by C.B. Macpherson, Indianapolis, Cambridge, Hackett Publishing Co., 1980, chapter 8.

b. The laws in the 17th Century mechanical philosophy

1. Descartes, René, Principles of PhilosophyPhilosophical Writings, a selection trans. and ed. by Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Thomas Geach, with an introd. by Al. Koyré, II. 37 – II.39.

2. Freudenthal, Gideon, Atom and individual in the age of Newton: on the genesis of the mechanistic world view, Dordrecht etc., D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1986, from Chapter 1, pp. 24-7.

c. Individuation before the establishment of the laws: Newton and Locke

1. Newton, Isaac, Opticks or A Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections, and Colours of Light, the fourth edition, London, G. Bell & Sons, Ltd., 1931, p. 400.
2. Locke, John, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. with an introduction, critical apparatus and glossary by Peter H. Nidditch, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1975, 2.27.

LECTURE 3: Contemporary reflections on the relationship between bodies and system: critiques of the 17th Century liberal atomism and of the universal system

a. The Hegelian-communitarian critique of atomism: Charles Taylor

1. Pelczynski, A.Z.A. « Political community and individual freedom in Hegel’s philosophy of state » in A.Z.A. Pelczynski (ed.), The State and Civil Society: Studies in Hegel’s Political Philosophy, Cambridge etc., Cambridge University Press, 1984.
2. Taylor, Charles, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 155-76.
3. Taylor, Charles, Philosophy and the Human Sciences, Cambridge etc., Cambridge University Press, 1985, Chapter 7 (« Atomism »), pp. 187-210.
4. Frazer, Elizabeth, The Problems of Communitarian Politics: Unity and Conflict, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999, from Chapter 1, pp. 10-23.

b. The feminist critique of liberal individuation via connectiveness

1. Plumwood, Val, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, London and New York, Routledge, 1993, From Chapter 6, pp. 141-5; pp. 151-60.
2. Whitbeck, Caroline, « A Different Reality: Feminist Ontology », in Carol C. Gould (ed.), Beyond Domination: New Perspectives on Women and Philosophy, Totowa, New Jersey, Rowman & Allanheld, 1983.
3. Frazer, Elizabeth, The Problems of Communitarian Politics: Unity and Conflict, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999, from Chapter 6, pp. 190-5.

c. The hermeneutical-deconstructivist approach of the system

1. Dallmayr, Fred, « Hermeneutics and the Rule of Law », in Drucilla Cornell et. al. (eds.), Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, New York and London, Routledge, 1992.


1. Are social laws in principle defendable?

The text proposed for this debate is Harold Kincaid’s « Defending Laws in the Social Sciences », in Michael Martin & Lee C. McIntyre (eds.), Readings in the Philosophy of Social Sciences, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1994, pp. 111-30.

2. Individuals prior to the system: pros and cons Taylor’s reading of the Western atomistic tradition

The texts proposed are J. Locke, Second Treatise of Government, ed. by C.B. Macpherson, Indianapolis, Cambridge, Hackett Publishing Co., 1980, chapter 8 (« Of the Beginning of Political Societies ») and Taylor, Charles, Philosophy and the Human Sciences, Cambridge etc., Cambridge University Press, 1985, Chapter 7 (« Atomism »), pp. 187-210. Both texts will be provided for the lectures 1 and 3 respectively.


Module II (French)


Course B:

Competing models of the individual in early modern thought.

Course coordinator: Vlad Alexandrescu

This course proposes a new approach on a traditional discussion concerning the concept of individual in seventeenth century philosophy. The issue of individuation will be seen at the crossroads between Descartes’ achievments in metaphysics and theological discussions in seventeenth century. One of the main features of the period in discussion is the profound religious crisis with major implications in various theologies of the Reformation. This crisis had a strong impact on the traditional problem of the relations between God and the individual.

Descartes’ epistemological turn and the argument of Cogito are the origin of a considerable rupture in the traditional way of defining human individuals and the self. As a result, the individual is not anymore defined with respect to the ontological hyerarchy as a part of it, but with respect with what can be clearly and disctincly perceived. This definition of the individual through reflexive intentionality gives rise to difficulties concerning the relations between the human individual and surrounding objects and other persons. Consequently, natural philosophy is in need of a principle of individuation which should replace the scholastic definition of individuals through substantial forms, and moral philosophy needs a descriptive model for the diversity and spontaneity of the other. These changes are obviously very important objectives in Descartes’ last writings and, moreover, we can see them as starting points of major philosophical discussions in the second part of seventeenth century. I will foloow the outcomes of some of these as they are represented from Malebranche to Leibniz.

Course Type: Lecture, discussions, debate

Course Level: Postgraduate. We are adressing especially academics who teach themselves related subjects to advanced students.

Why is the course needed: The new concept of individual, as it emerged in seventeeth century have been for a long time the very basis of modern democracy. In order to understand its strong points and its weaknesses, a historical and philosophical approach of its formation may be useful. Equally interesting are the debates around the « new » model of individual during the second part of the seventeenth century. The course proposes a survey of the problems, evolutions and discussions around this new concept and its implications.

Previous requirements: There are no specific prerequisites for the participants who wish to attend the course, other than specific interest and the conditions stipulated for the enrollment in the Summer School.

Where does the course lead?

Through the reconstruction of some fundamental questions of the modern theory of knowledge, the course prepare the possibility of an interdisciplinary approach by harmonising various domains: metaphysics, epistemoogy, natural philosophy, political philosophy.

How does this course fit into the overall degree structure?

By introducing and justifying the new concept of individual in the overall context of modernity, the course set the necessary context for understanding of more specifical issues, as the mathematical (rather than ontological) bases of seventeenth century natural philosophy. As such, the course relates with Course A. Through contextual implications, the course relates with courses Cx and D.


The course will answer the questions:

1. Why the problem and definition of individual is different in seventeenth century in comparison with previous times?

2. What are the consequences of the split between the ontological and epistmological « realms » in what concerns the definition of individuals?

Learning outcomes: At the end of the course, students should be able to give arguments for the novelty of the 17th century model of individual. They should be also able to discuss the consequences of this definition for various problems of natural philosophy, moral and political philosophy.

Transferable skills: Students will be generally asked to think at the possiblity of developing their own course on the subject, using some of the materials and new bibliography. They should be able to choose, form various aspects presented, those who might constitute the core of their future research.


Topic 1: Descartes’ separation between human individual and the world.
Topic 2: Seminar : Eternal Truths and the Foundations of Knowledge. Discussion of J.L. Marion’s position
Topic 3: Hierarchical models of individual la Descartesand reactions of the Catholic Church
Topic 4: The model of the monads : Leibniz
Topic 5: Seminar. Leibniz’ anti-cartesian texts.

Bibliography: The course will use major works as well as unknown manuscripts or lesser accessible publications. Therefore, the course will be accompanied by a course-book, containig the relevant texts and bibliographical materials.

Assessment Strategies:

  1. Written assignements: Students are asked to write an essay explaining how the issues discussed may be useful in their own teaching experience or for their own research.
  2. Group discussions in the seminar.
  3. Preparation for the panel discussions. Students which are choosing the seminar are asked to prepare a debate argument for the panel discussion on the question of individuals.


Course C:

The modern origins of individualism and democracy.

Course coordinator: Stefan Vianu


The 16th century upheavals have acheived to destroy in Europe the medieval political structure which Renaissance had already strongly undermine. The social order can no more be understood as participating from a cosmic order: it does not find anymore its foundation in a God creator incarned by the Universal Church and communicating his power to the head of the state, the King, which depends directly from him. The fragile equilibre between the « spiritual » and the « temporal » is broken. The social order does not present itself anymore as a immutable hierarchical order; it is at all moment put into cause, that is why it must imperatively again be founded.

Thomas Hobbes is the first to have understood the necessity of this refoundation in all its radicality. He undertakes the reconstruction of the state structure from the ultimate elements of society: the individuals abandonned ti their passions, more precisely to their two opposed passions which are the infinite desire of possession and the fear of violent death. The « state of nature » is a state of war of « all against all » where each one of us is provided with a illimited right to possess everything and to take everything – until the life of another. Therefore each of the individuals, reduced to his only power,fear at all time for his life. To get out of this situation, men decide to associate: they renounce to their rights on all things in order to transfer these rights in the hands of one person, the Sovereign. This person is the source of the law, by which the social order is maintained (FIRST LESSON).

The aim is to wonder about the meaning of this contractualist philosophy, which will be at the base of most of the 17th and 18th century systems. One has said that for Hobbes the individual is in a sort of way dissolved in a all mighty state; but this is forgetting that it is by its will that the state survives. Nonetheless, the state constitute the ultimate horizon of the individual. The Sovereign has not only the temporal power but also the spiritual autority: the exclusif right to interprete the Writtings. The Church identify itself strictly to the state (SECOND LESSON).

We must also ask the question of the historicity of the concept of social contract. L. Strauss could say that the political philosophy of Hobbes has a certain historical dimension, in view of the fact that the social order is not considered as being eternal, but that it appears at the end of a process. On the contrary, according to M. Gauchet, the horizon of Hobbes thought is « rigourously extra-historical », because the legitimate time is the one of the ORIGIN: it is within a founding past that the law has its source. This construct wouldn’t be mythical? – ask himself Y. C. Zarka, but he responds rather negatively (THIRD LESSON).


1. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
2. Spinoza, Tractatus theologico-politicus
3. L. Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: its basis and its genesis, Oxford, 1936
4. C. Schmitt, ‘L’Etat comme mécanisme chez Hobbes et Descartes’, in Les Temps Modernes, 1991 (1937 in Archiv fur Rechts und Sozialphilosophie).
5. M. Gauchet, ‘Benjamin Constant’, in: Dictionnaire des oeuvres politiques, 1995
6. Y.C. Zarka, Philosophie et politique à l’âge classique, PUF, 1998


The foundation of the State as laid by classical political philosophy had left open a number of questins that were to resurface in the early 19th century following the turmoil of the French Revolution. The principles of State sovereignty, equality of all citizens, and individual freedom having proved to be somewhat antagonostic, a way of harmonizing them had to be found. The most clearheaded 19th-century thinkers saw that democratic dynamics is not danger-free and may well turn into its opposite, i.e. dictatorship. Valuing the individual may take the form of radical individualism, which is alien to authentic freedom: withdrawing into his own private spere, the individual « leaves society at large to itself » and, being isolated, he envisages « a single, uniform and strong Government » (Tocqueville).

Liberal philosophers thought they might guard against this danger by devising an ethics and politics of discussion whose aim should be to convince one’s opponent with rational arguments. The discussion would take place in a public space and the individual would thus be encouraged to come out of his isolation and participate in political affairs. In the 1920’s however, Carl Schmitt pointed out that the spiritual foundations of political liberalism had been shattered. In his view, parliamentarism – the major achievement of the 19th-century liberal doctrine – was undergoing an unprecedented crisis « stemming from modern mass democracy; its final cause is the opposition between the liberal view of man-as-an-individual and democratic homogeneity ». Although some of Schmitt’s ideas have been fiercely contested, one cannot deny that he raised a number of major questions, which accounts for the renewed interest taken in his work of late. Excerpts from his book (see « books » below) and the main theses it contains will be discussed in our FIRST SEMINAR.

Individualism is dealt with in an original manner by Louis Dumont, the author of weveral volumes on Indian civilisation. His approach is resolutely comparative. He says that individualism is the prevailing ideology in modern European civilisation and defines ideology as « the sum-total of the ideas and values shared in a society ». He contrasts modern individualistic ideology and Indian « holistic » ideology in which the individual is integrated with the « social » HIERARCHICAL world, while in our world the « social contract », points Dumont,is « a contract of association: we suppose that we enter society as if we joined a voluntary association … The social aspects has (thus) been replaced by the legal, the political and, ultimately, the economic aspect ». In L’ere de l’individu, Alain Renaut devotes an extensive chapter to L. Dumont. While borrowing several elements from Dumont’s theory of individualism, Renaut distances himself in as far as Dumont limits modernity to the implementation of the individualistic principle. Renaut believes that AUTONOMY does not coincide with independence and therefore cannot be subjected to the criticism of individualism. An in-depth study of the concept of autonomy, in the wake of Kant in particular, may enable us to consider the meaning of present-day democracy. Confronting the positions of these two philosophers by means of selected texts will be the object of our SECOND SEMINAR.


1. C. Schmitt, Parlementarisme et démocratie, Seuil, 1988 (first 1927)
2. L. Dumont, ‘The Modern Conception of the Individual’, Contribution to Indian Sociology, 1965
3. –––, From Mandeville to Marx, Chicago, 1977 (french version: Homo aequalis, Gallimard, 1977)
4. –––, Essais sur l’individualisme, Seuil, 1983
5. Alain Renaut, L’ere de l’individu, Gallimard, 1989



Type of the course: This course has a mini-lecture format but also relies heavily on interactive teaching, on involving students in discussions, encouraging them to exchange ideas with one another.

Level: The course is mainly addressed to post-graduate level students, who already hold a degree in either philosophy (or a related humanities discipline such as sociology, history, literary studies), or sciences, and have an interest to pursue their studies at a master’s or doctoral level.

Justification: Eastern European academic education still insists on exposing students to traditional fields of inquiry and uses outdated bibliographies and teaching methodologies. The purpose of this course is to provide exposure to more recent approaches in the history and sociology of science; to introduce a large array of research methods and contemporary theories in the humanities; to encourage students to discover novel and challenging topics of investigation, which might later become dissertation topics, research group projects, book subjects. The non-traditional format of the course, its emphasis on modern techniques and introduction of a bibliography that is to a large extent non-existent in translations makes it a valuable addition to the Summer School program and even more so in the context of Eastern European education.

Pre-requisites: There are no specific prerequisites for the participants who wish to attend the course, other than their specific interest and the conditions stipulated for enrollment in the summer school.

Rationale: The lecture intends to contribute to a better understanding of the status and role of individual in modern public space.

Goals: Explaining and describing some current debates in contemporary continental political philosophy, starting from the interpretations of some major works of early modern philosophy.

Teaching Outcomes: At the end of the course students should be familiarized with fundamental concepts of Hobbes and Spinoza, including some of their contemporary interpretations.



Group work and panel discussions

In addition to the courses, participants will take part in group work, which consists in two parts:


  • Preliminary discusssions and individual reading/research. Each group will have 5 to 7 members (5 students and two or three resource persons) and will work on a specific topic
  • Panel debates

    The panel discussions are organized around some relevant concepts in the field or problems in the activity of teaching subjects related with the topics of the course in different countries and will analyze the changes in the field and methodology in each country of the participants. Contributors will be asked to prepare their interventions on the topics in advance, to communicate it to other members of the group, and to organize the panel debate. There will be 5 to 7 active participants in each debate, but all the students are welcome to attend all the debates they found useful.

    The nature of physical bodies and the new model of human individuals.

    Proponents: Vlad Alexandrescu, Dana Jalobeanu, Stefan Vianu, Katherine Brading

    Participants: H.R. Patapievici, Brandusa Palade

    The panel discussion will also involve 4-6 students, which will be willing to prepare specific assignments. The topic will focus on the debates concerning the nature of physical body as part of the mechanical/non-mechanical universe and their relations with the topics involving the new concept of human individual as it appears in Descartes, Hobbes, Leibniz, and others. The debate is strongly interdisciplinary and will provide a model of debate to be introduced for advanced seminars.


    Infinity in seventeenth century

    Proponent: Michel Blay

    Participants: Dana Jalobeanu, H.R. Patapievici, Katherine Brading

    The panel discussion adresses the development of mathematics, the science of motion and some cosmological questions ( structure of the space, infinity of the world, multiple worlds) from the perspectives of the new concept of mathematical infinity


    Les vérités de Descartes

    Proponent: Denis Kambouchner

    Descartes n’est sans doute pas, selon la célèbre expression de Maxime Leroy, ce « philosophe au masque » qui dissimulait sa propre incroyance sous d’apparentes intentions apologétiques. Cependant, comme l’a bien signalé Leo Strauss (sans s’y attarder), l’art d’écrire de Descartes fait de chaque formule le produit d’un jeu complexe d’intentions et de stratégies. Descartes s’entend à démultiplier les exposés selon les occasions et les destinataires; et notamment, quant au rapport entre la « vraie philosophie » (morale comprise) et la religion chrétienne, certaines ambiguïtés apparaissent irréductibles. Ce sont ces ambiguïtés qu’on étudiera, à travers une série de textes, en s’interrogeant sur les conditions d’une interprétation exacte.

    Bibliography1. Descartes: Textes préliminaires des Méditations (Epître aux Doyen et Docteurs de la Sorbonne); Discours de la MéthodeRéponses aux Secondes Objections; Lettres à Mersenne, fin mai 1637; mars 1642; à Elisabeth, 15 septembre 1645; à Chanut, 1er février 1647; à Silhon (anciennement: à Newcastle), mars ou avril 1648.
    2. Leroy (M.), Descartes, le philosophe au masque (Rieder, 1929)
    3. Strauss (L.), « Comment étudier le Traité Théologico-Politique de Spinoza? », in La Persécution et l’art d’écrire (Persecution and the Art of Writing, New York, 1952), trad. fr. Pocket-Agora, 1989, chap. V. (autre trad. fr. dans L. Strauss, Le Testament de Spinoza, Paris, Cerf, 1991).

    Panel discussions on new methods of teaching

    Proponent: Katherine Brading

    The debates propose an open discussion on various methods of teaching subjects related to each branch, taking into consideration the experience of the participants in their home-countries.




    1. Daniel Garber

    To be announced.

    2. Denis Kambouchner

    La science cartésienne: affaire d’un seul ou entreprise collective?


    En dépit de certaines précautions rhétoriques du Discours de la Méthode, on a souvent tendu à ménager une opposition stricte entre le caractère collectif de l’entreprise scientifique moderne depuis Bacon, et l’ambition cartésienne de livrer au public, comme oeuvre d’un seul esprit, « un corps de philosophie tout entier », physique et médecine comprises.

    On se propose de revenir sur la simplicité de cette opposition, c’est-à-dire à la fois de mesurer ce qui, au titre du discours sur la science et de la spécification des principes, maintient Descartes dans la proximité de Bacon; de préciser la part d’appel à l’intersubjectivité qui doit intervenir dans la construction de la « vraie philosophie »; de réexaminer sous ce rapport le concept cartésien de l’expérience scientifique, et de réinterroger (notamment à partir du Discours, VIème partie, et de la Lettre-Préface des Principes de la philosophie) le sens de l’appel cartésien à un achèvement collectif de la science.

    Bibliographie1. Bacon: Novum OrganumThe Advancement of Learning
    2. Descartes: Discours de la Méthode (notamment VIème partie); Lettre-Préface des Principes de la Philosophie; Préface des Passions de l’âme
    3. D’Alembert: Discours préliminaire de l’Encyclopédie

    3. Michel Blay

    La mathématisation de la nature aux XVIIème et XVIIIème siècles


    La mathématisation de la nature et la construction corrélative d’une physique mathématique -ce qui suppose qu’il n’y a plus, comme dans l’Antiquité et à l’époque médiévale, deux types d’intelligibilité- est la grande affaire des XVIIème et XVIIIème siècles. Il s’agit en effet de la mise en place d’une démarche originale qui recourt largement aux algorithmes du calcul différentiel et intégral et dont l’objet consiste à reconstruire les phénomènes de la nature à l’intérieur du domaine de l’intelligibilité mathématique. Ainsi ces phénomènes se trouvent soumis à des lois quantitatives exploitables et donc susceptibles d’assurer la prévision et, par la même, l’emprise de la raison mathématique sur les phénomènes de la nature. Ce n’est pas tout ; mathématiser tel ou tel phénomène naturel cela veut dire aussi présenter sous une forme ordonnée l’ensemble des théorèmes, propositions et résultats que l’on est parvenu à établir. Par cette organisation déductive, chaque proposition étant obtenue à partir des précédentes, une clarification et une investigation méthodique des propriétés fondamentales des divers phénomènes deviennent possible, tandis que toutes les ressources des connaissances mathématiques de l’époque peuvent être mises en œuvre.

    L’atelier aura pour objet de présenter à travers diverses discussions de nature méthodologiques concernant la pratique de l’enseignement et l’histoire de la philosophie des sciences, un processus particulier de mathématisation au XVIIème siècle à savoir celui des phénomènes de la lumière et des couleurs.


    1. Galilée: Discours concernant deux sciences nouvelles
    2. Descartes: Les principes de la philosophie, La géométrie, Les météores, La dioptrique
    3. Newton: Les principes mathématiques de la philosophie naturelle, Optique
    4. Fontenelle: Entretien sur la pluralité des mondes

    4. Katherine Brading

    Several questions of the new cosmology


    In the seventeenth century there was a revolution in our view of the cosmos. Through Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes and Newton, sun-centred astronomy became firmly established. Newton’s laws of motion and his principle of Universal Gravitation set natural philosophy on a new course, the implications of which we are still working out today. The seventeenth century changed not only our understanding of the cosmos, but also our views on what we can know about the cosmos and how we can know it.

    This talk will introduce the key themes in our changing understanding of the cosmos in the seventeenth century, providing a context for some of the more specialised courses. We will consider the motivations and implications of the move to sun-centred astronomy; the Cartesian laws of nature, the Galilean principle of relativity, and their Newtonian descendents; the inter-dependence between the metaphysics and the epistemology associated with the new cosmology, including the search for qualities that can be assigned a numerical value as the basic qualities from which to construct the cosmos, and Cartesian dualism.

    Students will be encouraged to uncover for themselves what issues were at stake and what the main strands of argument were. The course will be text-based, and we will concentrate in particular on the work of Galileo, Descartes and Newton. The aim will be to provide students with an understanding of not just what they said, but why it mattered in the seventeenth century and why it still matters today.

    5. Virgil Ciomos


    One of the most important theoretical and especially practical consequence of modernism in Eastern Europe has been mentality secularisation which is the starting point of free thinking as well as its almost imediate consequence, namely the Church separation from the State, which coincides with the birth of the public space.

    This very complex and intricate process resulting in self-awarness in the 17th century whose gradual configuration follows two different modalities of conceiving the modern spirit.

    Indeed, on the one hand, secularisation has been perceived – especially in the Anglo-Saxon world – as mere effect of the dissemination of the traditional christian values among the « people of God », so that modernism itself appears as a natural product of late medieval tradition, and, on the other hand, it opposes both Church as an institution and its traditionalist spirit – a process mainly known on the continent.

    6. H.-R. Patapievici
    ‘Frances Yates thesis’ revisited


    In scholar circles, under the name of the ‘Yates thesis’ is given currency to a restatement of one of Frances A. Yates’ ideas, regarding the relationships between Bruno, Copernic and the so-called ‘Hermeticism’, due to a critique of her formulated in 1974 by Robert Westman. This idea is referred to her Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964), whose central idea is that Bruno can best be understood and interpreted as a Renaissance magus and part of the ‘Hermetic tradition’ rather than a scientist or a humanist. Yet, what in my view ought to be considered as a much bolder statement of her stringent conception of an existing genetic link between the Hermetic Tradition epitomised by the Renaissance magi and the birth of modern natural science in the 17th century is Yates 1968 article « The Hermetic Tradition in Renaissance Science ». – Arguably, this is the ‘true’ ‘Yates thesis’. Put it abruptly in her own words, this ‘Yates thesis’ runs as follow: « The magus had given place to the Rosicrucian, and the Rosicrucian is giving place to the scientist« . In its very essence, the ‘Yates thesis’ is but the extreme restatement of two important previous contributions. The first chronologically is Lynn Thorndyke’s The History of Magic and of Experimental Science (8 vols. 1923-58). The central underlying presupposition of this most celebrated magisterial work states that « in the history of ideas magic almost always precedes and lays the foundation for science, and some philosophical generalization almost invariably antedates a more concrete suggestion or discovery of actual fact » (Yates). The other important contribution to furnish benefits for the ‘Yates thesis’ was Paolo Rossi’s seminal study: Francesco Bacone. Dalla Magia alla Scienza (1957). Rossi’s ideea is that one cannot understand Bacon thought in its own setting if one continues to ignore that Bacon’s emphasis on technology is reminiscent of Renaissance animism ideals of knowing and dominating Nature.

    I will provide a presentation of the 1968 – ‘Yates thesis’ and an analysis of its conceptual articulation, along with an evaluation of its meaning made by a leading champion of the Renaissance studies, Charles B. Schmitt.

    Bibliography1. Frances A. YATES, « The Hermetic Tradition in Renaissance Science », in: Charles S. Singleton (ed.), Art, Science, and History in the Renaissance, Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1968 (2nd printing 1970), pp. 255-74.
    2. Paolo Rossi, Francesco Bacone. Dalla Magia alla Scienza (1957).
    3. Lynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, vol. V, New York: 1941, p. 494.
    4. Charles B. Schmitt, « Reappraisals in Renaissance Science, » History of Science xvi (1978), pp. 200-14.
    5. Robert S. Westman, « Magical Reform and Astronomical Reform: The Yates Thesis Reconsidered » (1974).

    7. Constantin Zaharia

    Alternative Models of Individual Freedom in France in the XVIIth Century : the French Moralists


    In the XVIIth century, individual freedom was not in place in the ideological system of that time : the concept per se did not exist. Subject to various limitations, the individual was an « honorable man » if he fulfilled the duties imposed by his status within the Court, a milieu he could not contravene. A strict compartmentalization obliged him to honor permanently some prescriptions that concerned him solely as a member of the group in question.

    The moralists elaborate a different project than the mainstream discourse when they strive to raise a salutary awareness of individual capacities : drawing the portrait of a man is a rather new and important task, which, through the use of maxims, aims at using the literary effect rather than falling into the moralizing dogmatism that could be attributed to them. This leads to principles and effects that allow an individual the possibility of purely personal choice that can make him a better person.

    Pascal’s project is at first sight rather distinct, since Pascal proposes, like many others before him, an apology of the Christian religion. The finality of any apology being the conversion of the non believer, the author, as a holder of the Truth and a disseminator of it, can only seem to place himself in a position of authority and superiority with regard to a reader who does not know or has an imperfect knowledge of the Truth. However, the originality of Pascal is the refusal of such a discourse. The wager he proposes reminds the reader that he is free to chose between distraction and faith and, thus, the existence of the individual is not exempted of free will ; the author will address this issue repeatedly in his Provinciales.

    Bibliography:1. P. CAMPION, « La maxime dans la lumière de la mort » in Poétique, avril 1999, n° 118, p. 197-207.
    2. M. P. BERRANGER, Le dépaysement de l’aphorisme, Paris, José Corti, 1988.
    3. J. LAFOND, Moralistes du XVIIe siècle. De Pibrac à Dufresny, Paris, Ed. Robert Laffont, « Bouquins », 1992.
    4. J. LAFOND (under the dir. of), Les formes brèves dans la prose et le discours discontinu (XVIe-XVIIe siècles), Paris, Librairie philosophique J. Vrin, 1984.
    5. B. PARAIN, Recherches sur la nature et les fonctions du langage, Paris, Gallimard, 1972.
    6. B. PASCAL, Oeuvres complètes, Paris, Gallimard, « Bibliothèque de la Pléiade », 1991.
    7. L. VAN DELFT, Le Moraliste classique. Essai de définition et de typologie, Genève, Droz, 1982.