CDC Course 2007 – British Studies

CDC Course 2007

Shaping the Republic of Letters:

Philosophy, Science and Religion in Early Modern England

MA in British Cultural Studies 2007-2008, first semester

Proponents: Sorana Corneanu, Dana Jalobeanu

This course is part of a project run by Dr. Jalobeanu at the Foundations of European Modernity Research Centre, University of Bucharest, which has been awarded a course development grant from the Curriculum Development Centre, Central European University, Budapest. The project aims at introducing six courses on the origins of modernity to departments in three Romanian universities. While based on a common pattern, each of these courses will be adapted to the profile of the host departments (e.g. philosophy, history of science, political philosophy, cultural studies). These courses take a highly interdisciplinary and contextual approach to the question of the origins of modernity, conceived as a complex philosophical and cultural phenomenon that shaped modern European thought and practices.

The aim of this course is to enable students to develop competence in a particular thematic area, a specific historiographical approach, and a general way of thinking. That is to say, students taking this course are expected to become gradually conversant with the general problematic as well as the particular concepts relating to the origins of modern mind as bearing on the intersections of philosophy, religion, science and moral thought. They will also be expected to become competent in the highly contextual and historically sensitive way of doing intellectual history that is proposed by this course. And they will be expected to develop argumentative and critical skills as a result of the practice of debate proposed as a way of understanding the polemical context in which the issues discussed took shape.

Course Outline

  1. The modern attitude

What is modernity? Is there such thing as a modern mind? Can we speak of the origins of the modern mind? Can we speak of a \”modern attitude\”? Questions as such were discussed ever since the eighteenth century and are still under debate in a number of fields today. We will adress such issues, however, not from the contemporary perspective, not using secondary literature, but by looking directly into primary sources of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, asking questions about the origins of modernity.


BACON, Advancement of Learning (book 1), Valerius Terminus (book 1)

VOLTAIRE, Lettres philosophiques, Le siecle de Louis XIV (chap. 1, 29)

KANT, What is Enlightenment? (Romanian translation by M. Flonta in Filosofia practică a lui Immanuel Kant, Polirom, 2006)

FOUCAULT, What is Enlightenment?

PORTER, Roy, Enlightenment, Penguin Books, 2001

2. Ancients, moderns and the reformation of knowledge: a new ethos

  • The iconography of a reformation of knowledge
  • Bacon\’s images for the Great Instauration


JALOBEANU, Dana. Inventarea modernităţii. Cluj: Napoca Star, 2006

HAZARD, Paul, Criza conştiinţei europene, Humanitas, 2007, Chap. 5, « Psihologia neliniştii »

FOSTER-JONES, Richard, Ancients and Moderns: A Study of the Rise of the Scientific Movement in 17th century England, Dover Publications, Dover, 1982

See the page of course materials for additional bibliography.

  1. The “new philosophy” and the new philosophers

Seventeenth century is the century of the \”new philosophy\”. Bacon, Descartes, Pascal or Newton are invoked here as the founding fathers of the modern ethos? Why is that? Is there any trademark of the new philosopher, accepted in the seventeenth century? What was the self-perception of the seventeenth century philosophers? How did they define the new philosophy?


BACON, Preface to The Great Instauration

COMENIUS, Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart

OLDENBURG, Letters on the Royal Society (Correspondence, volume IV, selected letters)

COHEN, I.F. The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1994

MENN, Stephen, „The Intellectual setting“ in Garber, Ayers, eds., The Cambridge History of Seventeenth Century Philosophy, CUP, 1998, v.1, 33-86

LUTHY, Christoph. “What to do with seventeenth-century philosophy: a taxonomical problem”. Perspectives on Science, 8.2, 2000, 164-195

  1. Solomon’s House: the model

In seventeenth century, Bacon\’s favorite image of a \”scientific\” institution, \”Solomon\’s House\”, functioned as a model for the community of the new philosophers in England and various parts of Europe. Why was this image so powerful? Why was it interesting for the new philosophers?


BACON, New Atlantis, London 1627

HARTLIB, Macaria, London, 1668

GLANVILL, “Anti-fanatical Religion and Free Philosophy. In a Continuation of the New Atlantis” in Essays, London 1676

PETTY, The advice of W.P. to Mr. Samuel Hartlib, London 1648

JALOBEANU, D., “Studiu introductiv” in Bacon, Noua Atlantida, ed. and trans. D. Jalobeanu, Nemira, 2007

TREVOR-ROPER, Hugh. The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century: Religion, the Reformation, and Social Change, and other Essays. London: Macmillan, 1967

  1. Science and religion: the Protestant ethos

Bacon\’s model for a reformed science is constantly sending the reader to the original: the Protestand Reformation, the reformation of Luther and Calvin. Although instisting on the separation between sciences and faith, Bacon is often defending a number of theological positions. Some of them are more difficult to perceive because one knows little nowadays about the theological disputations of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. This course will try to prove what can one gain by exploring Bacon and the new philosophy in a broader theological context.


HARRISON, P., “Original Sin and the Problem of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe”, Journal of the History of Ideas 63.2, 2002, 239-259

TODD, M., Christian Humanism and the Puritan Social Order, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998

WEBER, Max, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, London, 1930

WEBSTER, Charles, “The Puritan World View and the Rise of Modern Science” in The Great Instauration: Science, Medicine, and Reform, 1626-1660, London, Duckworth, 1975.

  1. Science and religion: natural philosophy and natural theology

Natural philosophy ceased to be a School discipline in seventeenth century and extends far beyond the boundaries of any school philosophy. Various redefinitions of the \”new philosophy\” were formulated, with an emphasis on natural philosophy as natural theology. We will try to explore some of the most relevant, while inquiring into the ways in which natural philosophy was seen as a science about God and God\’s creation, perceived from the secondary causes.


BACON, F., The New Atlantis, Valerius Terminus, The Advancement of Learning

BOYLE, R., A free inquiry into the vulgarly received notion of nature, London, 1685; A Discourse of Things above Reason, London 1681

GLANVILL, J., Philosophia Pia, London 1671

FUNKENSTEIN, Amos, Theology and the Scientific Imagination, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986

SARGENT, M.-R., The Diffident Naturalist. Robert Boyle and the Philosophy of Experiment, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 1995

  1. The book of nature: the uses of hermeneutics

HARRISON, Peter. The Bible, Protestantism and the Rise of Natural Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998

SARGENT, M.-R., The Diffident Naturalist. Robert Boyle and the Philosophy of Experiment, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 1995

  1. Science and humanism: genres

Humanist genres: the sylva, the commonplace book, utopia, correspondence

DE BRUYN, Frans, “The Classical Silva and the Generic Development of Scientific Writing in Seventeenth-Century England”, New Literary History, 32, 2001, 347-373

FINDLEN, Paula, “Jokes of Nature and Jokes of Knowledge” The Playfulness of Scientific Discourse in Early Modern Europe”, Renaissance Quarterly……..

POMATA, Gianna and Nancy SIRAISI, eds., Historia. Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge, Mass., London, England: The MIT Press, 2005 (Introduction)

THOMAS, Keith, “The Utopian Impulse in Seventeenth-Century England” in D. Baker-Smith and C.C. Barfoot, eds., Between Dream and Nature: Essays on Utopia and Dystopia, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1987

BEAL, Peter. “Notions in Garrison: The Seventeenth-Century Commonplace Book” in W. Speed Hill, ed., New Ways of Looking at Old Texts, Binghamton, NY, 1993

  1. Science and humanism: persona

SHAPIN, Steven, A Social History of Truth, Oxford University Press, 1999

CONDREN, C., St. GAUKROGER and I. HUNTER, eds., The Philosopher in Early Modern Europe: The Nature of a Contested Identity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2006

GAUKROGER, S., Francis Bacon and the Transformation of Early-Modern Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001

  1. A practice of the mind: curing the madness

REYNOLDS, E., A Treatise of the Passions and Faculties of the Soul of Man, London, 1640

BACON, The New Organon, Book I

GLANVILL, The Vanity of Dogmatizing, London, 1661

GAUKROGER, St., ed., The Soft Underbelly of Reason. The Passions in the Seventeenth Century, Routledge, London and New York, 1998

JAMES, S., Action and Passion: The Emotions in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1997

  1. A practice of the mind: the Christian Virtuoso figure

BOYLE, The Christian Virtuoso, I, London, 1690

FOUCAULT, M., “Technologies of the self” in L.H. Martin, H. Gutman, P.H. Hutton, eds., Technologies of the Self. A Seminar with Michel Foucault, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1988

HADOT, P., Philosophy as a Way of Life. Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, tr. Michael Chase, Blackwell, Oxford UK and Cambridge USA, 1995

JONES, Mathew, The Good life in the Scientific Revolution, Chicago University Press, 2006, part I

  1. The routes of knowledge: closed circles or open networks?

CRANE, Diana. Invisible Colleges: The Diffusion of Knowledge in Scientific Communities. Chicago 1972.

EAMON, William. Science and the Secrets of Nature. Princeton 1994

LUX, David S. and Harold J. COOK. “Closed Circles or Open Networks?: Communicating at a Distance During the Scientific Revolution”. History of Science 36 (1998) 179-211


Since student participation in class debate is crucial for the success of this course, involvement in such critical discussion will figure prominently in the assessment percentage. This component will take the form of several types of task: preparation of conceptual stance established with tutor and defended in open debate; two short written essays on questions that emerge from class discussion; one group research project on topic of debate introduced in class. Together, these assignments will make for 60% of the final mark. The remaining 40% will be covered by a final examination, which will consist of a defence and discussion of the project, and a separate group exam, in which teams of 3-5 students are expected to answer and debate questions related to the entire series of topics covered in class throughout the semester.

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