Project Title: Prince Dimitrie Cantemir (1675-1723) and the Search for an Eastern Christian Reform of Knowledge
Duration: 36 months, 2021-2023
Dimitrie or Demetrius Cantemir (1675-1723), scholar and Prince of Moldavia, occupies an important position in the landscape of early Romanian culture. The proposed project seeks to advance the scholarly understanding of Cantemir by positioning him as an important Eastern Christian representative of the 17th century pan-European quest for a new philosophy and a universal reform of knowledge. The project argues that Dimitrie Cantemir dissented from the prevailing neo-Scholasticism of contemporary Eastern Orthodox philosophy, which sought to separate theology from philosophy. Instead, he maintained in his main philosophical work, Sacro-sanctae indepingibilis imago (1700), that Orthodox theology could seamlessly integrate natural philosophy and metaphysics. His view found support in an alternative Western philosophy, that of the Flemish physician Jan Baptist Van Helmont (1579-1644). Cantemir studied Van Helmont for eight months with the Greek cleric Meletios of Ioannina (c.1661-1714). The prince absorbed Van Helmont’s vision of a ‘Christian philosophy’, and employed it to create his own synthesis, which he called ‘sacred science’. The proposed project has four objectives: to understand the transmission of Van Helmont’s ideas from West to East, to investigate Cantemir’s philosophy in light of Van Helmont’s concepts, to produce a Romanian translation of Sacro-sanctae with critical apparatus, and to provide the digital tools to facilitate the study of Cantemir.