CFP: Reassessing the “Scientific Revolution”: Key Concepts and New Case Studies

Submission deadline: August 1, 2023

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Reassessing the “Scientific Revolution”: Key Concepts and New Case Studies

edited by

Simone Guidi (CNR-ILIESI, Roma)
Ludovica Marinucci (Università degli Studi di Salerno)
Marco Storni (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Since the early twentieth century, scholars have provided manifold characterizations of the momentous change in scientific culture traditionally categorized as the “Scientific Revolution.” Alexandre Koyré has famously described the new physical science as a form of knowledge based on quantitative reasoning and measurement, whose emergence marked the passage from the “world of approximation” to the “universe of precision” (Koyré [1948] 1961). The introduction of mathematics into natural philosophy, the focus on quantity rather than on quality, the pursuit of accuracy and objectivity, are all general traits that several historians have referred to while characterizing the birth of modern science. One famous example is the discussion of the “quantifying spirit” of the eighteenth century, that John L. Heilbron has defined as a generalized “passion to order and systematize as well as to measure and calculate” (Heilbron 1990:2). At the same time, a crowded lore well represented by Thomas S. Kuhn (1960, 1972), strongly associated the notion of “Scientific Revolution” with those of astronomical and Copernican Revolution, portraying the new science as the outcome of the interplay between observative novelties and the emergence of new epistemological paradigms. Finally, other interpretative traditions (e.g., Rossi [1957] 1974, [1973] 2020) considered early modern science as stemming from the rise in the Renaissance of new research in mechanics and alchemy, as well as from the rediscovery of Greek mathematics.

In the last decades, scholars have been striving to redefine the key categories at the basis of the traditional narratives of early modern science, starting from the very idea of “Scientific Revolution” (although some still tried to defend the notion: e.g., Floris Cohen 1994, 2010). This concept has been challenged with multifarious arguments: it is grounded on artificial disciplinary divides, anachronistic assumptions on scientific method, a rhetoric of masculinity, and a radical separation of the West from the rest of the world (Merchant 1980, 2006; Biagioli 1998). In the same way, other facets of the traditional characterization of science as a specific construction of early modern European culture have started to be reassessed. These include the concepts of quantification (Daston 1995) and mathematization (Roux 2010), the role played by experiments, thought experiments, and scientific instrumentation (e.g., Warner 1990; Van Helden and Hankins 1994), and even the chronological coordinates that make the “Scientific Revolution” start as of the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, excluding earlier attempts at reformulating philosophy of nature (Grant 1996).

However, further critical work is needed to shed full light on these categories, notably by adopting a “bottom-up approach” that reflects on specific case studies to reassess mainstream views of natural philosophy from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. This volume aims to do so by coupling historiographical analyses of well-known texts, and presentation of new case studies, with theoretical reflections on key categories underpinning the current views of the “Scientific Revolution.”

We welcome abstracts of up to 500 words from potential contributors before 1 August 2023. Proposals should be sent to [email protected]. Accepted contributors will have to submit a full paper before 1 May 2024. The volume project will be submitted to a major international publisher soon after the selection of abstracts; further details will be provided to accepted contributors.

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