Max Planck Institut for the History of Science

Observation, Evidence and Reason in the Long Renaissance:
The Arts Course Between the Reformation and the Early Enlightenment

An International Workshop
MPIWG, Berlin
April 27-28, 2009

This workshop attempts to answer some fundamental questions in the study of the intellectual history of early modern England. What is the best and most academically responsible way of gaining ‘hermeneutic control’ over the texts that we study? How porous are the schemata of dialectic and rhetoric with respect to the other disciplines? To what extent does the informal assumption of the unity of knowledge affect the notion of disciplinary formation and the scholarly career? How widely diffused were the practices of the arts course outside of the academy? What is the relation of university learning to the alternative, usually scientific, think-tanks of the period? When does humanism lose its specificity? When does the arts course actually end as a significant unit of analysis? Does the arts course, or its collapse, have anything to do with literature?

We propose, however, a still more integrated approach, focusing not only on the particular historical matrix out of which given arts course texts derive, but also on the contribution of such texts toward the understanding of larger background concepts of historical epistemology. In so doing, we trust that we will allow traditional historians of philosophy and science to see how their field is being transformed from without.  One modish way of formulating our task might be: we attempt a convergence of Hacking’s concept of styles of scientific reasoning with the history of social forms and the history of doctrines.

The workshop will focus on a series of case studies, taking its starting point a given discipline of the arts course. That discipline may be a ‘formal’ part of the course, such as logic or natural philosophy. Alternatively, the discipline may be of a more porous and practice-based character, such as philology or grammar. Each participant will then be asked to show how a series of texts answer some of the larger questions that we have asked above, in addition to teaching us something new about the particular historical debates which their source texts inform.

Participants: Jean-Louis Quantin, Peter Mack, Guido Giglioni, Jill Kraye, Mordechai Feingold, Michael Edwards, Richard Serjeantson, Rhodri Lewis, Daniel Andersson, Ed Paleit, Fred Schurink.

Postgraduate students are warmly invited to attend: bursaries have been set aside to assist with the costs involved  therein.

The conference organizers stand ready to answer questions of orientation:

Dr. D. C. Andersson

Dr. R. W. Serjeantson

For general registration queries, please contact