Science, Politics and Utopia in the Republic of Letters

Science, Politics and Utopia in the Republic of Letters: Models of Producing and Disseminating Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

Project Manager: Vlad Alexandrescu

Financed by The National Autority for Scientific Research, through The Council of Scientific Research in Higher Studies in Romania, within the grant nr. 758/2009

In the last 20 years, a wide range of authors have started to question the cannonical view of a scientific revolution of the 17th century, have emphasized the historiographical gap existing between the historians of science and the historians of philosophy working on the same authors (and sometimes on the very same texts) of the early modernity. A dramatic process of revaluation, started more than 20 years ago, has changed considerably the field of early modern studies and the iconic image of the actors involved in the scientific revolution.

Science emerged as a creation of European modernity, as a model of European integration. Early modern science shaped European culture, imposing a standard model of research and validation, and a standard model of intellectual, international (European) and integrated community. A number of authors have gone further in claiming that the very modernity has been shaped by the emergence of early modern science in its most popular form, the Newtonian paradigm.

The recent scholarship in the field of the origins of modern science agrees upon placing at the origins of early modern science two basic pillars: the new natural philosophy (of the 16th and 17th centuries) and a certain model for the communal production, validation and dissemination of knowledge. The latter has gained European recognition under the older and traditional name invented by the Humanists: the Republic of Letters.

A fair amount of recent research has shaped an entire field investigating the communitarian dimensions of the early modern philosophy and science, showing unexpected but meanigful similarities between distinct and various intellectual and scientific communities.

Our project has two main objectives:

  1. Developing and harmonizing the contributions of the experimented researchers, members of the project, in the framework of developing international research directions, together with encouraging and stimulating the PhD students involved in the project in pursuing the same directions
  2. Imposing at an international level a connected research theme: the way in which the republic of letters is functioning on a peripheral level, in Eastern Europe. Through a series of key case studies we will try to show that a series of intellectuals from Transylvania or Romania have been put in the situation of negotiating their acceding to the republic of letters, and thus have used various intellectual recognizing techniques which were accepted in that age and sometimes have imposed themselves and have succeeded in creating “kernels” in the knowledge communication network.


2009: Publication of the volume: Vlad Alexandrescu (ed), Branching off: The Early Moderns in the Quest for the Unity of Knowledge (