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‘Feeding on the nectar of the gods’: Appropriations of Isaac Newton’s thought, ca. 1700–1750

Tuesday, 5 July, 2016 - 08:45 to Saturday, 6 August, 2016 - 16:00
University Foundation, Room A
Egmontstraat 11 Rue d'Egmont, B-1000 Brussels
Centre for Logic and Philosophy; conference chair: Prof. dr. Steffen Ducheyne
International Conference


The conference theme is the diffusion of Newton’s thought during the first half of the eighteenth century across Europe. The seeming ease with which Newton’s ideas were diffused has long been described as self-evident. State-of-the-art research has, however, shown that the spread and success of Newton’s corpus was far from obvious. More particularly, it has been suggested that the successful diffusion of Newton’s ideas was not merely determined by the obvious merits of the scientific claims which Newton developed in his two major works, the Principia (first edition: 1687) and the Opticks (first edition: 1704), but also by local factors and contexts, such as inter alia: (a) already established scholarly and educationally dominant traditions or systems; (b) theological and religious fractions, sensibilities, and worldviews; and (c) metaphysical and methodological orientations. Seen from this perspective, if we want to fully understand the successful spread of Newton’s ideas, we need to take into account the multifarious ways in which his ideas were appropriated in order to meet local 'needs'. At the same time, we need to pinpoint the characteristics of those very ideas in virtue of which they could be successfully ‘exported’ to different intellectual and scientific hubs across Europe. The scientific committee welcomes presentations that contribute to our understanding of the spread of Newton’s thought across Europe from approximately 1700 to 1750.




5 July 2016

08.15-08.50 a.m.: Welcome and coffee

08.50-8.55 a.m.: Word of welcome by the Vice Rector of Research, Prof. dr. Patrick De Baetselier (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

08.55-9.00 a.m.: Short introduction to the conference theme by Steffen Ducheyne

09.00-10.00 a.m.: Keynote 1 (Chair: Steffen Ducheyne):

Mordechai Feingold (Caltech): Newton as an Enlightenment emblem

10.00-11.00 a.m.: Keynote 2 (Chair: Scott Mandelbrote):

Rob Iliffe (University of Oxford): Newtonian methodology and the role of the imagination in the Enlightenment

11.00-11.30 a.m.: Coffee break

11.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m.: Contributed papers 1 (Chair: Niccolò Guicciardini):

Andrea Reichenbergeer (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) Emilie du Châtelet's interpretation of the laws of motion in the light of eighteenth-century mechanics

Jip Van Besouw (VUB):Explaining the simple wedge: ‘Newtonians’ and Leibniz’s force in the eighteenth century

12.30-14.00 p.m.: Lunch break

14.00-15.00 p.m.: Keynote 3 (Chair: Stephen D. Snobelen):

Steffen Ducheyne (VUB): Appropriations of Newton in the Dutch Republic

15.00-16.00 p.m.: Keynote 4 (Chair: Rob Iliffe):

Scott Mandelbrote (University of Cambridge): Newtonianism and religion in France

16.00-16.30 p.m.: Coffee break

16.30-18.00 p.m.: Contributed papers 2 (Chair: Tamás Demeter):

Pieter Present (VUB): The role and development of the concept of ‘laws of nature’ in the work of Petrus Van Musschenbroek

Marco Storni (École Normale Supérieure de Paris): Newton in France: The controversy over the earth’s shape

Jean-Olivier Richard(Johns Hopkins University): Louis-Bertrand Castel, Anti-Newtonian natural philosopher?


6 July 2016

08.30-09.00 a.m.: Coffee

09.00-10.00 a.m.: Keynote 5 (Chair: Mordechai Feingold):

Niccolò Guicciardini (Università degli Studi di Bergamo): The reception of Newtonianism in eighteenth-century Geneva and Lausanne

10.00-11.00 a.m.: Contributed papers 3 (Chair: Jip Van Besouw):

Dimitris Petakos (University of Athens): Under the shadow of an English apple tree: diversified appropriations of Newtonian natural philosophy (1700–1720)

Philipp Reisner (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf): Cotton Mather’s reception of Isaac Newton’s mechanics

11.00-11.30 a.m.: Coffee break

11.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m.: Keynote 6 (Chair: Steffen Ducheyne)

Stephen D. Snobelen (University King’s College, Halifax): Newton’s science and religion in the public sphere, 1687–1760

12.30 p.m.-14.00 a.m.: Lunch break

14.00-15.00 p.m.: Keynote 7 (Chair: Kirsten Walsh)

Tamás Demeter (Hungarian Academy of Sciences): A post-Newtonian chemistry of the mind: Hume’s science of man in the context of contemporary natural inquiry

15.00-16.00 p.m.: Contributed papers 4 (Chair: Yannick Van den Abbeel)

Kirsten Walsh (University of Bucharest): Fitting Newton into the philosophical picture

Rosalind Powell (University of Bristol): Newton’s Opticks and the language of light

16.00 p.m.: Reception and farewell

Although attendance is free, registration is required (please contact the conference chair at steffen.ducheyne@vub.ac.be).

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