Responses to Newton’s Mathematical-Experimental Paradigm
in 18th-Century Philosophy

Excellence of Science (EOS) 2021 (FWO / F.R.S.-FNRS)

In line with recent accounts of the impact of Newton on 18th-century science, RENEW18 aims to bring into focus the widely divergent responses to the mathematical-experimental paradigm (MEP) elaborated in Newton’s Principia mathematica (1687) and Opticks (1704) on the part of 18th-century philosophers. 


Introducing the notion of response as a historiographical category, RENEW18 seeks to account for the full spectrum of philosophical responses to the challenge posed by the MEP, responses that ranged from emulation and appropriation to various types of accommodation to qualified or unqualified resistance.

More specifically, RENEW18 studies the direct and indirect effects of the MEP on philosophers who drew from Aristotelian, Cartesian, Leibnizian, and Wolffian sources. It covers the period between 1700 and 1800, treats developments in the Dutch Republic, England, France, and Germany, and foregrounds the impact of non-canonical authors and movements on canonical authors and the other way around. RENEW18’s inclusive and innovative historiography thus counteracts the reductive account of the impact of Newton on 18th-century philosophy that prevails in contemporary scholarship.

RENEW18 is a four-year research project funded by the Belgian research councils FWO and F.R.S.-FNRS (EOS) and will be carried out by a consortium consisting of three principal investigators and seven junior researchers.