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CALCULATORES

Imaginable Impossibilities and Thought Experiments. The Tradition of the Oxford Calculators and its Influence on Early-Modern Logic and Natural Philosophy
Funder: European CommissionProject code: 845061 Call for proposal: H2020-MSCA-IF-2018
Funded under: H2020 | MSCA-IF-GF Overall Budget: 255,768 EURFunder Contribution: 255,768 EUR

CALCULATORES

Description

The project aims to investigate the tradition of the Oxford Calculators and the influence their works had on early-modern logic and natural philosophy. The Calculators were a group of scholars active in 1325-1350, connected to the tradition of sophismata. An element of novelty in their works is that logical techniques were usually applied to the discussion of mathematical and physical issues. Moreover, their sophismata often involved the use of thought experiments, aimed at challenging and revising parts of the Aristotelian physics, in which many sorts of intricate non-naturalistic cases and impossible scenarios were posited as imaginable. The project firstly aims at reviewing our knowledge of the Calculators’ tradition, along with their academic and cultural context. This will be done mainly through a historical methodology, combining paleographical techniques and archival research. The second objective is to assess whether the Calculators developed a consistent theory of modalities, and how this would be connected to other theories available in the 13th and 14th century. This will require cataloguing and analysing the use of imaginable cases, and individuating the various senses of possibility that are at play in them. A third aim is to evaluate the impact that the Calculators’ works had on early-modern philosophy, and to determine to what extent the Calculators’ achievements in the areas of mathematics and physics (together with their thought-experiment methodology) contributed to the shift from medieval scientific paradigms to a modern view of science. The project combines many disciplines into investigating authors that have played an important - albeit overlooked - role in the history of philosophy and science. Besides its historical interest, the project is related to many significant philosophical issues, such as the ones concerning the nature and varieties of modalities, or the role that thought experiments play in philosophical and scientific methodology.

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