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Digital Thursday - Andrea Sangiacomo, "The normalisation of natural philosophy"

When:Th 15-11-2018 15:00 - 16:30
Where:Exposition space, Harmonie building
Painting of René Descartes and Christina of Sweden, with a laptop edited in

The Centre for Digital Humanities' Digital Thursdays are a series of presentations, activities, and debates that showcases interesting research by a broad range of Digital Humanities scholars. On 15 November, Dr Andrea Sangiacomo will open the series with a presentation titled "The normalisation of natural philosophy". You are cordially invited to attend.


Early modern natural philosophy underwent dramatic transformations that completely reshaped its conceptual framework and set of practices. The main contention of Sangiacomo’s ERC project (beginning in January 2019) is that teaching practices had a decisive and ‘normalising’ impact on the progressive dissemination, adaptation and selection of rival conceptions of natural philosophy. The overall aim of the project is to determine and explain how the process of normalisation embedded in teaching practices shaped the evolution of early modern natural philosophy. To study normalisation, it is necessary to operate a systematic comparative investigation of hundreds of works through which natural philosophy was taught, learned and reshaped, both within and outside universities. The project will meet this challenge by organically integrating close reading with digital ‘distant reading.’ Using digital tools to investigate how the networks of authors and concepts of natural philosophy co-evolved over time will allow the research team to identify textual excerpts that are representative of historical trends. By analysing these excerpts with close reading and assessing them against the digital results, it will be possible to determine and explain how normalisation shaped the evolution of natural philosophy.

About the speaker

Dr Andrea Sangiacomo is an assistant professor of philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy at Groningen. He has worked extensively on early modern philosophy and science. He has devoted a significant part of his research to Spinoza. Between 2015 and 2019 Sangiacomo runs an NWO Veni project on the impact of occasionalism on the reshaping of the notion of causality across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Since 2017 he has become interested in implementing new digital approaches and distant reading techniques to the study of early modern debates. These two interests converge in his new ERC Starting Grant project (2019-2023), which will investigate how teaching practices shaped the evolution of early modern natural philosophy and contributed to the normalization of philosophical and scientific ideas.