The Berlin Academy in the reign of Frederick the Great

BookThe Berlin Academy in the reign of Frederick the Great

The Berlin Academy in the reign of Frederick the Great

Philosophy and science

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2022:11


November 14th, 2022





This collection sheds new light on the nature, role and practice of philosophy and science in the renewed Berlin Academy from the mid-1740s to the 1790s, and in so doing provides a robust new instalment of materials for the broader task of constructing a historiography of philosophy at this important Enlightenment institution. The collection ranges from discussions of the roles of philosophy and natural philosophy in the formation of the reinvigorated Academy in the mid-1740s, to conceptions of the correct philosophical methodology to be deployed by the Academy. It provides the first ever study of the nature and arrangement of the new classes of the Academy, and a fresh appraisal of the Academy’s methodological eclecticism. One recurring theme is the status of metaphysics: there are studies of both special metaphysics, including the study of the soul; general metaphysics, that is, the study of being in general; and foundational metaphysical principles and concepts, such as Maupertuis’s Principle of least action, Euler’s concept of space and Lambert’s notion of an experimental metaphysics. The collection also takes the study of the Academy in new directions through focused studies of important figures whose writings deserve to be better understood, such as Jean Bernard Merian, Louis de Beausobre, Jean Henri Samuel Formey and Johann Georg Sulzer.

Author Information

Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet is Researcher at the Research Institute of the University of Bucharest. Her work focuses on Kant and the German Enlightenment, as well as on Emilie du Châtelet and the reception of Kant’s philosophy in the 20th century. Her monograph L’avènement de la métaphysique kantienne. Prémisses et enjeux d’une réception au XXe siècle is forthcoming with Garnier, Paris. Peter R. Anstey is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. He specialises in early modern philosophy with a particular focus on the thought of John Locke, Robert Boyle, and the French philosophes. His monograph on Experimental Philosophy and the Origins of Empiricism (with Alberto Vanzo) is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
List of figures
Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet and Peter R. Anstey 
1. The Four classes of the Berlin Academy
Peter R. Anstey
2. ‘Mother of all sciences’ or mere speculation? The justification of metaphysics at the Berlin Academy
Annelie Grosse
3. Eclectic philosophy and ‘academic spirit’: the Berlin Academy and the Thomasian legacy
Tinca Prunea-Bretonnet
4. In Search of a ‘golden mean’: experience and reasoning according to Louis de Beausobre
Angela Ferraro
5. Maupertuis, Euler and the Leibnizian metaphysics behind the Principle of least action
Ansgar Lyssy
6. Euler and the reflexive origin of the idea of space
Christian Leduc
7. Experimental–Metaphysik at the Berlin Academy: the odd alliance between experience, mathematics and teleology
Paola Basso
8. Origins of arts, origins of man in Sulzer’s academic essays
Alessandro Nannini
Appendix: ‘On the duties of the academician’ by Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis
List of Contributors