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Dijksterhuis, Fokko Jan

Dijksterhuis, Fokko Jan

NIAS-Descartes Theme-Group Fellow

Understanding Knowledge in the Low Countries, 1500-1900

Research Question

How were artifacts and practices understood as sources of knowledge in the early modern period and how did this lay a basis of a concept of useful knowledge?

Project Description

The theme group researches how understandings of knowledge were shaped through processes of acquisition, ownership, allocation, use, and institutionalization in the global knowledge society of the early modern Low Countries. I contribute with an investigation of early modern reflections upon useful knowledge, following a trajectory from ‘consten’ to ‘techno-logia’. The epistemic transformations of the Renaissance challenged the status of ‘scientia’. Viewing instruments as a source of knowledge, rather than a means of exploring and interrogating the properties of nature, signified a further development in the industrious Enlightenment of the 18th century. I will use Simon Stevin’s rich and subtle reflections upon the ‘consten’ as a reference point for 16th-century conceptual understanding of knowledge from the arts and artisans, and Christian Wolff’s idea of ‘techno-logia’ for 18th-century efforts to come to an idea of an ‘art-science’. This will guide an analysis of early modern uses of concepts like ‘art’, ‘practice’, and so on, in relation to philosophy, science, and knowing.

Selected Publications

‘Magi from the North: Instruments of Fire and Light in the Early Seventeenth Century’, in: Arianna Borrelli, Giora Hon, Yaakov Zik (eds.), The Optics of Giambattista Della Porta (ca. 1535–1615): A Reassessment (Springer, 2017)
‘Foci of Interests. Optical Pursuits amongst Huygens, Leibniz, and Tschirnhaus 1680–1710),’ in: Michael Kempe (Ed.), Der Philosoph im U-Boot. Angewandte Wissenschaft und Technik im Kontext von G. W. Leibniz (Reihe Forschungen, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek) (Hannover, 2014) 261-283.
‘‘Will the eye be the sole judge?’ ‘Science’ and ‘art’ in the optical inquiries of Lambert ten Kate and Hendrik van Limborch around 1710’, pp. 308-331 in: Eric Jorink, Bart Ramakers, Art and Science in the Early Modern Netherlands. Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art 61 (2011).

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