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THE QUEST FOR CERTAINTY AT THE CROSSROADS OF SCIENCE, RELIGION, AND PHILOSOPHY IN THE EARLY MODERN PERIOD INTRODUCTION

Invited editor: Claudia DUMITRU*

In some ways, the problem of certainty affords us a privileged glimpse into the early modern period. It opens up the discussion of what constitutes adequate knowledge in general, of how and to what extent one can overcome skepticism and of how an epistemological model built to surmount skeptical worries can satisfactorily account for the possibility of epistemic error. But it also raises the question of whether the same standard of knowledge, the same standard of certainty applies across all fields of inquiry (with only minimal adjustments to account for the particularities of each field). The alternative is, of course, to toe the old Aristotelian line and allow for different fields of inquiry to have their corresponding degree of certainty. For example, the standards of mathematical certainty are not to be attained in natural philosophy or in the practical sciences (using an Aristotelian designator). Different standards and perhaps different epistemic strategies should be worked out for these fields.
This issue of Society and Politics revolves around the latter point of discussion: standards of certainty across various fields of inquiry. It brings together papers discussing metaphysics, ethics and religion in the works of early modern authors (by chance, natural philosophy ends up absent from the list). Several of the issues mentioned above (the fight against skepticism, the difficulties in conceptualizing epistemic errors, moral.

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