Dynamics and Reason: A Workshop on Du Châtelet and Kant

Dynamics and Reason: A Workshop on Du Châtelet and Kant

Paderborn University and online, 9th–10th February 2023


Despite a recent surge of scholarly interest in Émilie Du Châtelet, we are far from adequately understanding many dimensions of her work and its influence. Kant’s relation to Du Châtelet raises particular challenges. He read her work and responded to it in his first publication on “Living Forces.” It remains unclear, however, to what extent he was influenced by other key features of her work, such as her theory of space and time, her distinctive version of idealism, and her account of mathematical objects as partly dependent on our faculty of imagination. Other fruitful topics include, but are not limited to: the theory of hypotheses; matter theory and infinite divisibility; the nature of fire and imponderable fluids; the historical background to Kant’s Phoronomy; the Kant–Eberhard controversy; and critical responses to Descartes and Cartesianism. Moreover, there are outstanding questions regarding the intellectual context of these philosophers, including connecting figures such as Euler, Maupertuis, Formey, and Kästner. There is also the possibility of indirect influence on Kant and his contemporaries, especially via participants in the 1740s ‘monad controversy’ (which Kant engaged with in early works such as the Physical Monadology, ‘Prize Essay,’ and Dreams of a Spirit-Seer).

We are excited to announce a workshop, Dynamics and Reason, that will address these questions. This event, which will take place on 9 and 10 February 2023, will be the world’s first conference devoted to these two thinkers. The authors of accepted submissions will be invited to contribute papers to an edited volume, to be published by Springer.

We are delighted to welcome the following invited speakers:

Emily Carson (McGill University): “Revisiting Kant and Du Châtelet on mathematical truth”

Silvia De Bianchi (University of Milan): “Kant and the Foundations of Natural Science: How do we Bridge the Gap between Physics and Metaphysics?”

Katherine Dunlop (University of Texas, Austin): “Time and Change in Du Châtelet and Kant”

Hartmut Hecht (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences): “On the Difficulties in Accepting Newton’s Dynamics”

Klaus Mainzer (Technical University of Munich): “From Du Chatelet to Kant: Absolute and Relative Space in Classical Dynamics”

We are also happy to announce talks by Clara Carus (Paderborn University), Yual Chiek and Tuomas Pernu (St. John’s University and University of Eastern Finland), William Marsolek (Ohio State University), Michael Veldman (Duke University), and Aurora Yu (University of North Carolina).

The full schedule is available here.

The workshop will be conducted primarily in person, in order to facilitate feedback and philosophical discussion. Therefore, we prefer that guests attend in person. To register, please contact Aaron Wells (wells@mail.upb.de). If attending in person is not possible, you may send us a request for remote attendance. To do so, please send an email containing your name, affiliation, and rationale for attending (approximately one paragraph) to wells@mail.upb.de, by noon CET on the 8th of February. We look forward to seeing you!

The workshop is hosted at the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists (director: Ruth E. Hagengruber), and organized by Ruth E. Hagengruber and Aaron Wells. Additional funding support has been generously provided by Jeff McDonough and the Harvard History of Philosophy Workshop.

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