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10 - 14 October 2016

Émilie Du Châtelet on Space and Time

Autumn School | 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM | Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists

The dispute between Leibniz and Newton on the nature of space and time is legendary. The famous correspondence between Leibniz, Clarke and Caroline reflects the methodological and metaphysical differences between Leibniz and the Newtonians in their approaches to natural philosophy. Less known, but no less remarkable is Émilie Du Châtelet’s analysis and discussion of this dispute in her principal work Foundations of Physics (Institutions de physiques 1740/42). In contrast to many of her contemporaries – including Voltaire with his Éléments de la philosophie de Newton – Du Châtelet was not willing to follow a one-sided Newtonianism nor a one-sided Leibnizianism. Therefore, she designed her own blueprint of the “building of physics” where especially the chapters about space and time play an important role for they operate as a link between the general principles of our knowledge (including the justification of employing hypotheses) and the subsequent consideration of matter, bodies, motion and forces. Such consistent and embracing course was only composed before by Rohault on a Cartesian basis. The Institutions can be considered as a document of the refutation of Cartesianism in France which paved simultaneously the way for further developments. Du Châtelet reconsidered the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence and presented a reformulated version of the spacetime problem that anticipates, in some sense, the decisive role of space and time which is known from Immanuel Kant’s later work.

Together with the physicist Dr. Dr. Suisky from Humboldt University Berlin Du Châtelet’s chapters about space and time will be read and discussed in comparison to passages from the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence and Kant’s texts. Leonard Euler’s important work Betrachtungen über Raum und Zeit (Réflexions sur l’espace et le tems) will be considered as well.

The Seminar is held in German language. It is planned to continue the Reading School “Émilie Du Châtelet” with Part II: “Émilie Du Châtelet on matter, bodies, motion and forces” (Summer School 2017).


Prof. Dr. Ruth Hagengruber (Paderborn University, Germany; Center History of Women Philosophers and Scientists),

Dr. Andrea Reichenberger (Paderborn University, Germany; Center History of Women Philosophers and Scientists),

Dr. Dr. Dieter Suisky (Humboldt University, Germany)

Paderborn University;

October 10th – Friday, October 14th [9:00-13:00]

10 - 14 October 2016

9:00 AM - 1:00 PM


Paderborn University
Warburger Str. 100
Paderborn, Germany
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