Today, hypotheses determine our scientific activity, and no one doubts that hypotheses are an essential tool of science. This was not always the case, on the contrary. Rather, the recognition of hypotheses as a crucial element for innovation in science marked a radical change when Émilie Du Châtelet proposed hypotheses as the relevant research tool, to replace the search for causes by reason. It was not only the status of hypotheses and their function that were contested. Du Châtelet’s defense of the hypothetical conjecture served to change the idea of science and consequently the idea of its architecture. The epistemic importance of principles and observation was relativized as it became a control instrument for the power of drafting hypotheses. Moreover, Du Châtelet equates her own epistemological turn with that how Copernicus, who “simply did the opposite”, when he reversed the perspective. For all these reasons, the fourth chapter in the Institutions physiques, is a core chapter of Du Châtelet’s own methodology and to retrace its impact. Du Châtelet’s chapter on hypotheses was influential and found its way into the writings of d’Alembert, Condillac, Euler and Kant and its influence continued into the 19th and 20th centuries, though her authorship was faded out.
This year, as every year, we would like to remember a wonderful woman philosopher and scientist and celebrate her birthday. As part of the popular “Conversations with Diotima” series, Dr. Aaron Wells interviewed Prof. Ruth E. Hagengruber on “Hypotheses in du Châtelet’s Institutions de physique.” The interview discusses Du Châtelet’s intervention in an important eighteenth-century debate about the status of scientific hypotheses, her innovative approach to scientific method and metaphysics, the often neglected influence of her work on later thinkers–and much more!
Check it out here.
See here the previous celebrations of Émilie du Châtelets Birthday:
2022: The Paris Manuscript
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