Chapter Eight of Du Châtelet’s Institutions de Physique

De la divisibilité et subtilité de la matiere

We have just added to our online edition of the Paris Manuscript of Du Châtelet’s Institutions de Physique the eighth manuscript chapter, which focuses on the divisibility of matter. You can read the transcriptions of the chapter and a full introduction here.

An excerpt from the introduction by Hanns-Peter Neumann and Aaron Wells, on significant changes in the revisions of the manuscript:

As the revisions progress, Du Châtelet significantly changes a discussion of Leibniz’s criticisms of Nicolas Hartsoeker’s matter theory. Per Hartsoeker, matter is made up of two basic kinds of elements, one perfectly elastic and the other perfectly hard. In all versions, Du Châtelet holds that Hartsoker’s theory violates the principle of sufficient reason. But the details of her criticisms differ. Among the many changes in version G, she adds the claim that the principle of sufficient reason is the touchstone (piere detouche) that distinguishes truth from falsity (156v). However, she goes on to suggest that the principle of sufficient reason does not tell us, positively, how many kinds of matter there are: a demonstrative role is left to experience or experiment (l’experience).


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