Du Châtelet on the Need for Mathematics in Physics by Aaron Wells

Talk  | 12.11.2021  | Du Châtelet on the Need for Mathematics in Physics  | Aaron Wells

On the 12th of November Aaron Wells is giving a talk on “Du Châtelet on the Need for Mathematics in Physics,” at the biennial meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, in Baltimore, MD, USA.He is going to present in the Section History of Physics. Aaron Wells is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists. He is working on the digital critical edition of the Paris manuscript of Du Châtelet’s Institutions de Physique.

For further information on the program and talk, click here: https://psa2020.philsci.org/program-schedule/sponsor-lounge/program/84/history-of-physics 

There is a tension in Emilie Du Châtelet’s thought on mathematics. The objects of mathematics are ideal or fictional entities; nevertheless, mathematics is presented as indispensable for an account of the physical world. After outlining Du Châtelet’s position, and showing how she departs from Christian Wolff’s pessimism about Newtonian mathematical physics, I show that the tension in her position is only apparent. Du Châtelet has a worked-out defense of the and epistemic need for mathematical objects, consistent with their metaphysical non-fundamentality. I conclude by sketching how Du Châtelet’s conception of mathematical indispensability differs interestingly from many contemporary approaches.

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