Online: New Voices Talk Series on Émilie du Châtelet

You can now find all talks from the Émilie du Châtelet Talk Series on our YouTube Channel!

The first presentation, was given by Andrea Reichenberger on Émilie Du Châtelet as a Key Figure of the European Enlightenment: Challenges and Perspectives for Research and Teaching Practices.” This online talk was be hosted on Zoom on the 19th of May at 5PM CET. Andrea Reichenberger works on history and philosophy of science, currently at the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Hagen, Germany. She is especially interested in women’s contributions to logic, mathematics and computer science, because it is of the utmost importance to show (especially to younger generations) the impact of female researchers to the history of philosophy and science. Andrea has published numerous articles on this subject in journals, edited volumes, and encyclopedias. These include studies on Émilie Du Châtelet, Grete Hermann, and Ilse Rosenthal-Schneider. Previously, she worked on research projects including the DFG research project Thought Experiment, Metaphor, Model at the Institute for Philosophy I at the Ruhr University Bochum. She has also worked at the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists (HWPS) at Paderborn University. Her doctoral dissertation was published by Springer as Émilie Du Châtelets Institutions physiques in 2016.

Abstract of the talk: Émilie Du Châtelet (1706–1749) is among those women who illuminated the Enlightenment through their writings. Through their intellectual salons, women played a pivotal role in spreading the ideas of the European Enlightenment. But Du Châtelet accomplished still more than that. She was among the French mathematicians, physicists and philosophers who revolutionized science and altered the way we look at the world. In Cirey, she established a research center which became part of an elite network, linked to the European academies. She transformed and modernized the physics of Newton’s Principia, and laid a solid foundation for the principle of the conservation of energy. Her thoughts found their way into the Encyclopédie, and her engagement in favor of human reason played an important role in the intellectual movements shaping the face of Enlightenment philosophy. This talk will address some of the challenges for current Du Châtelet scholarship concerning research and teaching practices. These challenges concern, for example, a possible new critical edition of Du Châtelet’s Principia-commentary (research) and the question of the teaching practice of classical mechanics, its philosophy, and its history (science education).

Stephen Harrop is a Lecturer in the department of philosophy at Mount Holyoke College. He got his PhD from Yale in 2022, and has interests in both early modern philosophy and contemporary metaphysics. Stephen Harrop presented “Du Châtelet’s Cosmological Argument in the Institutions de Physique.” This online talk was hosted on Zoom on Thursday the 21st of July at 5PM CET

Abstract of the talk: In the Institutions de Physique, Emilie Du Chatelet offers a cosmological argument for the existence of God. This argument bears a number of similarities to arguments offered by Locke, Leibniz, and Wolff. I argue that Du Chatelet’s argument is not merely derivative, but instead constitutes an improvement over these in a number of respects. It is an improvement on Locke’s, since it patches a key equivocation in his argument (noticed by, among others, Leibniz in the New Essays). It is an improvement on Leibniz’s, in that it is both more rhetorically effective and more detailed. And it is an improvement on Wolff’s, because it heads off a potential Humean objection to Wolff’s argument.

The next talk was by Eszter Kovács, with ”Lost in Transition: Émilie Du Châtelet and the Encyclopédie.” This online talk was hosted on Zoom on Thursday the 30th of June at 5PM CET. Eszter Kovács is an assistant research fellow at the Research Institute for Politics and Government of the University of Public Service, Budapest. She is also an associate member of the institute IHRIM (Lyon). She holds an MA in French and in Hungarian, and a PhD in French literature. She carried out studies in philosophy while a postdoctoral researcher in literature at the University of Szeged. She is currently working on a PhD in philosophy, dedicated to early modern female conceptions of liberty. Her main research interests include Diderot, Montesquieu, Émilie Du Chatelet, and Mary Astell.

Abstract of the talk: Émilie Du Châtelet’s place in the *Encyclopédie* has been discussed by Koffi Maglo in 2008 and Glenn Roe, who have
demonstrated extensive borrowings from Du Chatelet’s *Foundations* without explicit reference to the author or her work. In 2017, while working on Châtelet’s conception of freedom, I discovered that the entry on *Dieu* borrows verbatim §25 of the *Foundations*, which offers a definition of divine freedom. I have later identified passages borrowed from the *Foundations* in the entry *Uniforme*, as well as a likely paraphrase in *Succession*. Furthermore, Du Châtelet’s ideas on freedom appear in the entry *Liberté*, while an idea close to hers on divine foreknowledge appears in the entries *Fortuit* and *Optimisme*, both written by D’Alembert.
These results together mean that Du Châtelet’s thought can be found in some twenty entries and we can count on further findings. Verbatim borrowings from the Foundations in the *Encyclopédie* originate from Samuel Formey, while in D’Alembert’s thought we can find a methodological resemblance with Du Châtelet’s work. Searching for Châtelet’s influence in Diderot’s thought is somewhat fruitless. However, as I will point out, the Newtonian idea of “absolute rest”, discussed in the Foundations, which was reused in the entry* Repos* of the *Encyclopédie*, also reappears in Diderot’s *Principes philosophiques sur la matière et le movement* (1770).

Susana Seguin presented Émilie Du Châtelet and clandestine literature.” This online talk was hosted on Zoom on Thursday the 28th of July at 5PM CET. Susana Seguin is a Senior Lecturer in the department of French Literature at the University of Montpellier, and researcher at the ENS of Lyon. She is interested in the 18th century French literature, clandestine literature, philosophy, philosophy of science,  Fontenelle, Voltaire and du Châtelet.

Abstract of the talk: Although Émilie Du Châtelet’s philosophical and scientific works are now well known to scholars, her place in the world of philosophical clandestinity still raises many questions. This presentation will review the Examens de la Bible in the context of the clandestine philosophical manuscripts and present the digital edition project of this work currently under preparation.

The next presentation in the Summer 2022 series of New Voices talks was Mitieli Seixas da Silva (UFSM, Brazil), giving a paper on “Analysis and Mathematics in Du Châtelet’s Method for Truth.” This online talk was hosted on Zoom on Thursday the 18th of August, at 5PM CET. Mitieli Seixas da Silva is professor of Philosophy at the Federal University of Santa Maria (Brazil). She holds a Master’s degree from the Erasmus Mundus Europhilosophie Consortium of the Université du Luxembourg (2011) and a PhD in Philosophy from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (2016). Her research focuses primarily on the following areas: Émilie du Châtelet’s epistemology, women in the history of modern philosophy, Kantian theoretical philosophy, teaching and philosophy, and virtue epistemology applied to education.
Abstract of the talk: The talk will review a philosophical dispute over the introduction of new methods of proof in mathematics associated with the notion of analysis, in order to investigate the reason why Émilie du Châtelet considered it necessary to introduce a Solution Analytique in her translation of Newton’s Principia. This exegesis will allow us to draw some lessons about the method for science in general within Émilie du Châtelet’s philosophical project.

Marcy Lascano (University of Kansas) gave a paper on “Du Châtelet on the Powers of Minds and Bodies.” This online talk will be hosted on Zoom on Thursday the 22nd of September, at 5PM CET. Marcy P. Lascano is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kansas. She has published work on Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Mary Astell, Damaris Masham, and Emilie du Châtelet. Her first book The Metaphysics of Margaret Cavendish and Anne Conway: Monism, Vitalism, and Self-Motion will be available in February 2023.

Abstract of the talk: Emilie du Châtelet’s views on the nature of powers of minds and bodies is fairly straightforward. She maintains that all bodies and minds have a power of self-motion. However, her accounts of the exemplification of these powers takes us into some of the most perplexing issues in her metaphysical system. In this paper, I will explicate her views on powers, the nature of minds and bodies, and lay out some of the reasons why one might think her account is inconsistent. In discussing these issues, I will draw on some recent work by Katherine Brading on the nature of bodies and why du Châtelet might be committed to a form of hard determinism. I will also discuss issues about the powers of the mind and argue for a new way of reading du Châtelet’s “On Liberty.”

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