Mitieli Seixas da Silva New Voices Research Profile

My research aims to study the impact of the philosophical work of Émilie du Châtelet in the context of the 18th century discussion of the relationship between experience and reason in the search for scientific knowledge. As we know, the 18th century is heir to the profound revolution in the methods of science operated by Galileo Galilei in the 17th. According to historians, although experiments were used in science, it is only in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that it was allowed to appeal to experience to prove and test scientific hypotheses. That means, only in late eighteenth century has experience  acquired the status of a source of scientific knowledge by itself. The debate about the relationship between experience (represented sometimes by experiments, sometimes by the faculty of sensibility) and reason takes on an urgent character in this period and different philosophers – from the most varied currents – will dedicate their works to explore this relationship: Descartes, Leibniz, Wolff, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Newton, Voltaire, Kant. A typical list of modern philosophers as provided in manuals, however, does not usually include women representatives. The reality of the manuals does not survive recent historiography: the participation of women in history of philosophy has been systematically demonstrated. I believe that the French philosopher Émilie du Châtelet occupies a prominent place in this discussion for providing an example of both the synthesis of the terms of this debate and a source in itself to investigate other possible responses and biases in the interpretation of this relationship. This is because Du Châtelet not only conducted experiments with Voltaire, but also corresponded with Wolff and influenced the first writing by Immanuel Kant. For all those reasons, Émilie du Châtelet’s work is a primary source in my current research.


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