Philosophia Scientiae 2 (3):103-135 (1997)

Scott A. Walter
Université de Nantes
The reception of Poincaré’s conventionalist doctrine of space by mathematicians is studied for the period 1891–1911. The opposing view of Riemann and Helmholtz, according to which the geometry of space is an empirical question, is shown to have swayed several geometers. This preference is considered in the context of changing views of the nature of space in theoretical physics, and with respect to structural and social changes within mathematics. Included in the latter evolution is the emergence of non-Euclidean geometry as a new sub-discipline.
Keywords conventionalism  problem of space  non-Euclidean geometry
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