In Between Leibniz, Newton, and Kant, Second Edition. Springer (forthcoming)

Aaron Wells
Universität-GH Paderborn
Du Châtelet holds that mathematical representations play an explanatory role in natural science. Moreover, things proceed in nature as they do in geometry. How should we square these assertions with Du Châtelet’s idealism about mathematical objects, on which they are ‘fictions’ dependent on acts of abstraction? The question is especially pressing because some of her important interlocutors (Wolff, Maupertuis, and Voltaire) denied that mathematics informs us about the properties of real things. After situating Du Châtelet in this debate, this chapter argues, first, that her account of the origins of mathematical objects is less subjectivist than it might seem. Mathematical objects are non-arbitrary, public entities. While mathematical objects are partly mind-dependent, so too are material things. Mathematical objects can approximate the material. Second, it is argued that this moderate metaphysical position underlies Du Châtelet’s persistent claims that mathematics is required for certain kinds of general knowledge, including in natural science. The chapter concludes with an illustrative example: an analysis of Du Châtelet’s argument that matter is continuous. A key but overlooked premise in the argument is that mathematical representations and material nature correspond.
Keywords Emilie Du Châtelet  idealism  fictionalism  continuity
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

True Enough.Catherine Z. Elgin - 2017 - Cambridge: MIT Press.
Realism, Mathematics and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.
Critique of Pure Reason.I. Kant - 1787/1998 - Philosophy 59 (230):555-557.
Fiction and Metaphysics.Amie L. Thomasson - 1998 - Cambridge University Press.
Metaphysical Themes, 1274–1671.Robert Pasnau - 2011 - Oxford University Press.

View all 34 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Science and the Principle of Sufficient Reason: Du Châtelet Contra Wolff.Aaron Wells - forthcoming - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Du Châtelet on the Need for Mathematics in Physics.Aaron Wells - 2021 - Philosophy of Science 88 (5):1137-1148.
Du Châtelet’s Philosophy of Mathematics.Aaron Wells - forthcoming - In The Bloomsbury Companion to Du Châtelet. Bloomsbury.
Continuity in Nature and in Mathematics: Du Châtelet and Boscovich.Marij Van Strien - 2017 - In Michela Massimi, Jan-Willem Romeijn & Gerhard Schurz (eds.), EPSA15 Selected Papers. Springer. pp. 71-82.
Emilie du Chatelet's Metaphysics of Substance.Marius Stan - 2018 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 56 (3):477-496.
Émilie Du Châtelet on Space and Time.Andrea Reichenberger - 2021 - Revue d'Histoire des Sciences 2021 (2): 331-355.
Du Chatelet: Idealist About Extension, Bodies and Space.Caspar Jacobs - 2020 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 82:66-74.
Émilie Du Châtelet on Illusions.Marcy P. Lascano - 2021 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 7 (1):1-19.
« La Minerve vient de faire sa physique »1.Anne-Lise Rey - 2017 - Philosophiques 44 (2):233-253.


Added to PP index

Total views
52 ( #218,265 of 2,507,713 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
52 ( #16,348 of 2,507,713 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes