Chapter

Natural Philosophy and the Republic of Letters

Stephen Gaukroger

in The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of Sensibility

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199594931
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595745 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199594931.003.0007
Natural Philosophy and the Republic of Letters

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Three developments are explored in this chapter. The first is the attempt by the French Crown to act as absolute arbiter and guardian of standards by means of the institution of various Académies. The second was the gradual appearance of a Republic of Letters in which any claim to a monopoly of judgements of cognitive worth was quickly undermined. Fontenelle was a key player in both these developments. The third was the way in which the rise of Newtonianism in the 1730s threatened the prevalent understanding of natural philosophy and opened up the question of its standing. The crucial figure here was Maupertuis.

Keywords: Académie des Science; Republic of Letters; Bernard Fontenelle; Pierre Maupertuis; Newtonianism; shape of the earth; Enlightenment

Chapter.  14744 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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