Sources of Enlightenment Newtonianism

in The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780226749457
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226749471 | DOI:
Sources of Enlightenment Newtonianism

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Between the publication of Isaac Newton's Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica in 1687 and his death in 1727, the tenor of intellectual life within the Republic of Letters underwent a transformation. The change resulted in a new comfort with openly partisan criticism, one that made possible the critical energies of the Newton wars and those in turn of the French Enlightenment. The new discourse of Newtonianism that developed within the Republic of Letters after 1715 gave rise to a new Enlightenment criticism. This chapter examines the dynamics that led to these shifts, as well as their effect in producing the new critical discourses of Newtonianism. It focuses on the career of the Swiss savant Jean-Pierre de Crousaz to tie together the arguments. The discussion begins by looking at Newtonian physics in the Republic of Letters circa 1715. It then discusses Newtonian science, eighteenth-century journalism, and the new radical philosophy. It also examines the debate between Pierre Rémond de Montmort and Brook Taylor. The chapter concludes by considering critical Newtonianism and the new experimental philosophy that emerged during the period.

Keywords: science; France; Isaac Newton; Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica; Enlightenment; Jean-Pierre de Crousaz; Pierre Rémond de Montmort; Brook Taylor; journalism; experimental philosophy

Chapter.  25989 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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