Teleology, Cosmology, and Least Action

in The Man Who Flattened the Earth

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780226793603
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226793627 | DOI:
Teleology, Cosmology, and Least Action

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This chapter discusses Maupertuis's mature formulation of a teleological mechanics as the basis for a rationalist theology and a proof for God's existence. When Voltaire rather perversely entered the polemic in defense of König, the dispute became a full-blown literary quarrel, involving the Prussian king as well as the Berlin Academy. At stake in this apparent priority dispute were honor and reputation, certainly, but also the credibility of mechanics based on the principle of least action. In the aftermath of this bitter controversy, Maupertuis returned to the problems of generation and heredity, extending his earlier speculations on active matter and organization. Furthermore, this chapter argues that convincing proofs for God's existence must come instead from the general laws of nature. Such are the laws of motion “founded on the attributes of a supreme Intelligence.”

Keywords: teleology; cosmology; teleological mechanics; Berlin academy; nature; God's existence

Chapter.  20551 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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