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Readings in the History and Philosophy of Science

December 14, 2019 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Last meeting we finished up an extended discussion of George Smith’s ‘How Newton’s Principia changed physics’ (page 360 in Janiak and Schliesser (ed.), “Interpreting Newton”) and we made some headway into the Preface of Kant’s ‘Metaphysical foundations of natural science’. For our next meeting let’s delve into the Third Division of Kant’s work, the twenty pages on ‘Metaphysical foundations of mechanics’. But we’ll use these 20 pages as a resource. For the purposes of formatting our discussion, let’s go through Michael Friedman’s key to the Metaphysical Foundations, his ‘Kant’s construction of nature’. The chapter entitled ‘Mechanics’ (page 275) is long (about 140 pages), but it recapitulates quite well our earlier material – kinematics versus dynamics and mechanics, Galileo, Descartes, Leibnitz, the vis viva controversy – and it puts these in a Newtonian and Kantian context. Let’s figure on spending two sessions on this chapter from Friedman. To obtain Kant’s ‘Metaphysical foundations of natural science’, see the link at https://ia800203.us.archive.org/23/items/cu31924029022213/cu31924029022213.pdf and for Friedman’s ‘Kant’s construction of nature’: http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/assets/pdf_file/0016/38311/KCN.pdf Just to reiterate, the reading material for the next session is about half of the Mechanics chapter (beginning on page 275) from Friedman’s ‘Kant’s construction of nature’. Friedman is liberal with his quotes from the Kant text, and so, for the purposes of our discussion, Kant’s ‘Metaphysical foundations of mechanics’ is optional.

After the next two sessions, essentially Kant’s interpretation of Newton, we’ll be into the 19th century and electrodynamics. Although related to topics we’ve broached, ‘action at a distance’ and evolving notions of energy, the New Year will see a proliferation of new leaves. These will include matters such as statistics and statistical mechanics, new logics and geometries, and experiments that probe deep into ‘unintuitive’ regions with sophisticated equipment.


December 14, 2019
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
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