Contemporary Philosophy in Focus by Thomas Nickles (ed) PDF

By Thomas Nickles (ed)

ISBN-10: 0792343204

ISBN-13: 9780792343202

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Indeed, the central thought of his Identity and Reality (1930, first published in 1908) is that genuine scientific knowledge and understanding can never be the result of mere lawfulness (l´egalit´e ) but must instead answer to the mind’s a priori logical demand for identity (identit´e ). And the primary requirement resulting from this demand is precisely that some underlying substance be conserved as absolutely unchanging and self-identical in all sensible alterations of nature. Thus, the triumph of the scientific revolution, for Meyerson, is represented by the rise of mechanistic atomism, wherein elementary corpuscles preserve their sizes, shapes, and masses while merely changing their mutual positions in uniform and homogeneous space via motion; this same demand for transtemporal identity is also represented, in more recent times, by Lavoisier’s use of the principle of the conservation of matter in his new chemistry and by the discovery of the conservation of energy.

According to Poincar´e, whereas no particular geometry – neither Euclidean nor non-Euclidean – is an a priori condition of our spatial intuition, it does not follow that the choice between them, as Helmholtz thought, is empirical. For there remains an irreducible gulf between our crude and approximate sensory experience and our precise mathematical descriptions of nature. Establishing one or another system of geometry, Poincar´e argues, therefore requires a free choice, a convention of our own – based, in the end, on the greater mathematical simplicity of the Euclidean system.

This recognition, for Koyr´e, harmonizes with Plato’s original insistence on the unbridgeable gulf between ideal mathematical forms and the empirical realities given by sense, and also with Hegel’s emphasis on the essentially dialectical nature of time (compare note 38; Koyr´e [1931] likens Meyerson’s method to Husserl’s as well). Koyr´e’s conception of the mathematization of nature is thus ultimately Cartesian, in that it takes as its ideal the reduction of all physics to pure geometry and thus to space – infinite and unchanging, uniform and homogeneous.

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Contemporary Philosophy in Focus by Thomas Nickles (ed)


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