Diderot, Mathematics and the Idea of a Scientific Revolution: Retake of a Recurrent Theme

Abstract

Diderot's relationship with mathematics is controversial, as he progressively denies their explanatory value without fully abandoning its practice. The main interpreters of his epistemology have considered that such a departure results from a formative fragility or a reorientation to the new fields of biology and chemistry. In this paper, differently, we seek to show that the reasons are of a philosophical kind, depending on how the notion of an ongoing scientific revolution determines the need to deactivate the henceforth outdated scientific paradigm and to seek for the epistemological conditions of the alternative that is already operating.

Keywords: Denis Diderot; Epistemology of mathematics; Scientific revolutions; Materialist paradigm; Enlightenment


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