Maupertuis’s Principle of Least Action: Epistemology and Metaphysics
Keywords:Maupertuis, principle of least action, Newton, Leibniz, epistemology, metaphysics
AbstractThe paper deals with Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis’s (1698-1759) writings on the principle of least action (PLA). I discuss Maupertuis’s philosophical interpretation of the PLA by analysing three of his papers (1740, 1744, 1746), in order to assess the overall consistency of his argument. As I shall argue, Maupertuis presents the PLA as a universal principle of nature, this being at odds with the empiricist inspiration of his epistemology. Maupertuis’s attempt to introduce conceptual elements borrowed from the Leibnizian tradition into a Newtonian-inspired framework creates in fact a tension that is difficult to overcome.
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