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Aaron Wells
Paderborn University
  1. Science and the Principle of Sufficient Reason: Du Châtelet contra Wolff.Aaron Wells - 2023 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 13 (1):24–53.
    I argue that Émilie Du Châtelet breaks with Christian Wolff regarding the scope and epistemological content of the principle of sufficient reason, despite his influence on her basic ontology and their agreement that the principle of sufficient reason has foundational importance. These differences have decisive consequences for the ways in which Du Châtelet and Wolff conceive of science.
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  2. Du Châtelet, Induction, and Newton’s Rules for Reasoning.Aaron Wells - 2024 - European Journal of Philosophy 32.
    I examine Du Châtelet’s methodology for physics and metaphysics through the lens of her engagement with Newton’s Rules for Reasoning in Natural Philosophy. I first show that her early manuscript writings discuss and endorse these Rules. Then, I argue that her famous published account of hypotheses continues to invoke close analogues of Rules 3 and 4, despite various developments in her position. Once relevant experimental evidence and some basic constraints are met, it is legitimate to inductively generalize from observations; general (...)
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  3. Du Châtelet on Sufficient Reason and Empirical Explanation.Aaron Wells - 2021 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 59 (4):629-655.
    The Southern Journal of Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  4. Du Châtelet on the Need for Mathematics in Physics.Aaron Wells - 2021 - Philosophy of Science 88 (5):1137-1148.
    There is a tension in Emilie Du Châtelet’s thought on mathematics. The objects of mathematics are ideal or fictional entities; nevertheless, mathematics is presented as indispensable for an account of the physical world. After outlining Du Châtelet’s position, and showing how she departs from Christian Wolff’s pessimism about Newtonian mathematical physics, I show that the tension in her position is only apparent. Du Châtelet has a worked-out defense of the explanatory and epistemic need for mathematical objects, consistent with their metaphysical (...)
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  5.  88
    Kant, Infinite Space, and Decomposing Synthesis.Aaron Wells - manuscript
    Draft for presentation at the 14th International Kant-Congress, September 2024. -/- Abstract: Kant claims we intuit infinite space. There’s a problem: Kant thinks full awareness of infinite space requires synthesis—the act of putting representations together and comprehending them as one. But our ability to synthesize is finite. Tobias Rosefeldt has argued in a recent paper that Kant’s notion of decomposing synthesis offers a solution. This talk criticizes Rosefeldt’s approach. First, Rosefeldt is committed to nonconceptual yet determinate awareness of (potentially) infinite (...)
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  6. “In Nature as in Geometry”: Du Châtelet and the Post-Newtonian Debate on the Physical Significance of Mathematical Objects.Aaron Wells - 2023 - In Wolfgang Lefèvre (ed.), Between Leibniz, Newton, and Kant: Philosophy and Science in the Eighteenth Century. Springer Verlag. pp. 69-98.
    Du Châtelet holds that mathematical representations play an explanatory role in natural science. Moreover, she writes that things proceed in nature as they do in geometry. How should we square these assertions with Du Châtelet’s idealism about mathematical objects, on which they are ‘fictions’ dependent on acts of abstraction? The question is especially pressing because some of her important interlocutors (Wolff, Maupertuis, and Voltaire) denied that mathematics informs us about the properties of material things. After situating Du Châtelet in this (...)
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  7. Kant, Linnaeus, and the economy of nature.Aaron Wells - 2020 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 83:101294.
    Ecology arguably has roots in eighteenth-century natural histories, such as Linnaeus's economy of nature, which pressed a case for holistic and final-causal explanations of organisms in terms of what we'd now call their environment. After sketching Kant's arguments for the indispensability of final-causal explanation merely in the case of individual organisms, and considering the Linnaean alternative, this paper examines Kant's critical response to Linnaean ideas. I argue that Kant does not explicitly reject Linnaeus's holism. But he maintains that the indispensability (...)
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  8. Du Châtelet’s Philosophy of Mathematics.Aaron Wells - forthcoming - In Fatema Amijee (ed.), The Bloomsbury Handbook of Du Châtelet. Bloomsbury.
    I begin by outlining Du Châtelet’s ontology of mathematical objects: she is an idealist, and mathematical objects are fictions dependent on acts of abstraction. Next, I consider how this idealism can be reconciled with her endorsement of necessary truths in mathematics, which are grounded in essences that we do not create. Finally, I discuss how mathematics and physics relate within Du Châtelet’s idealism. Because the primary objects of physics are partly grounded in the same kinds of acts as yield mathematical (...)
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  9. Du Châtelet’s Libertarianism.Aaron Wells - 2022 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 38 (3):219-241.
    There is a growing consensus that Emilie Du Châtelet’s challenging essay “On Freedom” defends compatibilism. I offer an alternative, libertarian reading of the essay. I lay out the prima facie textual evidence for such a reading. I also explain how apparently compatibilist remarks in “On Freedom” can be read as aspects of a sophisticated type of libertarianism that rejects blind or arbitrary choice. To this end, I consider the historical context of Du Châtelet’s essay, and especially the dialectic between various (...)
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  10. Incompatibilism and the Principle of Sufficient Reason in Kant’s Nova Dilucidatio.Aaron Wells - 2022 - Journal of Modern Philosophy 4 (1:3):1-20.
    The consensus is that in his 1755 Nova Dilucidatio, Kant endorsed broadly Leibnizian compatibilism, then switched to a strongly incompatibilist position in the early 1760s. I argue for an alternative, incompatibilist reading of the Nova Dilucidatio. On this reading, actions are partly grounded in indeterministic acts of volition, and partly in prior conative or cognitive motivations. Actions resulting from volitions are determined by volitions, but volitions themselves are not fully determined. This move, which was standard in medieval treatments of free (...)
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  11. The Priority of Natural Laws in Kant’s Early Philosophy.Aaron Wells - 2021 - Res Philosophica 98 (3):469-497.
    It is widely held that, in his pre-Critical works, Kant endorsed a necessitation account of laws of nature, where laws are grounded in essences or causal powers. Against this, I argue that the early Kant endorsed the priority of laws in explaining and unifying the natural world, as well as their irreducible role in in grounding natural necessity. Laws are a key constituent of Kant’s explanatory naturalism, rather than undermining it. By laying out neglected distinctions Kant draws among types of (...)
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  12. Will do? Causes and volitions. [REVIEW]Aaron Wells - 2023 - Metascience 33 (1):91-93.
    Review of W. J. Mander, The Volitional Theory of Causation: From Berkeley to the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press, 2023.
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  13. Jörg Noller and John Walsh (eds.), Kant's Early Critics on Freedom of the Will[REVIEW]Aaron Wells - 2022 - Kantian Review 27 (4):673-677.
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  14. Ian Proops, The Fiery Test of Critique: A Reading of Kant’s Dialectic. [REVIEW]Aaron Wells - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (3):791-93.
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