The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment
A comprehensive study of public culture, The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment digs below the surface of the commonplace narratives that link Newton with Enlightenment thought to examine the actual historical changes that brought them together in eighteenth-century time and space. Drawing on the full range of early modern scientific sources, from studied scientific treatises and academic papers to book reviews, commentaries, and private correspondence, J. B. Shank challenges the widely accepted claim that Isaac Newton’s solitary genius is the reason for his iconic status as the father of modern physics and the philosophe movement.
"J. B. Shank’s project is ambitious: to debunk the myth of the French Enlightenment as the direct intellectual descendant of Isaac Newton. For Shank, there was nothing inevitable about the uses made in France of Newton’s work.....This is a good book, well researched and readable....In this light, the major virtue of Shank’s study is not that it offers an entirely new interpretation of the origins of the French Enlightenment, but that it provides a novel perspective on traditional accounts."
List of Abbreviations
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Provincializing Newton, or Building in the Ruins of a Grand Narrative of Modernity
Part 1: Before the Light: Newton and French Science before 1728
Chapter 1: Newton without Newtonianism: French Mathematical Science in the Early Eighteenth Century
Chapter 2: Sources of Enlightenment Newtonianism: Toward a New Climate of Science in France after 1715
Chapter 3: Preparing the Battlefield: Fighting For and Against Newton after 1715
Part 2: The Newton Wars in France
Chapter 4: The Invention of French Newtonianism: Maupertuis and Voltaire
Chapter 5: Making the “Philosophe”: Voltaire’s Newtonianism and the Scandal of the Lettres philosophiques
Chapter 6: A French Culture War: The Battle over Newtonianism
Chapter 7: Leibnizianism and the Solidification of the French Enlightenment
Coda: Instituting the French Enlightenment: Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie