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The Man Who Flattened the EarthMaupertuis and the Sciences in the Enlightenment$
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Mary Terrall

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226793603

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226793627.001.0001

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Teleology, Cosmology, and Least Action

Teleology, Cosmology, and Least Action

Chapter:
(p.270) 9 Teleology, Cosmology, and Least Action
Source:
The Man Who Flattened the Earth
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226793627.003.0009

This chapter discusses Maupertuis's mature formulation of a teleological mechanics as the basis for a rationalist theology and a proof for God's existence. When Voltaire rather perversely entered the polemic in defense of König, the dispute became a full-blown literary quarrel, involving the Prussian king as well as the Berlin Academy. At stake in this apparent priority dispute were honor and reputation, certainly, but also the credibility of mechanics based on the principle of least action. In the aftermath of this bitter controversy, Maupertuis returned to the problems of generation and heredity, extending his earlier speculations on active matter and organization. Furthermore, this chapter argues that convincing proofs for God's existence must come instead from the general laws of nature. Such are the laws of motion “founded on the attributes of a supreme Intelligence.”

Keywords:   teleology, cosmology, teleological mechanics, Berlin academy, nature, God's existence

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