Colloquium Dec 12: *Émilie du Châtelet on Space & Time* by Clara Carus


Émilie du Châtelet took up a unique position within the heated debate on the absolute or relative being of time and space in the Early Modern era. While she agreed with Leibniz that time and space are relative beings, dependent upon the real beings they were abstracted

from, she was the first scientist to explain how the notion of absolute space and time comes about and to legitimise the use of the ‘imaginary being’ of absolute space and time without relationship to ‘real beings’ in the sciences. She was the first scientist to offer an

epistemological explanation for the relative being of space and time and for the imaginary notion of absolute space and time. Du Châtelet arrives at this epistemological explanation of the concept of space and time through a new method she develops and employs: an analysis of our ideas of space of time, which she also calls an investigation into the formation of the ideas of space and time. In this presentation I will outline Émilie du Châtelet’s unique position within the space/time debate and present her original approach to the topic of their relative or absolute being.


After a 2 year post-doc at Harvard University, Dr. Clara Carus became Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists and at the Philosophy Department of Paderborn University, Germany. Her main interest lies in

comprehensive principal questions in the history of philosophy with regard to truth and knowledge. Main figures in her publications are Émilie du Châtelet, Elisabeth von Böhmen, René Descartes, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Christian Wolff, Immanuel Kant, and Martin

Heidegger. Furthermore, Dr. Carus has been very active in promoting and pursuing research on women in the history of philosophy. She is the co-founder and organiser of New Voices on Women in the History of Philosophy and its Talk Series.