Mosaic, n° 18: Physics

Thanks to the scientific education given to middle and high school students, when the word “physics” comes to mind, “chemistry” comes to mind. But when the determiner is attached to this noun, the meaning explodes. If we look at the article compiled by D’Alembert for Le Dictionnaire raisonné alone, there are at least seventeen cross-references. To define physics is to assess its history through theories and systems, to study motion as well as nature, bodies and spaces, mathematics, and astronomy. Therefore, only “physics” avoids a simple theory and contains various problems; and the humanities have a role to play.

Since it is necessary to approach such diverse fields, such a complex history and a very rich scientific (or not) literature, we preferred to propose the topic of “physics” to think about the writings written by philosophers, historians, literary critics. , semioticians, specialists of ancient, medieval, modern and modern times, on the one hand, to assess the evolution of the concepts of physics according to time and philosophical and intellectual circles, on the other hand, numerous fields. The great freedom of the subject, limiting only the “humanistic” approach, thus allowed the development of a heterogeneous matter, like the definition of “physics”.

The issue presents five articles that approach physics from a unique angle. Thus, we will appreciate the share of scientific objects, their displacement and conservation after the French Revolution (Vincent Guillaume), as well as the share of representation of scientific allegory, especially Urania, in clock ornamentation. Marie-Ange Jesu Duchatel). Leaving the world of objects behind, we can discover the early days of the “new physics” in the classical period with Marine Mersenne and the role music played in this epistemic revolution (Julien Gominet-Brun). Finally, two articles will allow us to understand the importance of expression in physics: on the one hand, a study of the philosophical theories of antiquity will offer a journey into Plato’s work to grasp the rhetorical mechanisms of his thought. set against Aristotle’s, accused of being based on “metaphors” (Marion Pollaert); on the other hand, a study of the ethics of the popularizer of science will examine the verbal and non-verbal tools that enable the explanation of a greater number of theories and systems of modern physics (Adrien Mathy). Finally, we will offer an interview with Bernard Joly, a member of the “sect” of historians of alchemy, which finally allows us to consider the great neglect of natural science and to question the reasons for this oversight.

It will be understood that Physics is and continues to be an example of what the humanities say, what they take, all of what is called hard science, and not the opposite. Therefore, what is offered today is a dialogue between two universes, certainly separated by school programs and university fields, but not alien to each other.



1. Vincent Guillaume (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) p. 3-21

Tools for the Republic
Formation, preservation and use of national physical collections during the French Revolution

2. Marie-Ange Jesu Duchatel (University of Lille) p. 22-37

Allegory of Urania or astronomy
A privileged figure in the clock ornament of the 18th and early 19th centuries

3. Julien Gominet-Brun (Montpellier 3 University) p. 38-52

Music and PhysicsUniversal Harmony Marine Mersenne (1636)

4. Marion Pollaert (University of Lille) p. 53-71

Physical explanation of Platonic forms, myth and causation
A Critical Reading of Aristotle’s Criticism of Plato’s Physics

5. Adrien Mathy (University of Liège) p. 72-89

Ethical modalities and counter-staging of two ‘doing science’ in physics
String theory and its critique by a proponent of an alternative view of quantum gravity

6. Interview with Bernard Joly (comments collected by Marine Bastide De Sousa, Clémence Sadaillan and Valentin Meriaux) p. 90 – 103

“Sect of Historians of Science”


Sea Bastide De Sousa, Alithila, LETTERS

Valentin Mériaux, IRiS, HISTORY

Clémence Sadaillan, STL, PHILOSOPHY

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