Marij van Strien

Affiliation: 

Ghent University

How continuity became a convention: Poincaré on the applicability of differential calculus in physics

In the early twentieth century, Poincaré argued that it is through convention that we can apply differential calculus in physics. I argue that this was motivated by real concerns about the applicability of differential calculus in physics, which arose around 1900 as a consequence of the idea that the mathematical framework used in physical theories may stand in a non-trivial relationship to physical reality itself.