Segments in this Video

The Elegant Truth: Introduction (04:22)


Angela Breitenbach concerns herself with the beauty of theories and elegance of scientific proofs; quoting the French Mathematician Henri Poincare, Breitenbach explains the aesthetic of a theory motivates the scholar and indicates the truth of the theory.

History of Aesthetic Theories (09:41)

The Platonic Ideal is what, according to Breitenbach, inspired many discussions of beauty and elegance in science; Poincare believes beauty comes from the harmonious parts of a theory; some claim aesthetic theories are more likely to be found true because nature itself is beautiful. Johannes Kepler’s elliptical model of planetary motion was, at first, rejected due to its jarring aesthetic.

Shared Aesthetic Appreciation (09:08)

Breitenbach asserts the current question is whether the thought of beauty as a basis for scientific theories should be rejected, which would account for historical evidence; however, the appeal aesthetic judgments have for scientists goes unexplained. The idea that aesthetic theories are connected to a person’s cognitive abilities is essentially Kantian in spirit.

Concluding Aesthetic Theories (07:55)

Students of science will have the same response to beautiful, symmetrical theories as the scientists and mathematicians who formulate the theories; unified theories are easier to understand and gain a reflective aesthetic response, according to Breitenbach. Referring to Heisenberg's pronouncements about the excitement of designing the theory of quantum mechanics, Breitenbach concludes aesthetics are a reason to take a theory seriously.

Credits: The Elegant Truth (00:21)

Credits: The Elegant Truth

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From Charles Darwin to Watson and Crick, scientists seek truth in beauty. The Speaker Cambridge philosopher and Leverhulmen Trust Fellow Angela Breitenbach investigates elegance.

Length: 32 minutes

Item#: BVL145301

ISBN: 978-1-64198-474-4

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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