The Constructible and the Intelligible in Newton's Philosophy of Geometry

Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1114-1124 (2003)
In the Preface to the Principia (1687) Newton famously states that “geometry is founded on mechanical practice”. Several commentators have taken this and similar remarks as an indication that Newton was firmly situated in the constructivist tradition of geometry that was prevalent in the seventeenth century. By drawing on a selection of Newton’s unpublished texts, I hope to show the faults of such an interpretation. In these texts, Newton not only rejects the constructivism that took its birth in Descartes’ Géométrie (1637); he also presents the science of geometry as being more powerful than his Principia remarks may lead us to believe.
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DOI 10.1086/377393
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