Gravity's Cause and Substance Counting: Contextualizing the Problems

Abstract
This paper considers Newton’s position on gravity’s cause, both conceptually and historically. With respect to the historical question, I argue that while Newton entertained various hypotheses about gravity’s cause, he never endorsed any of them, and in particular, his lack of confidence in the hypothesis of robust and unmediated distant action by matter is explained by an inclination toward certain metaphysical principles. The conceptual problem about gravity’s cause, which I identified earlier along with a deeper problem about individuating substances, is that a decisive conclusion is impossible unless certain speculative aspects of his empiricism are abandoned. In this paper, I situate those conceptual problems in Newton’s natural philosophy. They arise from ideas that push empiricism to potentially self-defeating limits, revealing the danger of allowing immaterial spirits any place in natural philosophy, especially spatially extended spirits supposed capable of co-occupying place with material bodies. Yet because their source ideas are speculative, Newton’s method ensures that these problems pose no threat to his rational mechanics or the profitable core of his empiricism. They are easily avoided by avoiding their source ideas, and when science emerges from natural philosophy, it does so with an ontology unencumbered by immaterial spirits.
Keywords Action at a distance  Empiricism  Gravity  Isaac Newton  Metaphysical principles  Rational mechanics
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References found in this work BETA
Steffen Ducheyne (2011). Newton on Action at a Distance and the Cause of Gravity. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (1):154-159.
Alan Gabbey (2002). Newton, Active Powers, and the Mechanical Philosophy. In I. Bernard Cohen & George E. Smith (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Newton. Cambridge University Press. 329--357.
Hylarie Kochiras (2009). Gravity and Newton's Substance Counting Problem. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 40 (3):267-280.

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Citations of this work BETA
Lina Jansson (2013). Newton's “Satis Est”: A New Explanatory Role for Laws. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (4):553-562.
Hylarie Kochiras (2013). Causal Language and the Structure of Force in Newton'sSystem of the World. Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 3 (2):210-235.
Similar books and articles
Hylarie Kochiras (2009). Gravity and Newton's Substance Counting Problem. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 40 (3):267-280.
Hylarie Kochiras (2013). Causal Language and the Structure of Force in Newton'sSystem of the World. Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 3 (2):210-235.
Andrew Janiak (2007). Newton and the Reality of Force. Journal of the History of Philosophy 45 (1):127-147.
Steffen Ducheyne (2011). Newton on Action at a Distance and the Cause of Gravity. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (1):154-159.
Jonathan Bain (2004). Theories of Newtonian Gravity and Empirical Indistinguishability. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 35 (3):345--76.
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