By their properties, causes and effects: Newton's scholium on time, space, place and motion--I. The text
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 26 (1):133-153 (1995)
As I have read the scholium, it divides into three main parts, not including the introductory paragraph. The first consists of paragraphs one to four in which Newton sets out his characterizations of absolute and relative time, space, place, and motion. Although some justificatory material is included here, notably in paragraph three, the second part is reserved for the business of justifying the characterizations he has presented. The main object is to adduce grounds for believing that the absolute quantities are indeed distinct from their relative measures and are not reducible to them. Paragraph five takes this up for the case of time. Paragraphs eight to twelve endeavor to do this for rest and motion by appealing to their properties, causes and effects. In arguing that absolute motion is not reducible to any particular form of the relative motion of bodies with respect to one another, and thus, as is directly argued in the third argument, must be understood in terms of motionless places, Newton thereby constructs an indirect case that absolute space is indeed something distinct from any relative space. Paragraph thirteen functions as conclusion to this line of inquiry and comments on how, in the light of this, the names of these quantities are to be interpreted in the scriptures. The third and final part consists of paragraph fourteen alone, and addresses the question: given that true motion is motion with respect to absolute space, but the parts of the latter are not perceivable, is it possible for us to know the true motions of individual bodies? Newton illustrates how this may be done from the evidence provided by their apparent motions and the forces which are the causes and effects of true motion. This forms a bridge to the body of the work insofar as the purpose of the Principia, according to Newton, is to show how this, and the converse problem, of inferring true and apparent motions from the forces, can be dealt with.Part II of this paper will appear in the next issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
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Citations of this work BETA
Michael Friedman (2007). Understanding Space-Time. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 38 (1):216--225.
Edward Slowik (2013). Newton's Neo-Platonic Ontology of Space. Foundations of Science 18 (3):419-448.
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Edward Slowik (2009). Newton's Metaphysics of Space: A “Tertium Quid” Betwixt Substantivalism and Relationism, or Merely a “God of the (Rational Mechanical) Gaps”? Perspectives on Science 17 (4):pp. 429-456.
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