Richard T. W. Arthur
McMaster University
In this paper I challenge the usual interpretations of Newton's and Leibniz's views on the nature of space and the relativity of motion. Newton's ‘relative space’ is not a reference frame; and Leibniz did not regard space as defined with respect to actual enduring bodies. Newton did not subscribe to the relativity of intertial motions; whereas Leibniz believed no body to be at rest, and Newton's absolute motion to be a useful fiction. A more accurate rendering of the opposition between them, I argue, leads to a wholly different understanding of Leibniz's theory of space, one which is not susceptible to the objections Newton had raised against Descartes regarding the representation of motion. This in turn suggests a new approach for contemporary theory of space, one which neither hypostatizes space nor tries to reduce it to relations among actual things. * This work was generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with a Fellowship for College Teachers and Independent Scholars (FB-26897-89), and also by a sabbatical leave from my institution, Middlebury College. Iam very grateful to various members of faculty of York University for their appreciative reception of an earlier one-week-old version of this paper. ‘Relative Space in Newton and Leibniz’, read to the Department of Philosophy there in January 1990, and to Robert Rynasiewicz for criticisms of an extract read at the 1991 History of Science meeting
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/bjps/45.1.219
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 64,178
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Leibniz’s Theory of Space.Richard T. W. Arthur - 2013 - Foundations of Science 18 (3):499-528.
Newton's Fluxions and Equably Flowing Time.Richard T. W. Arthur - 1995 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 26 (2):323-351.
Leibniz and Newton on Space.Ori Belkind - 2013 - Foundations of Science 18 (3):467-497.

View all 18 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
210 ( #49,768 of 2,455,022 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #179,282 of 2,455,022 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes