Philosophy of Science 55 (4):614-630 (1988)

Abstract
Traditionally, forces are causes of a special sort. Forces have been conceived to be the direct or immediate causes of things. Other sorts of causes act indirectly by producing forces which are transmitted in various ways to produce various effects. However, forces are supposed to act directly without the mediation of anything else. But forces, so conceived, appear to be occult. They are mysterious, because we have no clear conception of what they are, as opposed to what they are postulated to do; and they seem to be hidden from direct observations. There is, therefore, strong initial motivation for trying to eliminate forces from physics. Furthermore, as we shall explain, powerful arguments can be mounted to show that theories with forces can always be recast as theories without them. Hence it seems that forces should be eliminated, in the interests of simplicity. We argue, however, that forces should not be eliminated--just differently construed. For the effect of elimination is to leave us without any adequate account of the causal relationships forces were postulated to explain. And this would remain the case, even if forces could be identified with some merely dispositional properties of physical systems. In our view, forces are species of the causal relation itself, and as such have a different ontological status from the sorts of entities normally considered to be related as causes to effects
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DOI 10.1086/289464
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