Philosophy 90 (1):83-106 (2015)

Patrick J. Connolly
Lehigh University
My goal in this paper is to elucidate a problematic feature of Newton's metaphysics of absolute space. Specifically, I argue that Newton's theory has the untenable consequence that God depends on space for His existence and is therefore not an independent entity. I argue for this conclusion in stages. First, I show that Newton believed that space was an entity and that God and space were ontologically distinct entities. Part of this involves arguing that Newton denies that space is a divine attribute. I then show that Newton endorsed a principle according to which the existence of space is a necessary condition for the existence of any other entity. Following this, I discuss the ways in which this makes God depend on space for His existence and the reasons why this is unacceptable for traditional conceptions of God. Specifically, I show that it is incompatible with the orthodox position that God be entirely independent and self-determining. Finally, I offer two considerations which, I hope, make the problem seem less serious than it first appears. The first consideration has to do with Newton's polemical context and the second has to do with the nature of his theological thought.
Keywords Newton  space  substance  dependence  De Gravitatione  divine attributes
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Reprint years 2015
DOI 10.1017/s0031819114000333
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Gravity and De Gravitatione: The Development of Newton’s Ideas on Action at a Distance.John Henry - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (1):11-27.
In A. Janiak.I. Newton - 2004 - In Margaret A. Simons, Marybeth Timmermann & Mary Beth Mader (eds.), Philosophical Writings. University of Illinois Press.
The Spatial Presence of Spirits Among the Cartesians.Jasper William Reid - 2008 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (1):91-117.

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