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
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2010.11.005
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,188
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Gravity and Newton's Substance Counting Problem.Hylarie Kochiras - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 40 (3):267-280.
Cotes’ Queries: Newton’s Empiricism and Conceptions of Matter.Zvi Biener & Chris Smeenk - 2012 - In Eric Schliesser & Andrew Janiak (eds.), Interpreting Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 105-137.

View all 9 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Causal Language and the Structure of Force in Newton's System of the World.Hylarie Kochiras - 2013 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 3 (2):210-235.
Newton’s “Satis Est”: A New Explanatory Role for Laws.Lina Jansson - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (4):553-562.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Gravity and Newton's Substance Counting Problem.Hylarie Kochiras - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 40 (3):267-280.
Causal Language and the Structure of Force in Newton's System of the World.Hylarie Kochiras - 2013 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 3 (2):210-235.
Newton and the Reality of Force.Andrew Janiak - 2007 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 45 (1):127-147.
Newton's Empiricism and Metaphysics.Mary Domski - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (7):525-534.
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.
Newton on Action at a Distance and the Cause of Gravity.Steffen Ducheyne - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (1):154-159.
Theories of Newtonian Gravity and Empirical Indistinguishability.Jonathan Bain - 2004 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 35 (3):345--76.
The Philosophy Behind Quantum Gravity.Henrik Zinkernagel - 2006 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 21 (3):295-312.

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2011-02-14

Total downloads

37 ( #135,970 of 2,153,834 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

7 ( #105,174 of 2,153,834 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums