The Monist 84 (4):520-541 (2001)

Cees Leijenhorst
Radboud University Nijmegen
In order to study “physics before Newton,” it is necessary to have at least a general idea what the terms ‘physics’ or ‘natural philosophy’ actually mean in a medieval and early modern context. Now, defining the medieval and early modern usage of the terms ‘physics’, ‘natural philosophy’, and their equivalents is no small beer. So far, the only scholar to have found the courage to embark upon this enterprise is Andrew Cunningham. He tries to make the case that natural philosophy was an essentially “God oriented,” hence inherently theological discipline. Natural philosophy was “about God and His creation.” It did not promote knowledge of nature as a goal in itself, but as a means to acquire insight into God and His creation. According to Cunningham, this fundamentally religious agenda still dominated even Isaac Newton’s Principia Philosophiae Naturalis Mathematica, as is testified by passages such as the famous General Scholium to the second edition.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind  Philosophy of Science
Categories No categories specified
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ISBN(s) 0026-9662
DOI 10.5840/monist200184421
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