On the Composition of Force: Algorithm and Experiment

Axiomathes 31 (2):199-210 (2021)
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Philosophers have disagreed on the composition of force for decades. The main divergence concerns the fundamental question: given a certain motion that is observable, which force or forces are present in it, component or resultant forces? The present paper focuses on the conditions for dealing with this problem. I will argue that we are not able to infer force from the observation of a motion, as required by the problem. I will further argue that the validity of the Newtonian algorithm is not a sufficient condition for that inference because the Gaussian algorithm, which is equally valid, differs from the former with regard to the forces present in motions. Under these circumstances, I will make recourse to an experiment available in physics in which the force present in a motion is measured. Thus, we obtain a numerical value for this force. This result, playing the role of a counterexample, clarifies the composition of force issue significantly.



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Ricardo Coelho
university of lisbon

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References found in this work

How the laws of physics lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?Nancy Cartwright - 1980 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 61 (1-2):75-84.
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Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?Nancy Cartwright - 1998 - In M. Curd & J. A. Cover (eds.), Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues. Norton. pp. 865-877.

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