Machian Comparativism about Mass

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (2):325-349 (2022)
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Abstract

Absolutism about mass within Newtonian gravity claims that mass ratios obtain in virtue of absolute masses. Comparativism denies this. Defenders of comparativism promise to recover all the empirical and theoretical virtues of absolutism, but at a lower ‘metaphysical cost’. This article develops a Machian form of comparativism about mass in Newtonian gravity, obtained by replacing Newton’s constant in the law of universal gravitation by another constant divided by the sum over all masses. Although this form of comparativism is indeed empirically equivalent to the absolutist version of Newtonian gravity—thereby meeting the challenge posed by the comparativist’s bucket argument—it is argued that the explanatory power and metaphysical parsimony of comparativism are highly questionable.

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Niels C. M. Martens
University of Bonn

References found in this work

Science Without Numbers: A Defence of Nominalism.Hartry Field - 1980 - Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
The Principles of Mathematics.Bertrand Russell - 1903 - Cambridge, England: Allen & Unwin.
The Tools of Metaphysics and the Metaphysics of Science.Theodore Sider - 2020 - Oxford, England and New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Foundations of Language 13 (1):145-151.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Philosophy of Science 42 (3):341-344.

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