Olivier Massin
Université de Neuchâtel
This paper defends a realist account of the composition of Newtonian forces, dubbed ‘residualism’. According to residualism, the resultant force acting on a body is identical to the component forces acting on it that do not prevent each other from bringing about its acceleration. Several reasons to favor residualism over alternative accounts of the composition of forces are advanced. (i) Residualism reconciles realism about component forces with realism about resultant forces while avoiding any threat of causal overdetermination. (ii) Residualism provides a systematic semantics for the term ‘force’ within Newtonian mechanics. (iii) Residualism allows us to precisely apportion the causal responsibility of each component force in the ensuing acceleration. (iv) Residualism handles special cases such as null forces, single forces, and antagonistic forces in a natural way. (v) Residualism provides a neat picture of the causal powers of forces: each force essentially has two causal powers⎯the power to bring about accelerations (sometimes together with other co-directionnal forces) and the power to prevent other forces from doing so⎯exactly one of which is manifested at a time. (vi) Residualism avoids commitment to unobservable effects of forces: forces cause either stresses (tensile or compressive) or accelerations.
Keywords forces  pressure  Newton  non-mereological composition  composition of forces  accelerations  component forces  resultant forces  dispositions  powers
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2016, 2017
DOI 10.1093/bjps/axv048
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
A World of States of Affairs.D. M. Armstrong - 1996 - Cambridge University Press.
The Principles of Mathematics.Bertrand Russell - 1903 - Cambridge, England: Allen & Unwin.

View all 67 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Towards a Definition of Efforts.Olivier Massin - 2017 - Motivation Science 3 (3):230-259.
Bitter Joys and Sweet Sorrows.Olivier Massin - 2018 - In C. Tappolet, F. Teroni & A. Konzelmann Ziv (eds.), Shadows of the Soul: Philosophical Perspectives on Negative Emotions. Routlege. pp. 58-73.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

A Non-Reductive Model of Component Forces and Resultant Force.Dwayne Moore - 2012 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 26 (4):359-380.
The Metaphysics of Forces.Olivier Massin - 2009 - Dialectica 63 (4):555-589.
Evolutionary and Newtonian Forces.Christopher Hitchcock & Joel D. Velasco - 2014 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 1:39-77.
Forces.John Bigelow, Brian Ellis & Robert Pargetter - 1988 - Philosophy of Science 55 (4):614-630.
There is No Trace of Any Soul Linked to the Body.David Papineau - 2015 - In Keith Augustine & Michael Martin (eds.), The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 369-376.
On the Fifth Forces.Hans-Jürgen Treder - 1991 - Foundations of Physics 21 (3):283-298.
Infinity and Newton’s Three Laws of Motion.Chunghyoung Lee - 2011 - Foundations of Physics 41 (12):1810-1828.
Cartwright, Forces, and Ceteris Paribus Laws.Barry Ward - 2009 - Southwest Philosophy Review 25 (1):55-62.
Causal Powers, Forces, and Superdupervenience.Jessica M. Wilson - 2002 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 63 (1):53-77.


Added to PP index

Total views
323 ( #31,661 of 2,497,981 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
25 ( #34,787 of 2,497,981 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes