Universal regularities and initial conditions in Newtonian physics

Synthese 120 (3):325-343 (1999)
Abstract
The Newtonian universe is usually understood to contain two classes of causal factors: universal regularitiesand initial conditions. I demonstrate that,in fact, the Newtonian universe contains no causal factors other thanuniversal regularities: the initial conditions ofany physical system are merely theconsequence of universal regularities acting on previoussystems. It follows that aNewtonian universe lacks the degree of contingency that is usually attributed to it. This is a necessary precondition for maintaining that the Newtonian universe is a block universe that exhibits no temporal development. It follows also that Newtonian physics is inconsistent, since a Newtonian universe as a whole exhibits some properties – such as the total mass of the universe – that are not determined by the laws of Newtonian physics, and that must therefore be considered contingent.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
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DOI 10.1023/A:1005170007328
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