Newton’s substance monism, distant action, and the nature of Newton’s empiricism: discussion of H. Kochiras “Gravity and Newton’s substance counting problem”

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (1):160-166 (2011)
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Abstract

This paper is a critical response to Hylarie Kochiras’ “Gravity and Newton’s substance counting problem,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 40 267–280. First, the paper argues that Kochiras conflates substances and beings; it proceeds to show that Newton is a substance monist. The paper argues that on methodological grounds Newton has adequate resources to respond to the metaphysical problems diagnosed by Kochiras. Second, the paper argues against the claim that Newton is committed to two speculative doctrines attributed to him by Kochiras and earlier Andrew Janiak: i) the passivity of matter and ii) the principle of local causation. Third, the paper argues that while Kochiras’ arguments about Newton’s metaphysical commitments are mistaken, it qualifies the characterization of Newton as an extreme empiricist as defended by Howard Stein and Rob DiSalle. In particular, the paper shows that Newton’s empiricism was an intellectual and developmental achievement that built on non trivial speculative commitments about the nature of matter and space.Keywords: Newton; Substance; Action at a distance; Space; Matter; Empiricism

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Eric Schliesser
University of Amsterdam

Citations of this work

Gravity and De gravitatione: the development of Newton’s ideas on action at a distance.John Henry - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (1):11-27.
On reading Newton as an Epicurean: Kant, Spinozism and the changes to the Principia.Eric Schliesser - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):416-428.
Newton and Spinoza: On motion and matter (and God, of course).Eric Schliesser - 2012 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 50 (3):436-458.
Three concepts of causation in Newton.Andrew Janiak - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):396-407.

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References found in this work

Newton and the reality of force.Andrew Janiak - 2007 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 45 (1):127-147.
Atoms and the ‘analogy of nature’: Newton's third rule of philosophizing.J. E. McGuire - 1970 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 1 (1):3-58.
Cotes’ Queries: Newton’s Empiricism and Conceptions of Matter.Zvi Biener & Chris Smeenk - 2012 - In Eric Schliesser & Andrew Janiak (eds.), Interpreting Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 105-137.
Coincidence of things of a kind.Peter Simons - 1985 - Mind 94 (373):70-75.

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