Newton: From Certainty to Probability?

Philosophy of Science 84 (5):866-878 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Newton’s earliest publications contained scandalous epistemological claims: not only did he aim for certainty; he also claimed success. Some commentators argue that Newton ultimately gave up claims of certainty in favor of a high degree of probability. I argue that no such shift occurred. I examine the evidence of a probabilistic shift: a passage from query 23/31 of the Opticks and rule 4 of the Principia. Neither passage supports a probabilistic approach to natural philosophy. The aim of certainty, then, was an enduring feature of Newton’s methodology.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 89,528

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Knowledge, certainty and probability.Herbert Heidelberger - 1963 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 6 (1-4):242 – 250.
A note on 'knowledge, certainty, and probability'∗.Frances Weyland - 1964 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 7 (1-4):417-417.
Klein on Relative Certainty.Rod Bertolet - 1987 - Philosophy Research Archives 13:271-274.
Klein on Relative Certainty.Rod Bertolet - 1987 - Philosophy Research Archives 13:271-274.
Why Certainty is Not a Mansion.Elly Vintiadis - 2006 - Journal of Philosophical Research 31:143-152.
Newton’s Empiricism and Metaphysics.Mary Domski - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (7):525-534.
Newton and God's Sensorium.Patrick J. Connolly - 2014 - Intellectual History Review 24 (2):185-201.
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.
Triviality Results For Probabilistic Modals.Goldstein Simon - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (1):188-222.
Some reflections on Newton's Principia.E. B. Davies - 2009 - British Journal for the History of Science 42 (2):211-224.


Added to PP

33 (#413,142)

6 months
3 (#430,134)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Kirsten Walsh
University of Exeter

References found in this work

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.John Locke - 1979 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 169 (2):221-222.
Opticks.Isaac Newton - 1704 - Dover Press.

View all 11 references / Add more references