Newton's philosophical views are unique and uniquely difficult to categorise. In the course of a long career from the early 1670s until his death in 1727, he articulated profound responses to Cartesian natural philosophy and to the prevailing mechanical philosophy of his day. Newton as Philosopher presents Newton as an original and sophisticated contributor to natural philosophy, one who engaged with the principal ideas of his most important predecessor, René Descartes, and of his most influential critic, G. W. Leibniz. Unlike (...) Descartes and Leibniz, Newton was systematic and philosophical without presenting a philosophical system, but over the course of his life, he developed a novel picture of nature, our place within it, and its relation to the creator. This rich treatment of his philosophical ideas will be of wide interest to historians of philosophy, science, and ideas. (shrink)
: Newton's critics argued that his treatment of gravity in the Principia saddles him with a substantial dilemma. If he insists that gravity is a real force, he must invoke action at a distance because of his explicit failure to characterize the mechanism underlying gravity. To avoid distant action, however, he must admit that gravity is not a real force, and that he has therefore failed to discover the actual cause of the phenomena associated with it. A reinterpretation of Newton's (...) distinction between the "mathematical" and the "physical" treatment of force indicates how he can reject each horn of this dilemma. (shrink)
Sir Isaac Newton left a voluminous legacy of writings. Despite his influence on the early modern period, his correspondence, manuscripts, and publications in natural philosophy remain scattered throughout many disparate editions. In this volume, Newton's principal philosophical writings are for the first time collected in a single place. They include excerpts from the Principia and the Opticks, his famous correspondence with Boyle and with Bentley, and his equally significant correspondence with Leibniz, which is often ignored in favor of Leibniz's later (...) debate with Samuel Clarke. Newton's exchanges with Leibniz place their different understandings of natural philosophy in sharp relief. The volume also includes 'De Gravitatione', offered here in a corrected translation, which is crucial for understanding Newton's relation to his great predecessor Descartes. In a historical and philosophical introduction, Andrew Janiak examines Newton's philosophical positions and his relations to canonical figures in early modern philosophy. (shrink)
This collection of specially commissioned essays by leading scholars presents research on Isaac Newton and his main philosophical interlocutors and critics. The essays analyze Newton's relation to his contemporaries, especially Barrow, Descartes, Leibniz and Locke and discuss the ways in which a broad range of figures, including Hume, Maclaurin, Maupertuis and Kant, reacted to his thought. The wide range of topics discussed includes the laws of nature, the notion of force, the relation of mathematics to nature, Newton's argument for universal (...) gravitation, his attitude toward philosophical empiricism, his use of 'fluxions', his approach toward measurement problems and his concept of absolute motion, together with new interpretations of Newton's matter theory. The volume concludes with an extended essay that analyzes the changes in physics wrought by Newton's Principia. A substantial introduction and bibliography provide essential reference guides. (shrink)
Michael Friedman's Kant and the Exact Sciences (1992) refocused scholarly attention on Kant's status as a philosopher of the sciences, especially (but not exclusively) of the broadly Newtonian science of the eighteenth century. The last few years have seen a plethora of articles and monographs concerned with characterizing that status. This recent scholarship illuminates Kant's views on a diverse group of topics: science and its relation to metaphysics; dynamics and the theory of matter; causation and Hume's critique of it; and, (...) the limits of mechanism and of mechanical intelligibility. I argue that recent interpretations of Kant's views on these topics should influence our understanding of his principal metaphysical and epistemological arguments and positions. (shrink)
Scholars have long recognized that Newton regarded Descartes as his principal philosophical interlocutor when composing the first edition of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687. The arguments in the Scholium on space and time, for instance, can profitably be interpreted as focusing on the conception of space and motion in part two of Descartes's Principles of Philosophy (1644). What is less well known, however, is that this Cartesian conception, along with Descartes's attempt to avoid Galileo's fate in 1633, serves as (...) an essential background to understanding Newton's own (poorly understood) view of the theological implications of his theory of space and motion. In particular, after withdrawing Le Monde from publication in 1633 because of its Copernican leanings, Descartes later introduced what some regard as a “fudge factor” into the theory of motion in the Principles: from an ordinary perspective the earth does move; but from a philosophical one, it does not. This background indicates the novelty and originality of Newton's own attempt to explicate how scriptural passages concerning the motions of the heavenly bodies can be reconciled with the philosophical views he developed during the 1680s. New evidence from archival sources and correspondence supports this argument, shedding light on the Scholium and on Newton's conception of philosophy's relation to theology. (shrink)
Kant's understanding of two significant philosophical issues, the status of space and the nature of scientific explanation, can be illuminated by considering his reaction to the emergence of Newtonian gravitational physics. Although Kant accepts---with important provisos---the view that space bears an absolute status, he rejects Newton's philosophical interpretation of that status. Characterizing this rejection poses a problem. It is commonly thought that Kant's conception of space can be understood as a competitor to Newtonian absolutism and Leibnizian relationalism per se, but (...) Kant contends that these views commit a common mistake. Leibniz and Newton each picture space as real in a philosophically significant sense; Kant seeks to reject the reality of space in the Critique of Pure Reason. I argue that, from Kant's perspective, contending that space is absolute is compatible with thinking that it lacks reality. This illuminates, in turn, Kant's conception of things-in-themselves. ;In his work on scientific explanation, Wesley Salmon distinguishes an "ontic" conception, according to which explanations make reference to the cause of events or of phenomena; and an "epistemic" conception, according to which explanations make reference to covering laws. To begin with, I argue that Newtonian physics, which famously fails to discover gravity's cause, can be interpreted as providing nomological explanations of gravitational phenomena like the planetary orbits. Unlike Leibniz, who explicitly rejects the law of universal gravitation's explanatory status, Kant recognizes the significance of this notion for understanding the science of Newton's Principia Mathematica. In tandem, several puzzling aspects of the conception of spatial objects presented in the Critique of Pure Reason can be illuminated by considering Kant's adoption of a related Newtonian view: the content of the ascription of a force to a spatial object, or to a system of such objects, is exhausted by the physical law governing the operation of that force. In this respect, in rejecting a Leibnizian conception of force, Kant adopts an explicitly Newtonian conception; Kant's conception of spatial objects is closely linked with that adoption. Thus, important aspects of Kant's metaphysics can be illuminated by considering their relation to philosophical issues raised by Newtonian physics. (shrink)
An edited collection of essays by leading scholars on the history of the concept of space in Western science and philosophy. Figures discussed include Euclid, Plato, Aristotle, Proclus, Ibn al-Haytham, Oresme, Kepler, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Berkeley and Kant. Contributors include Barbara Sattler, Marije Martijn, Edith Sylla, Andrew Janiak, Michael Friedman, Gary Hatfield, etc.
This volume chronicles the development of philosophical conceptions of space from early antiquity through the medieval period to the early modern era, ending with Kant. The chapters describe the interactions at different moments in history between philosophy and various other disciplines, especially geometry, optics, and natural science more generally. Central figures from the history of mathematics, science and philosophy are discussed, including Euclid, Plato, Aristotle, Proclus, Ibn al-Haytham, Nicole Oresme, Kepler, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Kant.