In this discussion paper, I seek to challenge Hylarie Kochiras’ recent claims on Newton’s attitude towards action at a distance, which will be presented in Section 1. In doing so, I shall include the positions of Andrew Janiak and John Henry in my discussion and present my own tackle on the matter . Additionally, I seek to strengthen Kochiras’ argument that Newton sought to explain the cause of gravity in terms of secondary causation . I also provide some specification on (...) what Kochiras calls ‘Newton’s substance counting problem’ . In conclusion, I suggest a historical correction .Keywords: Isaac Newton ; Action at a distance; Cause of gravity; Fourth letter to Bentley. (shrink)
Reasoning without experience is very slippery. A man may puzzle me by arguents [sic] … but I’le beleive my ey experience ↓my eyes.↓ernan mcmullin once remarked that, although the “avowedly tentative form” of the Queries “marks them off from the rest of Newton’s published work,” they are “the most significant source, perhaps, for the most general categories of matter and action that informed his research.”2 The Queries (or Quaestiones), which Newton inserted at the very end of the third book of (...) the Opticks3 or its Latin rendition, Optice,4 constitute that part of his optical magnum opus which he reworked and augmented the most—especially between 1704 and 1717. While the main text of the Opticks itself underwent .. (shrink)
In this essay, I shall take up the theme of Galileo’s notion of cause, which has already received considerable attention. I shall argue that the participants in the debate as it stands have overlooked a striking and essential feature of Galileo’s notion of cause. Galileo not only reformed natural philosophy, he also – as I shall defend – introduced a new notion of causality and integrated it in his scientific practice. Galileo’s conception of causality went hand in hand with his (...) methodology. It is my claim that Galileo was trying to construct a new scientifically useful notion of causality. This new notion of causality is an interventionist notion. (shrink)
In this essay, I attempt to assess Henk de Regt and Dennis Dieks recent pragmatic and contextual account of scientific understanding on the basis of an important historical case-study: understanding in Newton's theory of universal gravitation and Huygens' reception of universal gravitation. It will be shown that de Regt and Dieks' Criterion for the Intelligibility of a Theory, which stipulates that the appropriate combination of scientists' skills and intelligibility-enhancing theoretical virtues is a condition for scientific understanding, is too strong. On (...) the basis of this case-study, it will be shown that scientists can understand each others' positions qualitatively and quantitatively, despite their endorsement of different worldviews and despite their convictions as what counts as a proper explanation. (shrink)
This article seeks to provide a historically well-informed analysis of an important post-Newtonian area of research in experimental physics between 1798 and 1898, namely the determination of the mean density of the earth and, by the end of the nineteenth century, the gravitational constant. Traditionally, research on these matters is seen as a case of “puzzle solving.” In this article, the author shows that such focus does not do justice to the evidential significance of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century experimental research on (...) the mean density of the earth and the gravitational constant. As Newton’s theory of universal gravitation was mainly based on astronomical observation, it remained to be shown that Newton’s law of universal gravitation did not break down at terrestrial distances. In this context, Cavendish’ experiment and related nineteenth-century experiments played a decisive role, for they provided converging and increasingly stronger evidence for the universality of Newton’s theory of gravitation. More precisely, the author shall argue that, as the accuracy and precision of the experimental apparatuses and the procedures to eliminate external disturbances involved increasingly improved, the empirical support for the universality of Newton’s theory of gravitation improved correspondingly. (shrink)
Newton’s immensely famous, but tersely written, General Scholium is primarily known for its reference to the argument of design and Newton’s famous dictum “hypotheses non fingo”. In the essay at hand, I shall argue that this text served a variety of goals and try to add something new to our current knowledge of how Newton tried to accomplish them. The General Scholium highlights a cornucopia of features that were central to Newton’s natural philosophy in general: matters of experimentation, methodological issues, (...) theological matters, matters related to the instauration of prisca sapientia, epistemological claims central to Newton’s empiricism, and, finally, metaphysical issues. For Newton these matters were closely interwoven. I shall address these matters based on a thorough study of the extant manuscript material. (shrink)
This chapter examines the series of drastic epistemological and methodological transformations in the status of hypotheses in British natural philosophy during the seventeenth century. It explains that hypotheses played a rather marginal role in Francis Bacon's methodological thought because he believed they lacked any physical content, although they occupied a centre stage in the Bacon-inspired natural philosophy program of Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke. The chapter mentions that Boyle and Hooke provided a new definition of hypothesis, which is that of (...) something conceived of as causally sufficient and probable explications of natural phenomena that stand in an evidential relation to the natural phenomena they serve to elucidate. (shrink)
n this paper I deal with a neglected topic with respect to unification in Newton’s Principia. I will clarify Newton’s notion and practice of unification . In order to do so, I will use the recent theories on unification as tools of analysis . I will argue, after showing that neither Kitcher’s nor Schurz’s account aptly capture Newton’s notion and practice of unification, that Salmon’s later work is a good starting point for analysing this notion and its practice in the (...) Principia. Finally, I will supplement Salmon’s account in order to answer the question at stake.Keywords: Explanation; Isaac Newton; Principia; Unification. (shrink)
For Thomas Reid, Isaac Newton's scientific methodology in natural philosophy was a source of inspiration for philosophical methodology in general. I shall look at how Reid adapted Newton's views on methodology in natural philosophy. We shall see that Reid radicalized Newton's methodology and, thereby, begins to pave the way for the positivist movement, of which the origin is traditionally associated with the Frenchman Auguste Comte. In the Reidian adaptation of Newtonianism, we can already notice the beginnings of the anti-causal trend (...) that would become so popular in the age of positivism. (shrink)
Like many of their contemporaries Bernard Nieuwentijt and Pieter van Musschenbroek were baffled by the heterodox conclusions which Baruch Spinoza drew in the Ethics. As the full title of the Ethics—Ethica ordine geometrico demonstrata—indicates, these conclusions were purportedly demonstrated in a geometrical order, i.e. by means of pure mathematics. First, I highlight how Nieuwentijt tried to immunize Spinoza’s worrisome conclusions by insisting on the distinction between pure and mixed mathematics. Next, I argue that the anti-Spinozist underpinnings of Nieuwentijt’s distinction between (...) pure and mixed mathematics resurfaced in the work of van Musschenbroek. By insisting on the distinction between pure and mixed mathematics, Nieuwentijt and van Musschenbroek argued that Spinoza abused mathematics by making claims about things that exist in rerum natura by relying on a pure mathematical approach. In addition, by insisting that mixed mathematics should be painstakingly based on mathematical ideas that correspond to nature, van Musschenbroek argued that René Descartes’ natural-philosophical project abused mathematics by introducing hypotheses, i.e. ideas, that do not correspond to nature. (shrink)
In this essay, I call attention to Kant’s and Whewell’s attempt to provide bridging principles between a priori principles and scientific laws. Part of Kant’s aim in the Opus postumum (ca. 1796-1803) was precisely to bridge the gap between the metaphysical foundations of natural science (on the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786) see section 1) and physics by establishing intermediary concepts or ‘Mittelbegriffe’ (henceforth this problem is referred to as ‘the bridging-problem’). I argue that the late-Kant attempted to show (...) that the concept of ‘moving force’, an intermediary concept derived from a priori principles, could be given empirical content so that concrete scientific knowledge is arrived at. Thus, the late-Kant wished not only to show that proper scientific laws are necessary a priori (as he had shown in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science) but also that intermediary concepts could be derived from a priori principles which, when interpreted empirically, resulted in the specific forces as established by physics (see section 2). Of course, William Whewell never knew about Kant’s Opus postumum and his attempt to bridge the gap between the metaphysical foundations of science and physics. However, it is striking that Whewell had similar concerns about the Critique of Pure Reason and the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science as Kant himself. According to Whewell, the Kantian project was incomplete because it did not show how ‘modifications’ (in the sense of concretizations) of a priori principles could result in empirical laws (section 3). Next, it will be argued, by taking into account several of Whewell’s philosophical notebooks which have scarcely been studied systematically, that Whewell’s doctrine of Fundamental Ideas grew out of his dissatisfaction with the Kantian project with respect to the bridging problem and that his own philosophical position should be seen as an attempt to bypass the bridging-problem. (shrink)
In this essay I argue against I. Bernard Cohen's influential account of Newton's methodology in the Principia: the 'Newtonian Style'. The crux of Cohen's account is the successive adaptation of 'mental constructs' through comparisons with nature. In Cohen's view there is a direct dynamic between the mental constructs and physical systems. I argue that his account is essentially hypothetical-deductive, which is at odds with Newton's rejection of the hypothetical-deductive method. An adequate account of Newton's methodology needs to show how Newton's (...) method proceeds differently from the hypothetical-deductive method. In the constructive part I argue for my own account, which is model based: it focuses on how Newton constructed his models in Book I of the Principia. I will show that Newton understood Book I as an exercise in determining the mathematical consequences of certain force functions. The growing complexity of Newton's models is a result of exploring increasingly complex force functions (intra-theoretical dynamics) rather than a successive comparison with nature (extra-theoretical dynamics). Nature did not enter the scene here. This intra-theoretical dynamics is related to the 'autonomy of the models'. (shrink)
Primarily between 1833 and 1840, William Whewell attempted to accomplish what natural philosophers and scientists since at least Galileo had failed to do: to provide a systematic and broad-ranged study of the tides and to attempt to establish a general scientific theory of tidal phenomena. I document the close interaction between Whewell’s philosophy of science and his scientific practice as a tidologist. I claim that the intertwinement between Whewell’s methodology and his tidology is more fundamental than has hitherto been documented.Keywords: (...) William Whewell; Tidology; History of HPS; Scientific methodology; Whewell papers. (shrink)
In this essay, I shall show that the so-called inferential (Suárez 2003 and 2004 ) and interpretational (Contessa 2007 ) accounts of scientific representation are respectively unsatisfactory and too weak to account for scientific representation ( pars destruens ). Along the way, I shall also argue that the pragmatic similarity (Giere 2004 and Giere 2010 ) and the partial isomorphism (da Costa and French 2003 and French 2003 ) accounts are unable to single out scientific representation. In the pars construens (...) I spell out a limiting case account which has explanatory surplus vis à vis the approaches which I have previously reviewed. My account offers an adequate treatment of scientific representation, or so I shall try to argue. Central to my account is the notion of a pragmatic limiting case, which will be characterized in due course. (shrink)
In this essay, my aim is twofold: to clarify how the late Mill conceived of the certainty of inductive generalizations and to offer a systematic clarification of the limited domain of application of the Mill’s Canons of Induction. I shall argue that Mill’s views on the certainty of knowledge changed overtime and that this change was accompanied by a new view on the certainty of the inductive results yielded by the Canons of Induction. The key message of the later editions (...) of The System of Logic as conceived by the late Mill was no longer that by the Canons of Induction we can establish scientific certainty and true causes, but rather that the Canons are useful in establishing causal laws in a provisional way. (shrink)
In this paper an analysis of Newton’s argument for universal gravitation is provided. In the past, the complexity of the argument has not been fully appreciated. Recent authors like George E. Smith and William L. Harper have done a far better job. Nevertheless, a thorough account of the argument is still lacking. Both authors seem to stress the importance of only one methodological component. Smith stresses the procedure of approximative deductions backed-up by the laws of motion. Harper stresses “systematic dependencies” (...) between theoretical parameters and phenomena. I will argue that Newton used a variety of different inferential strategies: causal parsimony considerations, deductions, demonstrative inductions, abductions and thought-experiments. Each of these strategies is part of Newton’s famous argument. (shrink)
In this essay the authors explore the nature of efficient causal explanation in Newton’s "Principia and The Opticks". It is argued that: (1) In the dynamical explanations of the Principia, Newton treats the phenomena under study as cases of Hall’s second kind of atypical causation. The underlying concept of causation is therefore a purely interventionist one. (2) In the descriptions of his optical experiments, Newton treats the phenomena under study as cases of Hall’s typical causation. The underlying concept of causation (...) is therefore a mixed interventionist/mechanicist one. (shrink)
In this essay, I provide a Baconian reading of Newtons Principia. I argue that Newton scientific practice was influenced by Bacons methodised idea of induction. My focus will be on Newtons argument of universal gravitation.
Here, I shall argue that Van Helmont needs to be added to the list of sources on which Newton drew when formulating his doctrine of absolute time. This by no means implies that Van Helmont is the factual source of Newton's views on absolute time (I have found no clear-cut evidence in support of this claim). It is by no means my aim to debunk the importance of the other sources, but rather to broaden them. Different authors help to explain (...) different aspects of Newton's conception of absolute time. (shrink)
In this essay, I will bring several hitherto neglected sources, which pertain to Petrus van Musschenbroek’s unpublished manuscripts, to the fore. The folios at hand show that Musschenbroek read and actively engaged with Spinoza’s Ethica. More precisely, it will be shown that Musschenbroek held clear-cut anti-Spinozistic convictions.
In this paper I will defend a new account of scientific representation. I will begin by looking at the benefits and drawbacks of two recent accounts on scientific representation: Hughes’ DDI account and Suárez’ inferential account. Next I use some of Galileo’s models in the Discorsi as a heuristic tool for a better account of scientific representation. Next I will present my model. The main idea of my account, which I refer to as the pragmatic model of shared characteristics (PMSC), (...) is that a model represents, if and only if, (1) a person accepts that there is a set of shared characteristics between the model and its target; (2) this set has the inferential power to generate results which can be tested empirically; (3) and the corresponding test(s) of these results is/are in agreement with our data and the specific cognitive goals we have in mind. (shrink)
In this article, we discuss the development of the concept of a ‘law’ (of nature) in the work of the Dutch natural philosopher and experimenter Petrus van Musschenbroek (1692–1761). Since Van Musschenbroek is commonly described as one of the first ‘Newtonians’ on the Continent in the secondary literature, we focus more specifically on its relation to Newton’s views on this issue. Although he was certainly indebted to Newton for his thinking on laws (of nature), Van Musschenbroek’s views can be seen (...) to diverge from Newton’s on crucial points. We show, moreover, how his thinking on laws of nature was shaped by both international and local factors. We start with a brief discussion of Newton’s concept of ‘laws of nature’ in order to set the stage for Van Musschenbroek’s. We then document the development of Van Musschenbroek’s views on laws of nature in chronological order. We demonstrate how his thinking on laws of nature was tied to institutional, theological and scientific factors. We conclude by pointing to the broader significance of this case study for our understanding of the development of the concept ‘law of nature’ during the eighteenth century. (shrink)
Mathematical and philosophical Newton Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-10 DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9520-2 Authors Steffen Ducheyne, Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Ghent University, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
In this essay, I will scrutinize the differences between Galileo's and Huygens's demonstrations of free fall, which can be found respectively in the Discorsi and the Horologium, from a mathematical, representational and methodological perspective. I argue that more can be learnt from such an analysis than the thesis that Huygens re-styled Galilean mechanics which is a communis opinio. I shall argue that the differences in their approach on free fall highlight a significantly different mathematical and methodological outlook.
In this essay, I take the role as friendly commentator and call attention to three potential worries for John D. Norton’s material theory of induction. I attempt to show that his “principle argument” is based on a false dichotomy, that the idea that facts ultimately derive their license from matters of fact is debatable, and that one of the core implications of his theory is untenable for historical and fundamental reasons.
In this paper I try to capture Newton's notion and practice of unification (I will mainly focus on the Principia). I will use contemporary theories on unification in philosophy of science as analytic tools (Kitcher, Schurz and Salmon). I will argue that Salmon's later work on the topic provides a good starting point to characterize Newton's notion and practice. However, in order to fully grasp Newton's idea and practice of unification, Salmon's model needs to be fleshed out and extended.
The immense oeuvre of William Whewell (1794-1886), a Victorian monument by itself, has to some extent been treated in a stepmotherly fashion by philosophers and historiansof philosophy. This paper attempts to conceptually clarify Whewell's notion of necessity, which was a core notion in his philosophical project. The author also sketches in broad lines the historical development of this notion in Whewell's thinking and points tothe intertwinement between Whewell's philosophy and theology. Whewell's philosophical work was deeply based on the history of (...) science and his doctrine of Fundamental Ideas can be interpreted as an attempt to historicize Kant's transcendental categories. (shrink)
The Flow of Influence: From Newton to Locke - and Back- In this essay, the affinity between Locke’s empiricism and Newton’s natural philosophy is scrutinized. Parallels are distinguished from influences. I argue, pace G.A.J. Rogers, that Newton’s doctrine of absolute space and time influenced Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding from the second edition onwards. I also show that Newton used Lockean terminology in his criticism of Cartesianism. It is further argued that Locke’s endorsement of corpuscularianism is merely methodological, i.e. he (...) accepts it as a scientifically useful and psychologically intelligible paradigm, but not as a realist explanation of rerum natura. Like Newton, Locke was reluctant to accept the corpuscular theory of light. However, his reasons for doing so were different from those of Newton. This essay is divided into three parts: in the first, the stage is set by looking at the fundamentals of Locke’s epistemology; in the second, several correspondences between Locke’s and Newton’s thought are explored and two cases of influence are argued for; and in the third, several arguments are provided for interpreting Locke’s corpuscularianism as methodological. (shrink)
In this paper, I take up the question to what extent and in which sense we can conceive of Johannes Baptista Van Helmont’s (1579-1644) style of experimenting as “modern”. Connected to this question, I shall reflect upon what Van Helmont’s precise contribution to experimental practice was. I will argue - after analysing some of Van Helmont's experiments such as his tree-experiment, ice-experiment, and thermoscope experiment - that Van Helmont had a strong preference to locate experimental designs in places wherein variables (...) can be more easily controlled (and in the limit, in relatively closed physical systems such as paradigmatically the vessel, globe or sphere (vas, globus, sphera)). After having reviewed some alternative candidates, I shall argue that Van Helmont’s usage of relatively isolated physical systems and a moderate degree of quantification, whereby mathematical procedures mainly refer to guaranteeing that quantities are conserved by roughly determining them, are the characteristics that best captures his contributions to “modern” experimentation. (shrink)
Nowadays, it is a truism that hypotheses and theories play an essential role in scientific practice. This, however, was far from an obvious given in seventeenth-century British natural philosophy. Different natural philosophers had different views on the role and status of hypotheses and theories, ranging from fierce promotion to bold rejection, and to both they ascribed varying meanings and connotations. The guiding idea of this chapter is that, in seventeenth-century British natural philosophy, the terms ‘hypothesis’/‘hypothetical’ and ‘theory’/‘theoretical’ were imbedded in (...) a semantic network of interconnected epistemological and methodological notions – such as ‘knowledge’, ‘method’, ‘probability’, ‘certainty’, ‘induction’, ‘deduction’, ‘experimental philosophy’, ‘speculative philosophy’, and the like). As these semantic networks changed overtime, the meaning and significance of ‘hypothesis’ and ‘theory’ likewise shifted. Without pretence of completeness, this chapter highlights chronologically some of the defining moments in the semantic transformation of these two terms within the context of seventeenth-century natural philosophy. (shrink)