This is the first volume of original commissioned papers on the subject of Newton and empiricism. The chapters, contributed by a leading team of both established and younger international scholars, explore the nature and extent of Newton's relationship to a variety of empiricisms and empiricists.
Newton began his Principia with three Axiomata sive Leges Motus. We offer an interpretation of Newton’s dual label and investigate two tensions inherent in his account of laws. The first arises from the juxtaposition of Newton’s confidence in the certainty of his laws and his commitment to their variability and contingency. The second arises because Newton ascribes fundamental status both to the laws and to the bodies and forces they govern. We argue the first is resolvable, but the second is (...) not. However, the second tension shows that Newton conceives laws as formal causes of bodies and forces. This neo-Aristotelian conception goes missing in Kantian accounts of laws, as well as accounts that stress laws’ grounding in powers and capacities. (shrink)
The introduction considers the state of scholarship on empiricism as a philosophical and historical category, particularly as it pertains to experimental philosophy. It concludes that empiricism properly understood is a rich category encompassing epistemic, semantic, methodological, experimental, and moral elements. Its richness makes it a suitable lens through which to account for actual historical complexity. The introduction relates the category to the work of Sir Isaac Newton, who influenced all of empiricism’s elements.
In this paper I offer three main challenges to James (2011). All three turn on the nature of philosophy and secure knowledge in Spinoza. First, I criticize James's account of the epistemic role that experience plays in securing adequate ideas for Spinoza. In doing so I criticize her treatment of what is known as the ‘conatus doctrine’ in Spinoza in order to challenge her picture of the relationship between true religion and philosophy. Second, this leads me into a criticism of (...) her account of the nature of philosophy in Spinoza. I argue it is less piecemeal and less akin to what we would recognize as ‘science’ than she suggests. Third, I argue against James's core commitment that Spinoza's three kinds of knowledge differ in degree; I claim they differ in kind. My argument will offer a new interpretation of Spinoza's conception of ‘common notions’. Moreover, I argue that Spinozistic adequate knowledge involves something akin to angelic disembodiment. (shrink)
I am grateful to EricSchliesser for his gracious response, and to Philosophy East and West and Roger Ames for hosting this discussion. The challenges currently facing the profession regarding exclusionary practices are many, and Schliesser's work at both NewAPPS and his newer blog, Digressions&Impressions, is sensitive both to how many and how complex these challenges are. Schliesser is correct that my discussion of the profession's conversational patterns is both a bit ungenerous and more than a (...) little ambitious, asking for "revolution" in how the discipline not only talks, but operates. Likewise, Schliesser is right to point out that there are now many, and more than ever before, seeking to probe critically the... (shrink)
In this article, the author offers a discussion of the evidential role of the Galilean constant in the history of physics. The author argues that measurable constants help theories constrain data. Theories are engines for research, and this helps explain why the Duhem-Quine thesis does not undermine scientific practice. The author connects his argument to discussion of two famous papers in the history of economic methodology, Milton Friedman’s “Methodology of Positive Economics,” which appealed to example of Galilean Law of Fall (...) in its argument; and Vernon Smith’s “Economics in the Laboratory.” While the author offers some criticism of Friedman and Smith, most of the article is a friendly reinterpretation of their insights. (shrink)
Adam Smith was a famous economist and moral philosopher. This book treats Smith also as a systematic philosopher with a distinct epistemology, an original theory of the passions, and a surprising philosophy mind. The book argues that there is a close, moral connection between Smith's systematic thought and his policy recommendations.
What makes for a philosophical classic? Why do some philosophical works persist over time, while others do not? The philosophical canon and diversity are topics of major debate today. This stimulating volume contains ten new essays by accomplished philosophers writing passionately about works in the history of philosophy that they feel were unjustly neglected or ignored-and why they deserve greater attention. The essays cover lesser known works by famous thinkers as well as works that were once famous but now only (...) faintly remembered. Works examined include Gorgias' Encomium of Helen, Jane Adams' Women and Public Housekeeping, W.E.B. DuBois' Whither Now and Why, Edith Stein's On the Problem of Empathy, Jonathan Bennett's Rationality, and more. While each chapter is an expression of engagement with an individual work, the volume as a whole, and EricSchliesser's introduction specifically, address timely questions about the nature of philosophy, disciplinary contours, and the vagaries of canon formation. (shrink)
Our modern-day word for sympathy is derived from the classical Greek word for fellow-feeling. Both in the vernacular as well as in the various specialist literatures within philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, economics, and history, "sympathy" and "empathy" are routinely conflated. In practice, they are also used to refer to a large variety of complex, all-too-familiar social phenomena: for example, simultaneous yawning or the giggles. Moreover, sympathy is invoked to address problems associated with social dislocation and political conflict. It is, then, turned (...) into a vehicle toward generating harmony among otherwise isolated individuals and a way for them to fit into a larger whole, be it society and the universe.This volume offers a historical overview of some of the most significant attempts to come to grips with sympathy in Western thought from Plato to experimental economics. The contributors are leading scholars in philosophy, classics, history, economics, comparative literature, and political science. Sympathy is originally developed in Stoic thought. It was also taken up by Plotinus and Galen. There are original contributed chapters on each of these historical moments. Use for the concept was re-discovered in the Renaissance. And the volume has original chapters not just on medical and philosophical Renaissance interest in sympathy, but also on the role of antipathy in Shakespeare and the significance of sympathy in music theory. Inspired by the influence of Spinoza, sympathy plays a central role in the great moral psychologies of, say, Anne Conway, Leibniz, Hume, Adam Smith, and Sophie De Grouchy during the eighteenth century. The volume should offers an introduction to key background concept that is often overlooked in many of the most important philosophies of the early modern period.About a century ago the idea of Einfühlung was developed in theoretical philosophy, then applied in practical philosophy and the newly emerging scientific disciplines of psychology. Moreover, recent economists have rediscovered sympathy in part experimentally and, in part by careful re-reading of the classics of the field. (shrink)
Isaac Newton is best known as a mathematician and physicist. He invented the calculus, discovered universal gravitation and made significant advances in theoretical and experimental optics. His master-work on gravitation, the Principia, is often hailed as the crowning achievement of the scientific revolution. His significance for philosophers, however, extends beyond the philosophical implications of his scientific discoveries. Newton was an able and subtle philosopher, working at a time when science was not yet recognized as an activity distinct from philosophy. He (...) engaged with the work of Rene Descartes and G.W. Leibniz, and showed sensitivity to the work of John Locke, Francis Bacon, Pierre Gassendi and Henry More, to name just a few. In his time, Newton was not perceived as a scientific outsider, but as an active and knowledgeable participant in philosophical debates.... (shrink)
In this paper I distinguish four methods of empirical inquiry in eighteenth century natural philosophy. In particular, I distinguish among what I call, the mathematical-experimental method; the method of experimental series; the method of inspecting ideas; the method of natural history. While such a list is not exhaustive of the methods of inquiry available, even so, focusing on these four methods will help in diagnosing a set of debates within what has come to be known as ‘empiricism’; throughout the eighteenth (...) century there was a methodological reaction against the hegemonic aspirations of mathematical natural philosophy associated with the authority of Newton.In particular, I argue that the methods of inspecting ideas and natural history remained attractive to ‘empiricist’ thinkers with reservations about aspects of Newtonianism. Moreover, I show that the language of experimentalism meant different things to researchers with different attitudes toward Newton’s legacy. In order to illustrate and make more precise these claims, I embed my taxonomic treatment of the four methods within a narrative in which I primarily focus on Colin Maclaurin, Isaac Newton, David Hume, and Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon. (shrink)
We argue that a conflict between two conceptions of “quantity of matter” employed in a corollary to proposition 6 of Book III of the Principia illustrates a deeper conflict between Newton’s view of the nature of extended bodies and the concept of mass appropriate for the theoretical framework of the Principia. We trace Newton’s failure to recognize the conflict to the fact that he allowed for the justification of natural philosophical claims by two types of a posteriori, empiricist methodologies. Newton's (...) thoughts on these methodologies demonstrate that his natural philosophy continued to develop after the publication of the first edition of Principia and that De Grav should be understood as an early, and not necessarily representative, text. (shrink)
Newton’s Regulae philosophandi—the rules for reasoning in natural philosophy—are maxims of causal reasoning and induction. This essay reviews their significance for Newton’s method of inquiry, as well as their application to particular propositions within the Principia. Two main claims emerge. First, the rules are not only interrelated, they defend various facets of the same core idea: that nature is simple and orderly by divine decree, and that, consequently, human beings can be justified in inferring universal causes from limited phenomena, if (...) only fallibly. Second, the rules make substantive ontological assumptions on which Newton’s argument in the Principia relies. (shrink)
Adam Smith is rediscovered every few generations by philosophers surprised by his subtlety, originality, and relevance. Smith’s status as mythical father of economic science and his role as canonical defender of free trade is secure within economics, but few philosophers have been more often misrepresented and underestimated. Because he is well known as an advocate of commercial society, many scholars, public intellectuals, commentators, and journalists are happy to implicate him automatically in its successes and failures, or to enlist him in (...) one side or another of the various ideological battles surrounding the utility and dangers of market economics. This book is an accessible and engaging introduction to Smith’s most important contributions to philosophy. Beginning with an introductory chapter on Smith’s life, writings and readings, EricSchliesser locates Smith in his immediate social and philosophical context. Later chapters analyse key concepts in his core moral, political and metaphysical theories, before turning to Smith's contribution to areas of ongoing philosophical interest, especially philosophy of science, and the metaphysics of mind and self. Schliesser concludes by summarising Smith's complicated legacy in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, and explores how Smith is being 're-discovered' in contemporary moral philosophy. (shrink)
I argue that Isaac Newton's De Gravitatione should not be considered an authoritative expression of his thought about the metaphysics of space and its relation to physical inquiry. I establish the following narrative: In De Gravitatione (circa 1668–84), Newton claimed he had direct experimental evidence for the work's central thesis: that space had "its own manner of existing" as an affection or emanative effect. In the 1710s, however, through the prodding of Roger Cotes and G. W. Leibniz, he came to (...) see that this evidence relied on assumptions that his own Principia rendered unjustifiable. Consequently, he (i) revised the conclusions he explicitly drew from the experimental evidence, (ii) rejected the idea that his spatial metaphysics was grounded in experimental evidence, and (iii) reassessed the epistemic status of key concepts in his metaphysics and natural philosophy. The narrative I explore shows not only that De Gravitatione did not constitute the metaphysical backdrop of the Principia as Newton ultimately understood it, but that it was the Principia itself that ultimately lead to the demise of key elements of De Gravitatione. I explore the implications of this narrative for Andrew Janiak's and Howards Stein's interpretations of Newton's metaphysics. (shrink)
: Although Galileo's struggle to mathematize the study of nature is well known and oft discussed, less discussed is the form this struggle takes in relation to Galileo's first new science, the science of the second day of the Discorsi. This essay argues that Galileo's first science ought to be understood as the science of matter—not, as it is usually understood, the science of the strength of materials. This understanding sheds light on the convoluted structure of the Discorsi's first day. (...) It suggests that the day's meandering discussions of the continuum, infinity, the vacuum, and condensation and rarefaction establish that a formal treatment of the "eternal and necessary" properties of matter is possible; i.e., that matter as such can be considered mathematically. This would have been a necessary, and indeed revolutionary, preliminary to the mathematical science of the second day because matter itself was thought in the Aristotelian tradition to be responsible for the departure of natural bodies from the unchanging and thus mathematizable character of abstract objects. In addition, the first day establishes that when considered physically, these properties account for matter's force of cohesion and resistance to fracture. This essay closes by showing that this dual style of reasoning accords with the conceptual structure of mixed mathematics. (shrink)
Accounts of Hobbes’s ‘system’ of sciences oscillate between two extremes. On one extreme, the system is portrayed as wholly axiomtic-deductive, with statecraft being deduced in an unbroken chain from the principles of logic and first philosophy. On the other, it is portrayed as rife with conceptual cracks and fissures, with Hobbes’s statements about its deductive structure amounting to mere window-dressing. This paper argues that a middle way is found by conceiving of Hobbes’s _Elements of Philosophy_ on the model of a (...) mixed-mathematical science, not the model provided by Euclid’s _Elements of Geometry_. I suggest that Hobbes is a test case for understanding early-modern system-construction more generally, as inspired by the structure of the applied mathematical sciences. This approach has the additional virtue of bolstering, in a novel way, the thesis that the transformation of philosophy in the long seventeenth century was heavily indebted to mathematics, a thesis that has increasingly come under attack in recent years. (shrink)
We argue that the idea of embodiment and the strategies for carrying out embodied approaches are some of the most prevalent and interdisciplinary legacies of early modern science. The idea of embodiment is simple: to explain the behavior of bodies, we must understand them as unified wholes in their environments. Embodied approaches eschew explanations in terms of qualitative descriptions of the intrinsic properties of bodies and promote explanation in terms of the interaction between bodies. This idea can be found in (...) Kepler's optics, Descartes' physics, and Newton's physico-mathematics. The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems (Gibson, 1966) is the culmination of this centuries-long embodiment movement which can be traced back to the 17th century. (shrink)
n recent years, there has been a resurgence of academic interest in Adam Smith. As a consequence, a large number of PhD dissertations on Smith have been written by international scholars - in different languages, and in many diverse disciplines, including economics, women’s studies, philosophy, science studies, political theory and english literature: diversity which has enriched the area of study. In response to this activity, and in order to making these contributions more easily accessible to other Smith scholars, Leonidas Montes (...) and EricSchliesser have edited this important new book. Of interest to Smith scholars and those interested in the history of economic thought in general, the contributions to this book are self-consciously interdisciplinary and skilfully employ many different methodologies. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
This study explores several arguments against Spinoza's philosophy that were developed by Henry More, Samuel Clarke, and Colin Maclaurin. In the arguments on which I focus, More, Clarke, and Maclaurin aim to establish the existence of an immaterial and intelligent God precisely by showing that Spinoza does not have the resources to adequately explain the origin of motion. Attending to these criticisms grants us a deeper appreciation for how the authority derived from the empirical success of Newton's enterprise was used (...) to settle debates within philosophy. What I emphasize is that in the progression from More to Clarke to Maclaurin, key Newtonian concepts from the Principia (1687), such as motion, atomism, and the vacuum, are introduced and exploited in order to challenge the account of matter and motion that is presented in Spinoza's Ethics (1677). Building on this treatment, I use the arguments from More and Clarke especially to help discern the anti-Spinozism that can be detected in Newton's General Scholium (1713). Ultimately, the Newtonian criticisms that I detail offer us a more nuanced view of the problems that plague Spinoza's philosophy, and they also challenge the idea that Spinoza seamlessly fits into a progressive narrative about the scientific revolution. (shrink)
(2005). Wonder in the face of scientific revolutions: Adam Smith on Newton's ‘Proof’ of Copernicanism. British Journal for the History of Philosophy: Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 697-732. doi: 10.1080/09608780500293042.
This chapter argues that the standard conception of Spinoza as a fellow-travelling mechanical philosopher and proto-scientific naturalist is misleading. It argues, first, that Spinoza’s account of the proper method for the study of nature presented in the Theological-Political Treatise (TTP) points away from the one commonly associated with the mechanical philosophy. Moreover, throughout his works Spinoza’s views on the very possibility of knowledge of nature are decidedly sceptical (as specified below). Third, in the seventeenth-century debates over proper methods in the (...) sciences, Spinoza sided with those that criticized the aspirations of those (the physico-mathematicians, Galileo, Huygens, Wallis, Wren, etc) who thought the application of mathematics to nature was the way to make progress. In particular, he offers grounds for doubting their confidence in the significance of measurement as well as their piece-meal methodology (see section 2). Along the way, this chapter offers a new interpretation of common notions in the context of treating Spinoza’s account of motion (see section 3). (shrink)
It is argued that Adam Smith criticizes David Hume's account of the origin of and continuing adherence to the rule of law for being not sufficiently Humean. Hume explained that adherence to the rule of law originated in the self-interest to restrain self-interest. According to Smith, Hume does not pay enough attention to the passions of resentment and admiration, which have their source in the imagination. Smith's offers a more naturalistic and evolutionary account of the psychological pre-conditions of the establishment (...) and morality of justice than Hume had. Yet, Smith's account also makes room for a thin conception of Lockean natural right to property, while rejecting the contractualist and rationalistic elements in Locke. It emerges that Smith severs the intimate connection that Hobbes and Hume made between justice and property. (shrink)
Teaching Newtonian physics involves the replacement of students’ ideas about physical situations with precise concepts appropriate for mathematical applications. This paper focuses on the concepts of ‘matter’ and ‘mass’. We suggest that students, like some pre-Newtonian scientists we examine, use these terms in a way that conflicts with their Newtonian meaning. Specifically, ‘matter’ and ‘mass’ indicate to them the sorts of things that are tangible, bulky, and take up space. In Newtonian mechanics, however, the terms are defined by Newton’s Second (...) Law: ‘mass’ is simply a measure of the acceleration generated by an impressed force. We examine the relationship between these conceptions as it was discussed by Newton and his editor, Roger Cotes, when analyzing a series of pendulum experiments. We suggest that these experiments, as well as more sophisticated computer simulations, can be used in the classroom to sufficiently differentiate the colloquial and precise meaning of these terms. (shrink)
In this essay, I discuss Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds and Godfrey Smith’s Other Minds: The Octopus and The Evolution of Intelligent Life from a methodological perspective. I show that these both instantiate what I call ‘synthetic philosophy.’ They are both Darwinian philosophers of science who draw on each other’s work. In what follows I first elaborate on synthetic philosophy in light of From Bacteria and Other Minds; I also explain my reasons for introducing (...) the term; and I close by looking at the function of Darwinism in contemporary synthetic philosophy. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that major elements of Hume’s metaphysics and epistemology are not only directed at the inductive argument from design which seemed to follow from the success of Newton’s system, but also have far larger aims. They are directed against the authority of Newton’s natural philosophy; the claims of natural philosophy are constrained by philosophic considerations. Once one understands this, Hume’s high ambitions for a refashioned ‘true metaphysics’ or ‘first philosophy’, that is, Hume’s ‘Science of Human Nature’, (...) can be seen and evaluated in their proper light. Hume has three motives for his attack on Newton: his work is informed by and gives cover to superstitious beliefs; his project is not useful to the public; and its success generates a challenge to the independent authority of philosophy. This essay consists of five sections. First, I discuss Hume’s attitude toward Newton. Newton claims that natural philosophy should be the foundation for other sciences, while in the ‘Introduction’ to the Treatise Hume asserts the supremacy of the ‘science of man’. For Hume the human sciences can attain the high epistemic status of ‘proof’, while much of the physical sciences must do with lower forms of ‘probability’. Furthermore, Hume’s ‘rules by which to judge of causes and effects’ do not replicate Newton’s fourth Rule; this opens a gap between the ontologies and methodologies of Newton and Hume. Moreover, Hume’s account of causation is designed to undercut the reductionist bias of natural philosophy. According to Hume the parts of natural sciences that go beyond common life can be evaluated from the point of view of the science of man. I end with remarks on the philosophic origins and significance of Hume’s attack on Newton’s natural philosophy. I depart from two independent traditions of interpreting Hume. One tradition makes many references to Newton’s influence on Hume. On a more detailed level, proponents of this view may call attention to Hume’s ‘rules’, his ‘Experiments’ and ‘Anatomy’, his method of investigation, the application of Newtonian metaphors works (e.g., an ‘attraction’ in the ‘mental world’ on a par with that in the ‘natural world’ – the principles of association are, then, analogous to the laws of motion). Hume’s ‘science of man’ is said to be inspired by Newton’s science of nature. Hume wants his readers to feel that he is modeling his project on the successes of natural philosophy, exemplified by Newton. In the ‘Introduction’ to the Treatise and more explicitly in the opening pages of EHU, Hume suggests that his ‘science of man’ can parallel recent achievements in natural philosophy (especially planetary astronomy). Thus, my claim is not that Newton did not figure importantly in Hume’s philosophy, but, instead, that Hume’s project is in many respects more hostile to Newton’s achievements – as available to well-informed eighteenth-century readers – than many recent interpreters have realized. There is a different tradition that argues Hume simply did not understand Newton. Hume’s philosophy, thus, cannot do justice to Newtonian science. Hume’s lack of mathematical competence is said to be a barrier to his understanding of Newton’s mathematical natural philosophy. One finds this attitude behind the cranking of Bayesian machinery in John Earman’s attack on Hume’s treatment ‘Of Miracles’. However, this tradition begs the question; it takes the authority of ‘science’ for granted in Hume. Against this second tradition I argue that Hume did understand salient features of Newton’s methodology and position, although in ways often unappreciated by the first tradition mentioned above. For example, in his comments on Newton in the History of England, Hume discerns the (broad) outlines of Newton’s commitment to the method of analysis and synthesis (see Newton’s Opticks, Query 31) and how it differs from Boyle’s methodology. So, Hume has a subtle understanding of Newton’s methodology – even if one were to grant that he lacks appreciation of the role of mathematics in Newton’s natural philosophy. Leaving open the question whether Hume understood all the details of Newton’s system, Hume’s departures from Newton are best interpreted not as ‘ironic’, but as philosophically motivated. (shrink)
This chapter explores Nagel’s polemics. It shows these have a two-fold character: (i) to defend liberal civilization against all kinds of enemies. And (ii) to defend what he calls ‘contextual naturalism.’ And the chapter shows that (i-ii) reinforce each other and undermine alternative political and philosophical programs. The chapter’s argument responds to an influential argument by George Reisch that Nagel’s professional stance represents a kind of disciplinary retreat from politics. In order to respond to Reisch the relationship between Nagel’s philosophy (...) of science and his politics is explored and this chapter shows how both are anchored in what Nagel once called his ‘contextual naturalism’—a metaphysics that resists imposing the unity of the world and treats all entities as embedded in a wider network of entities. Part of the argument traces out how Nagel’s views on responsible speech and professionalism reflect a distinct understanding of the political role of philosophers of science. (shrink)
I identify a set of interlocking views that became (and still are) very influential within philosophy in the wake of Newton’s success. These views use the authority of natural philosophy/mechanics to settle debates within philosophy. I label these “Newton’s Challenge.”.
Public participation in scientific research has gained prominence in many scientific fields, but the theory of participatory research is still limited. In this paper, we suggest that the divergence of values and goals between academic researchers and public participants in research is key to analyzing the different forms this research takes. We examine two existing characterizations of participatory research: one in terms of public participants' role in the research, the other in terms of the virtues of the research. In our (...) view, each of these captures an important feature of participatory research but is, on its own, limited in what features it takes into account. We introduce an expanded conception of norms of collaboration that extends to both academic researchers and public participants. We suggest that satisfying these norms requires consideration of the two groups' possibly divergent values and goals, and that a broad characterization of participatory research that starts from participants' values and goals can motivate both public participants’ role in the research and the virtues of the research. The resulting framework clarifies the similarities and differences among participatory projects and can help guide the responsible design of such projects. (shrink)