Locke’s Metaphysics and Newtonian Metaphysics

In Zvi Biener & Eric Schliesser (eds.), Newton and Empiricism. Oxford University Press. pp. 97-118 (2014)
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Locke’s metaphysical commitments are a matter of some controversy. Further controversy attends the issue of whether and how Locke adapts his views in order to accommodate the success of Newton’s Principia. The chapter lays out an interpretation of Locke’s commitments according to which Locke’s response to Newton on gravity does not require the positing of brute powers and is consistent with his core essentialism. The chapter raises the question of how the hypothesis concerning the creation of matter, alluded to at 4.10.18, fits with these commitments. The chapter concludes that the De grav hypothesis would represent a significant revision to the background metaphysical picture of the Essay, but that nevertheless its attractions to Locke are intelligible and illuminating.
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