Maupertuis on attraction as an inherent property of matter

In Janiak Schliesser (ed.), Interpreting Newton (2012)
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Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis’ famous and influential Discours sur les différentes figures des astres, which represented the first public defense of attractionism in the Cartesian stronghold of the Paris Academy, sometimes suggests a metaphysically agnostic defense of gravity as simply a regularity. However, Maupertuis’ considered account in the essay, I argue, is much more subtle. I analyze Maupertuis’ position, showing how it is generated by an extended consideration of the possibility of attraction as an inherent property and fuelled by an understanding of Lockean skepticism about knowledge of real essences that is more nuanced perhaps even than Locke’s own.
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