The Mechanical Philosophy and Newton’s Mechanical Force

Philosophy of Science 80 (4):557-578 (2013)
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How does Newton approach the challenge of mechanizing gravity and, more broadly, natural philosophy? By adopting the simple machine tradition’s mathematical approach to a system’s co-varying parameters of change, he retains natural philosophy’s traditional goal while specifying it in a novel way as the search for impressed forces. He accordingly understands the physical world as a divinely created machine possessing intrinsically mathematical features, and mathematical methods as capable of identifying its real features. The gravitational force’s physical cause remains an outstanding problem, however, as evidenced by Newton’s onetime reference to active principles as the “genuine principles of the mechanical philosophy”.

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University of Bologna


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