Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation and Hume's Conception of Causality

Philosophia Naturalis 50 (2):277-305 (2013)
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This article investigates the relationship between Hume’s causal philosophy and Newton ’s philosophy of nature. I claim that Newton ’s experimentalist methodology in gravity research is an important background for understanding Hume’s conception of causality: Hume sees the relation of cause and effect as not being founded on a priori reasoning, similar to the way that Newton criticized non - empirical hypotheses about the properties of gravity. However, according to Hume’s criteria of causal inference, the law of universal gravitation is not a complete causal law, since it does not include a reference either to contiguity or to temporal priority. It is still argued that because of the empirical success of Newton ’s theory—the law is a statement of an exceptionless repetition—Hume gives his support to it in interpreting gravity force instrumentally as if it bore a causal relation to motion.

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Matias Kimi Slavov
Tampere University


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