Du Châtelet, Induction, and Newton’s Rules for Reasoning

European Journal of Philosophy 32 (2024)
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Abstract

I examine Du Châtelet’s methodology for physics and metaphysics through the lens of her engagement with Newton’s Rules for Reasoning in Natural Philosophy. I first show that her early manuscript writings discuss and endorse these Rules. Then, I argue that her famous published account of hypotheses continues to invoke close analogues of Rules 3 and 4, despite various developments in her position. Once relevant experimental evidence and some basic constraints are met, it is legitimate to inductively generalize from observations; general hypotheses can thereafter be assumed as true until contrary experiments show otherwise. I conclude by arguing that this account of induction plays an essential role in her metaphysics, both in an argument for simple substances—which has an inductive premise—and in her attempt to distinguish acceptable and unacceptable metaphysical commitments.

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Aaron Wells
Paderborn University

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