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De Gravitatione Reconsidered: The Changing Significance of Empirical Evidence for Newton's Metaphysics of Space

Biener, Zvi (2016) De Gravitatione Reconsidered: The Changing Significance of Empirical Evidence for Newton's Metaphysics of Space. [Preprint]

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Abstract

I argue that Isaac Newton's _De Gravitatione_ should not be considered an authoritative expression of his thought about the metaphysics of space and its relation to physical inquiry. I establish the following narrative: In _De Gravitatione_ (circa 1668--1684), Newton claimed he had direct experimental evidence for the work's central thesis: that space had ``its own manner of existing'' as an affection or emanative effect. In the 1710s, however, through the prodding of both Roger Cotes and G. W. Leibniz, he came to see that this evidence relied on assumptions that his own _Principia_ rendered unjustifiable. Consequently, he (i) revised the conclusions he explicitly drew from the experimental evidence, (ii) rejected the idea that his spatial metaphysics was grounded in experimental evidence, and (iii) reassessed the epistemic status of key concepts in his metaphysics and natural philosophy. The narrative I explore shows not only that _De Gravitatione_ did not constitute the metaphysical backdrop of the _Principia_ as Newton ultimately understood it, but that it was the _Principia_ itself that ultimately lead to the demise of key elements of _De Gravitatione_. I explore the implications of this narrative for Andrew Janiak's and Howards Stein's interpretations of Newton's metaphysics.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Biener, Zvizvi.biener@uc.edu
Keywords: History of Science, Newton, Mechanics, Space, Vacuum, Void, Force, Descartes
Subjects: General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Zvi Biener
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2016 18:24
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2016 18:24
Item ID: 11882
Subjects: General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Date: 24 January 2016
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/11882

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