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Hamilton, Hamiltonian Mechanics, and Causation

Weaver, Christopher (2020) Hamilton, Hamiltonian Mechanics, and Causation. [Preprint]

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Abstract

I show how Hamilton’s philosophical commitments led him to a causal interpretation of classical mechanics. I argue that Hamilton’s metaphysics of causation was injected into his dynamics by way of a causal interpretation of force. I then detail how forces remain indispensable to both Hamilton’s formulation of classical mechanics and what we now call Hamiltonian mechanics (i.e., the modern formulation). On this point, my efforts primarily consist of showing that the orthodox interpretation of potential energy is the interpretation found in Hamilton’s work. Hamilton called the potential energy function the force-function because he believed that it represents forces at work in the world. Multifarious non-historical arguments for this orthodox interpretation of potential energy are provided, and matters are concluded by showing that in classical Hamiltonian mechanics, facts about the potential energies of systems are grounded in facts about forces. Thus, if one can tolerate the view that forces are causes of motions, then Hamilton provides one with a road map for transporting causation into one of the most mathematically sophisticated formulations of classical mechanics, viz., Hamiltonian mechanics.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Weaver, Christopherwgceave9@illinois.edu
Keywords: Hamilton, Hamiltonian Mechanics, Causation, Force, Potential Energy
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics
Depositing User: Dr. Christopher Weaver
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2020 15:00
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2020 15:00
Item ID: 18407
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics
Date: 16 November 2020
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/18407

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