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Newton’s experimental proofs

Lampert, Timm (2021) Newton’s experimental proofs. THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, 36 (2). pp. 261-283. ISSN 2171-679X

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Abstract

Newton's claim to provide experimental proofs is often criticized. It is argued that his proofs are based on hypotheses and not inferred from the experiments alone. This criticism, however, applies a hypothetico-deductive analysis to Newton's experimental reasoning. Such an analysis is not consistent with Newton's own understanding of his proof method. The following reconstruction of Newton's proof method is intended to do justice to his understanding by applying the conception of iconic proofs to Newton's proofs by experiment. The main purpose of this analysis is to explain Newton's dictum that the experiment alone serves as the source of evidence from which his theorems are derived. After drawing a general distinction between symbolic and iconic proofs and illustrating this distinction by means of Euclidean proofs and Aristotelian syllogisms, I will apply this distinction to Newton's experimental proofs and analyze Newton's proof of the heterogeneity of sunlight by his experimentum crucis as an iconic proof. Finally, I will show that this experiment and its underlying method remain prominent in Newton's Opticks.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Lampert, Timmlampertt@staff.hu-berlin.de0000-0003-3912-7933
Additional Information: ISSN: 0495-4548 (print)
Keywords: Iconic Proof, Newton, experimentum Crucis, Diagrammatic Reasoning
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > History
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Methodology
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Practice
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Proof
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Unnamed user with email theoria@ehu.es
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2021 14:15
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2021 14:15
Item ID: 19142
Journal or Publication Title: THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science
Publisher: Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del País Vasco
Official URL: https://ojs.ehu.eus/index.php/THEORIA/article/view...
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1387/theoria.21155
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > History
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Methodology
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Practice
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Proof
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Date: May 2021
Page Range: pp. 261-283
Volume: 36
Number: 2
ISSN: 2171-679X
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19142

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