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Understanding (in) Newton’s Argument for Universal Gravitation.

Ducheyne, Steffen (2009) Understanding (in) Newton’s Argument for Universal Gravitation. [Preprint]


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In this essay, I attempt to assess Henk De Regt and Dennis Dieks recent pragmatic and contextual account of scientific understanding on the basis of an important historical case-study: understanding in Newton’s theory of universal gravitation and Huygens’ reception of universal gravitation. It will be shown that de Regt and Dieks’ CIT-criterion, which stipulates that the appropriate combination of scientists’ skills and intelligibility-enhancing theoretical virtues is a condition for scientific understanding, is too strong. On the basis of this case-study, it will be shown that scientists can understand each others’ positions qualitatively and quantitatively, despite their endorsement of different worldviews and despite their convictions as what counts as a proper explanation.

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Item Type: Preprint
Ducheyne, Steffen
Additional Information: This is a preprint of a paper of mine forthcoming in the Journal of General Philosophy of Science.
Keywords: scientific understanding, H. de Regt, D. Dieks, theoretical virtues, Newton, Principia (1687; 1713; 1726), universal gravitation, actio in distans, Huygens, Discours de la cause de la pesanteur (1690), spherical vortex cosmology, incommensurability
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Steffen Ducheyne
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2009
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:18
Item ID: 4993

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