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Cotes’ Queries: Newton’s Empiricism and Conceptions of Matter

Biener, Zvi and Smeenk, Chris (2009) Cotes’ Queries: Newton’s Empiricism and Conceptions of Matter. [Published Article or Volume]


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We argue that a conflict between two conceptions of “quantity of matter” employed in a corollary to proposition 6 of Book III of the Principia illustrates a deeper conflict between Newton’s view of the nature of extended bodies and the concept of mass appropriate for the theoretical framework of the Principia. We trace Newton’s failure to recognize the conflict to the fact that he allowed for the justification of natural philosophical claims by two types of a posteriori, empiricist methodologies. Newton's thoughts on these methodologies demonstrate that his natural philosophy continued to develop after the publication of the first edition of Principia and that De Grav should be understood as an early, and not necessarily representative, text.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Biener, Zvi
Smeenk, Chris
Keywords: Newton, mass, Principia, De Grav, Cotes, invisible hand, two globes, theory-mediated measurement, attraction, Rule III.
Subjects: General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Zvi Biener
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2010 19:18
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2010 20:12
Item ID: 5311

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