Newton’s General Scholium and the Mechanical Philosophy
This article pursues two objectives through a close reading of Newton’s 1713 General Scholium. First, it examines his relationship to the canonical mechanical philosophy, including his response to criticism of his own theory that that canonical philosophy’s requirements motivated. Second, it presents an interpretation of Newton’s own mechanical philosophy, glimpsed in draft material for the General Scholium: he takes the natural world to be a machine operating by causal principles that arise only within systems and that require mathematical methods because they fundamentally involve interdependent and thus co-varying quantities. Newton’s realism about impressed forces links the two objectives examined.
Hylarie Kochiras, whose research interests in history and philosophy of science focus particularly upon Isaac Newton’s metaphysics and natural philosophy, is a Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Fernand Braudel-IFER Postdoctoral Fellow at host institution École Normale Supérieure de Paris (Labex TransferS, Mathesis, République des savoirs (USR 3608), ENS-CNRS-Collège de France). Previously, she held fellowships at the Cohn Institute of Tel Aviv University, at Bucharest’s New Europe College, and at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. She was a visiting scholar at the University of Athens, and Visiting Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo.
This article was written during my stay as a Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Fernand Braudel-IFER Postdoctoral Fellow at École Normale Supérieure de Paris. The research received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013 - MSCA-COFUND) under grant agreement n°245743 - Post-doctoral programme Braudel-IFER-FMSH, in collaboration with Labex TransferS, Mathesis, République des savoirs (USR 3608), École Normale Supérieure de Paris (ENS)-Centre national de recherche scientifique (CNRS)-Collège de France).