Newton and Newtonianism in eighteenth-century british thought

In James A. Harris (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford University Press. pp. 41 (2013)
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Abstract

This chapter describes various aspects of the impact on philosophy of Newton’s Principia. It shows how Newton’s achievement dramatically influenced debates over the way subsequent philosophers conceived of their activity, and thus prepared the way for an institutional and methodological split between philosophy and science. These large-scale themes are illustrated by attention to a number of detailed debates over the nature and importance of Newton’s legacy: debates concerning gravity and matter theory, the status of Newton’s “laws of motion”, the role of final causes in natural philosophy, and the interpretation of Newton’s “rules for the study of natural philosophy”. Important contributors to these debates included Hume, Colin Maclaurin, Priestley, and Reid. The chapter also includes discussion of how eighteenth-century philosophers understood Newton’s place in the history of science.

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Eric Schliesser
University of Amsterdam

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