The Cambridge Companion to Newton

By I. Bernard Cohen; George E. Smith | Go to book overview

Introduction
I. BERNARD COHEN AND GEORGE E. SMITH

Isaac Newton deserves to be included in a series of companions to major philosophers even though he was not a philosopher in the sense in which Descartes, Locke, and Kant were philosophers. That is, Newton made no direct contributions to epistemology or metaphysics that would warrant his inclusion in the standard list of major philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuriesDescartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant-or even in a list of other significant philosophers of the era-Bacon, Hobbes, Arnauld, Malebranche, Wolff, and Reid. The contributions to knowledge that made Newton a dominant figure of the last millennium were to science, not to philosophy. By contrast, Galileo, the other legendary scientific figure of the era, not only published the most compelling critique of Aristotelian scholasticism in his Dialogues on the Two Chief World Systems, but in the process turned the issue of the epistemic authority of theology versus the epistemic authority of empirical science into a hallmark of modern times. Although Newton clearly sympathized with Galileo, he wrote virtually nothing critical of the Aristotelian tradition in philosophy, and the immense effort he devoted to theology was aimed not at challenging its epistemic authority, but largely at putting it on a firmer footing. Newton made no direct contributions to philosophy of a similar magnitude. Indeed, from his extant writings alone Newton has more claim to being a major theologian than a major philosopher. 1

Without dispute Newton was the giant of science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, just as James Clerk Maxwell was the giant of science during the latter nineteenth century. But the very thought of a companion to Maxwell for non-specialist students

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The Cambridge Companion to Newton
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes *
  • 1 - Newton's Philosophical Analysis of Space and Time 33
  • Notes *
  • 2 - Newton's Concepts of Force and Mass, with Notes on the Laws of Motion 57
  • Notes *
  • 3 - Curvature in Newton's Dynamics 85
  • Notes *
  • 4 - The Methodology of the Principia 138
  • Notes *
  • 5 - Newton's Argument for Universal Gravitation 174
  • Notes *
  • 6 - Newton and Celestial Mechanics 202
  • Notes *
  • 7 - Newton's Optics and Atomism 227
  • Notes *
  • 8 - Newton's Metaphysics 256
  • Notes *
  • 9 - Analysis and Synthesis in Newton's Mathematical Work 308
  • Notes *
  • 10 - Newton, Active Powers, and the Mechanical Philosophy 329
  • Notes *
  • 11 - The Background to Newton's Chymistry 358
  • Notes *
  • 12 - Newton's Alchemy 370
  • Notes *
  • 13 - Newton on Prophecy and the Apocalypse 387
  • Notes *
  • 14 - Newton and Eighteenth-Century Christianity 409
  • Notes *
  • 15 - Newton Versus Leibniz: from Geometry to Metaphysics 431
  • Notes *
  • 16 - Newton and the Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence 455
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography 465
  • Index 481
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