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Alan Nelson

Very interesting!

A small footnote. To say that mass is a quantity "arising" from density and volume, does not imply that density is a property rather than another quantity. For *density of a body* must be defined as: .

The trouble in getting the metaphysics to bottom out pushes one toward an epistemological outlook.


Another small footnote. I took feel like Alan, broadly. The epistemology must drive the metaphysics, not the other way around -- at least as far as the later Newton is concerned.

From that vantage point, I don't understand the difference between 'essential' and 'merely universal' properties of body. There's only one generic pattern of evidential reasoning, in Newton: deduction from phenomena. Ipse dixit. How is the essential/universal distinction to be drawn, if we infer to them by the same logic?

Answer: essential properties are explanatory; or explanatorily more basic than just universal traits. Objection: Newton doesn't have a theory of (scientific) explanation. He has a logic of evidence/confirmation theory, but that's it.


Eric Schliesser

Good point, Alan. I tried to finesse the issue by using 'parameter'

Eric Schliesser

Ah, Marius, two remarks: (i) the later Newton is an achievement, and I'd like to help explain how he got there. (ii) As Zvi and I note in our (relatively recent, but ignored) paper on Newton's laws, we really distinguish between two perspectives in Newton: the epistemological one that predominates within the study of nature, and another, a kind of psychological condition of possibility that is more speculative and metaphysical that we find on the margins, in the notes, and -- crucially the scholia and queries.


Thanks, Eric. This helps.
(I don't ignore your paper, for the record. I've been discussing it just recently, with a fellow Newtonian who's writing on the same topic.)

And, yes, it is fascinating to see how Newton moves from the probing, conjectural register to the but-here's-what-the-evidence-allows-us-to-claim stance. I think it's becoming the new trend in Newton historiography, at least in the circles I frequent. Reconstructing the inferential paths that start in the notes and deleted drafts, and end with the considered views. Hard work, but rewarding and useful.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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