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Newton as Philosopher


  • Page extent: 210 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.43 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521862868)

Newton's philosophical views are unique and uniquely difficult to categorise. In the course of a long career from the early 1670s until his death in 1727, he articulated profound responses to Cartesian natural philosophy and to the prevailing mechanical philosophy of his day. Newton as Philosopher presents Newton as an original and sophisticated contributor to natural philosophy, one who engaged with the principal ideas of his most important predecessor, René Descartes, and of his most influential critic, G. W. Leibniz. Unlike Descartes and Leibniz, Newton was systematic and philosophical without presenting a philosophical system, but over the course of his life, he developed a novel picture of nature, our place within it, and its relation to the creator. This rich treatment of his philosophical ideas will be of wide interest to historians of philosophy, science, and ideas.

• The full-length treatment of Newton's philosophical ideas • A detailed exposition of the difficult concepts in Newton's natural philosophy • Suitable for graduate students of early modern philosophy, history and philosophy of science and Newton


Preface; Notes on text and translations; 1. Newton as philosopher, the very idea; 2. Physics and metaphysics: three interpretations; 3. Do forces exist? Contesting the mechanical philosophy, I; 4. Matter and mechanism: contesting the mechanical philosophy, II; 5. Space in physics and metaphysics: contra Descartes; 6. God and natural philosophy; Bibliography; index.


Review of the hardback: 'Newton as Philosopher is the best and most comprehensive discussion now available of Newton's philosophical views and their relationship with his physics - especially in connection with such vexed issues as the existence of forces, action at a distance, and God's relation to 'absolute space'. It is particularly remarkable for the way in which it very illuminatingly situates these issues within the wider context of early modern philosophy more generally.' Michael Friedman, Stanford University

Review of the hardback: 'Janiak argues strongly for Newton as a philosopher, and gives a bold and compelling account of what he labels 'Newton's physical metaphysics'. Because it details the close relationship between natural philosophy and traditional metaphysical themes, his book will engage not only historians of eighteenth-century ideas but also those philosophers of physics who examine historically foundational physical concepts such as space, time and mass.' Christopher Kenny, University of Leeds

'… fulfils the task successfully, and proves the good that can come from combining a historically accurate account with a philosophically compelling analysis … Janiak masterfully steers his interpretive analysis through an extraordinarily rich historical material, while the philosophically rigorous narrative takes the reader from one chapter to the next in a compelling way. The final result is a brilliant book that has an important story to tell about Newton's "physical metaphysics" and it makes it an occasion for a thousand wider meditations … Janiak's Newton sheds new light on the vexed issue of the relationship between Newton's physics and his metaphysical and religious beliefs, and on how the latter informed and illuminated the former … Janiak's monograph offers an essential contribution to the ever-growing field of history and philosophy of science, and proves once more what can be achieved by masterfully integrating intellectual history of science with philosophy.' The Journal of Philosophy

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