Space and motion in nature and Scripture: Galileo, Descartes, Newton.
In the Scholium to the Definitions in Principia mathematica, Newton departs from his main task of discussing space, time and motion by suddenly mentioning the proper method for interpreting Scripture. This is surprising, and it has long been ignored by scholars. In this paper, I argue that the Scripture passage in the Scholium is actually far from incidental: it reflects Newton's substantive concern, one evident in correspondence and manuscripts from the 1680s, that any general understanding of space, time and motion must enable readers to recognize the veracity of Biblical claims about natural phenomena, including the motion of the earth. This substantive concern sheds new light on an aspect of Newton's project in the Scholium. It also underscores Newton's originality in dealing with the famous problem of reconciling theological and philosophical conceptions of nature in the seventeenth century.
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