Three concepts of causation in Newton

Journal Article (Journal Article)

In this paper, I argue that recent debates about Newton's attitude toward action at a distance have been hampered by a lack of conceptual clarity. To clarify the metaphysical background of the debates, I distinguish three kinds of causes within Newton's work: mechanical, dynamical, and substantial causes. This threefold distinction enables us to recognize that although Newton clearly regards gravity as an impressed force that operates across vast distances, he denies that this commitment requires him to think that some substance acts at a distance on another substance. (Dynamical causation is distinct from substantial causation.) Newton's denial of substantial action at a distance may strike his interpreters as questionable, so I provide an argument to show that it is in fact acceptable. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Janiak, A

Published Date

  • September 1, 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 44 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 396 - 407

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1879-2510

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0039-3681

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.shpsa.2012.10.009

Citation Source

  • Scopus