Three concepts of causation in Newton
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.
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