© 2018

Newton’s Sensorium: Anatomy of a Concept


  • Affords insights into the underlying model behind Newton’s sensorium concept

  • Furthers understanding of both Isaac Newton and key developments in seventeenth century science

  • Calls certain assumptions into question, enabling a fresh perspective on Newton and his works


Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 53)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxv
  2. Part I

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Jamie C. Kassler
      Pages 3-27
  3. Part II

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 29-29
    2. Jamie C. Kassler
      Pages 31-57
  4. Part III

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 59-59
    2. Jamie C. Kassler
      Pages 61-95
  5. Part IV

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 97-97
    2. Jamie C. Kassler
      Pages 99-125
    3. Jamie C. Kassler
      Pages 127-138
    4. Jamie C. Kassler
      Pages 139-151
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 153-190

About this book


In the writings that Newton intended for a public audience, he used the term 'sensorium' in relation to both humans and God. But in the writings of commentators, it has been little recognised that these two usages form a complete concept, so that even today there is no consensus about the meaning of his term. This book, which is written as a process of discovery, not a thesis to be demonstrated, represents the first systematic investigation of the two parts of Newton's sensorium concept, which is a construct, that is, a concept specially devised for a theory. Therefore, the author sought to discover the meaning of his complete sensorium concept, as well as the model that underlies it, beginning with the human sensorium. This part of his concept is situated, first, in the context of Newton's published writings and, then, in the context of the writings of his contemporaries, William Briggs and Thomas Willis, two English physicians who were at the forefront of their respective specialties, ophthalmology and neurology. Only then is it possible to generalise to the divine sensorium, because Newton's method of reasoning from experience requires that the second part of his concept is last in the order of knowledge. And the reason for this sequence is that Newton's method, which he sometimes referred to as the 'analogy of nature', proceeds from that which has been observed to be universally true to that which is beyond the limits of observation. Consequently, generalisation passes insensibly into reasoning by analogy.

During the discovery process, a number of widespread assumptions are called into question, including that Newton can be classed as a theological voluntarist for whom will is superior to intellect, or that, for Newton, not only the material world but also God occupies the whole extent of infinite space. The insights afforded through this book will appeal to historians of natural philosophy and philosophy of mind.


Newton's sensorium concept, human and divine Physiological optics and optical processes Physiology of vision and visual processes Functional anatomy of the eye Visual processes and sensory-motor function Dual soul concept Method of physiological explanation Functional anatomy of the human sensorium William Briggs Thomas Willis Spectator/spectacle doctrine Theism Agent-causation concept Arguments from design Space concept Functional anatomy of the divine sensorium

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.NorthbridgeAustralia

About the authors

In 1991 the author was elected a Fellow (1991) of the Australian Academy of the Humanities for contributions to musicological theory; in 2003 she was a recipient of the Centenary Medal for services to Australian Society and the Humanities in the Study of Philosophy.

Bibliographic information