Uncovering the Methodology of the Principia (II): The Phase of Model Application, Theory Formation and Theory Application

  • Steffen DucheyneEmail author
Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 29)


At the start of Book III of the Principia, Newton noted that in Books I and II he had “presented [tradidi] principles of philosophy that are not, however, philosophical but strictly mathematical – that is, those on which the study of philosophy can be based [ex quibus videlicet in rebus philosophicis disputari possit]” and that “[i]t still remains for us to exhibit the system of the world from these same principles [ut ex iisdem principiis doceamus constitutionem systematis mundani].” In Book III, Newton’s physico-mathematical treatment of force turned into a physical account of the forces in the empirical world. Correspondingly, Newton implicitly offered a physical reinterpretation of quantity of matter in Book III, which explains why, in manuscript material prepared for the third edition, Newton set out to define “body” (“corpus”) as any moveable and tangible thing that offers resistance to touch and of which the resistance can be sensed if it is big enough (“Corpus voco rem omnem ↓mobilem &↓ tangibilem qua tangentibus resistitur, & cujus resistentia, si satis magna sit, sentire potest.”).


Centripetal Force Inductive Generalization Universal Gravitation Apsidal Motion Proposition Versus 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Centre for Logic and Philosophy of ScienceBrusselsBelgium

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