The Surprises of Newtonian Determinism

  • P. B. Scheurer
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 123)


On the fifth day of July 1987, it will have been exactly three centuries ago that Newton’s celebrated Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica rolled off the press into the diligent hands of E. Halley. This work may truly be regarded as the temple of Newton’s determinism, and, albeit more generally and more loosely, of Newtonian determinism. The distinction is obvious enough. It is indeed a fact that three hundred years after the publication of the Principia, we still describe motion essentially in terms of differential equations, thereby following Newton’s original choice and decision.


Quantum Mechanics Structural Concept Scientific Revolution Differentiable Manifold Regulative Concept 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Cfr. V.I. Arnold, Mathematical Means of Classical Mechanics (Moskow: Mir, 1972 sqq.). By the way, much of the mathematical apparatus used by Prigogine and by present-day chaotic determinists is to be found in the numerous and ample appendices provided by Arnold who considers that apparatus as an integral part of classical mechanics.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See also his Draft of the Commercium Epistolicum of 1712.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    M. Bunge, Scientific Research I and II (New York: Springer, 1967).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    P.B. Scheurer, Révolutions de la science et permanence du réel (Paris, P.U.F., 1979). As it is the usual fate of epistemologists writing in the French language, this book is well known in France but virtually ignored in the rest of the world.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    I have coined the expression of the “4 S View of Theories” to designate the Suppes-Sneed-Stegmulller Structuralist view of Theories.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    I borrowed the expression “regulative concepts” from S. Toulmin.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Of course, their very mathematical nature always allows for the complete translation of one such language into the others, but their use by physicists can differ considerably, depending on the difference in their heuristic power.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    A.R. Hall and M.B. Hall, Unpublished Papers of Isaac Newton (Cambridge: U. Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    John Herivel, The Background to Newton’s Principia (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965).Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    A.R. Hall and M.B. Hall, Unpublished Papers of Isaac Newton (Cambridge: U. Press, 1962) op. cit., p. 20.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Op. cit., p. 121.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    LB. Cohen, “Newton” in C.C. Gillispie: Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974), X, pp. 49–50.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    P. Scheurer, “Quantum Kinetics; An Extension of Quantum Structure beyond Mechanics,” in Arch. Sc. Genève, 40 (1987), pp. 57–64.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    P.B. Scheurer, “Reversible Motion and Irreversible Evolution. Quantum Kinetics and the Postulate TEI,” Arch. Sc. Genève 37 (1984), pp. 229–264.Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    G.W. Mackey, Induced Representation of Groups and Quantum Mechanics (New York: Benjamin, 1968), pp. 57–58.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    A.R. Hall and M.B. Hall, Unpublished Papers of Isaac Newton p. 333.Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    Ibid. p. 321.Google Scholar
  18. 21.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. B. Scheurer
    • 1
  1. 1.Catholic UniversityNijimegenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations