Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Action at a Distance

  • John HenryEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_1172-1


Action at a distance, although accepted in occult and magical traditions, has generally been excluded from physics and theology (where it has generally been assumed that even God cannot act at a distance). This article gives a brief account of the acceptance of action at a distance in magical worldviews and in voluntarist theology through the Middle Ages and into the early modern period, where it was most notably promoted in natural philosophy by Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton and in theology by René Descartes and his followers. It ends with a brief consideration of the Newtonian legacy of action at a distance as a major assumption in mainstream physics throughout the Enlightenment and into the modern period.


Gravitational Attraction Planetary Movement Early Modern Period Renaissance Period Metaphysical Dispute 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science Studies UnitUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Matteo Valleriani
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany