Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings

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Cambridge University Press, Nov 18, 2004 - Philosophy - 148 pages
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) left a voluminous legacy of writings. Despite his influence on the early modern period, his correspondence, manuscripts, and publications in natural philosophy remain scattered throughout many disparate editions. In this volume, Newton's principal philosophical writings are for the first time collected in a single place. They include excerpts from the Principia and the Opticks, his famous correspondence with Boyle and with Bentley, and his equally significant correspondence with Leibniz, which is often ignored in favor of Leibniz's later debate with Samuel Clarke. Newton's exchanges with Leibniz place their different understandings of natural philosophy in sharp relief. The volume also includes 'De Gravitatione', offered here in a corrected translation, which is crucial for understanding Newton's relation to his great predecessor Descartes. In a historical and philosophical introduction, Andrew Janiak examines Newton's philosophical positions and his relations to canonical figures in early modern philosophy.

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Anyone interested in the legacy of Newton's work in natural philosophy would do well to check out this volume of letters and writings. It's brilliant stuff.

Contents

Correspondence with Robert Boyle 1679 I
1
De Gravitatione probably before 1685
12
The Principia 1687 first edition
40
Correspondence with Richard Bentley 16923
94
Correspondence with Roger Cotes 1713
118
Queries to the Opticks 1721
127
Index
141
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About the author (2004)

Born at Woolsthorpe, England, Sir Isaac Newton was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge University, where he graduated in 1665. During the plague of 1666, he remained at Woolsthorpe, during which time he formulated his theory of fluxions (the infinitesimal calculus) and the main outlines of his theories of mechanics, astronomy, and optics, including the theory of universal gravitation. The results of his researches were not circulated until 1669, but when he returned to Trinity in 1667, he was immediately appointed to succeed his teacher as professor of mathematics. His greatest work, the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, was published in 1687 to immediate and universal acclaim. Newton was elected to Parliament in 1689. In 1699, he was appointed head of the royal mint, and four years later he was elected president of the Royal Society; both positions he held until his death. In later life, Newton devoted his main intellectual energies to theological speculation and alchemical experiments. In April 1705, Queen Anne knighted Newton during a royal visit to Trinity College, Cambridge. He was only the second scientist to have been awarded knighthood. Newton died in his sleep in London on March 31, 1727, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Because of his scientific nature, Newton's religious beliefs were never wholly known. His study of the laws of motion and universal gravitation became his best-known discoveries, but after much examination he admitted that, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.

Andrew Janiak is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Duke University

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