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Three criticisms of Newton’s inductive argument in the Principia

Maxwell, N; (2014) Three criticisms of Newton’s inductive argument in the Principia. Advances in Historical Studies , 3 (1) 2 -11. 10.4236/ahs.2014.31002. Green open access

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Abstract

In this paper, I discuss how Newton’s inductive argument of the Principia can be defended against criticisms leveled against it by Duhem, Popper and myself. I argue that Duhem’s and Popper’s criticisms can be countered, but mine cannot. It requires that we reconsider, not just Newton’s inductive argument in the Principia, but also the nature of science more generally. The methods of science, whether conceived along inductivist or hypothetico-deductivist lines, make implicit metaphysical presuppositions which rigour requires we make explicit within science so that they can be critically assessed, alternatives being developed and assessed, in the hope that they can be improved. Despite claiming to derive his law of gravitation by induction from phenomena without resource to hypotheses, Newton does nevertheless acknowledge in the Principia that his rules of reasoning make metaphysical presuppositions. To this extent, Newton has a more enlightened view of scientific method than most 20th and 21st century scientists and historians. and philosophers of science.

Type: Article
Title: Three criticisms of Newton’s inductive argument in the Principia
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.4236/ahs.2014.31002
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ahs.2014.31002
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2014 Nicholas Maxwell. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights © 2014 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Nicholas Maxwell. All Copyright © 2014 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Keywords: Newton, Principia, Newton's inductive argument, Three criticisms, Duhem, Popper, Metaphysical presuppositions of scientific method, Theoretical unity, New conception of science
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1420123
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