Leibniz, Newton and force

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Abstract

Leibniz developed a conception of the physical world that was grounded in the notion of force. So did Newton. In this essay I would like to explore the different ways that these two contemporaries conceived of this notion, and the different ways in which the notion of force functions in their thought. My main focus in the essay will be Leibniz. Leibniz's view of the physical world is much less well known (and much less familiar to readers of this volume) than is Newton's, and his metaphysical conception of force much more central to his thought than it was to Newton's. Consequently, I will begin with a rather extensive development of Leibniz's conception of force, showing where it comes from and what it is supposed to do for him. After we have a clearer idea about Leibniz's conception of force, I would like to turn to Newton and compare the way the two treat the common notion that is so important to both. Leibniz: body and force Before beginning the project, I would like to make a brief comment on Leibniz's thought about the natural world. I’m not going to talk about monads in this essay. Leibniz had well-developed views about the physical world, about motion and its laws, about body, the nature of body, and the structure of body, and about force. This is the level at which I would like to work here. At a metaphysical level below that of body, Leibniz also had views about the ultimate nature of reality, what we might call the level of fundamental metaphysics. It is at this level that one finds his discussion of monads. While the level of fundamental metaphysics is connected with Leibniz's thought about the physical world, the two are not as closely connected as one might think. We can talk about body, motion, and force without directly engaging the metaphysical subbasement. And that's what we will do in this context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInterpreting Newton
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Essays
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages33-47
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780511994845
ISBN (Print)9780521766180
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities

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