The concept of causation in Newton’s mechanical and optical work

Steffen Ducheyne, Erik Weber



In this essay the authors explore the nature of efficient causal explanation in Newton’s "Principia and The Opticks". It is argued that: (1) In the dynamical explanations of the Principia, Newton treats the phenomena under study as cases of Hall’s second kind of atypical causation. The underlying concept of causation is therefore a purely interventionist one. (2) In the descriptions of his optical experiments, Newton treats the phenomena under study as cases of Hall’s typical causation. The underlying concept of causation is therefore a mixed interventionist/mechanicist one.


Newton, (efficient) causation; "Principia"; "The Opticks"

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