Isaac Newton: the completion of modern mechanism

GodfreyKneller-IsaacNewton-1689Aristotle’s theory of motion dictated that a constant force was required to keep an object in motion (i.e force = resistance x speed). For example, Aristotle would say that an arrow continues in motion after being propelled by the bowstring because air rushes around it. Aristotle’s theories of motion were enormously complex: Aristotle contended that earthly motion was different from heavenly motion, and that natural motion was different from unnatural motion (where natural motion occurs without force, whereas force is required to move an object unnaturally).

Galileo began to question the complexity of Aristotle’s theory, contending that earthly and heavenly motion were the same and dismissing the idea of natural motion. In this way, Galileo laid the foundation for the modern mechanistic natural philosophy.

Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) was (unarguably) the most influential physicist and mathematician of the modern era. Newton’s seminal work the Principia Mathematica  featured his formulated theories of the laws of motion and universal gravitation.

Newton’s brilliant insight was scientific in nature rather than philosophical. Eschewing an explanation of the cause of motion (Newton calls motion “transference”, which is really just another word for motion), he focused instead on a detailed description of the change of material bodies in motion. From experiment, Newton knew that force was not required to keep a body in motion – in fact it was the opposite, that force (i.e. friction) was required to stop a body in motion. Aristotle was wrong, the air did not propel that arrow but rather frustrated its motion.

Newton’s laws of motion focus on acceleration (i.e. the change in objects velocity) rather than the velocity of the object as Aristotelian physics had. Thus, force was calculated by multiplying mass and acceleration (with the reinterpretation of resistance as a frictional force).

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7 responses to this post.

  1. […] « Isaac Newton: the completion of modern mechanism […]

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  2. […] his Principia, Newton details his mathematical formulae that describe the actions of object in motion. It was remarked that Newton’s brilliant insight was to abandon the diffculty of determining […]

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  3. […] the early 19th century, Einstein’s theory of general relativity began to gain traction over Newtonian physics. However, an issue with Einstein’s theory was its lack of provision for the modelling of […]

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  4. […] developed infinitesimal calculus independently of Isaac Newton and like Pascal was an innovator in the burgeoning field of mechanical calculation, where he was […]

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  5. […] and state) and his advocacy of political and social freedoms. His most important influences include Newton in regards to the sciences and Locke in regards to […]

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  6. […] argument, and a distinctly modern one. It is modern firstly because it regards the world in mechanistic terms i.e. likening a human being to a watch, and secondly because it regards the teleology as imposed on […]

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  7. […] Camus, heavily influenced by the Cartesian and Newtonian modern mechanistic view of the world, the absurd arises because man is a kind of Unmeant Meaner – desperately seeking order and […]

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