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Isaac Newton's Scientific MethodTurning Data into Evidence about Gravity and Cosmology$
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William L. Harper

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570409

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570409.001.0001

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Beyond Hypotheses: Newton's Methodology vs. Hypothetico‐Deductive Methodology

Beyond Hypotheses: Newton's Methodology vs. Hypothetico‐Deductive Methodology

(p.338) 9 Beyond Hypotheses: Newton's Methodology vs. Hypothetico‐Deductive Methodology
Isaac Newton's Scientific Method

William L. Harper

Oxford University Press

Part I. Some methodological remarks from Newton: Gravity as pair-wise interactions between bodies is compatible with a variety of possible locally acting causes. Empirically establishing conditions of forces from phenomena is to precede and inform any further investigations into their physical causes. Part II. A challenge to Newton’s application of Law 3 to count gravity as a pair-wise interaction and his appeal to Law 1 to defend it. Part III. Counting gravity between solar system bodies as mutual attractions: Hypothetico-deductive inference is not enough. Rule 3 may do it. Part IV. Rule 4 makes accumulating empirical success in solar system measurements support acceptance of Newton’s inference against rivals motivated by a commitment to avoid action at a distance; but, it argues against turning Newton’s ideal of empirical success as accurate measurement into a necessary criterion for counting a proposition as having empirical support sufficient to warrant accepting it.

Keywords:   Newton on method, locally acting causes, forces from phenomena, physical causes, action at a distance, Law 3, Law 1, gravity as attraction, ideal of empirical success, criterion for acceptance

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