The "General Scholium" (Scholium Generale in the original Latin) is an essay written by Isaac Newton, appended to his work of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica , known as the Principia. It was first published with the second (1713) edition of the Principia and reappeared with some additions and modifications on the third (1726) edition.It is best known for the " Hypotheses non fingo " ("I do not frame hypotheses") expression, which Newton used as a response to some of the criticism received after the release of the first edition (1687). In the essay Newton not only counters the natural philosophy of René Descartes and Gottfried Leibniz, but also addresses issues of scientific methodology, theology, and metaphysics.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
In the first paragraph of the General Scholium, Newton attacks René Descartes' model of the solar system. Descartes and his supporters were followers of mechanical philosophy, a form of natural philosophy popular in the 17th century which maintained that nature and natural beings act similar to machines. In his book The World, Descartes suggests that the creation of the solar system and the circular motion of the planets around the Sun can be explained with the phenomena of "swirling vortices".Descartes also claimed that the world is made out of tiny "corpuscles" of matter, and that no vacuum could exist.
Descartes' model did not cohere with the ideas introduced in the first edition of the Principia (1687). Newton simply rejected Descartes' "corpuscles and vortices" theory and suggested that gravitational force acts upon celestial bodies regardless of the vast empty interstellar space in between.Newton was publicly criticised by Cartesians on this non-mechanistic theory. As a response to this criticism, Newton argued that Descartes' Vortices cannot explain the unique movement of comets. He sums up the paragraph with the words:
The motions of the Comets are exceedingly regular, are governed by the same laws with the motions of the Planets, and can by no means be accounted for by the hypotheses of Vortices. For Comets are carried with very eccentric motions through all parts of the heavens indifferently, with a freedom that is incompatible with the notion of a Vortex.
Newton did not offer any reasons or causes for his law of gravity, and was therefore publicly criticised for introducing "occult agencies" into science.Newton objected to Descartes' and Leibniz's Scientific method of deriving conclusions by applying reason to a priori definitions rather than to empirical evidence, and famously stated "hypotheses non fingo", Latin for "I do not frame hypotheses":
I have not as yet been able to discover the reason for these properties of gravity from phenomena, and I do not frame hypotheses. For whatever is not deduced from the phenomena must be called a hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, or based on occult qualities, or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy.
The General Scholium then goes on to present Newton's own approach to scientific methodology. Contrary to the deductive approach of Descartes and Leibniz, Newton holds an inductive approach to scientific inquiry. Phenomena should first be observed, and then general rules should be searched for, and not vice versa. It is this approach, states Newton, that has led to the discovery of "the laws of motion and gravitation":
In this philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the phenomena, and afterwards rendered general by induction. Thus it was that the impenetrability, the mobility, and the impulsive force of bodies, and the laws of motion and of gravitation, were discovered. And to us it is enough, that gravity does really exist, and act according to the laws which we have explained, and abundantly serves to account for all the motions of the celestial bodies, and of our sea.
Most of the General Scholium deals with Newton's religious views. However, it is also considered the least understood part of the essay. Newton saw God as an intelligent, powerful, omnipresent Being which governs all.It has been claimed that the text implies that Newton was an anti-Trinitarianist heretic. With no comments explicitly addressing the subject of the Holy Trinity, several parts of the text seem to raise anti-Trinitarianist positions indirectly, most notably:
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent being. And if the fixed Stars are the centers of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must all be subject to the dominion of One. [...] This Being Governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all: And on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God Παντοκράτωρ, or Universal Ruler.
The General Scholium ends with a mystifying paragraph about a "certain most subtle Spirit, which pervades and lies hid in all gross bodies." It has been largely interpreted as Newton's view and prospect of electricity,a phenomenon of which little was known at the time. Newton describes some attributes of this Spirit and concludes:
But these are things that cannot be explained in a few words, nor are we furnished with that sufficiency of experiments which is required to an accurate determination and demonstration of the laws which this electric spirit operates.
Isaac Newton's rotating bucket argument was designed to demonstrate that true rotational motion cannot be defined as the relative rotation of the body with respect to the immediately surrounding bodies. It is one of five arguments from the "properties, causes, and effects" of "true motion and rest" that support his contention that, in general, true motion and rest cannot be defined as special instances of motion or rest relative to other bodies, but instead can be defined only by reference to absolute space. Alternatively, these experiments provide an operational definition of what is meant by "absolute rotation", and do not pretend to address the question of "rotation relative to what?" General relativity dispenses with absolute space and with physics whose cause is external to the system, with the concept of geodesics of spacetime.
Physics is a branch of science whose primary objects of study are matter and energy. Discoveries of physics find applications throughout the natural sciences and in technology. Physics today may be divided loosely into classical physics and modern physics.
Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians and most influential scientists of all time. A key figure in the scientific revolution, his book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, first published in 1687, established classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.
The Scientific Revolution was a series of events that marked the emergence of modern science during the early modern period, when developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology and chemistry transformed the views of society about nature. The Scientific Revolution took place in Europe towards the end of the Renaissance period and continued through the late 18th century, influencing the intellectual social movement known as the Enlightenment. While its dates are debated, the publication in 1543 of Nicolaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium is often cited as marking the beginning of the Scientific Revolution.
Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton, often referred to as simply the Principia, is a work expounding Newton's laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation; in three books written in Latin, first published 5 July 1687.
Newton's law of universal gravitation is usually stated as that every particle attracts every other particle in the universe with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers. The publication of the theory has become known as the "first great unification", as it marked the unification of the previously described phenomena of gravity on Earth with known astronomical behaviors.
The mechanical philosophy is a form of natural philosophy which compares the universe to a large-scale mechanism. The mechanical philosophy is associated with the scientific revolution of Early Modern Europe. One of the first expositions of universal mechanism is found in the opening passages of Leviathan by Hobbes published in 1651.
Opticks: or, A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light is a book by English natural philosopher Isaac Newton that was published in English in 1704. The book analyzes the fundamental nature of light by means of the refraction of light with prisms and lenses, the diffraction of light by closely spaced sheets of glass, and the behaviour of color mixtures with spectral lights or pigment powders. Opticks was Newton's second major book on physical science and it is considered one of the three major works on optics during the Scientific Revolution. Newton's name did not appear on the title page of the first edition of Opticks.
Absolute space and time is a concept in physics and philosophy about the properties of the universe. In physics, absolute space and time may be a preferred frame.
According to ancient and medieval science, aether, also spelled æther, aither, or ether and also called quintessence, is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere. The concept of aether was used in several theories to explain several natural phenomena, such as the traveling of light and gravity. In the late 19th century, physicists postulated that aether permeated all throughout space, providing a medium through which light could travel in a vacuum, but evidence for the presence of such a medium was not found in the Michelson–Morley experiment, and this result has been interpreted as meaning that no such luminiferous aether exists.
The World, also called Treatise on the Light, is a book by René Descartes (1596–1650). Written between 1629 and 1633, it contains a nearly complete version of his philosophy, from method, to metaphysics, to physics and biology.
De motu corporum in gyrum is the presumed title of a manuscript by Isaac Newton sent to Edmond Halley in November 1684. The manuscript was prompted by a visit from Halley earlier that year when he had questioned Newton about problems then occupying the minds of Halley and his scientific circle in London, including Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke.
In optics, the corpuscular theory of light, arguably set forward by Descartes in 1637, states that light is made up of small discrete particles called "corpuscles" which travel in a straight line with a finite velocity and possess impetus. This was based on an alternate description of atomism of the time period.
Isaac Newton was considered an insightful and erudite theologian by his contemporaries. He wrote many works that would now be classified as occult studies and religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Elements of the Philosophy of Newton is a book written by the philosopher Voltaire and co-authored by mathematician and physicist Émilie du Châtelet in 1738 that helped to popularize the theories and thought of Isaac Newton. This book, coupled with Letters on the English, written in 1733, demonstrated that Voltaire had moved beyond the simple poetry and plays he had written previously.
In physics, theories of gravitation postulate mechanisms of interaction governing the movements of bodies with mass. There have been numerous theories of gravitation since ancient times. The first extant sources discussing such theories are found in ancient Greek philosophy. This work was furthered by ancient Indian and medieval Islamic physicists, before gaining great strides during the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution, culminating in the formulation of Newton's law of gravity. This was superseded by Albert Einstein's theory of relativity in the early 20th century.
Hypotheses non fingo is a phrase used by Isaac Newton in an essay, "General Scholium", which was appended to the second (1713) edition of the Principia.
Mechanical explanations of gravitation are attempts to explain the action of gravity by aid of basic mechanical processes, such as pressure forces caused by pushes, without the use of any action at a distance. These theories were developed from the 16th until the 19th century in connection with the aether. However, such models are no longer regarded as viable theories within the mainstream scientific community and general relativity is now the standard model to describe gravitation without the use of actions at a distance. Modern "quantum gravity" hypotheses also attempt to describe gravity by more fundamental processes such as particle fields, but they are not based on classical mechanics.
Newtonianism is a philosophical and scientific doctrine inspired by the beliefs and methods of natural philosopher Isaac Newton. While Newton's influential contributions were primarily in physics and mathematics, his broad conception of the universe as being governed by rational and understandable laws laid the foundation for many strands of Enlightenment thought. Newtonianism became an influential intellectual program that applied Newton's principles in many avenues of inquiry, laying the groundwork for modern science, in addition to influencing philosophy, political thought and theology.
Theoretical physics is a branch of physics that employs mathematical models and abstractions of physical objects and systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. This is in contrast to experimental physics, which uses experimental tools to probe these phenomena.