Newton as Philosopher

Newton as Philosopher

Newton's philosophical views are unique and uniquely difficult to categorise. In the course of a long career from the early 1670s until his death in 1727, he articulated profound responses to Cartesian natural philosophy and to the prevailing mechanical philosophy of his day. Newton as Philosopher presents Newton as an original and sophisticated contributor to natural philosophy, one who engaged with the principal ideas of his most important predecessor, René Descartes, and of his most influential critic, G. W. Leibniz. Unlike Descartes and Leibniz, Newton was systematic and philosophical without presenting a philosophical system, but over the course of his life, he developed a novel picture of nature, our place within it, and its relation to the creator. This rich treatment of his philosophical ideas, the first in English for thirty years, will be of wide interest to historians of philosophy, science, and ideas.


"According to Janiak, Newton's rejection of the prevailing mechanist views was not merely an attempt to transform traditional metaphysical issues, such as the nature of matter or space and time, into empirical ones, but also a matter of securing a proper understanding of these physical concepts in relation to God. This is a very fine book...Summing up: Recommended"
D.B. Boersema, Pacific University, Choice

Review of the hardback: 'Janiak argues strongly for Newton as a philosopher, and gives a bold and compelling account of what he labels 'Newton's physical metaphysics'. Because it details the close relationship between natural philosophy and traditional metaphysical themes, his book will engage not only historians of eighteenth-century ideas but also those philosophers of physics who examine historically foundational physical concepts such as space, time and mass.' Christopher Kenny, University of Leeds

'… fulfils the task successfully, and proves the good that can come from combining a historically accurate account with a philosophically compelling analysis … Janiak masterfully steers his interpretive analysis through an extraordinarily rich historical material, while the philosophically rigorous narrative takes the reader from one chapter to the next in a compelling way. The final result is a brilliant book that has an important story to tell about Newton's "physical metaphysics" and it makes it an occasion for a thousand wider meditations … Janiak's Newton sheds new light on the vexed issue of the relationship between Newton's physics and his metaphysical and religious beliefs, and on how the latter informed and illuminated the former … Janiak's monograph offers an essential contribution to the ever-growing field of history and philosophy of science, and proves once more what can be achieved by masterfully integrating intellectual history of science with philosophy.' The Journal of Philosophy