SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Duhem's Criticism of Newton
(History of Philosophy, English)

Methods used by Isaac Newton in his Principia mathematica to prove the nature of gravitational attraction played a pivotal role in subsequent development of modern science. Despite the undisputable empirical success of his theory, it was often targeted by mechanical materialists as an obscure theory, since it proposed action at a distance. That contradicted the main premise that any action can be explained by mechanical interaction of particles. However, their objections were not just theoretical. Unlike Newton's inductive method mechanical materialists followed a hypothetico-deductive model. Despite the objections, Newton's theory held strong. In twentieth century, hypothetico-deductive method gained many followers amongst philosophers of science. One of the most prominent in this respect was French philosopher Pierre Duhem. Like older philosophers, Duhem attacked Newton on both theoretical and methodological ground. Firstly, he pointed out inconsistency between Newton's theory of universal gravity and Kepler's laws, which for to Newton represented the main background assumptions for his theory. Secondly, he argued that on many occasions Newton did not follow his inductive method to prove the theory. While some points of Duhem's criticism are valid the general argument for underdetermination of Newton's theory might fall short. I will show that the main reason for this is Newton's much richer notion of empirical success and vast support of agreeing measurements of a parameter from diverse phenomena.

Time: 11:20-11:50, 19 September 2019 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.005

Roman Zavadil 
(Palacký, Czech Republic)

I am PhD student at the Department of Philosophy, Palacký University Olomouc. My main aim is Philosophy of Science both historical and contemporary. Mostly, I am interested in methodology of science with main focus on Isaac Newton's natural philosophy and problem of underdetermination. Currently, I am teaching two courses at the University. One on Newton and the other on David Hume. I am also working on two project that aim on popularization of philosophy on high schools, one of those being a state qualification for International Philosophy Olympiad.

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