Newtonian and Non-Newtonian Elements in Hume
Slavov, M. (2016). Newtonian and Non-Newtonian Elements in Hume. Journal of Scottish Philosophy, 14 (3), 275-296. doi:10.3366/jsp.2016.0143
Published inJournal of Scottish Philosophy
© Center for the Study of Scottish Philosophy, 2016. This is a final draft version of an article whose final and definitive form has been published by Edinburgh University Press. Published in this repository with the kind permission of the publisher.
For the last forty years, Hume's Newtonianism has been a debated topic in Hume scholarship. The crux of the matter can be formulated by the following question: Is Hume a Newtonian philosopher? Debates concerning this question have produced two lines of interpretation. I shall call them ‘traditional’ and ‘critical’ interpretations. The traditional interpretation asserts that there are many Newtonian elements in Hume, whereas the critical interpretation seriously questions this. In this article, I consider the main points made by both lines of interpretations and offer further arguments that contribute to this debate. I shall first argue, in favor of the traditional interpretation, that Hume is sympathetic to many prominently Newtonian themes in natural philosophy such as experimentalism, criticality of hypotheses, inductive proof, and criticality of Leibnizian principles of sufficient reason and intelligibility. Second, I shall argue, in accordance with the critical interpretation, that in many cases Hume is not a Newtonian philosopher: His conceptions regarding space and time, vacuum, reality of forces, specifics about causation, and the status of mechanism differ markedly from Newton's related conceptions. The outcome of the article is that there are both Newtonian and non/anti-Newtonian elements in Hume. ...