Isaac Newton’s Philosophy and Principia Influence

Philosophy and influences of English scientist and inventor Isaac Newton, famous for Principia, and prominent philosophers he influenced, Locke and Kant.

Considered the greatest scientist of all-time, the philosophies of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), had immense influence other great philosophers. He was an English physicist, mathematician and astronomer who discovered gravity and the three laws of motion, the basis for all modern physics, described in his book Principia (Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica).

He also invented the mathematics of calculus, constructed telescopes and worked on the nature of light. Many philosophers, including individuals succeeding generations — in particular, Kant and Locke — were highly influenced by Newton.

Newton’s Philosophies and Influence on Philosophers Locke and Kant

Newton was involved in a series of disagreements with philosopher Leibniz. Initially, it was over which of them was the first to invent the calculus, and later, they disagreed about the status of space and time – were space and time absolute or relational?

John Locke’s philosophy is often seen as the philosophical workings out of Newton’s physical principles, that is, it is consistent with Newtonian mechanics apparent in the latter’s ideas and concepts. As examples, Locke argued for:

a causal theory of perception; and
a distinction between primary and secondary qualities of objects.

A third prominent philosopher, Immanuel Kant, recognized that everything in the phenomenal world had to conform to Newton’s principles, except he was more preoccupied that the psychological mind imposes. He supported Newton’s disagreement with Leibniz over whether time and space should be conceived as absolute or as relational between objects. The Newtonians at this point apparently won, until the advent of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

Due mainly to Newton, empiricism enjoyed a period of dominance over rationalism. However, he greatly owed to his predecessor, Rene Descartes, the latter’s rationalist thoughts.

Isaac Newton’s Two Best Books

Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, 1687. (The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), commonly known as Principia. This book combines the ideas of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler into a single theory and explains the laws of the universe in mathematical term.

Opticks, 1704. The second major book of Newton on physical science. He examined the properties of light and colour and showed that colour was a property that could be defined mathematically.

Newton’s Greatest Achievement

As a high-powered great thinker — scientist and philosopher — Sir Isaac Newton’s greatest achievement was his theory of gravity, by which he explained the motions of all the planets including the moon. Importantly, he proved that every plant of the solar system accelerates towards the sun at all times, leading to his law of universal gravity. Newton said, “Every body attracts every other with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.”

Although he devoted his life to theology and alchemy, Sir Isaac Newton’s inventions and discoveries in the fields of physics, astronomy and mathematics have had world-changing effect, then and now.

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