No small part of Newton’s scientific success consisted in putting off the demands of science (that is, of knowing nature) – his last verdict on his Principia is that he will feign no hypotheses about what gravity is but will stick to describing its activity in mathematical terms. This is a subtle but dramatic reformulation of the claim running from Plato to Galileo that numbers and geometrical quantities themselves were at work in nature, for in admitting that his mathematical descriptions do not get within the phenomena he is describing, Newton is making mathematics an extrinsic to the physical world. Mathematics is seen as substituting for nature and is not to be mistaken with knowing what is really happening in it i.e. it is at best a prologue to science and not science itself.
Physics as a substitute for science
December 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm (Uncategorized)