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Newton's Philosophy of Nature Selections from His Writings [Hardcover]

Isaac Newton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

10 Sep 2010
This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Kessinger Publishing (10 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1169735398
  • ISBN-13: 978-1169735392
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 28 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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5.0 out of 5 stars Reading the mind of Isaac Newton 27 July 2011
Format:Paperback
This book reflects on the mind and thought of Isaac Newton, one of the greatest physicists, through his writings. Principia and Opticks are the masterpieces of his accomplishments, but we get a glimpse of him through his letters to friends, fellow physicists, and philosophers of his time. The influence of Christian church in his thought is significant and found in numerous writings, which invokes God as the Supreme Being who gave us the laws of physics; the laws of motion, gravitation and geometry, to create the physical reality we experience. Albert Einstein also invoked God in many of his discussions, but Einstein thought God as an entity, but Newton's view of Christian God illustrates the influence of faith and belief on people of his time. In spite of this, many of his peers' interpreted Newtonian mechanics proves the independent nature of our world. The concept of absolute space, absolute time and absolute motion was criticized by theologians, including Bishop Berkeley and Leibniz, who regarded them as relative. But his newfound rationalism inspired many 18th century and future physicists that paved the way for more radical and newer way of scientific thinking that progressively diminished the impact of religious beliefs in scientific thought. Recently Stephen Hawking, a highly respected physicist of our time, stated that there is no God and no heaven. The truth of scientific enquiry is accepted by more people than ever before.

The first two chapters of this book discuss the principles of Newtonian dynamics and methods in philosophy. The third chapter is most interesting as it deals with physical reality.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reading the mind of Isaac Newton 27 July 2011
By Rama Rao - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book reflects on the mind and thought of Isaac Newton, one of the greatest physicists, through his writings. Principia and Opticks are the masterpieces of his accomplishments, but we get a glimpse of him through his letters to friends, fellow physicists, and philosophers of his time. The influence of Christian church in his thought is significant and found in numerous writings, which invokes God as the Supreme Being who gave us the laws of physics; the laws of motion, gravitation and geometry, to create the physical reality we experience. Albert Einstein also invoked God in many of his discussions, but Einstein thought God as an entity, but Newton's view of Christian God illustrates the influence of faith and belief on people of his time. In spite of this, many of his peers' interpreted Newtonian mechanics proves the independent nature of our world. The concept of absolute space, absolute time and absolute motion was criticized by theologians, including Bishop Berkeley and Leibniz, who regarded them as relative. But his newfound rationalism inspired many 18th century and future physicists that paved the way for more radical and newer way of scientific thinking that progressively diminished the impact of religious beliefs in scientific thought. Recently Stephen Hawking, a highly respected physicist of our time, stated that there is no God and no heaven. The truth of scientific enquiry is accepted by more people than ever before.

The first two chapters of this book discuss the principles of Newtonian dynamics and methods in philosophy. The third chapter is most interesting as it deals with physical reality. The influence of Newton's faith is clearly evident in his discussions, when he describes the solar system consisting of sun, planets and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of one Intelligent and Powerful Being. He also implied that God kept stars at immense distance preventing them to fall on each other by their strong gravity. Gravity is also implied to play a role in keeping the sea and heavens. The subtle spirit is known pervade and lies hid in all gross bodies by the force and action of which spirit the particles of bodies attract one another at near distances and cohere, if contiguous; and electric bodies operate to greater distances as well as repelling as attracting the neighboring corpuscles. The vibrations of the spirit in the living bodies are suggested to propagate along the solid nerve filaments from muscles to the brain that make the animals move. In his letter to Richard Bentley, the Bishop of Worcester, Newton writes that "the power that is placed in sun in the center of six primary planets. Why there is one body in our system qualified to give light and heat to all the rest, I know no reason but because the Author of the system thought that it is convenient." In another part of the same letter, he states the geometrical arrangements and orbits of the planets around sun, "argues that cause to be not blind and fortuitous, but very well skilled in mechanics and geometry." In another letter, Newton ascribes the sun and planetary motions; "for this as well as other reasons, I am compelled to ascribe the frame of this system to an Intelligent Agent." In his letter to Thomas Burnett, Newton discusses the science of genesis and creationism, and when light may have been created in the six days of creation; Newton's arguments surrounds the physics of motion and gravity, which are thought to have been created by God.

In the fourth chapter, theory of light and colors, the most interesting part of this discussion is on "ether and gravity," which starts from page 112. Newton also had lengthy correspondence with another famous chemist of his time, Robert Boyle, which is also discussed in this book

This book does not get into the personal nature of Newton where many have commented on his mean and erratic behavior. He was a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, and later appointed as a warden of the Royal Mint. Newton successfully prosecuted 28 counterfeiters, and sent one to gallows. He made himself a justice of the peace in all the counties, and then conducted more than 100 cross-examinations of witnesses, informers, and suspects as a prosecutor. Disguised as a habitué of bars and taverns, he gathered evidence himself. Newton's quarrel with Leibniz (another famous mathematician of his time), about atheism to the discovery of calculus, is very briefly discussed.

Newton's Principia is one of the most difficult books to read, even with the notation s modernized by author Florian Cajori in his 1928 book. Newton described physics so elliptically that most readers could not fill in the missing steps. Philosopher John Locke, who was not mathematically inclined, asked his mathematical friends if Newton's work is reliable before he took pains to read and understand the book. In light of this, it is a nice feeling to read this book, which is clearly described.

1. The Principia (Great Minds)
2. Newton's Principia for the Common Reader
3. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Latin Edition)
4. Isaac Newton
5. Opticks Or, a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections, and Colours of Light
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A VERY USEFUL AND BROAD COLLECTION OF NEWTON’S WRITINGS 16 July 2014
By Steven H. Propp - Published on Amazon.com
This well-balanced collection of Newton's writings is subdivided into sections on "The Method of Natural Philosophy"; "Fundamental Principles of Natural Philosophy" [including excerpts from his Principia]; "God and Natural Philosophy"; "Questions on Natural Philosophy"; and "Questions from the Optics."

Newton admits, "hitherto I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses; for whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called a hypothesis, and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy... to us it is enough that gravity does really exist and act according to the laws which we have explained, and abundantly serves to account for all the motions of the celestial bodies and of our sea." (Pg. 45) Later, he adds, “Gravity must be caused by an agent acting constantly according to certain laws, but whether this agent be material or immaterial I have left to the consideration of my readers.” (Pg. 54)

He states, “When I wrote my treatise about our system, I had an eye upon such principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a Deity; and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose.” (Pg. 46) He suggests, “So, then, gravity may put the planets into motion, but without the divine power it could never put them into such a circulating motion as they have about the sun; and therefore, for this as well as other reasons, I am compelled to ascribe the frame of this system to an intelligent Agent.” (Pg. 53)

He argues, “Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors. Can it be by accident that all birds, beasts, an men have their right side and left side alike shaped … and just two eyes, and no more, on either side of the face; and just two ears on either side [of] the head; and a nose with two holes; and either two forelegs or two wings or two arms on the shoulders, and two legs on the hips, and no more? Whence arises this uniformity in all their outward shapes but from the counsel and contrivance of an Author?” (Pg. 65)

For those wanting to read Newton without immediately tackling The Principia or Opticks, this book will be of great interest.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is great that someone took the time to put this together 13 Mar 2013
By rciardetti - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is hard to imagine a mind as great as Newton. This book has some nice selections of writings. Sometimes I am too stupid to understand them though!
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 30 Aug 2014
By Joaquim Nunes Narciso - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Perfect.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Modern English version 11 Feb 2014
By Johnstonius - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This does not seem to be a totally comprehensive review as it does not take any account of his voluminous alchemical writings, for example, and perhaps another introduction to this edition would be appropriate, along with supplementary diagrams to his explainations. Nevertheless, it is does transcribe Newton's rather free 16C spelling without spoiling his racy English and translates where he slips into his equally good Latin.
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