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An Essay on Thomas Reid´s Philosophy of Science
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy.
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Though generally recognized as a formative force in his philosophy, Thomas Reid’s Newtonianism and his philosophy of science has not received due attention among scholars. My aim is to inaugurate a detailed survey. In ch. 1 it is shown that Reid demarcates physics as against metaphysics and theology, making his brand of Newtonianism different from first generation moral and religious Newtonianism. In ch. 2 it is argued that "Newtonian" is not an apt label on Reid’s call for a Science of the human mind. Neither his practice within the field, nor his methodological views, make lawlike connections the central kind of truth to be discovered. Ch. 3 is devoted to Reid’s account of the 1st and 2nd of Newton’s Regulae Philosophandi, and an ensuing notion of explanation which approaches the deductive-nomological model. It is shown that Reid’s account is very much his own, though presented as an explication of Newton’s intentions. Reid’s dismissive view towards simplicity as a guide in scientific reasoning leans on Bacon’s theory of idols and Reid’s theory of first principles of common sense. Ch 4 concerns hypotheses in connection with Newton’s phrase Hypotheses non fingo. It is argued that Reid does not mind speculation about unobservable or theoretical entities, and that his objections to particular ether theories are scientific rather than principled. Nonetheless, since Reid does not explain the difference between powerful conjecture and established truth, his notion of scientific reasoning remains elusive. Ch 5 concerns Reid’s views on the concept and ontology of forces of attraction. It is argued that Reid takes forces to be physical entities open for empirical enquiry, and that forces are neither active, nor efficient. Finally, Reid’s view of metaphysics is considered, and further differences with early Newtonians emphasised.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, 2006. , 164 p.
Stockholm studies in philosophy, ISSN 0491-0877 ; 28
Keyword [en]
Newton, newtonianism, Regulae Philosophandi, physics, constant conjunction, hypothesis, ether, force, efficient cause, simplicity, explanation, law
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1006ISBN: 91-85445-32-0OAI: diva2:189162
Public defence
2006-05-29, hörsal 7, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2006-05-08 Created: 2006-05-08 Last updated: 2012-10-19Bibliographically approved

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