You are on page 1of 17

Chapter 54: MECHANIC?


M ECHANICS, taken as the name for just one of the physical sciences, would

merit no place on a small list of basic, focal terms. But the word "mechanics" means more than that. In the tradition of western thought it signifies a whole philosophy of nature, and it connotes a set of fundamental principles under which, it has been thought, all the physical

sciences can be unified. The principles of mechanics have been ap- plied not only in statics and dynamics, which are concerned with the action and reaction of

bodies at rest or in motion, but also in acoustics and optics and the sciences of heat, magnetism, and electricity. They have been extended to

astronomical phenomena to

called "celestial mechanics." They have been thought to govern the action or motion of in- visible particles or waves as well as the familiar bodies of ordinary experience. In the range and variety of the phenomena it covers, mechanics would seem to be co-extensive with physics. Such at least appears to be its scope at one stage in the development of natural science. We shall presently consider the dissatisfac- tion wi th the mechanical point of view which causes scientists in our own day to hail the replacement of "classical mechanics" by the "new physics" as a great advance in science. The intellectual significance of this change can be compared with that earlier revolution in the 17 th century when the new natural science founded on the achievements of Galileo, Huy- gens, and Newton replaced the physics of Aris- totle which had long reigned as the traditional philosophy of nature. What Einstein calls "the rise and decline of the mechanical point of view" thus seems to provide an apt title for the story of three stages in the history of science, in only one of which does the whole of physics

appear to be dominated by mechanics.

consti tu te what is

One "vay, then, of understanding the imp tance of mechanics is in terms of that stor Other chapters, such as ASTRONOMY, CHANG ELEMENT, MATTER, PHYSICS, SPACE, and TI~ -and perhaps also CAUSE and HYPOTHESIS

tell part of that story, especially the part whi turns on the differences between Aristotle physics (which is neither experimental n mathematical) and modern physics (which both). This chapter focuses on issues which £ largely within modern physics-issues belon ing to that part of the story which, in the gre books, begins with Galileo, Huygens, and Ne ton and runs to Fourier and Faraday. The sto

itself does not end there, but the point

Faraday carries it suggests the sequel in ele Maxwell and Einstein, just as Galileo's point departure reflects antecedents in Aristotle. T great books state the issues sufficiently we though they do not tell the \vhole story. Th can be fully documented only by a host of su plementary scientific classics in various fiel such as the works listed in ~he A,ddition

to whi


IN MODERN TIMES it is accepted that physi should be both experimental and mathematic No one questions the ideal of unifying t physical sciences and finding the unity in n ture's laws. But the question is whether th unifica tion can be achieved under the aegis mechanics; and the issue is whether physi should gather its experimental findings t gether under purely mathematical formu! tions or should also try to give those rna th matical fonnulae a mechanical interpretatio The issue involves more than a question scientific method. It concerns the ultimate ai of natural science and the kind of concepts should employ to fulfill this aim. Should t scientist seek to do no more than describe t




omena of nature in terms of the simplest n10S t universal mathematical relations? should he go beyond description to an ex- ation of the phenomena in terms of their

es? When the issue is thus stated as a choice be- n being content with description or striv- for explanation, it appears to be broader the question whether physics should or ld not be mechanical. Even granted that nation is desirable, does it necessarily fol- that physical explanation must employ the ciples and concepts of mechanics? Aris- e's physics, it can be argued, provides a negative answer. His various physical. treatises re~resent a natural science which tries to ex- lain the phenomena without doing so me~ ically, just as it tries to describe the phe- ena without doing so mathematically. that the connection of these two features of tode's physics is not accidental seems to be indicated by the conjunction of their opposites in modern physics. When in the 17th century ~hysicistdescribes natural phenomena in hematical terms, he explains them-if he tries to explain them at all-in mechanical terms. "The laws of Mechanics," wri tes Des- cartes, "are the laws of Nature." Huygens ns his Treatise on Light by referring to op- tICS as the kind of science "in which Geometry is a~~lied to matter"; but he at once expresses the desire to advance this branch of mathe- matical physics by investigating "the origin and the causes" of the truths already known, in order to provide "better and more satisfactory ext>lanations." Such explanations, he thinks, will be found only if we conceive "the causes of all natural effects in terms of mechanical motions." He declares it his opinion that "we must necessarily do this, or else renounce all hot>es of ever comprehending anything in J?hysics." ~alileo and Newton, as will be noted, do not unqualifiedly share Huygens' view that it is t>rot>er for the mathematical physicist to in- guireabout causes. But they would agree that i£any explanation is to be given for laws of na- eexpressed in mathematical form, one· or other type of mechanical hypothesis would required to state the causes. Postponing for the moment the consideration of whether the

investigation of causes belongs to mathematical physics, let us examine what isinvolved in giv- ing a mechanical explanation of anything and why this type of explanation tends to occur in the causal interpretation of mathematically formulated la,vs of nature. T\vo points seem to constitute the essence of mechanical theory. Both are fundamental no- tions and both are philosophical in the sense that they do not seem to result from the find- ings of experimental research. The first point is an exclusive emphasis upon efficient causes, which means the exclusion of other types of causes, especially final and formal causes, from mechanical explanation. As the chapter on CAUSE indicates, efficient causality consists in one thing acting on another. But not every sort of action by which one thing affects another is mechanical. According to the doctrine, an ef- ficient cause is mechanical only if it consists in a moving body acting on another by impact, or if it consists in a force exerted by one body to cause motion in another or to change its quan- tity or direction. The notion of a force which does not work through the impact of one mov- ing thing upon another raises the problem of action-at-a-distance to which we shall return subsequently. The second fundamental point is an exclu- sive emphasis up()n quantities. Mechanical ex- - planation makes no references to qualities or other attributes of things. Paradoxically this point is sometimes expressed in terms of a dis- tinction between primary and secondary qual- ities; but, as the chapters on QUANTITY and QUALITY point out, the primary qualities are all quantities. According to Locke, they are "solidity, extension, figure, motion or rest, and number"; according to Newton, "the universal qualities of all bodies whatsoever" are "exten- sion, hardness, impenetrability, mobility, and inertia." Others, like Galileo and Descartes, give still different enumerations, but the point remains that the only attributes of bodies which have mechanical significance are measurable quantities. Such secondary qualities, for exam" pIe, as colors and tones belong to the physical world (as it is nlechanically conceived) only by reduction to the local motion of particles or waves having certain velocities, lengths, or other quantitative attributes.



We need not be concerned here \vith what sort of reality is assigned to secondary qualities, or .' how .their presence in experience is ac- counted for. These problems are discussed in other chapters, such as QUALITY and SENSE. However they are solved, the" philosophy of mechanism excludes from the physical· world \vhatever does not consist in, or cannot be re- duced to, quantities of matter (or mass), mo- tion, or force, and such related· quantities as those of time and space (or distance). The two points of mechanical theory are ob- viously connected, for the kind of cause which mechanical explanation employs to the exclu- sionof all others consists in a quantity of mo- tion or of force. Just as obviously,mechanlcal explanation, dealing only in 'quantities' and in causes which are quantitatively measurable, is precisely the type of explanation which would seem to beappropriateifonefeltcalledup>on to give an interpretation· of the mathematical relationships which the mathematical physicist formulates as laws of nature. Thesemathemat- icallaws are after all statementsof the relations an10ng physical quantities which have been subjected to experimental, determination or measurement.

As A PHILOSOPHICAL theory the mechanical view of nature antedates modern physical sci ence. The atomistic "conceptionof the world,;

which Lucretius expounds, contains·both ofttle fundaluental points of mechanism-the doc

secondary qualities' and

the doctrine that all effects in nature are prQ-

duccd· by efficient moving causes.

mechanism is'also an-

cient. Aristotle denies both points of dbctrine in his criticism of theGreekatomists,Democri- tus and Leucippus;. and in the exposition of his own physical theories he states an opposite view. To qualities and qualitative change ,he assigns physical reality. He explainsichange in term.s of four typesiofcauses,' not one~·He does not exclude the mechanical type of cause in his explanation ,of local motion. On the con- trary, wi th respect· to local motion .his tlileory that a body in motion must be directly acted upon by a n10ving cause throughout the; period (E)f its'lllotion, "seems to;,IDe .more·· mechanical than the modern theory that no cause need ibe

trine of primary and

The controversy: over

assigned for the continuing uniform motion a body along a straight line but only fo change in its direction or velocity. What is new in modern times is not the·p osophical doctrine of mechanism, but the troduction of mechanical explanation into perimental and mathematical physics, and controversy about whether it belongs there can be defended as useful. The so-called and· decline of the mechanical vievv in mad physics is connected with experimental dis

eries and mathematical forn1ulations. It is no alternation between success and failure on level of philosophical argument concern the ultimate truth of mechanical concepti When these conceptions are rejected, it is

for the sake of returning to opposi te notion

physical theory, such as those of Aristotle, rather because, as Einstein says,"science not succeed in carrying out the mechan

program convincingly, and today no physi believes in the possibility of its fulfillment." There is a touch of prophecy in the conve tion Swift imagines taking place between A tode and the physicists of the I7th centu According to S"vift, when Aristode was c fronted ,vith Descartes and Gassendi, he "fre acknowledged his own mistakes in natural losophy, because he proceeded in many thi upon conjecture,as all men must do; and found. that G-assendi,' who had made. the d trine of Epicurus as palatable as he could, the vortices of Descartes, were eq"\lally explod


of the present learned are such zealous serters. He said that new systems of nat were but new 'fashions, which would vary every age; and even those who pretend tode onstrate them from mathematical principl would flourish but a short period of time,H be out of vogue when that. was determined.

predicted the same fa te to attraction, wh~

BOTH GALILEoand Descartesre-state tllep osophical doctrine which first appears in cient atomism, but both re-state it in a that suggests its utility for an experin1cl investigation of nature. It is significant.1t Galileo'sstatement occurs in the context of concern \vith thena ture and causes of heat. wishes to explain, he writes in 11 Saggiato why· he thinks that "rnotion is' the cause



t}' 'fo do this he finds it necessary to gues- aprevalen t notion· ~'v/hich is: very· remote

the truth"~the,belief.that,' a

accident, affection" orquality,really .in~ t in the substance by which \ve feel our~ ~·heated."He'denies the· physical reality of neat·as an inherentquality of bodies, on the ground that he denies the physical reality er qualities. "I do not believe," he de;.;, ,"that there exists· anything in external for exciting tastes, smells, ·and·· sounds,

Int'si:ae, shape, quantity, ,and motion, swift ror and if ears, tongues, and noseswe1?b :re-

lamof the" opinion thatshape,quan-

" and motion .,vould remain, but there an end of'smells, tastes,and sounds, h, apart from the living creature, I regard

as mere ,vords." eseartes' statement ofrhe doctrine is bold- perhaps, '.in .its suggestion of .a mechanical gram for physical research.' "Colors; odors;

saMors, and the rest of such things,"

he writes,


are ','merely sensations existing in my thought." Ile-ydiffer from the real properties of bodies

jilStas much as "pain differs from the shape and motion of the instrument \vhich inflicts it."

Ille true physical properties, such as "gravity, llaticlness, the power of heating, of· attracting purging" consist, in Descartes' opinion, "solely in motion or its absence, and in the' con-

fi"guration and situation of· [bodily]

1\s a philosophical; doctrine, .the. mechanical view is not necessarily tied to atomism.Des- cartes opposes atomism as plainly as does Aris~ totle. Furthermore, Newton, who is anatomist, iisagrees with both Descartes and the. Greek atomists on one fundan1ental point in mechan-

ieal theory. The ancient atomists make the ac- I motion of one particle in collision with another the indispensable cause of a change of m.otion in the latter. Descartes likewise requires mne motion to be the cause of another and ex- l'lains gravity in terms of actual bodily motions. Newton rejects Descartes' mechanical hypoth~ esis of material vortices as the cause ofgravita- tion.Heseems to have this in mind, and to put L)escartes in the same class \vi th Aristotle, when fie says that "hypotheses, \vhether metaphysi- or physical, whether of occult qualities or

mechanical, have no place



in experimental

The Joree of gravity, according to Newton, is apc)\ver of attraction \vhicHone body exercises on another without the first being in motiono! coming into contact with the second. Newton ~ckno,vledges the problem of. action;.at-a-dis- tance \vhich his theqry raises. For the most part he lets. it stand as a problem which does not"af- fect the mathematical results of his work. But in the Queries he attaches to his Optics he sug"':

gests, by \vay .of solution, ·the hypothesis' of an ether as the continuous medium through which

gravitational force;is ex~rted.IJ:1.theopinion ot

later physicists, Newton's hypothesis is no' less mechanical· than Descartes'. Nor does there seem to be any philosophical ,grounds lor pre'" ferring one hy;pothesistothe other. But Newton's quarrel with Descartes IS not on a philosophical issue. It turns on which. me- chanical conception, if any at all is to be of- fered~ fits best with the mathematicalJaws of terrestrial and celestial motion which Newton had succeeded in formulating as universalla,vs ofnature~Those mathematical laws, moreover, had the merit of fitting the observed phenom- ena and so,. of realizing the scientiflcideal of accurate description· stated· in the most .gen- eralized form. Newton'striumph:,over Des cartes, then, is a triumph in mathematical and experimental physics, not a triumph ,in philos- ophy. Pope's couplet

Nature.and Nature's Laws lay hid in Night, God saId, Let Newton be, and all was light

records that triumph, and celebrates the illu-

mination of na tureby the

as the Inatheluatical principles of Newton's physics. Newton's picture of the world domi- nates the mind of a centuryand controls its

science. Locke speaks of "the incolnparable Mr. Newton" and of "his never'enough to be admired book"; Humerefers to him as the philosopher ,vho, "from the happiest reasoning

• determined the laws and forces, by which

the revolutions of the planets are governed and directed"; and even Berkeley, who challenges his theories of space, time, and attraction, re- grets that he must take issue with "the author ityofso great a man," a man Hwhom. all the world admires" as the author of "a treatise on

Mechanics, demonstrated and applied ·to nature."

mechanical as well



NEWTON'S ACHIEVEMENT is to haveaccom- plished an extraordinary synthesis of all that was good in previous scientiflc. work, and a s,veeping criticism of all that was considered stultifying. That so many and such varied phenomena should be organized mathemati- cally by a theory as simple as Ne\vton's, is alto- gether impressive. Equally astonishing is the predictive power of Newton's laws and the ex- planatory power of his mechanics, not to men- tion the technological fruits of the latter in mechanical engineering and the invention of machinery of all sorts. Whatever difficulties are implicit in the Newtonian mechanics-sub- sequently to become, with new discoveries, more and more perplexing-the scope and grandeur of Ne\vton's book gives mechanics a commanding posi tion with respect to the fu- ture of science for at least two centuries. In the century between the publication of

Newton's Mathematical Principles and the pub-

lication in 1787 of Lagrange's Mecanique analy- tique, "the notion of the mechanical explanation of all the processes of nature," writes White- head, "finally hardened into a dogmaofscience." In the next century, the mechanical dogma spreads from physics and chemistry through- out the whole domain of natural science-into biology and psychology-and even .beyond that, into economics and sociology. Books bear

such titles as The Mechanistic Conception of Life, The Alechanism of Human Behavior, So- cial Statics, Social Dynamics. At the end of the

19 th century, James notes the conquests


are being made on all sides by the mechanical idea. "Once the possibility of some kind of mechanical interpretation is established," he wri tes, "Mechanical Science, in her present n100d, vvill not hesitate to set her brand of o\vnership upon the matter." James himself testifies to the persuasiveness and success of the mechanical dogma, though not without some resentment. "The n10dern mechanico-physical philosophy, of which we are so proud," he says, "because it includes the nebular cosn10gony, the conservation of ener- gy, the kinetic theory of heat and gases, etc., etc., begins by saying that the only facts are col- locations and motions of primordial solids,· and the only laws the changes in motion which changes in collocation bring. The ideal which

this philosophy strives after," he "is a mathematical world-formula, by Vv·hi if all the collocations and motions at a gi moment \vere kno\vn, it would be possi ble reckon those of any wi~hed-forfuture mome by simply considering the necessary geomet cal, arithmetical, and logical implications." Laplace had in fact pictured a lightningc culator who, given the total configuration the world at one instant, would be able tobri the \vhole future "present to his eyes." A James quotes Helmholtz to the effect that. t whole problem of physical science is "to re natural phenomena back to unchangeable tractive and repulsive forces whose intensi depends wholly upon distance. The solubili of this problem is the condition of the co plete comprehensibility of nature." In commenting on this, James adtnits. tll "the world grows more orderly and ratio to the mind, ,vhich passes from one feature it to another by deductive necessity, as soon it conceives it as made up of so few and so si pIe phenomena as bodies with no propert but number and movement to and fro." B he also insists that it is "a world with a v minimum of rational stuff. The sentimen facts and relations," he complains, "are butc ered at a blo\v. But the rationality yielded is superbly complete inform that to many mi this atones for the loss, and reconciles the thi er to the notion of a purposeless universe, which all the things and qualities men love · are but illusions of our fancy attached to ac dental clouds of dust which will be dissipat by the eternal cosmic weather as careless as tll were formed."

'VITH THE 20TH CENTURY a change occurs. dogma of mechanism may continue to spr in other sciences and gain even wider acce ance as a popular philosophical creed, wi thin the domain of the physical sciences, c tain mechanical conceptions become susp and a \vholesale rejection of classical mecha (which becomes identified wi th N e\vton physics) is called for.


for example,




from Helmholtz that James had cited, in wh Helmholtz goes on to say that the vocatio physics "will be ended as soon as the reduct



atural phenomena to simple forces is com- ." This "mechanical view, most clearly lated by Helmholtz," Einstein concedes, yed an important role in its time"; but, he

s, it "appears dull and naive to a twentieth tury physicist." instein reviews the assumptions \vhich

had to make in order to construct a

anical theory of light, gravitation, and icity. "The artificial character of all these mptions," he says, "and the necessity for ducing so many of them all quite inde" ent of each other, was enough to shatter eliefin the mechanical point of view.••• In the attempt to understand the phenomena ture. from the mechanical point of view," continues, "throughout the whole develop" ment of science up to the twentieth century, was necessary to introduce artificial sub- ces like electric and magnetic fluids~.light uscles, or ether." According to Einstein, "attempts to construct an ether in some simple " have been "fruitless"; but what is more ortant in his opinion, such failures "indi-

cate that the fault lies in the fundamental as" ptionthat it is possible to explain all events ill nature from a mechanical point of view." oes this mean that the contemporary physi has found another and better way of ex" I aining nature? Is there a non-mechanical way xplaining the phenomena, which fits the ematicallaws of experimental physics; or aoes discarding mechanics mean relinquishing aU efforts to explain nature? Eddington suggests an answer. "One of the eatest changes in physics between the nine th century and the present day," he \vrites, )las been the change in our ideal of scientific anation. It was the boast of the Victorian tist that he would not claim to understand hing until he could make a model. of it; and a model he meant· something constructed of


s, geared \vheels, squirts, and other appli-

s familiar to the engineer. Na ture in build-

the universe was supposed to be dependent

list the sanle kind of resources as any human


The man who could make gravi

nout of cogwheels would have been a hero

e Victorian age." Today, however, Ed-

on continues, '\ve do not encourage the eer to build the world for us out of his

rna terial, bu t we turn to the mathematician to build it out of his material."

We may turn to the mathematician's con- struction of the world in his terms; but in the tradition of western thought, mathematically formulated laws of nature are not, with the single exception. perhaps of the Pythagoreans, regarded as explanations of why things behave as they do or ho\v they work. The change from the 19th to the 20th century with respect to "our ideal of scientific explanation" cannot, then, be the substitu tion of the rna thematical for the mechanical account of ,vhy and how. The shift from mechanics to rna thema tics is rather a shift from explanation as the scientific ideal to the statement of laws which, while hav- ing maximum generality, remain purely de- scriptive. What Eddington means by building the world out of the material of mathematics seems to be the same as what Galileo means, four centuries earlier,when he says that the book of nature "is written in mathematical language." ~rhe materials are such symbols as "triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures." Without the help of these, Galileo writes to Kepler, nature "is impossible to com- prehend." But does the mathematical comprehension of nature mean a causal explanation of it? More explicitly· than Eddington, Galileo insists that explanation-at least in the sense of stating the

causes-is not

the business of the ma thema tical

physicist. In a passage which cannot be read too often or examined too closely, he names three opinions which the philosophers have expressed about "the cause of the acceleration of natural motion." Some, he says, "explain it by attrac- tion to the center, others to repulsion between the very small parts of the body, while still others attribute it to a certain stress in the sur- rounding nledium which closes in behind the falling body and drives it from one of its posi- tions to another. Now all of these fantasies" he continues, "and others too, ought to be e~ amined, but it is not really worthwhile." They ought to be examined by philosophers, perhaps, but debating them is not ,vorthwhile in "those sciences where rrlathematical demon- strations are applied to natural phenomena." Perfectly defining the program ofmathematical physics, Galileo sets himself a limited task:



"merely to investigate and to demonstrate

some of the properties of accelerated motion (whatever the. cause of this acceleration may be)." It should be noted that of thethreeopin- ions about causes which Galileo mentions, the first, which anticipates Newtonian attraction,

is no less summairily dismissed

which summarizes .the Aristotelian theory. "What I call Attraction," Newton later

writes, "may be' performed by impulse

some other means unknown to me .• 1 use that

\:vord here to signify only in general any force by which bodies tend towards one another, whatsoever be the cause." It is well known, he asserts in the same passage of the Optics, "that bodies act one upon another by the attractions of gravity, magnetism, and electricity"; but, he goes on, "how theseattractions may be per- formed Ido not here consider." Newton's attitude toward causes ,and expla'" nationwould seem to be identical with OaF ileo's. Gali1eo calls opinions about causes "fan- tasies" and dismisses them; ·Newton calls them "hypotheses" and seems to hanish.·them as resolutely. "Hypotheses are not to be regarde,d in experimental philosophy;'" he decla.res in one place; and in another, having just referred to predecessors ·,:vho feigned .hypotheses , "for ex- plaining all thingsmechanically ," he says that, on the contrary, "the main business of natural philosophy is to argue from phenomena with-

or by

than the third,

out feigning hypotheses." The task ofthe physicist whois botlrexperi- mental and mathematical in his method,' New- ton plainly states, is "to derive two or three general principles of motion from phenomena~ and afterwards to tell us how the properties and actions of, all corporeal things follow from those manifest principles. [This] would be a very great step in philosophy, though the causes of those principles were not yet dis- covered. And therefore,'" he says of his own work, "I scruple not to propose the principles of motion above mentioned, they being ofvery general extent, and leave their causes ··to be found out." The two or three principles of motion men- tioned in this passage from the Optics are the foundation of Ne\vton's other great work, the

Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Its title indicates the clearly conceived inten~

tion of its author to limit himself to thep gram of mathematical physics on which both and Gali1eo .seem to agree. He will not· try; define, "the species or physical qualities forces"; he will only iavestigate "the quanti and mathematical proportions of them." the General··Scholiumwith which the M' matical Principles concludes, Newton disav once more any knowledge of the cause ofg ity. "To us it is enough," he says,l:'that gia does really exist, and acts according to laws which we have explained, and abundan serves to account for all the motions oft celestial bodies, and of our sea." Admitting t he has "not been able to discover the causes. of gravity. ·from phenomena," Newton· fla reiterates his policy: "I frame no hypothese

IN VIEW OF THIS policy, how does thenatne Newton come to be associated. with the umph of the mechanical point of view in p ics? Why do contemporary scientists like E stein identify Newtonian physics with classi mechanics? If a mathetnatical physicist,f Newton or GaliIeo, refrains from guessing at asserting causes, ··how can he be charged having indulged in the impurity ofa mech cal explanation of the phenomena, and having foisted a mechanical conception of universe upon mankind? The answer to these questions, so far as N ton is concerned, may be .partly found in own writings. He did not, it seems, enti disavow an inquiry into the caU'se of attract force, as in itself ei ther misguided or irrelev to science. "We must learn from the phen ena of nature," he tells us, "what bodies attt one another, and what are the laws and prop ties of the attraction, before we enquire cause by which the attraction is performe This statement postpones, but does not clude, an inquiry into causes. In another sta ment, Newton even gives us a reason for postponement. "In mathematics," he says, ' are to investigate the quantities of force their proportions consequent· upon any co tions supposed; then, when we enter u physics, ,ve compare those proportions the phenomena of nature, that we may the several kinds of attractive bodies. And preparation being made, we argue more sa



cerning the physical species, .causes, and . ortions of the forces." ese remarks of Newton do not give the Ie answer. For the other and perhaps more

ortant part of it, we must go to the actual elopment of physical science in the 17th ury. The steps .in this development- ly discoveries and. formulations made by leo, Huygens, and Newton-lead to ·crises


selves without discussingcauses---:-:-the es of gravity and of the propagation of .\Ve may thus be able to understand why ton could not .abandon the search for es; and why, in the Queries he appended to Optics, he proposes a mechanical hypoth- in order to explain how the attractive force ravity exerts itself across great distances, and also defends his mechanical theory of light "nstthe equally mechanical but different othesis of Huygens. It might ,:veIl be argued that, though Gal 's pure position initiated·modern mathe- "cal physics, it was the persistence of im- ity in the worrying about causes, or even inescapabili ty of such concern, which sed great scientific advances .to be made. concern about causes seems to provide, and time again, the pivot for new discov· es. The causes are not found,but newhy- theses are made, and these, when employed, dto \\Tider, more general results in the form Qfmore inclusive, unifying laws. We see this laj)j)en not only in the study of gravitation and t, but also in the investigation of heat and electricity. The concern of Faraday, for ex- Ie, to explain electrical attraction· and re- sion in terms of the action of contiguous ,L1articles, and to establish the existence of phys- icallines of force, leads to Maxwell's theory of electro-magnetic field;.and his field equa- , combined with Faraday's speculations erning the reladon between electrical gravitational attraction, lead to the at- tempt, on the part of contemporary physics, onstruct a unified field theory covering all sical phenomena. hysics may return in the 20th century to purely mathematical character it had at the inning of its modern development. But as be seen in any introduction to recent

which the scientists could not

physics written for .the layman, it is necessary to mark the influence of mechanicalconcep- tions upon scientific discovery and thought, in order to understand the difference between the unifying mathematical laws of the 17th and the 20th centuries. As we retrace the steps we see how fertile is the interplay between mathe~ matical insights and mechanical hypotheses.

As FOURIER TELLS the story of "rational me- chanics," the "discoveries of Archimedes" be-

"This. great geometer," he says,

gin the science.

"explained the mathematical principles of the equilibrium of solids and fluids. About eighteen,

centuries elapsed before Galileo, the originator of dynamical theories, discovered the laws· of motion of heavy bodies." Statics anddynamjcs are related as the two parts of mechanics when

that is conceived narrowly as the science which treats of the local motions of inert or inanilllate bodies. The rest or equilibrium of bodies, which

is the subject of statics, can be thought of as a

limiting case of· their motions, to which the principles of dynamics apply. In the eighteen centuries between Archime- des and Galileo, little progress is made in me- chanics~ So far as statics is concerned,Archime-

des, according to GaliIeo, by the "rigor of his demonstration" established the science:in all its essentials; "since upon a single proposition in his book on Equilibrium depends not only the law of the lever but also those of most other mechanical devices." Pascal may later enlarge statics, by showing in his treatise· On, the Equi- librium of Liquids that "a vessel full of water is

a hew principle of Mechanics,·a new machine

which will multiply force to any degree we choose"; in other works Pascal extends these

conceptions further,

pressure of air. But at the time of Galileo, it could be said that although Archimedes ha~ offered an exelllplary lllodel of mathematical physics, no progress was made until the work of Galileo's immediate predecessors. Not withou t assistance from certain prede- cessors like Stevin, Galileo founds the. science of dynamics. It may be wondered why, with the start made by Archimedes, no earlier ap- plication of his principles and method had been made. The answer may be found in the physics of Aristotle. His theory of the. four elements

as in his treatment of the


carried with it a doctrine of natural motions to different natural places, drawn from the ob servation of fire rising, stones dropping, air bubbling up through water. Such a doctrine would prevent the search for laws of motion applicable to all bodies; and the general char- acter of Aristotle's physics, treating qualities as well as quantities, seems to have discouraged the application of mathematics even to the study of local motions. The mathematical expression of the la"vs of motion is Galileo'sobjective. His interest in the ne"v astronomy which affirmed the motion of the earth led him, he told Hobbes, to the careful study of movements on the earth. His aim is simply to describe with precision the mo- tions to be found in a child's play-stones dropped and stones thrown, the one the natural motion of free fall, the other the violent motion of a projectile. It is clear to observation that the motion of a freely falling body is accelerated. But though, as a mathematical physicist, Gal- ileo refrains from asking why this is so, he is not satisfied to know simply that it is so. He wants to know the properties of such acceleration. Wha t is the relation of the rate of increase in velocity to the durations and distances of the fall? How much increase in velocity is acquired and how fast? What is· the body's velocity at any given point in the fall? Similarly, \vhen Galileo turns to projectiles, he wants to know, not merely that their trajectory is consistently curvilinear, but precisely what curve the path of the proj ectile descri bes. Galileo succeeds in answering all these ques- tions without being perturbed by any of the philosophical perplexities connected \vith space and time; nor does he allow questions about the forces involved in these motions to distract him frorn his purpose to "demonstrate everything by mathematical methods." ,Withmathelnati- cal demonstration he combines observation and experiment and uses the latter to determine which mathematical conclusions can be ap- plied to nature-which principles can be em- pirically verified as well as mathematically de- duced.

Tf-IE GREAT 1D£'1\5

of his experiments on inclined· planes, Galile expresses an insight which Newton later form lates as the first lavv of motion, sometimes calle the "law of inertia." It declares that "ever body continues in its state of rest, or of unifor motion in a right line, unless it is compelled t change that state by forces impressed upon it. Though Newton describes his method as one "making experiments and observations, andi

drawing general conclusions from them by in duction," the law of inertia seems to be an ex ception; for it is difficult to say, as Hurne does that '\ve find by experience that a body at res or in motion continues forever in its presen

state" -that is, unless it is acted on by

new force. The condition introduced by "unless" rais Poincare's question: "Have there ever been e periments on bodies acted on by no forces? If not, and if they are impossible, then Jam may be right in saying that "the elemental' la\vs of mechanics" are "never matters of ex perience at all, but have to be disengaged fro under experience by a process of elimination that is, by ignoring conditions which are alway present." Because "the idealized experime [which it calls -for] can never be performed, the law of inertia, according to Einstein, ca be derived "only by speculative thinking can sistent with observation." In any case, the first law of motion initiates new departure in physics. So far as local moti is concerned, Aristotle and his foUowers look £ the cause which keeps a moving body in moti


or a stationary body at rest. According to G

ileo and Newton, uniform motion continu naturally without cause. Only a change in t velocity or direction of that motion requires

cause, such as a force impressed upon it. How radical this innovation is may be judge from its consequences in celestial mechanic which in turn lead to a completely unifie dynamics for both celestial and terrestrial m ti~ns.These advances are the work of N ewto mathematical genius, but the ground for the had been laid by the investigations of Galil Galileo had resolved the curvilinear motion

a projectile into the imparted rectilinear m tion and the deflecting pull of gravi ty. T composition of forces-sometimes called t "parallelogram law"-explains \vhy the path

ONE OF GALILEO'S principles, however, seems to outrun ordinary experience and to defy ex- perimental verification. In the interpretation


appears to be at first? Its mathematical mean- ing is plain enough, and its application to

planets i.n their orbits, Kepler had preViously

wn, IS another conical curve-an ellipse. measured phenomena reveals. its descriptive

scope. When we ask, however, about its physi- cal significance, \ve raise difficult questions con- cerning the nature of this attractive force and how it operates. To call it the "force of gravity" and to point out that this is a familiar force

tneir paths. On the other hand, a follower of which everyone experiences in his own person ~alileo, as \Vhitehead points out, \vould seek hardly answers the question.

5\Ve e p around to keep the planets moving


e projectile. is a ~arabola. The path ~f the

lut Kepler, lacking the first law of inotion, could theorize physically about the cause of the planetary orbits only by looking for a force, projected out\vard from the sun, \vhich would


"for normal forces to deflect the direction of motion along the curved orbi to" He would look for a force pulling the planet off its own rec- tilinear course inward toward the sun. That is precisely what Newton did. When the problem, which others had been able to formulate, was put to Newton, he simply went

in the hand. He generalizes this insigh t

in his

GALILEO WOULD NOT have tried to answer it. In his Dialogues Concerning the Two Great Sys telns of the World, one of the characters, Sim- plicio, refers to .th(1t manifest cause \vhich "everyone knows is gravity." To this Salviati replies: "You should say that everyone knows

to his study for the solution. He had solved that


is called gravity. I do not question you about

problem some years before. He had found the law of the force which, attracting the planets

the name," he continues, "but about the es- sence of the thing"; and that, he concludes, is

to the sun, would produce their elliptical paths

precisely what cannot be defined.

and the other proportionalities stated in Kep-


A physicist like Huygens, who expects the

ler's purely descriptive laws.


of na tural effects to be expressed in

'NVith that single discovery, Galileo's terres- trial dynamics becomes a celestial one, too; and tne tradi tional separation of the heavens from tne earth is overcome. Newton goes· even fur- He guesses, and then shows by arithmetic, tnat the force deflecting the planets around the sun and the moon around the earth, is the same force which makes apples fall and stones heavy

the familiar mechanical terms of bodily impact, has other objections. "I am fi0t at all pleased," he writes to Leibnitz about Newton, "with any theories which he builds on his principle of at- traction, which seems to me absurd." What shocks Huygens is a scandal that Newtofl him- self cannot avoid facing. It is the scandal of ac- tion-at-a-distance-of the force of gravity be- ing propagated instantaneously across great dis-

ous inverse-square law: "Every particle of tter attracts every other particle of matter

tances and producing effects at some remote place but no effects along the way. Ne\vton rec-

with a· force proportional to the. mass of each

ognizes the strangeness of such a force. In a

and to the inverse square

of, the. distance be-

can be· pictured as

letter to Bentley, he echoes Huygens' protest

tween them." Accordingly, the world

to Leibnitz. "That gravity should be innate, inherent and essentialto matter," he says, "so

One in which material particles each have posi- tion in absolute space and a determinate veloc-

itY'. The velocity of each particle causes the cHange of its position, and changes in velocity are caused by forces, the amounts of which are determined by positions. From his laws of motion and this simple lavv of force Newton is al>le, by mathematical deduction, to account

that one body may act on another at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their ac- tion and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical mat ters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it."

for the perturbations of the moon, the oblate"


The absurdity

of action-at-a-distance. seems

ness of the earth, the precession of theequi~


be recognized by common sense and philoso~

xes, the solar and lunar tides, and the paths

phy alike. "No action of an agent," Aquinas

or the conlets.

remarks, "however powerful it may be, acts at

But is Newton's la\v of force as simple as it


distance except through a medium"; and



Kant, who regards Newtonian physics as the model of a rational science of nature, speaks of "a force 'ofaltraction without· contact"· as a "chimerical fancy" which "we have no right to assume." How can Newton avoid this absurdity \vithout violating his rule of method in mathe- maticalphysics-not to frame hypotheses ? Newton's dilernmacan perhaps be stated in the following alternatives: either the inverse-

square law of gravitational attraction is to· be treated as a purely mathematical, and hence a purely descriptive, proposition of greatsim- plicity and ge"nerality; or it must be given phys- ical meaning by a causal explanation of how gravitational force operates. On the first 31-


eses, but the physical meaning of the concepts he employs to state the. mathematicarlaw is then left dark. On the. second alternative, He can solve" the mechanical problem created by such ,vords in his law as "attracts" and "foree,"

N ewtoncan avoid framing hypoth-

but only by going beyond mathematical phys- ics into the realm of mechanical hypotheses. Newtonseems to take the first .alternative in his Mathematical Principles of Nqtural Philos;' ophy, and the second in his, Optics: There; he proposes, the hypothesis bEan ethereal medium to explain the attractive Jorce of gravity. "Is nottllismedium," he asks, "much rarer wilIhin the dense bodies of the sun, stars, planets,. and

comets, than in the emptY'celestialspacesbe~

tween t4em?Andin passing from them to.great distances, doth it not· grow denser and denser perpetually, and thereby, cause the .gravity 'of those great bodiestowa.rds nne, another, and of their parts to,vards the bodies; every body' en- deavoring to.' go from·' the denser parts of:the

though this

increase of·, densi ty may at· grea tclistances ' be

exceedingslovv, yet if the elastic force of this medium be exceeding great, it may suffice to impel bodies from the denser parts of the me- dium towards "the rarer, with aU that power which· we . call gravity o" The hypothesis fits the law ofgravitationif; as Max\vell points out, "the diminution of pres- sure [in the>ether] is, inversely as the: distance from the dense body.' '"Newt6n recognized, ac'" cording to ~1:axvvell,that itthcnbecomes llee- essary "to account for this inequalityofpres,l. sure in thisl medium; and as he "vas notable to

;mediurn tntvards the Tare? ~


do this, he left the explanation of the cau


The progress made towards the solution 0 problem since the time of Newton," Ma adds, "has been alm;st imperceptible."

as a problem for succeeding ages r

THE PROBLEM OF the mechanical properti an ethereal medium occurs in another fOf; t~e field of optics. Here it is complicated by n valry between two theories of light- ton's corpuscular theory and Huygens'll latory or wave theory. Each involves a mec ical hypothesis-one concerning the motio particles emitted from the light source, and concerning the wave-like propagation of"

light impulse through a medium. Both theo involve the motion of particl~s. In their planation of the oar ,,,hich appears bent in water, both appeal to the action of the parti in the refracting medium on the lighteD! cles or the light waves. Both theories, furthermore, are expresse their authors in a mathematical form w permits the deduction of quantitative:f1 like the equality of the· angles of incidence of reflexion, the bending of the light ray in fraction according to the law of sines, and recently discovered fact of the finite veloe of light. Huygens' book gives prominence the explanation of the strange phenomena double' refraction found in "a certain kind

crystal brought from Iceland"

But both theories seem to be equally com tent in ,dealing with theesta blished facts reflexion and refraction, and the ne\v fa about dispersion. For a century at least, their rivalry resemb that between., the Ptolemaic and Copernie theories ait; a time when' they seemed equa tenable so' far as; accounting for the phenom was concerned. Later, new discoveries, such those by Young and Fresnel, tend to favort wave theory of light; but the rivalry contin right down to the present day. It remains u resolved, a t least to an extent \vhich prom Eddington, in reviewing contemporary c troversy about the nature of light and elect ity, to suggest thein:vention of the word '\v icle" to signify the complem,entary use of b particles and "vaves in the n'lodern theory radiation.

~ Iceland




e the rivalry between the Ptolemaic rnican systems, which seemed for a be entirely a matter of different mathe- descriptions of the same phenomena, let between these two theories of light from the very beginning an issue be- dIverse mechanical hypotheses to explain enomena. That issue is' argued not only

spect to the adequacy of ei ther theory to such phenomena as the rectilinear prop- of light and its different behavior in

t Inediums; but it is also debated in

of the underlying mechanical concep-

s gravitational force acting at a distance

a mechanical problem which Newton's is not finally able to solve, so Huygens' as the medium through which light is gated in waves raises, mechanical prob- which, if insoluble (as they seem to be), ribure even more heavily to the general

tiflc .scandal of mechanics. h,e two authors take different attitudes hypotheses and mechanical explanation.

ens, as we have seen, begins his book with


s" and to express them "in terms of me- ical motions." Newton, on the other hand, ns his with a reiteration of his disavowal of otheses. "M y design in this book, " he

express intention to "investigate

writes, "is not to explain the properties of light hypotheses, but to propose and prove them fJ~ reason and experiments. " Nevertheless, wton's explanation of how the prism pro- es froin white light the band of colors in the

s~ectrum seems to require the

a distinct kind of light corpuscle for each color; and, in addition, the assumption that, although all light particles have the same velocity when they travel together making white light,>sepa- rate particles for different colors, are differently refrangible, that is, differently susceptible to the action of the particles in the refracting me- cHum of the glass. Perhaps only in Newton's somewhat arti- ficially restricted sense of the word "hypoth- esis" could these assumptions escape that de- nomination. In any case, the existence of Huy gens' rival theory prevented his escaping. a controversy about hypotheses. In the Queries attached to his Optics, he engages in that con- t~oversy with an acumen which shows another side of his genius.

assumption of

HUYGENS' WAVE THEORY requires what any-

body \vouid have to callan hypothesis and re-

it from the very start. "It is·. inconceiv-

able," he writes, "to doubt that light consists in the motion of some sort of n1atter." He im- mediately rejects the notion that light rays con-


sist in the "transport of matter coming to us

from the [luminous] object, in the "vay in which

a shot or an arrow traverse the air"-if for no other reason, because "the rays traverse one another without hindrance." The similarity

betV\Teen the phenomena of light and the phe

nomena of sound suggests to him the '\vaythat

light spreads," and causes him to extend the mechanics of sound-conceived as a wave mo'" tion-to light. "We know that by means of air, which is an invisible and impalpable body," Huygens ar- gues, "sound spreads around the spot where

it has been produced; by a movement ,vhieh is

passed on successively from one part of air to another; and that the spreading of this inove- ment, taking place equally on all sides, ought to form spherical surfaces '. ever enlarging and which strike our ears. Now there is no doubt at all that light also comes froin the luminous body to our eyes by some movement impressed

on the matter which is between the two


in addition, light takes time for its passage .••

it will follow that this movement, impressed on

the intervening matter, is successive; and con- sequently it spreads, as sound does, by spherical surfaces and waves; for Ieall them waves from

their resemblance to those which are seen to be formed in water when a stone is thrown into


Huygens is aware, however, that the analogy between light and sound is far from perfect. "If one examines," he says, "what this matter may be in which the moven1ent coming from the luminous body is' propagated, one will see

that it is not the same that serves for the prop-

agation of sound

he goes on, "by shutting up a sounding body in a glass vessel from which the air is with- drawn." An alarm clock beating its bell ina jar without air makes no sound, but a jar with- out air is no less transparent than one with air. Since when "the air is removed from the vessel the light does not cease to traverse it as before," and since waves have to,be waves of something, and light ,vaves cannot be waves of air, they

This may be, proved,"



must be ,vaves of a substance, says Huygens, "which I call ethereal matter." This ether, a transparent medium permeat- ing the whole universe, proves to be what Ein- stein calls the enfant terrible in the family of hy- pothetical physical substances. Postulated by Huygens in order to explain light mechanically, it in turn calls for a· mechanical account of its o,vn extraordinary properties. Huygens does not avoid this new problem, but neither does he undertake to solve it completely. Suppose "one takes a number of spheres of equal size, made of some very hard substance, and arranges them in a straight line, so that they touch one another." Then, says Huygens, "one finds, on striking with a similar sphere against the first of these spheres, that themo- tion passes as in an instant to the last of them, which separates itself from the row, without one's being able to perceive that the others have been stirred." This type of motion in the ether would account for "the extreme velocity of light" and yet "this progression of motion is not instantaneous," as the motion of light also is not. "Now in applying this kind of movement to that which produces light," Huygens contin- ues, "there is nothing to hinder us from esti- mating the particles of the ether to be of a sub- stance as nearly approaching to perfect hard- ness and possessing a springiness as prompt as we choose." Beyond this Huygens does not go. "It is not necessary to examine here," he says, "the causes of this hardness, or of that springi-

Though we shall ign.ore the true caus€


of springiness we still see that there are many bodies which possess this property; and thus there is nothing strange in supposing that it exists also in little invisible bodies like the par-

ticles of the ether." But difficulties which Huygens did not fore- see make his ether more than a strange supposi- tion-almost a Illechanical impossibility. Huy- gens had thought that light \vaves are trans- mitted in the ether in the way that sound 'A'aves are in the air, that is, longitudinally, the direc- tion in which the individual particles vibrate being the same as the direetion of the wave mo- tion itself. But V\Then, in the 19th century, it was found that the phenomena of the polariza- tion of light could no~·be explained by' the cor'"

puscular theory, but only by the vvave the (thus shifting the scales decisively in favor the latter), it' was also found that the w theory could explain polarization only on· t assumption that the motion of the ether p ticles which produce the light \vaves is I longitudinal, but transverse, that is, in a dire tion perpendicular to the waves produced the vibration of the particles. As Fresnel pointed out at the time, "t supposition that the vibrations were transver ,vas contrary to the received ideas on the natu of the vibration of elastic fluids." They had involved, as in the case of air as the medium £ sound, a longitudinal transmission. The chara ter of the ether is changed by the requireme that its particles vibrate transversely. It ceas to be an air-like ether and must be imagined a jelly-like ether. The task which Huygens had postponed that of giving a mechanical explanation of t ether he had posited in order to state the m chanics of light-becomes in consequence£:

more difficult, if not impossible. In their effort to construct "the ether as a jelly-like mechani cal substance, physicists," according to Ei stein, had to make so many "highly artifici and unnatural assumptions," that they final decided to abandon the whole program ofm chanical explanation.

OF NEWTON'S TWO objCKtions to the wa theory of light, the second by i~self seems t create an insuperable difficulty for I-Iuygen ether, even before the realization that it mu be a jelly-like medium. Newton's first objection is that any way

theory is inconsistent with the fact of the re tilinear propagation of light. "If light consiste in pression or motion, propagated either in a instant or in time, it would bend into the sha ow; for," he points out, "pression or motio cannot be propagated in a fluid in right line beyond an obstacle which stops part of tl Illotion, but ,,,ill bend and spread every wa into the quiescent medium ,vhich lies beyon

The \vaves, pulses or vibra


tions of the air, \vherein sound consists, ben

tllanifestly, even though not so nluch as t waves of \"ater." This objection loses its force \vhen, in



ncentury, light's bending is experimentally vered. But Newton's other objection gains e \vhen, t\VO centuries after he made it, a -like density is imposed upon the ether by


nd objection does not pOInt to thelnade'"

cy of the wave theory \vith respect to the

experimental facts of p?larization

nomena which must be

described, but rath

alls attention to its inconsistency with ce- ial mechanics. ight travels through inter-stellar space. But sa do the planets. Newton's astronomy ac'" counts for the motion of the planets with great

~recision,only on the supposition of no resistance

,.om a medium. "To make way for the regular lasting motions of the planets and comets,"

Ie writes, "it is necessary to empty the heavens

ot all matter, except perhaps

ceedingly rare ethereal medium as 'we de'" scribed above." Here he refers to the ether he limself had posited as a possible cause of gravi-

tational attllactiQu. Its resistance, he thinks, is "so small as to be inconsiderable." The "planets and comets and all gross bodies [can] perform their motions more freely in this etlereal medium than in any fluid, which fills all space adequately without leaving any

pores." Such "a dense fluid

oisturb and retard the motions of those great booies, and make the frame of nature languish." Since it "hinders the operations of nature," and since "there is no evidence for its existence," [£Newton concludes that "it ought to berejected." roPhe next conclusion follows immediately. "If it be rejected, the hypotheses that light tonsists in pression or motion, propagated through such a medium, are rejected with ito" Newton \vould seem entitled to draw these con- clusions because, no matter how slight the den- sity of ethereal matter, the use of the ether in the wave theory of light involves some interac- tion between the particles of ether and the par- ticles of matter. Unless such interaction takes place, no explanation can be given of the change in the velocity of light when it enters a Iuedium like glass or water. Since in Ne\vton's universe there is no difference bet\veen terres- trial and celestial matter, Newton cannot ac- cept an ether which interacts with the matter of glass or water, but does not interact with the

matter of the planets.

· such an ex-

serves only to

This objection of Newton's, pointing to· an inconsistency between the kind of ether re'"

quired by the wave theory of light and the un'"

retarded motion' of the heavenly bodies,

pears not to have been ans\vered, but only waived, at the time of the wave theory's· as'" cendancy. The famous Michelson-Morley ex'" periment on ether drift later re-opens Newton's penetrating query about the ether. But this occurs at a time when physicists are prepared to give up not only the ether, but also with it the


mechanical explanations of· gravity and light which it had brought into conflict \vith one another.

BEFORE THE MECHANICAL dogma runs its course, it has a career in other fields of physical inquiry. The phenomena of heat, magnetism, and electricity are explored and explained un- der its inspiration. The history of these sub- jects is marked by a very rash of hypotheses. Each,time ·mechanical ex:planation is attem,pted for a new domain of phenomena, new sub- stances are added. The postulated entities-calorific, magneti- cal, and electric fluids-are unobservable and without weight. In Newton's terms, they are "occult"; though, it must be added, they are no more occult than the ether Newton himself postulated to explain gravity or the ether Huy- gens postulated to explain light. In fact, each of these new substances seems to resemble the aeriform or fluid ether, just as each is con- ceived, as the gravitational or optical ether was earlier conceived, in the context of the issue of action-at-a-distance as opposed to action--by- contact. They would seem to be unavoidable in a mechanical account of the radiations of heat, tnagnetism,· and electricity. The phenomena of heat, Lavoisier \vrites, are

"difficult to comprehend

ting them as the effects of a real and material

substance, or very subtle

fore," he continues, "we have distinguished the cause of heat, or that exquisitely elastic fluid which produces it, by the term of caloric." Lavoisier declares himself "unable to determine ,,,hether light be a modification of caloric, or if caloric be, on the contrary, a modification,of light." But in terms of observed effects he does attribute ether-like properties to caloric. "l'his

without admit-




subtle matter," he says, "penetrates through the pores of all known substances"; for "there are no vessels through which it cannot escape." The theory of caloric serves its. purpose .be-

fore it gives way to the theory of heat as molec- ular motion, a conception which can 1?e inte- grated with the molecular, or kinetic, theory of gases. "The development of the kinetic theory of matter," writes Einst~in, "is one of the greatest achievements directly influenced ~y the mechanical view." It is all the more stnk ing, therefore, that in the. openingpages,,?f Fourier's Analytical Theory of Heat-whercu-l he reviews the triumphs of explanation achieved by Newton and his successors- Fourier should so flatly assert: "But whatever maybe the range of mechanical theories, they

do not apply to the effects of heat. These ,make

up a special order of phenomena which cannot be explained by the principles of motion and equilibrium." It is equally striking that Lavoisier seems to have anticipated not only the mechanical theory of heat, but the possibility of a purely mathematical treatment of the phenomena. "We are not· obliged·. to suppose [caloric] to be

a real substance," he writes; it is sufficient

"that it be considered as the repulsive cause, whatever that may be, which separates: the particles of matter from each other, so that we are still at liberty. to investigate its effects in an

abstract and matheluaticq.lmanner." The second of these· two things is precisely what Fourier proposes to undertake, but.he disavows any interest in the first, namely,the explanation of heat in terms of the mechanical separation of particles by repulsion. In langua:g e which resembles Newton~sdisavowal of concern with the cause of attraction, Fourier declares that "primary causes are unknown to us, but are subject to simple and,constantlaws,which may be discovered by observation." In another place he writes: "Of the nature of heat only uncertain hypotheses could be formed, but the knowledge of the mathemati- cal laws to which its effects are subject is inde pendent of all hypothesis." Fourier's aim, therefore, with respect to "the very extensive class of phenomena, not produced by mechani- cal forces, but· resulting simply from the pre S - .ence and ,accumulation of heat," is "to reduce

the physical questions to problems of pure an ysis" and "to express the most general con tions of the propagation of heat in differeri equations." He expresses his indebtedness Descartes for "the anaiytical equations" whi that mathematician "was the first to introdu into the study of curves and surfaces,"}} "which are not restricted to the properties figures, and those properties which are the 0 ject of rational mechanics." These equatio he insists, "extend to all general phenomena and "from this point of view, mathemati analysis is as extensive as nature itself." This strongly worded. stateluent. affirms mathematical character of nature as thes port and justification for a purely mathemati physics. If Fourier's remarks about causes a hypotheses are, reminiscent of Newton in mathematical.mood, how much more is F rier's faith in pure mathematical analysis re iniscent of Galileo. Like GaliIeo, and unl' Newton, Fourier never deviates from his· in ference to causes and never softens his ju ment of the incompetence and irrelevance mechanics to' the subject he is investigati His trust in mathematical analysis, which able by itself to yield and organize physi discoveries, not only revives the spirit of G ilea, but also seems to have inspired CI Maxwell to turn from a mechanical toa mat inatical theory of electricity. Certain of Fourier's mathematical achie men ts, such as his theory of di~ensions,pr useful to Maxwell. More important, perha is the fact that Maxwell's predictions about propagation of electro-magnetic waves, la experimentally verified by Hertz, ~retheres of mathematical analysis. With such adem stration of the power of mathematics to w frui tfully with experiment, and without any from mechanicalhypotkeses, Maxwell giv~s the attempt to formulate a mechanics for equations describing the electro-magnetic fi He is quite contentto let his field theory s the mathematical structure of the phenome

BETWEEN FOURIER and Maxwell comes F day. One of the greatest experimenters in whole tradition of science, Faraday disco the phenomena whose mathematical strut Maxwell later develops. He prepares the



Maxwell's application to electricity and t1ism of the method Fourier had ·prac- His speculations concerning therelation trical and gravitational force point ahead, nd Maxwell" to.the possibility ofafitild ry\vhich might. unify all physical phenom· under a single set of mathematicallavvs. araday sees no incompatibility between ex" mentation and speculation. On the- con" yhe says that "as an experimentalist I feel

to .letexperiment··.guide me into' any


nof thought which itmay:justify; being :fied that experiment, .,·.like·.analysis, must

to strict truth, if rightly interpreted; and ing also that it is in its nature far more stive of new·· trains of thought and new itions of natural·power." Faraday~stfaith

stmms. to have been amply justified.His: experi- s not only discovered a stunning number facts, but.· the .specula tions .to. which they transformed· the whole mode of thinking t electricity and magnetism; and, to some nt, the whole of physics. eElizabethan Gilbert, with his bold and,

thesis tha t :the' earth is a

et, had mademagnetism"appeav some" more thana random phenomenonocca 11y met with in nature. But not until

lId y handled

;~raday's discovery of .diamagnetism,an~

flounced in a memoir On the Magnetic, Condition II Matter, would anyone have dared to say ~,at "all matter appears to be subject to,the etic fQrceas universally as, it is to the itating, the electric and the<chemical or sive forces."Of electricity, ,he.'; can only ,ict, •as the result of his protracted experi ,

Illentalinvestigations, that· "it is probable that ellery effect depending upon the powers of in~

will ultimately be found

ordinate to it." hese remarks indicate the .controlling tleme of Faraday's researches,namely~ the co,lilvertibility and uni ty of natural forces. It to have been suggested to him by the very that both electrical and magnetic es obey the same simple inverse-square law the force of gravitational attraction. The that certain forces obey. the same law or their action can be descri bed by the same ations, would not of itself reveal whether

anic matter

of these forces is primary or ·all are··, de"

rivative from some other primary force. But it would suggest questions tt> be asked byexperi mente

Gilbert compares'magnetism and electricity but he is notable to convett one into the other. Oersted, before Faraday, is the first to establish one aspect of their convertibility. He shows that an electric current has a magnetic effect. Faraday succeeds in showing the reverse-that a .magnetic current has electrical power. :He expresses his fascination with such reversib{li- ties in his, rema.rks on the electrical' torpedo fish. "Seebeck," he writes, "taught us how·to commute heat into electricity; and, Peltier has more lately given us the strict converse o~ this, and· shown us .how to 'convertelectriciry into


vert electric into .magnetic forces, and I haa the delight of adding the other member of the full relation, by reacting" back again and, con- verting'magnetic: into· electric' forces. Soper"; hapsrinthese organs, where natUre has pro- videdl the apparatus by means of·' which the fish can exert and convert nervous into electric

force, we may be able, possessing in thatpoint6f view a power far beyond that of the fish itself,. to reconvert the electric into thenervousforte." Faraday demonstrates· still another such re'" versibility in nature. The nature ofhis' discov" ery is indicated by., the titles of the papers in which he announces it: On the Magnetization of Light and the· Illumination of Magnetic Lines of Force and The Action of Electric Currents on Light. These papers, in his' opinion, "established

Oersted showed how we were to con-

direct relation and

dependence between light. and the·' magnet.rc and electric forces"; and he concludes them with an explicit statement of the central theme of all his resear<J:hes and speculations. "Thus a.great addition is made,"he writes, "to· the facts and considerations which tend to prove· that all natural Jorces are tied 'together arid have one common origin. It is no doubt difficult in the present state of our knowledge to express our expectation in exact terms; and, though I have said that another of the powers of nature is, in these experiments, directly related to the rest, I ought, perhaps, rather to say that another form of the great power is distinctly and directly related to the other forms."

for. the' :first time,a




ONE FORM OF the "great power" remained to be connected with such "other forms" as those of light, heat, electricity, and magnetism. That

was the power of gravitational. force. Faraday

comes to this last stage of his speculations con-

cerning the unity of nature's powers in terms of his conception of "lines offorce" and of what later came to be called "the field of force." The earliest· theories of electricity and mag- netism, in an orthodox atomistic vein, had con- ceived them as exerting an influence by means of the effluvia which they emitted. Newton, for example, speculates on "how the effiuvia of a

magnet can be so

through a plate of glass without any resistance or diminution of their force, and yet so potent

as. to turn a magnetic needle

When electrical conduct~on is later discovered; effiuvia are replaced by fluids, on the analogy of caloric as the fluid conductor of heat. But \vhen Faraday finds that he can induce from one cur- rent to another, he becomes interested in the dielectric, non-conductingrnedium around, the circuits. He is strongly averse· to any theory which involves action-at-a-distance, and so he argues that induction takes place by the action of contiguous particles. To support· that argu- menthe shows experimentally that electrical induction can "turn a corner." From his study of all the phenomena ofmag- netism, Faraday forms the conception· of "lines of force" and concludes that there is "a center of power surrounded by lines of force which are physical lines essential both to the existe'nceof force within the magnet and to its conveyance to" and exertion upon, magnetic bodies at a distance." He says of this "idea of lines of force" that "all the points which are experi- mentally established with regard to [magnetic] action, i.e., all that is not hypothetical, appear to be well and truly represented by it"; and he adds: "Whatever idea we employ to repre- sent the power ought ultimately to include electric forces, for the two are so related that one expression ought to serve for both." Subsequently Faraday satisfies himself as to the physical reality of electrical lines of force in addition to the magnetic lines. The com- pulsion of his interest in the unity of naturethen drives him to speculate about gravitational force. He begins by admitting that, "in the case


and. subtle, as to pass

beyond the glass."

of gravitation, no effect sustaining the idea an independent or physical line of fore presented to us; as far as we at present kn the line of gravitation is merely an ideal 1 representing the dire~tionin which the po is exerted. " But encouraged, perhaps, by N ton's repeated references to "the attractions gravity, magnetism, and electricity," and Newton's letter to Bentley which he interpr as showing Newton to be "an unhesitating liever in physical lines of gravitating fore Faraday goes to work experimentally. The report of these researches On the Possi

Relation of Gravity to Electricity opens ,vi th t

re-statement of Faraday's central theme. "T long and constant persuasion that all the for of nature are mutually dependent, having origin, or rather being different manifestati of one fundamental power, has made me oft think of establishing, by experiment, a conn ion between gravity and electricity, and introducing the former into the group, chain of which, including also magnetis chemical force and heat, binds so many a such varied exhibitions of force together common relations." His experiments, he te us, unfortunately "produced only negati results," but that does not shake his "stro feeling of the existence of a relation betwe gravity and electricity."

THOUGH FARADAY FAILS to prove "that su a relation exists," he does bequeqth, as a lega to 20th century physics, the problem of a fie theory which would embrace both gravir tional and electrical force. But whereas Farad conceives the problem mechanically in ter

of the ph ysi cal reali ty,

as well as uni ty,

of a

lines of force, in which contiguous particl act on one another, those who inherit the pro

lern from him cease to concern themselves wi the physical existence of "lines of force" a their mechanical basis in the action and rea tion of bodies. Influenced by the amazing ge erality implicit in Maxwell's field equatio they proceed to search for a purely math matical statement of nature's structure. In the judgment of the 20th century phy cist mathematics may at last succeed in doi precisely what mechanics, from Newton Faraday, kept promising but forever failingt



If the unity of nature can be expressed in o·'ng le set of laws, they will be, according to

he laws of mechanics.


the form of

~laNwell'sequations, a form which appears "in other equations of modern physics," they I be, he writes, "laws representing the

~1'Uctureof the field."









axwe s equatIons are


tructure laws" and that they provide "a new

to emphasize their non-mechanical character. "In Maxwell's theory," he writes, "there are no material actors." Whereas "Newton's gravita- tionallaws connect the motion of a body here and now with the action of a body at the same time in the far distance," Maxwell's equations "connect events which happen now and here with events which will happen a little later in the immediate vicinity." Like the equations which describe "the changes of the electro- magnetic field, our new gravitational laws are," according to Einstein, "also structure laws de-

scribing the changes of the gravitational field." 'rhe heart of the difference between a "struc- ture law" and a mechanical law seems to be con- tained in Einstein's statement that "all space

is the scene of these laws and not, as for me-

chanicallaws, only points in which matter or changes are present." This contrast between matter and space brings to mind the difference between physics and geometry. Yet Einstein's repeated reference to "changes" in these space- structures also reminds us that the electrical and gravitational fields are not purely geomet- rical, but physical as well. 'rhe structure laws of the new physics may be geometrical in form, but if they are to have any physical meaning, can they entirely avoid some coloring by the mechanical conceptions which have been traditionally associated with the consideration of matter and motion? At least one contemporary physicist appears to think that mechanics survives to bury its un- dertakers. After descri bing the development in which geometry progr~ssively "swallo,ved up the whole of mechanics," Eddington observes that "mechanics in becoming geometry re- mains none the less mechanics. The partition between mechanics and geometry," he con- tinues, "has broken down and the nature of

each of them has diffused through the whole"; so that "besides the geometrisation of mechan- ics, there has been a mechanisation of geom'" etry." According to this view, it is not mechanics, but classical mechanics, which the new physics has abandoned. The character of the mechanics seems to have altered with the character of the mathematical formulations. Field theory, deal- ing with contiguous areas and successive events,

~tternfor the laws of nature," Einstein means avoids the problem of action-at-a-distance and

also apparently that problem's classical solution in terms of the action of contiguous particles. But another sort of mechanics may be implicit in the field equations which connect events in one area with events in the immediate vicinity~ If those equations had been available to him, Newton might have expressed his theory of a variably dense ether-analogous to the moder;n conception of a variably filled or variably curved space-in terms of structure laws de- scribing the gravitational field.

a 51 stein, laws of a type radically different from

WE ARE LEFT with a number of questions. Is the story of mechanics the story of its rise and de- cline or the story of its changing role-now dominant, now subordinate; now more mani- fest, now more concealed-at all stages in the development of a physics which is committed to being both mathematical and experimental?

Do the status and character of mechanical con- ceptions change wi th changes in the form of the mathematical laws which describe the phenom- ena? Can physics be totally devoid of mechan- ical insight and yet perform experiments which somehow require the scientist to act on bodies and to make them act on one another? Could a pure mathematical physics have yielded pro- ductive applications in mechanical engineering wi thou t the in termedia tion of mechanical· no- tions of cause and effect? Whichever way these questions are answered, we face alternatives that seem to be equally unsatisfactory. Either experimental physics is purely mathematical and proclaims its disin- terest in as well as its ignorance of causes; or physics cannot be experimental and mathe-

rna tical

without being involved in a search for causes which are never found.

wi thou t also being mechanical, and

To the layman there is something mysterious



about all this. He stands in awe of thephysi~ cist's practical mastery of matter and its mo- tions, which he naively supposes to depend upon a scientific knowledge of the causes, while all the time the scientists protest that the causes remain unkno\vn to an experimental and rnathematical physics. Mechanical explana- tions may be offered from time to time, but the various "forces" they appeal to can be under'" stood only from their effects, and are nothing more than· verbal shorthand for the formulae or equations which express the mathematical laws. Yet they remain cause-names, and seem to stimulate advances in science-both experi~ mental and mathematical-almost asa conse- quence of the exasperating elusiveness of these hidden causes. Certain philosophers hold a view which sug'" gests that the clue to the mystery may lie in the word "hidden." Causes exist and we ·can control them' to build machines and. explode bombs, but we cannot with our senses catch them in the very act of causing, or perceive the inwardness' of their operation. If the fact that they are thus· unobservable lueans that they are occult, then all causes are occult---not least

of 'all the mechanical type of cause which

sists in. the impact of one body upon another. In the century in which physicists tried to avoid the scandal of forces acting at a distance by postulating 'mechanicalmediun'ls through which one body acted directly on .another, philosophers like Locke and Hume express their

doubts that such causal action is any less oc'" cult than Newton had said Aristotle's causes

were. "The passing of motion out of one body into another," Locke thinks, ·"is as obscure and, un'" conceivable, as how our minds moveor stop our ·

bodies by.thought

by impulse, which is observed or believed some-

times to happen, is yet harder to understand. We have by·daiiy experience, clear evidence of motion 'produced both by impulse ·and by thought; but the manner how, hardly comes within our comprehension; weare equally at a


The increase 'of motion

loss in both." In Locke's judgment \vewilL ways remain "ignorant of the several pow efficacies, and ways of operation, wherebYl effects, \vhich we daily see, are produced." scientiflc knowledge is knowledge of cau then "how far soever human industry may vance useful and experimental philosophy physical things, scientiflcal will still be out our reach." When we try to observe efficient causes work, what do we see? Hume answers that only see one thing happening after anoth "The impulse of one billiard-ball is attend with tllotion in the second. This is. the wh that appears to the outward senses." Nor c we form any "inward impression" of what ta place at the moment of impact. "Weare' norant," he writes, "of the manner in whi


operate on each other" ; and we sh

always remain so, for "their force or energy entirely incomprehensible." As the chapter all. CAUSE indicates, Arist holds an opposite vie\vof the matter. W takes place in efficient causation may. be' perceptible, but it is not incomprehensible. causes may be occult so far as the senses concerned, .but they are not obscure to the tellect.But Aristotle would alsoinsist,that t action. of efficient causes cannot be understo jf they are totally isolated from other causes material, formal, final. A purely mechani physics, in his opinion, defeats itself by its ba philosophical tenets" which exclude all pro ties that are not quantitative arid all causes cept the efficient. Only a different metaphy:

-one which conceives physical substances terms of matter and form, or potentiality'; actuality-can yield a physics which is able deal with 'Causes and explain. the phenome but such an Aristotelian physics, from the m ern point of view, stands condemned onot grounds. It is not experimental. It is flat p ductiveof useful applications. It is not mat matical; nor is it capable of comprehending the phenomena of nature under a fe\v simp universal laws.



I. The foundations of mechanics





la. Matter, mass, and atoms: the primary qualities of bodies

lb. The la"Ts of motion: inertia; the measure of force; action and reaction

IC. Space and time in the analysis of motion


2. The. logic and method of mechanics

2a. The role of experience, experiment, and induction in mechanics

2b. The use of hypotheses in mechanics

2c.Theories of causality in mechanics

.3- The use of m~them~tics in mechanics: the dependence of progress in mechanics on -

mathematIcal dIscovery

3a. Number and the continuum: the theory of measurement

3 b . The geometry of

3 c . Algebra

conics: the motion of planets and projectiles








of mechanical

3 d . Calculus: the measurement of irregular

areas and variable luotions

The place, scope, and id~alof the science of mechanics: its relation to the . hiloso h

nature and other SCIences





4 a . Terrestrial cles or and atoms celestial mechanics: the . . mechanics of fi~iteb . a d' les, an




0 partl~

4 b . The explanation of qualities and qualitative change in terms of





quantIty an



4 C • The mechanistic account of the phenofl1ena of life

The basic phenomena and problems of mechanics: statics and dynamics

5 a . Simple machines: the balance and the

5 b . The equilibrium and motion of fluids: buoyancy, the weight and pressure of.air the effects of a vacuum



5 c . Stress, strain, and elasticity:

5 d . Motion, void, and mediulu:

5 e . Rectilinear motion

the strength of rna terials

resistance and friction

(I) Uniform motion: its causes and laws (2) Accelerated motion: free fall




5f ~1otionabout a center: planets, projectiles, pendulum (I) Determination of orbit, force, speed, time, and period (2) Perturbation of motion: the two and three body problems



6. Basic concepts of mechanics


acce l' eratIon,

. 6a. Center of gravity: its determination for one or several bodIes

6b. Weight and specific gravity: the relation of mass and weigh~.

6c. VelocIty,









instan taneous

6d. Force: its kinds and its effects

. (1) The relation of mass and force: the law. of universal gravitatIon

(2) Action-at-a-distance: the field and medIum of force The parallelogram law: the composition of forces and the composition of





velocIties 6e. Work and energy: their conservation; perpetual Iuotion

The extension of mechanical principles t? ot er p enomena: op



tics .


theory of heat, magnetism, and electnclty

acoustics, the

7 a . Light: the corpuscular and the

\vave t.heor y

(I) The laws of reflection and refraction

(2) The production of colors

(3) The speed of light (4) The medium of light: the ether

7 b . Sound: the mechanical explanation of acoustic phenomena

7 c . The theory of heat



(1) The descrip~ionand explanation of the phenomena of heat: the hypot eSls

of calonc (2) The measurement an

. (1) Magnetic phenomena: coition, vertIclty, vanatIon, dip

(2) Magnetic force and magnetic fields

d the mathematical analysis of the quantItieS of heat


7 d . Magnetism: the great magnet of the ear.t~

7 e . Electricity: electrostatics and electrodynamics. (1) The source of electricity: the relation. of th~klll~Sof e~ectnC1ty

. an~.matter: conduction, lllsuiatIo n , mductlon, electrocheffi1cal

(2) Electricity

. (3) The relation of electricity and magnetis~:the electromag.n~tlcfield The relation of electricity to heat and lIght: thermoelectrIcIty





(5) The measurement of electric quantities




To find the passages cited, use the numbers in heavy type, which are the volume and page numbers of the passages referred to. Forexample, in 4 HOMER: Iliad, BK II [265-283] 12d, the number 4 is the number of the volume in the set; the number 12d indicates that the pas- sage is in section d of page 12.

PAGE SECTIONS: When the text is printed in one column, the letters a and b refer to the upper a,nd lo\ver halves of the page. For example; in 53 JAMES: PJychology, 116a-119b, the passa~e begins I~ the upper half of page 116 and ends In the lower half of page 119. When the text IS printed In two columns, the letters a and b refer to the upper and lower halves of the left- hand side of the page, the letters C and d to the upper and lower halves of the right-hand side of the page. For example, in 7 PLATO: Symposium, 163b-164c, the passage begins in the lo\ver half of the left-hand side of page 163 and ends in the upper half of the right-hand side of page 164.

AUTHOR'S DIVISIONS: One or more of the main divisions of a work (such as PART, BK, CH, SECT) are sometimes included in the reference; line numbers, in brackets, are given in cer-

tain cases; e.g., Iliad, BK II [265-283] 12d.

BIBLE REFERENCES: The references are to book, chapter, and verse. When the I(ing James and Douay versions differ in title of books or in the numbering of chapters or verses, the King James version is cited first and the Douay, indicated by a (D), follows; e.g., OLD TESTA;"

MENT: Nehemiah, 7:45-'-(D) II Esdras, 7:46.

SYMBOLS: The abbreviation "esp" calls the reader's attention to one or more especially relevant parts of a \vhole reference; "passim" signifies that the topic is discussed intermit- tently rather than continuously in the work or passage cited.

For additional information concerning the style of the references, see the Explanation of Reference Style; for general guidance in the use of The Great Ideas, consult the Preface.

1. ~he foundations of mechanics

111. Matter, mass, and atoms: the primary quali- ties of bodies

II, 479b-48Sb; BK III, 520a-S22a; 528b; 531a- S43a esp 537a-b, 541b-542a 34 HUYGENS: Light, CH I, SSBb-560a; CH III, 566b-569b; CH v, 601b-603b



BK nI,

CH 4 [3 0 3 a J- b 8]

35 LOCKE: I-luman Understanding,


394b-d /

Generation and Corruption,



129b-131a; CH VIII, SECT 7-26 134b-138b

CH 2 410d-413c;cH 8 423b-42Sd


passim; CH XIII, SECT 11-27 150d-154d pas-


GALEN: Natural Faculties, BK I, CH 12, 173a-b


sim; CH XXI, SECT 2-4 178c-179c; CH XXIII,


LUCRETIUS: Nature of Things, BK I [146-328)

SECT 7-17 205d-209a passim; SECT 22-32

2d-Sa; [483-634] 7a-8d; BK II 833-568] 19b-

209d-212d; CH XXXI, SECT 2, 239d; BK III,


CH X, SECT 15 295a-c


AQUINAS: Summa Theo logica , PART I, Q 115,




SECT 9-18

A I, ANS and REP 3,5 S8Sd-S87c



SECT 50 422c;



23 HOBBES: Leviathan, PART I, 72a-d; PART III,


172a-b; PART IV, 269d


LAVOISIER: Elements of Chetnistry, PREF, 3b-

GILBERT: Loadstone, BK II, 29c-34b esp 29c-30a GALILEO: Two New Sciences, FIRST DAY,

4a; PART I, 9a-lSc passim, esp 9b-c, 13a-b; 16b-c; 41b-c

134a-lS3a passim


FOURIER: Theory ofHeat, 169a-170a


BACON: N01JU1n Organun1, BK I, APH 66 114d-


FARADAY: Researches in Electricity, 685d-686c;

lISe; BK II, APH 8 140b; APH 48 179d-l~8b




DESCARTES: Meditations, II, >78c-d /. Objec-


JAMES: Psychology, 68a-b


tions and Replies, DEF VII 130e-d; 231a-232a

54 FREUD: Narcissism, 400d-401a

PASCAL: Vacuum, 367a-36Bb

NEWTON: Principles, DEF I Sa; DEF III Sb; BK I, PROP 73, SCHOL 133b-134a; BK II, GENERAL SCHOL, 21Ba-219a; PROP 40, SCHOL, 246a-b; BK III, RULE III 270b-271a; PROP 6, COROL Ill-IV 281b; PROP 7 281b-282b / Optics, BK

lb. The laws of motion: inertia; the measure of force; action and reaction

8 ARISTOTLE: Physics, BK VIII, CH 10 [266b27-


[30Ia2I-b3I] 392c-393b










(1. Thefoundations of mechanics.

lb. The laws

of motion: inertia; the measure oj jorce;

action and reaction.)

9 ARISTOTLE: Motion of Animals, CH 2-4 233c-

235c /

Gait of Animals, CH 3 243d-244a I

Generation of Animals, BK IV, CH 3 [768bI6




LUCRETIUS: Nature of Things,




16a-b; [184-25°] 17b-18b



KEPLER: Epitome, BK IV, 894a-895b; 899a- 900a; 905a-906b; 933b-934b; 936a-937a;



AQUINAS : Summa Theologica, PART III, Q 84,

A 3, REP 298Sd-989b



HOBBES: Leviathan, PART I, SOa; 72a-d; PART IV, 271d


GILBERT: Loadstone, BK II, 56b-c



GALILEO: Two New Sciences, THIRD DAY, 209a-210a; 224d-22Sd; FOURTH DAY, 240a-d


BACON: Novum Organum, BK II, APH 35-3 6 162a-168d passim; APH 48 179d-188b


NEWTON: Principles, DEF III Sb; ,LAWS OF MOTION 14a-24a;, BK ~II, PROP' 40, SCHOL,

246a-b I






LOCKE : Human





XXI, SECT 2-4 178c-179c; ell XXIII, SECT 17





Knowledge,sEcT III,



HUME: Human



27, 460c; SECT VII, DIV 57, 47Sd-476b

[fn 2]


MONTESQUIEU: Spirit of Laws, BK I, 1b




Theory of Heat, 169a-b


TOLSTOY: War and Peace, EPILOGUE II, 695a-c

Ie. Space and time in the analysis of motion

8 ARISTOTLE: Physics, BK VI 312b,d-325d










BACON: Novum Organum,


APH 45-4 6









NEWTON: Principles, DEFINITIONS, SCHOL 8b- 13a; BK III, GENERAL SCHOL, 370a-371a / Op- tics, BK III, 528b-S29a; 542a-5~3a


BERKELEY: Hu,man Knowledge, SECT 110- 11 7



KANT: Pure Reason, 24a-29d; 74b-76c;160b-



FOURIER: Theory ofHeat, 249a-251b



TOLSTOY: vVar and Peace, BK XI, 469a-d

2. The logic and method of mechanics


GALILEO: Two New Sciences, SECOND DAY, 179c-d; THIRD DAY, 200a-b;202d-203a


BACON: Advancement of Learnil1g, 34b / No-

vum Organu1n, PREF 105a-l06d; BK I, ,APH 8 107c-d; APH 5011lb; APH64 114b; APH 70 116b-117a; APH 82 120d-121b; APH 99- 100

127b-c; APH

121 132b-d;


New Atlantis, 210d-214d


DESCARTES: Rules, VIII, 12b-13a / Dis:co PART VI, 61d-62c




355a-358b passim; 3










270a-271 b; GENERAL SCHOL, 371b-372a /

tics, BK III, 531b; 543a-b





269a- h;

34 HUYGENS: Light, PREF, 551 b-552a; C



LOCKE: Human Understanding, BK IV, CH

SECT 16 317a-c; SECT 25-29 321a-323a pas CH' XII, SECT 9-13 360d-362d





433a-b; SECT 107 433d-434a


HUME: Human



23-27 459a-~60desp DIV 26-27460b-d; S VII, DIV 57, 475d-476b [fn 2]


KANT: Pure Reason, 6b-c; 17d-18d; 32a;

72c esp 71 b ,72a


FOURIER: Theory ofHeat, 169a-170a



758a-759c; 831a-d; 850b,d-855a,c esp850


Researches in



DARWIN: Origin, of Species, 239c


JAMES: Psychology, 882a-884b


FREUD: Instincts, 412a-b

2a. The role of experience,' experiment, induction in mechanics


GILBERT: Loadstone, PREF, 1a-b; BK I, 6 esp 6d-7a; BK II, 27b-c



Two, New



200a-b; 207d-208a

30· BACON: Advancement of Learning,

34b; 42a-c



DESCARTES: Rules, VIII, 12b-13a /


PART VI, 61d-62c



PASCAL: Vacuum, 356a-357a


NEWTON: Principles, BK I, PROP 69,., S 130b-131a; BI\. III, RULE IV 271h; GEN SCHOL, 371 h-372a / Optics, BK I, 379a; B

542a; 543a-h


HUYGENS: Light, CH I, 553a



LOCKE: Human Understanding, BK IV, C

SECT 16 317a-c; SECT"25-29 321a-323apa CH XII, SECT 9- I 3;360d-362d


BERKELEY: Human Knowledge,


424a-b; SECT I04433a-b; SECT 107




HUME: Human



24- 2 7 459b-460d esp DIV 26 460b-c;

VII, DIV 57, 475d-476b [fn 2]



KANT: Pure Reason, 6b-c; 227b-c


LAVOISIER: Elements of Chemistry,

2b; PART I, 23c; PART III, 87b-c


FOURIER: Theory of Heat, 175b; 181b;







440b,d; 467a-b; 607a,c; 659a; 774d-775,


JA~ES: Psychology, 864a



333a-d /


use of hypotheses in mechanics

17] 609b-c


BK XIII, CH 3 [I078aS-

LUCRETIUS: Nature of Things, BK V [509-533]



Two New Sciences, FOURTH DAY,


ASCAL: Vacuum, 367a-370a

IV 271b;


979a; BK III, 528b; 543a YGENS: Light, PREF, 551b-552a

cKE: Human Understanding, BK IV, CH III,

SECT 16 317a-c; CH XII, SECT 12-13 362a ,d BERKELEY: Human Knowledge, SECT 50 422c; SECT 1°5- 106 433b-d

UME : Human Understanding, SECT VII, DIV

57, 475d·476b [fn 2]

SWIFT: Gulliver, PART III, 118b-119a


NEWTON: Principles,




371 b-3 72a /



KANT: Pure Reason, 227b-c AVOISIER: Elements of Chemistry, PART I,9d-

Ob OURIER: Theory of Heat, 181b; 184a


07a,c; 758a-759c; 777d

Researches in





esp 850b,d-851c

ARWIN: Origin of Species, 239c

JAMES: Psychology, 884a-b FREUD: Narcissism, 400d-401a

lteories of causality in mechanics

LUCRETIUS: Nature of Things, BK V [509-533]









DESCARTES: Discourse, PART V, 59a !r'NEWTON: Principles, DEF VIII, 7b





ARCHIMED ES : Equilibrium of Planes 502a-

519b I

Floating Bodies 538a-560b /




PLUTARCH: Marcellus, 252a-255a



KEPLER: Epitome, BK v, 964b-965a


AQUINAS: Summa Theologica, PART I-II, Q 35,


8, ANS 779c-780c


HOBBES: Leviathan, PART I, 72a-d; 73b; PART IV, 268c-d


GALILEO: Two New Sciences, FIRST DAY, 131b-132a; 133b; SECOND DAY-FOURTH DAY



BACON: Advancement of Learning, 46b-c



DESCARTES: Rules, IV, 7a; XIV, 31c-d /


course, PART I, 43b-c; PART III, SOd l


tions and Replies, 169c-170a I GeOl1tetry, BK II,



NEWTON: Principles, 1a-2a; DEF VIII 7b-8a;

BK I, PROP 1-17 and SCHOL 32b-50a; PROP 30- 98 and SCHOL 76a-157besp PROP 69, SCHOL 130b-131a; BK II 159a-267a; BK III, 269a-b


HUME: Human





S\VIFT: Gulliver, PART III, 94b-103a



KANT: Judgement, 551a-552a


FOURIER: Theory of Heat, 169a-b; 175b; 177a; 182b-184a; 249a-b



FARADAY: Researches in Electricity, 831a-d



MARX: Capital, 170a-c


TOLSTOY: War and Peace, BK XI, 469a-d


JAMES: Psychology, 675b; 876a-b; 882a-883a

3a. Number and the continuum: the theory of measurement

PROP 69, SCHOL 130b-131a; BK III, RULE I-II


EUCLID: Elements, BK V 81a-98b esp DEFINI-

270a; GENERAL SCHOL, 369b-372a I Optics,


BK III, 528b-529a; 531b; 541b-542a


PROP 1-2 191b-193a; PROP 5-9 195a-198b

HUYGENS: Light, CH I, 553b-554a


ARCHIMEDES: Measurement ofa Circle, PROP 3

fiOCKE : Human Understanding, BK II, CH XXI,

448b-451 b I Conoids and Spheroids, PROP 3-6

SECT 1-4 178b-179c;BK IV, CH III, SECT25-:-26

458b-460b / Equilibrium of Planes, BK I,


PROP 6-7 503b-504b

BERKELEY: HU1nan Knowledge, SECT 50-53


PTOLEMY: Almagest, BK I, 18b-20b

422c-423a passim; SECT 60-66 424b-426a; SECT 102-109 432d-434b


GALILEO: Two New Sciences, THIRD DAY, 197b-200a; 205b-206c

HUME: Human




DESCARTES: Rules, XIV, 31b-33b I Ge01netry,

24-27 459b-460d esp DIV 26 460b-c; SECT VII,

BK I, 295a-296b


55, 474c-d; DIV 56-57 475a-d esp DIV 57,


NE\VTON: Pr£nciples,BK I, LEMMA I 25a

75d [fn 2]; SECT VIII, DIV 64, 478d


KANT: Judgement, 551a-552a

WIFT: GullitJer, PART III, 118b-119a



Theory of Heat, 183a-b


Theory of Heat, 169a; 183a-b


TOLSTOY: War and Peace, BK XI, 469a-d

TOLSTOY: War and Peace, EPILOGUE II, 687d;


fAMES: Psychology, 885h-886a

e ,use of mathematics in mechanics: the dependence of progress in mechanics on mathematical discovery ARISTOTLE: Posterior An alytics, BK I," CH 9

104b-d; CH 13 [78b31-79aI6] 108b-c I Physics,



CH 2 [I94a7-II] 270b-c;



3b. The


of conics:

planets and projectiles







of the




ApOLLONIUS: Conics 603a-804b



KEPLER: Epitome, BK V, 975a-979b


GALILEO: Two New Sciences, SECOND DAY 191c-195c; FOURTH DAY 238a-260a,c passim, esp 238b-240a



(3. The lise oj 111athematics in mechanics: the de- pendence of progress in mechanics Otl mathematical discovery. 3b. The geom- etry of conics: the motion oj planets and projectiles.)





DESCARTES: Geometry, BK I-II, 298b-314b

NEWTON: Principles, BK I, PROP 11-29 and SCHOL 42b-75b esp PROP 11-13 42b-46a; BK

III, PROP 13 286a-b; PROP 40 337b-338a

HUYGENS: Light, CH v, 583b-598a; 604b-

606b; cH VI, 607b-611a

!(ANT: ]udgen1ent, .551a-S52a

3c. Algebra and analytic geometry: the sym- bolic formulation of mechanical prob- lems


DESCARTES: Rules, IV, 5e-d; XIV, 30d-33b;


33d-35e; XVIII 36b-·39d / GeOlnetry 295a-






BK II, 322b-













HUYGENS: Light, CH VI, 610a-b



LAVOISIER: Elelnents of Chelnistry, PREF, la



Theory of Heat,

172a-173b; 177a-



36 S\VIFT: Gulliver, PART III, 94b-l03a


KANT: Pure Reason, 32a; 6ge-72e esp 71b-

/ Judgen1ent, 563a-564c



FOURIER: Theory of Heat, 169a-b; 172a-17



FARADAY: Researciles in Electricity, 468d-4


JAMES: Psychology,



883a-884b; 889a-890a

4a. Terrestrial




mechanics of finite bodies and of pa cles or atoms

9 ARISTOTLE: Alotion of.A.nimals, CH 3 [699 a

CH 4 [7 ooa 5] 234a-235a


KEPLER: Epitome, BK IV, 888h··905a pass 919b; 929a-933a; 935b; 940b-941a; 95





New Sciences,




BACON: Novum Organum, BK II, APH 5 13 139a; APH 35 162a-164a; APH 36, 165e-1 APH 46, 178c; APH 48, 186e-d


NEWTON: Principles, BK III, RULES 270a-27 PROP 7 281 b-282b / Optics, BK III, 53



TOLSTOY: War and Peace, BK XIII, 563 EPILOGUE II, 694d-696d

3d. Calculus:





4b. The explanation of qualities and qualita





change in terlns of quantity and mot


ARCHIMEDES: Equilibrium of Planes, BK I, PROP 7 504b / Quadrature of the Parabola













New Sciences,



193b-194d; THIRD DAY, 205b-d; 224b-e





of Liquid;;,



Geometrical Demonstration, 434b-435 b


NEWTON: Principles, BK I, LEMMA I-II and SCHOL 25a-32a esp LEMMA II, SCHoL,.31a-b; BK II, LEMMA 2 and SCHOL 168a-170a


FOURIER: Theory of Heat, 172b; 177a; 181a-b; 183a-b; 221a-248b


TOLSTOY: War and Peace, BK XI, 469a-d; EPILOGUE II, 695b-e

4. The place, scope, and ideal of the science of mechanics: its relation to the philosophy of nature and other sciences

23 I-IoBBEs: Leviathan, PART I, 72a-d


BACON: Adt'ancement of Learning. 16a-b; 33d-




Organ urn , BK I,

APH 74 118b;





140b-e /

lVetU Atlantis,





DESCARTES: Rules, IV, 7a; V, 8a /


PART v, 54d-S6a; 59a



NEWTON: Principles, 1 b-2a; BK I, PROP 69, SCHOL 130b-131a / Optics, BK III, 541b-542a


I-IUYGENS: Light, CH I, 553b-554a



HUME: liuman Understanding, SECT I, DIV 9,


8 ARISTOTLE: Aletaphysics, BK I, CH 4 [985b3

503e-d / Sense and the Sensible, CH 4 [442

b 24 ] 680a-c


GALEN: Natural Faculties, BK I, CH 2, 1



LUCRETIUS: Nature of Things, BK II [398- 20a-21c; [677-687] 23e-d; [730-1022] 2 28a; BK IV [522-721] 51a-53d


HOBBES: Leviathan, PART I, 49b-·d; PART



DESCARTES: Objections and Replies, 231a


N E\VTON: Optics, BK I, 431a-455a esp



HUYGENS: Light, CH I, 553b-554a


LOCKE: !lu111an Understanding, BK II, CH

SECT 4 133d; SECT 7-26 134b-138b; CH SECT.3 178d; SECT 75 200b-d; CH XXIII, 8-9 206a-c; SECT II 206d-207a; SECT 37 2 214b; CH XXXI, SECT 2 239b-d esp 2 BK III, CH IV, SECT 10 261b-d; BK IV, C SECT 11--13 311e-312b; CH III, SECT 6,3 SECT 12-14 316a-d; SECT 28 322a-e

35 BERKELEY: HU1nan Knowledge, SECT 25

418a; SECT 102 432d-433a

45 FOURIER: Theory of Heat, 16gb; 182a-ti

4c. The mechanistic account of the pheno of life

7 PLATO: Phaedo,












[442a3o_b24] 680a-c



9 ARISTOTLE: Parts of Animals, BK I, CH I [64 0b

5-64 IaI 9] !63a-164a I

eH 7 [701 ~-30] 236d-237b; CH 8 [702a22]-


of Aninzals,

CH 10 [703 I] 237e-23?a I 243a-252~,e / Generatzon


Gait of Ani;nals of Anzlnals, BK II,


[734 3- 20 ] 275a-b; CH 5 [74Ib5-IO] 282c

10 GALEN: Natural Faculties, BK I, CH I2-BK II

CH 12 172d-173e'

BK II, CH 3, 185a, CH 6 188c-191a; BK III, 14-15, 213b-214c LUCRETIUS: Nature of Things, BK II [ 86 5- I02Z] 26a-28a; BK III [94-.869] 31b-41a; BK V [783-836] 71b-72a


CH 8 172d-195e esp



23 HOBBEs: Leviathan, INTRO, 47a-b









Sb. The






b.uoyancy, the weight and pressure of alr, the effects of a vacuum

8 ARISTOTLE: Heavens, BK IV, CH 6 404d-405a c

GALEN: Natural Faculties, BK I, CH 16, 181a-d;

CH 1-2, 183b,d-184e; CH 6 188c-191a. '



BK III, CH 14-15, 213b-214e




~RCHIMEDES: Floating Bodies 538a-560b

GALILEO: TUJO New Sciences, FIRST DAY, 135b- 138b; 163a-166e

BACON: Novum Organum, BK II, APR 4 8 , 180a

33 PASCAL: Vacuum, 359a-365b I Great Experi- nzent 382a-~89b I.Equilibrium ofLiquids 390a-


I ~Velght of Air 403a-429a

31 DESCARTES: Discourse, PART V, 56a-60b NEWTON: Optics, BK I, 384b-385b; 428a-b; BK III, 518b-519b; 522a

5 LOCKE: Human Understanding, BK II, CH IX,

SECT II 140b-c; CH X, SECT 10 143c-d; CH XI, SECT II 145d-146a; CH XXVII, SECT 5 220b-c; BK IV, CH III, SECT 25 321a-b


ROUSSEAU: Inequality,

337d-338a I


NE\VTON: Principles,


II, PROP 19- 2 3 and

SCHOL 194b-203a; PROP 36 226a-i31b; HY- POTHESIS-PROP 53 and SCHOL 259a-267a· BK

III, PROP 4 1 , 356b-357b I Optics, BK III, 5Uia-b


LOCKE: Human



XXIII, SECT 23-24 209d-210e


LAVOISIER: Elements of Chenzistry, PART I, 10e-

12d; 15e-16d; PART III, 88d-89d; 96b-99a

Economy, 368d-369a

4;2 KANT:








LAVOISIER: Elements of Chen1istry, PART I, 14a


FARADAY: Researches in E'lectricity, 440b,d;


49 ?ARWIN:

Origin of Species, 89b-e









EPILOGUE II, 689c-690a'



53 JAMES: Psychology,

68a-71a; 95b-98a

5a-6b; 9a-17b; 44a-52a;

54 FREun:


Ins~inc:ts, 412c-414e I Beyond the





651d, 652d; 659d-661c esp 660a I Ego and Id, 708d-709b; 711e-d

e basic phenomena and problems of me- chanics: statics and dynamics

· Simple machines: the balance and the lever


CH 4 [255a20-22]



HIPPOCRATES: Fractures, par 3 1 , 87e



502b-503a; PROP 6-7 503b-504b

PLUTARCH: Marcellus, 252c-d





oj Planes




p~oP 1-'


16 KEPLER: kpitome,






28 CiALILEO: Two New Sciences, SECOND DAY,




209a-210a; FOURTH

DAY, 258e-d

PASCAL: Equflikrium of Liquids, 390a-394b

NE\VTON: Pnnclples,coRoL II 15a-16b; LA\VS ()F' MOTION, S€HOL, 23a-24a


flUME: HUlnan

27; 460e MARX: Capital, 18la



Sc. Stress, st~ain,and elasticity: the strength of materlals


GALILEO: Ttvo New Sciences, FIRST DAY, 131a- 13ge; SECOND DAY 178a-196d passim









180a-d; 187d







21b-2~a; BK II, PROP 23 and SCHOL 201b-203~

I Optzcs, BK III, 540b-541a



HUYGENS: Light, CH I, 558b-559b



LOCKE: Human





XXIII, SECT 23-27 209d-211b



LAVOISIER: Elen1ents of Chemistry, PART I, 14e-

15e; PART III, 96b-99a




Theory of Heat, 192a-b


Sd. Mot~o~,void, and medium: resistance and frICtIOn

7 PLATO: Timaeus, 460e-d 8 ARISTOTLE: Physics, BK IV, CH 6-9 292e-297e

I Heavens, BK III, CII 2 [.30Ia2F-b3I] 392e-393b

I Dreams, CH 2 [459a28-34] 703b

LUCR~TIUS:Nature of Things, BK I [3 2 9-44 8 ]

5b-6c, ~95I-I05IJ 12d·-14a; BK II [142--r66J

16d-17a, [225'-242] 17d-18a; BK VI [83


KEPLER: Epitolne, BK IV, 857a-b

AQUINAS: Sunl1na Theologica, PART III, Q 8

A 3, REP 2 985d-989h

GILBERT: Loadstone, BK VI, 110e












28 GALILEO: Two New Science~\,FIRST DAY, 134a-

135b; 157b-171b; FOURTH DAY, 241d-243e

30 BACON: Novum Organum, BK II, APH 8 140b.

186a; 187a; 187e

BK II 159a-267a passim,


APH 3 6 , 167b:e;:-\PH 48,

34 N E\VTON: Prznczples,









Optzcs, BK III, 521b-522a; 527a-528b



34 NEWTON: Principles, DEF v

6a-7a; LAWS

(5. The basic phenomena and p.rohlems of ~ze~ chanics: statics and dynamics. Sd. ~o~lon, void, and 1nedium: resistance andfrictIon.)

35 LOCKE: Human Understanding, BK II, CH XIII,

SECT 22-23 153b-d; CH XVII, SECT 4 168b-d

42 KANT: Pure Reason, 71b-72a

MOTION, SCHOL, 19b-20a; BK I, LEMMA I and SCHOL 25a-32a; PROP 1-3 and SCHOL 3 35b esp PROP 3, SCHOL 35b; PROP 4 6 10la- BK II, PROP 51-53 and SCHOL 259a-267a PROP 53, SCHOL 2e6a-267a; BK III, PHEN

ENA 272a-275a; PROP 13 286a-b

Se. Rectilinear motion

8 ARISTOTLE: Physics, BK V, CH 4 [228bI5-229a7] 309d-310a; BK VIII, CH 8 [26Ib27;263a3} 348b- 349c / Heavens, BK I, CH 2 [268 15- 2 4J 359d

GALILEO: Two New Sciences, FIRST DAY, 157b- 171b; THIRD DAY 197a-237a,c

BACON: Novum· Organum, BK II, APH 4 8 ,





PROP 3 2 -39 81a-88a; BK II, PROP 1-14 159a-

189a passim