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Newton's Classic Deductions from Phenomena

William Harper
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1990, Volume Two: Symposia and Invited Papers (1990), pp. 183-196
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/193067
Page Count: 14
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Newton's Classic Deductions from Phenomena
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Abstract

I take Newton's arguments to inverse square centripetal forces from Kepler's harmonic and areal laws to be classic deductions from phenomena. I argue that the theorems backing up these inferences establish systematic dependencies that make the phenomena carry the objective information that the propositions inferred from them hold. A review of the data supporting Kepler's laws indicates that these phenomena are Whewellian colligations-generalizations corresponding to the selection of a best fitting curve for an open-ended body of data. I argue that the information theoretic features of Newton's corrections of the Keplerian phenomena to account for perturbations introduced by universal gravitation show that these corrections do not undercut the inferences from the Keplerian phenomena. Finally, I suggest that all of Newton's impressive applications of Universal gravitation to account for motion phenomena show an attempt to deliver explanations that share these salient features of his classic deductions from phenomena.

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