“The light of nature”: God and Natural Philosophy in Isaac Newton’s Opticks
Keywords:Newton, natural philosophy, theology, Opticks, Principia, antitrinitarism, Newtonian historiography
This paper argues the close relationship between Newton’s theology and his natural philosophy. Although according to a positivistic reading of his works this relationship is denied, using the example of the Opticks this paper challenges this reading. First, it will be examined evidence that shows that Newton contemplated an explicit statement of natural theology for the first edition of the Opticks. Then it will be discussed the natural theological material added to the 1706 Optice. In doing so, it will be noted examples of its relation to statements made in the General Scholium to the Principia, demonstrated how it is illuminated by the more explicit statements made in a draft of Query 23 (31) and explored connections between the public statements of the Queries and more explicit material on natural theology in Newton’s private manuscripts. Next it will be shown that, as in the General Scholium, the material added in the later editions of the Opticks also includes clues about his heretical antitrinitarian theology. Finally, it will be suggested ways in which Newton’s commitments to natural theology and a powerful unitarian God of dominion helped to underpin his natural philosophy. In sum, this paper contends that both Newton’s natural theology and his heretical theology relate to the natural philosophy of the Opticks in ways that are much more fundamental than a thin veneer of rhetoric. This paper is based not only on an analysis of the published texts, but also of Opticks-related drafts and other textual parallels in Newton’s unpublished writings. These private manuscripts will help to open a window on the intended meaning of Newton’s public texts.
Casini, Paolo. “Newton: the Classical Scholia”, en: History of Science, 22, 1984, pp. 1-58.
Clarke, Samuel. A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God and other Writings, Ezio Vailati (ed.). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Cohen, I. Bernard. “A Guide to Newton’s Principia”, en: Isaac Newton, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, a New Translation by I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman, Assisted by Julia Budenz. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1999, p. 60ss.
____________. “Introduction”, en: Cohen, I Bernard y Smith, George E. (eds.). The Cambridge Companion to Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
____________. “Isaac Newton’s Principia, the Scriptures, and the Divine Providence”, en: Morgenbesser, Sidney et al. (eds.). Philosophy, Science, and Method. New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1969, pp. 523-548.
Force, James E. “Newton’s God of Dominion: the Unity of Newton’s Theological, Scientific, and Political Thought,” en: Force y Richard H. Popkin. Essays on the Context, Nature, and In uence of Isaac Newton’s Theology. Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990, pp. 75-102.
____________. “The God of Abraham and Isaac (Newton)”, en: Force y Richard H. Popkin (eds.). The Books of Nature and Scripture: Recent Essays on Natural philosophy, Theology, and Biblical Criticism in the Netherlands of Spinoza’s Time and the British Isles of Newton’s Time. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994, pp. 179-200.
Grant, Edward. “God and Natural Philosophy: the Late Middle Ages and Sir Isaac Newton”, en: Early Science and Medicine, 5, 2000, pp. 288-291.
Gregory, David. Isaac Newton and their Circle: Extracts from David Gregory’s Memoranda 1677-1708, W.G. Hiscock (ed.). Oxford, Printed for the Editor, 1937.
Hall, A. Rupert. All was Light: an Introduction to Newton’s Opticks. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1993.
____________. Isaac Newton: Adventurer in Thought. Oxford, Blackwell, 1992.
Stephen David Snobelen Haycock, David Boyd. William Stukeley: Science, Religion and Archaeology in Eighteenth century Britain. Woodbridge, Suffolk, The Boydell Press, 2002
Henry, John. “‘Pray do not ascribe that notion to me’: God and Newton’s Gravity”, en: Force, James E. y Popkin, Richard H. (eds.). The Books of Nature and Scripture: Recent Essays on Natural Philosophy, Theology, and Biblical Criticism in the Netherlands of Spinoza’s Time and the British Isles of Newton’s Time, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994, pp. 123- 147.
Manuel, Frank. Isaac Newton Historian. Cambridge, Massachusetts, The Belknap Press, 1963.
McGuire, J. E. “Newton’s ‘Principles of Philosophy’: an Intended Preface for the 1704 Opticks and a Related Draft Fragment”, en: The British Journal for the History of Science, 5, 1970, pp. 178-186.
McGuire J. E. y Rattansi, P.M. “Newton and the ‘Pipes of Pan’”, en: Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 21, 1966, pp. 108-143.
Newman, William. “The background to Newton’s chemistry”, en: Cohen y Smith (eds.). The Cambridge Companion to Newton. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Newton, Isaac. Certain Philosophical Questions: Newton’s Trinity Notebook, J.E. McGuire y Martin Tamny (eds.). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983.
____________. Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica: the Third Edition (1726) with Variant Readings, Alexandre Koyré y I. Bernard Cohen (eds.). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1972.
____________. Optice: sive de re flexionibus, refractionibus, in exionibus & coloribus lucis libri tres. Londres, 1706.
____________. Opticks or a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, In ections & Colours of Light, 4ta edición. New York, Dover, 1952.
Schüller, Volkmar. “Newton’s Scholia from David Gregory’s estate on the Propositions IV through IX Book III of his Principia”, en: Lefèvre, Wolfgang (ed.). Between Leibniz, Newton, and Kant: Philosophy and Science in the Eighteenth Century, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001, pp. 213-265.
Shapiro, Alan E. “Beyond the Dating Game: Watermark Clusters and the Composition of Newton’s Opticks”, en: Harman, P. M. y Shapiro, Alan E. (eds.). The Investigation of Difficult Things: Essays on Newton and the History of the Exact Sciences in Honour of D.T. Whiteside. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 181-227.
Snobelen, Stephen D. “‘God of Gods, and Lord of Lords’: the Theology of Isaac Newton’s General Scholium to the Principia”, en: Osiris, 16, 2001, pp. 169-208.
____________.“‘The true frame of Nature’: Isaac Newton, Heresy and the Reformation of Natural Philosophy”, en: Brooke, John Hedley y Maclean, Ian (eds.). Science and Heterodoxy. Oxford University Press (en prensa).
Stewart, Larry. “Seeing through the Scholium: Religion and Reading Newton in the Eighteenth Century”, en: History of Science, 34, 1996, pp. 123-165.
Westfall, Richard S. Never at Rest: a Biography of Isaac Newton. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1980.
Whiston, William. Historical Memoirs of the life of Dr. Samuel Clarke. Londres, 1730.
____________. A collection of Authentick Records Belonging to the Old and New Testament. Londres, 1728.
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
1. The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term "Work" shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
2. Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
3. The Author shall grant to the Publisher a nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoCommercia-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions: (a) Attribution: Other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;(b) Noncommercial: Other users (including Publisher) may not use this Work for commercial purposes;
4. The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal;
5. Authors are permitted, and Estudios de Filosofía promotes, to post online the preprint manuscript of the Work in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (see The Effect of Open Access). Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work is expected be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Estudios de Filosofía's assigned URL to the Article and its final published version in Estudios de Filosofía.