Preprint / Version 1

Newton's Principia on God-mediated action




Isaac Newton, Principia, God, secondary causes, gravity


As John Henry states, Newton simply wants to reaffirm the truth of God's omnipresence without directly involving him in the physics of the world system. Newton simply wants to distance himself from a Cartesian concept of God and convince the atheists that God is a real presence extended in the world. God must exist in space for the space to exist, but God does not only act through contact. Henry believes that Andrew Janiak and Hylarie Kochiras give us a wrong picture of a Newton who believes in opportunism. Newton, Henry asserts, has always assumed that God acted through secondary causes:

Author Biography

Nicolae Sfetcu, Romanian Academy

Researcher - Romanian Academy - Romanian Committee for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (CRIFST), History of Science Division (DIS)


Cohen, I. Bernard, ed. 1978. Isaac Newton’s Papers & Letters on Natural Philosophy and Related Documents. Reprint 2014 ed. edition. Harvard University Press.

Ducheyne, Steffen. 2011. “Newton on Action at a Distance and the Cause of Gravity.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (1): 154–59.

Henry, John. 2011. “Gravity and De Gravitatione: The Development of Newton’s Ideas on Action at a Distance.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (1): 11–27.

Newton, Isaac. 1687. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Translated by Andrew Motte.

———. 1999. The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. University of California Press.

Schliesser, Eric. 2008. “Without God: Gravity as a Relational Property of Matter in Newton.” Other. 2008.

———. 2011. “Newton’s Substance Monism, Distant Action, and the Nature of Newton’s Empiricism: Discussion of H. Kochiras ‘Gravity and Newton’s Substance Counting Problem.’” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (1): 160–66.