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Lisa Jeanne Downing
University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago, IL 60612-4305)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2008 – 6/30/2009

Empiricism and Newtonianism: Locke, Berkeley, and the Decline of Strict Mechanism

My book has two aims: 1. To illuminate the philosophies of Locke and Berkeley by locating them in the context of the debate over Newtonian gravity. 2. To examine the conflict between mechanism and Newtonianism and analyze the ways in which that conflict was resolved by some prominent early Newtonians, including Locke and Berkeley. The conflict concerned the status of attraction: was Newton attributing irreducible attractive powers to matter? All the natural philosophers I consider avoid this conclusion, while endorsing Newton’s Principia. In doing so, they prioritize the notion of law and reconfigure the relations among physics, metaphysics, and theology.