Mary Domski is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Mexico. Her research focuses on the interplay of philosophy, mathematics, and science during the early modern period, and in the work of Descartes, Newton, and Kant, in particular. She has authored several papers on philosophical themes in seventeenth-century mathematics and science and is also co-editor with Michael Dickson of Discourse on a New Method: Reinvigorating the Marriage of History and Philosophy of Science (Open Court, 2010).
NEWTON AND PROCLUS: GEOMETRY, IMAGINATION, AND KNOWING SPACE
Version of Record online: 4 SEP 2012
© 2012 The University of Memphis
The Southern Journal of Philosophy
Volume 50, Issue 3, pages 389–413, September 2012
How to Cite
DOMSKI, M. (2012), NEWTON AND PROCLUS: GEOMETRY, IMAGINATION, AND KNOWING SPACE. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 50: 389–413. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-6962.2012.00129.x
- Issue online: 4 SEP 2012
- Version of Record online: 4 SEP 2012
I aim to clarify the argument for space that Newton presents in De Gravitatione (composed prior to 1687) by putting Newton's remarks into conversation with the account of geometrical knowledge found in Proclus's Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements (ca. 450). What I highlight is that both Newton and Proclus adopt an epistemic progression (or “order of knowing”) according to which geometrical knowledge necessarily precedes our knowledge of metaphysical truths concerning the ontological state of affairs. As I argue, Newton's commitment to this order of knowing clarifies the interplay of the imagination and understanding in geometrical inquiry and illuminates how geometrical knowledge of space can lead to knowledge that space depends on and is related to God. In general, appreciating the Proclean elements of Newton's argument brings added light to the significance of geometrical inquiry for his general natural philosophical program and grants us insight into the philosophical grounding for the notion of absolute space that is presented in the Principia mathematica (1687).