Berlin 2014 – wissenschaftliches Programm

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AGPhil: Arbeitsgruppe Philosophie der Physik

AGPhil 1: Wissenschaftstheoretische Perspektiven

AGPhil 1.3: Vortrag

Mittwoch, 19. März 2014, 15:00–15:30, SPA SR22

Newton and Leibniz on the absolute space — •Dieter Suisky — Humboldt University Berlin, dsuisky@physik.hu-berlin.de

The idea of the absolute space had been introduced by Newton in the 1680s to combat Cartesian relativism and to establish the laws of mechanics. The complete theory was eventually published in the Principia by 1687. Already in the 1670s, Leibniz discussed, however, independently just the same model of the absolute space and absolute motion, but used it as a counterexample in order to confirm and improve Cartesian relativism and to demonstrate that "space and motion are really relations". Newton started from the position that "the nature of the body is to fill the place which is considered as a part of the space", i.e. the absolute space. In Leibniz’s anticipated reply from 1677 it is demonstrated that "space is not such a thing and motion is not something absolute", an assertion which he renewed and underlined later in his correspondence with Clarke in 1716. Leibniz’s earlier interpretation had been only published in the 20th century. It follows that the elaboration of the model of the absolute space is a decisive intermediate step towards a relational theory of space and motion.

Thus, it can be concluded that Einstein’s summary from 1953 is in conformity with the historical development: "It required a severe struggle to arrive at the concept of independent and absolute space, indispensable for the development of theory. It has required no less strenuous exertions subsequently to overcome this concept – a process which is probably by no means as yet completed."

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