Unnatural acts: The transition from Natural Principles to Laws of Nature in Early Modern science

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Abstract

This paper's aim is to explain the transition that occurred during the Early Modern period, from Principles of Nature to Laws of Nature. Natural Principles are taken to be innate to substances and arise from their natures, while Laws of Nature are external and imposed from without. The paper takes the view that to explain this transition, one needs to examine the history of philosophical theories of substantial action. It argues that during the late Middle Ages and in the Early Modern era, philosophers began to disentangle substantial actions from the nature of substances. This process of disentangling action eventually led to the concept of Laws of Nature, according to which laws compel a body to act in a certain way even though its nature does not.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-73
Number of pages12
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Volume81
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2020

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