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Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 16, 2008

Modern Philosophy

Gustavo Sarmiento
Pages 309-320

Acerca de las Doctrinas sobre las Fuerzas Atractivas de la Materia en el Siglo XVII
John Keill y la Influencia del Newtonianismo sobre Kant

In this paper we will refer to the doctrine of attractive forces proposed by the Newtonian author John Keill, and the influence it had on Kant. The “Epistola ad Cl. virum Gulielmum Cockburn, Medicinæ Doctorem. In qua Leges Attractionis aliaque Physices Principia traduntur,” published by Keill in 1708, proposes a doctrine of the attractive forces of matter that exerted a considerable influence on the first Newtonian authors and was criticized by Leibniz and his followers, including Christian Wolff. Keill’s views were assimilated by the young Kant in his pre-critical doctrine of the elements, or physical monads, to which he attributed attractive forces and—under the influence of Newton—repulsive forces acting at a distance. This meant to take some distance from wolffian orthodoxy. By examining Kant’s points of view, we will show that the work of Newton and his followers, in particular John Keill, is an important part of the background of his ideas about the fundamental forces of matter, ideas that passed to the critical period of his thought, where they reappeared in the Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft of 1786.

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