Saturday, July 5, 2014

The apple rolls far from the tree

Garrison Keillor reminds us that today is the anniversary of (July 5,
1687) when Newton published "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia
Mathematica, or "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.... the
Principia contained Newton's three laws of motion, including, ....
"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Note the binary formulation: an equal and opposite reaction. We might
wonder if there is not a third force here, what Jan Cox called, E
force, or the unexpected, the irrelevant, coming into play each
second. Which sounds smug, but I am just trying to widen that small
aperture through which we see the world.

The historical treatment of Newton though is also a great example of
binary thought, in that, the work that equally involved him, his work
on religious issues, is never investigated. So for sure at least one
third of Newton's thought is ignored. Newton the scientist and Newton
the Alchemist are two sides, the good Newton and the old-fashioned
Newton. Whereas, with a figure this brilliant, you might have thought,
perhaps the entire corpus of his work should be studied with a view
towards greater comprehensibility.

This is the kind of approach though which the rigor mortis of binary
thought makes unlikely. A large part of Newton's thought can be just
ignored, the same way human experience, being labeled subjective, can
just be ignored by scientists.

Myself, I wonder if you can really understand Newton without studying
all his work to appreciate what he was saying.

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