Spencer, Quayshawn, and . Do Newton’s Rules of Reasoning Guarantee Truth … Must They?

2004, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 35(4): 759-782.

Abstract: Newton’s Principia introduces four rules of reasoning for natural philosophy. Although useful, there is a concern about whether Newton’s rules guarantee truth. After redirecting the discussion from truth to validity, I show that these rules are valid insofar as they fulfill Goodman’s criteria for inductive rules and Newton’s own methodological program of experimental philosophy; provided that cross-checks are used prior to applications of rule 4 and immediately after applications of rule 2 the following activities are pursued: (1) research addressing observations that systematically deviate from theoretical idealizations and (2) applications of theory that safeguard ongoing research from proceeding down a garden path.

Comment: A good examination of the relationship of scientific practices to truth, put in a historical context. Would be useful in a history and philosophy of science course.