Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Equilibrium and Explanation in 18th Century Mechanics

Hepburn, Brian Spence (2007) Equilibrium and Explanation in 18th Century Mechanics. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (703kB) | Preview


The received view of the Scientific Revolution is that it was completed withthe publication of Isaac Newton's (1642-1727) {em Philosophiae NaturalisPrincipia Mathematica} in 1687. Work on mechanics in the century or more following was thought to be merely a working out the mathematical details ofNewton's program, in particular oftranslating his mechanics from its synthetic expression into analytic form. Ishow that the mechanics of Leonhard Euler (1707--1782) and Joseph-LouisLagrange (1736--1813) did not begin with Newton's Three Laws. They providedtheir own beginning principles and interpretations of the relation betweenmathematical description and nature. Functional relations among the quantifiedproperties of bodies were interpreted as basic mechanical connections betweenthose bodies. Equilibrium played an important role in explaining the behaviorof physical systems understood mechanically. Some behavior was revealed to bean equilibrium condition; other behavior was understood as a variation fromequilibrium. Implications for scientific explanation are then drawn fromthese historical considerations, specifically an alternative account ofmechanical explanation and unification. Trying to cast mechanicalexplanations (of the kind considered here) as Kitcher-style argument schemafails to distinguish legitimate from spurious explanations. Consideration ofthe mechanical analogies lying behind the schema are required.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hepburn, Brian
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMachamer, Peterpkmach@pitt.eduPKMACH
Committee MemberTabakin, Franktabakin@pitt.eduTABAKIN
Committee MemberBelot, Gordongbelot@pitt.eduGBELOT
Committee MemberMcGuire, Jamesjemcg@pitt.eduJEMCG
Committee MemberEarman, Johnjearman@pitt.eduJEARMAN
Committee MemberPalmieri, Paolopap7@pitt.eduPAP7
Date: 20 September 2007
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 26 July 2007
Approval Date: 20 September 2007
Submission Date: 28 July 2007
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: 18th Century; Euler; Lagrange; mechanics; equilibrium; History of Science
Other ID:, etd-07282007-154439
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:54
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:47


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item