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Classifying the Motion: Hegel on the Pendulum

  • Michael John Petry
Chapter
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 136)

Abstract

It is certainly a matter of some significance that despite the radical differences between the technological and intellectual climates within which they were working, Newton and Hegel should have reached broadly complementary conclusions concerning the general significance of the pendulum. Both saw the fundamental necessity of grasping it in mathematical terms, both realized that doing so involved the extremely difficult procedure of abstracting from the complexity of physical factors determining its actual motions, both were very aware of the uses to which it could be put by the geodesists. One would not want to present this convergence of attitude as a matter of world-shaking significance. Newton may have taken a great interest in the phenomenon — he certainly devoted extensive sections to it in all three books of the Principia, but there is quite clearly no point in maintaining that his reputation stands or falls on this particular aspect of his work. It may be a matter of some curiosity that Hegel should have paid such close attention to the ways in which pendulum experiments were then being interpreted, but this can hardly be regarded as a matter of central philosophical significance. So far as I know, the secondary literature on the subject is non-existent. Despite the narrowness of the field, however, and despite the fact that it has never been a topic of general debate, anyone making a close study of Hegel and Newtonianism will do well not to pass over it too quickly. An understanding of the way in which the general principles of Hegel’s philosophical system were brought to bear upon this intricate aspect of Newtonian mechanics throws a flood of light on a number of widely discussed topics - not only the significance of the systematic treatment of logical categories, but also the general methodology of the corresponding treatment of the natural sciences. As the previous speaker has indicated, there is no denying the essential modernity of Newton’s approach to the phenomenon. If Hegel’s critical assessment of this aspect of the Newtonianism of his day can be shown to have been worthwhile, this attempt to highlight the significance of it may well turn out to be of some value to contemporary philosophy of science.

Keywords

Centrifugal Force Centripetal Force Planetary Motion Magnetic Theory Pendular Motion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

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  • Michael John Petry

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