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Action at a Distance in Early Modern Natural Philosophy

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Synonyms

Actio in distans

Introduction

“Action at a distance,” in the period with which we are concerned, included all claims about interaction that do not involve direct contact action between bodies or indirect contact action between bodies (of which there were supposed to be two major types: transmission of the movement of one body to another by sending a pulse of movement through an intervening material plenum and communication of one body with another by the emission of a stream of invisibly small material particles from one body to the other) (Parigi 2015). The assumption of subscribers to action at a distance was simply that action could be communicated between bodies by means other than by physical contact, and this must therefore involve some supposed immaterial entity. G. W. Leibniz recognized that Newton’s view of gravity was an action at a distance and demanded to know what nonmaterial agent he supposed to be its cause:

are perhaps some immaterial substances, or some...

Keywords

  • Causation
  • Gravity
  • Force
  • Magnetism
  • Occult influence
  • Power

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Henry, J. (2020). Action at a Distance in Early Modern Natural Philosophy. In: Jalobeanu, D., Wolfe, C. (eds) Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20791-9_39-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20791-9_39-1

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