Time for empiricist metaphysics

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Brading, Katherine
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I discuss the three distinctions “absolute and relative”, “true and apparent”, and “mathematical and common”, for the specific case of time in Newton’s Principia. I argue that all three distinctions are needed for the project of the Principia and can be understood within the context of that project without appeal to Newton’s wider metaphysical and theological commitments. I argue that, within the context of the Principia, the three claims that time is absolute rather than relative, true rather than apparent, and mathematical rather than common, are to be evaluated with respect to the needs of, and relative to the success of, the project of the Principia. I claim that Newton is thereby offering a new, and empirical, philosophy of time.