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The Composition of Forces
Résumé This article defends a realist account of the composition of Newtonian forces, dubbed ‘residualism’. According to residualism, the resultant force acting on a body is identical to the component forces acting on it that do not prevent one another from bringing about the body's acceleration. Several reasons to favour residualism over alternative accounts of the composition of forces are advanced: (i) Residualism reconciles realism about component forces with realism about resultant forces, while avoiding any threat of causal over-determination. (ii) Residualism provides a systematic semantics for the term ‘force’ within Newtonian mechanics. (iii) Residualism allows us to precisely apportion the causal responsibility of each component force in the ensuing acceleration. (iv) Residualism handles special cases such as null forces, single forces, and antagonistic forces in a natural way. (v) Residualism provides a neat picture of the causal powers of forces. Each force essentially has two causal powers—the power to bring about accelerations (sometimes together with other co-directional forces) and the power to prevent other forces from doing so—exactly one of which is manifested at a time. (vi) Residualism avoids commitment to unobservable effects of forces, namely, forces cause either stresses (tensile or compressive) or accelerations.
   
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Citation Massin, O. (2017). The Composition of Forces. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 68(3), 805-846.
   
Type Article de périodique (Anglais)
Date de publication 2017
Nom du périodique The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Volume 68
Numéro 3
Pages 805-846
URL https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1093/bjps/axv048