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Forthcoming, 'Newton's Scaffolding: the instrumental roles of his optical hypotheses', in Alberto Vanzo and Peter Anstey (eds) Experiment, Speculation and Religion in Early Modern Philosophy, Routledge.

Forthcoming, 'Frameworks for Historians & Philosophers', HOPOS (with Adrian Currie).

2018, 'Newton on Islandworld: ontic-driven explanations of scientific method', Perspectives on Science, 26, 119-156 (with Adrian Currie).

2017, ‘Newton: from certainty to probability?’, Philosophy of Science, 84, 866-878.

2017, ‘How Many Colours?’, in Marcos Silva (ed.) How Colours Matter for Philosophy, Springer, 47-71.

2017, ‘Principles in Newton’s Natural Philosophy’, in Peter Anstey (ed.) The Idea of Principles in Early Modern Thought: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Routledge, New York.

2015, Review: ‘The Unknown Newton’, Society and Politics 9 (2), 86-88.

2015, 'Caricatures, Myths & White-Lies', Metaphilosophy 46 (3), 414-435 (with Adrian Currie)

2012, ‘Did Newton Feign the Corpuscular Hypothesis?’, in James Maclaurin (ed.) Rationis Defensor. Springer.

Under Submission


In this paper, I examine the empirical underpinnings of the 'phenomena' in Book 3 of Newton's Principia. I argue that the phenomena are explanatory targets drawn from observation reports. In other words, they describe isolated explananda.

In Prep

Monograph: Newton's Epistemic Triad

I offer a new framework within which to understand Newton’s methodology, that is, Newton’s theory of how natural philosophical investigation should proceed.  The new framework is Newton’s three-way epistemic distinction between theories, which are certain and experimentally confirmed, hypotheses, which are uncertain and speculative, and queries, which are not certain, but provide the proper means to establish the certainty of theories.  I call this division Newton’s ‘epistemic triad’.  I argue that Newton’s hypotheses and queries have distinctive and vital supporting roles within this epistemic triad, and that this provides a significantly more consistent picture of Newton’s methodology.  This is significant because Newton’s approach was enormously influential in eighteenth-century natural philosophy, medicine, and even moral philosophy.  By properly understanding Newton’s own methodological views, and how they developed over time and across contexts, we can develop a better account of his place in the history of ideas.


Paper: 'Newton as a Modeller’

Modern commentators disagree on two relevant factors of Newton’s theorising strategy: (1) the role of data in Newton’s construction of a mathematical system, and (2) whether this system was supposed to represent the world.  I argue that Michael Weisberg’s account of modelling provides a useful way of characterising Newton’s strategy which sheds light on these disagreements.  Focussing on two features of Weisberg’s account—construal and autonomy—I conclude that Newton’s mathematical principles are not data-driven, and his representation of the phenomenon is indirect.  Remarkably, this characterisation also shows that model-based sciences did not originate with the development of economics, ecology and evolutionary biology in the twentieth century, but played a foundational role in the development of the Newtonian revolution.


Paper: ‘Newton as a Philosopher of Science’

Commentators have difficulty situating Newton within the traditional historiographical distinction between Rationalism and Empiricism.  In this paper, I make the case for considering Newton’s methodology from an alternative framework: the distinction between Experimental and Speculative Philosophy (ESD).  I argue that, if we look at Newton from within the framework of the ESD, he can be neatly and easily identified as an experimental philosopher.


Paper: 'Experiment and Observation in Newton's Opticks'

I argue that, in the Opticks, the labels ‘experiment’ and ‘observation’ appeal to the function of particular experiential statements, rather than their content.  In very general terms, observations are involved in the process of discovery, but experiments are involved in the process of justification.  That is, when Newton is exploring systems and describing phenomena, he uses the term ‘observation’.  And when he is justifying claims, he uses the term ‘experiment’.  This suggests that, for Newton, the use of instruments to isolate target systems, create novel scenarios and manipulate variables does not present any special epistemic concerns.

(For a collection on 'Instruments in Early Modern Science')


Blog Contributions

Regular contributions to the Early Modern Experimental Philosophy Blog.

See EMXPHI for more information.


Guest contributions to The Mod Squad.

Recent Presentations

(See CV for a completed list)

June 2017: “Newton’s Epistemic Triad” ‘The Philosophy of Howard Stein’ (Chicago, USA)

April 2017: “Newton’s ‘Vegetative Spirit’” British Society for the History of Philosophy (Sheffield, UK)

November 2016: “Newton’s Laws and ‘Epistemic Amplification’” Cambridge Philosophy of Science Seminar (Cambridge, UK)

November 2016: “Newton: from certainty to probability?” Philosophy of Science Association (Atlanta, USA)

October 2016: “Newton’s Corpuscular Scaffolding” Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Science (Bucharest, Romania)

July 2016: “Fitting Newton into the Philosophical Picture” Appropriations of Isaac Newton’s thought, ca. 1700–1750 (Brussels, Belgium)

June 2016: “Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophical Progress” International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (Minneapolis, USA)

January 2016: “Teaching Early Modern Philosophy” Eastern American Philosophical Association Meeting (Washington, USA)


December 2015: “Direct and Indirect Representation in Newton’s Natural Philosophy”, Workshop: Simplification & Distortion as Scientific Strategy (Bucharest, Romania)


November 2015: “Experiment and Observation in Newton’s Opticks” Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Science (Bucharest, Romania)


October 2015: “Are Newton’s Queries Hypotheses?”, Masterclass on Newton’s Philosophical Projects (Bucharest, Romania)


July 2015: 'Newton’s Laws and "Epistemic Amplification"' Bucharest-Princeton Seminar (Bran, Romania)


May 2015: “Newton as a Philosopher of Science” Fellows Lunchtime Seminar (Bucharest, Romania)


November 2014: 'Phenomena in Newton’s Principia' Philosophy of Science Association (Chicago, USA)


October 2014: 'Newton: from certainty to probability?' Western Canadian Philosophical Association (Vancouver, Canada)


October 2014: 'Standing on Giants: Newton defends his new theory of light and colours' Medieval and Renaissance Cultural Studies Research Group (Calgary, Canada)


August 2014: 'Newton as a Modeller' Mutual Interactions:  Second Singapore Workshop on Integrated History and Philosophy of Science in Practice (Nanyang, Singapore)


August 2014: 'Principles in Newton’s Natural Philosophy' ‘Principles in Early Modern Thought’ (Sydney, Australia)

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