Although now replaced by more modern theories, classical mechanics remains a core foundational element of physical theory. From its inception, the theory of dynamics has been riddled with conceptual issues and differing philosophical interpretations and throughout its long historical development, it has shown subtle conceptual refinement. The interpretive program for the theory has also shown deep evolutionary change over time. Lawrence Sklar discusses crucial issues in the central theory from which contemporary foundational theories are derived and shows how some core issues (the nature of force, the place of absolute reference frames) have nevertheless remained deep puzzles despite the increasingly sophisticated understanding of the theory which has been acquired over time. His book will be of great interest to philosophers of science, philosophers in general and physicists concerned with foundational interpretive issues in their field.
Lawrence Sklar is the Carl G. Hempel and William K. Frankena Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Space, Time and Spacetime (1992), Philosophy of Physics (1992), Physics of Chance (Cambridge University Press, 1995) and Theory and Truth (2000).
1. Introduction; 2. The prehistory of classical dynamics; 3. The astronomical revolution; 4. Precursors to Newtonian dynamics; 5. The Newtonian synthesis; 6. Philosophical aspects of the Newtonian synthesis; 7. The history of statics; 8. The development of dynamics after Newton; 9. The 'Newtonian' approach after Newton; 10. From virtual work to Lagrange's equation; 11. Extremal principles; 12. Some philosophical reflections on explanation and theory; 13. Conservation principles; 14. Hamilton's equations; 15. Canonical transformations, optical analogies and algebraic structures; 16. The search for new foundations; 17. New directions in the applications of dynamics; 18. Spacetime formulations of Newtonian dynamics; 19. Formalizations: mass and force; 20. Relationist dynamics; 21. Modes of explanation; 22. Retrospective and conclusions.