What counts as a Newtonian system? The view from Norton's dome

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If the force on a particle fails to satisfy a Lipschitz condition at a point, it relaxes one of the conditions necessary for a locally unique solution to the particle's equation of motion. I examine the most discussed example of this failure of determinism in classical mechanics-that of Norton's dome- and the range of current objections against it. Finding there are many different conceptions of classical mechanics appropriate and useful for different purposes, I argue that no single conception is preferred. Instead of arguing for or against determinism, I stress the wide variety of pragmatic considerations that, in a specific context, may lead one usefully and legitimately to adopt one conception over another in which determinism may or may not hold.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-297
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Classical mechanics
  • Determinism
  • Newtonian mechanics
  • Pluralism
  • Pragmatism

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