Hylarie Kochiras

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2014/2015
discipline Philosophy
Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Fernand Braudel-IFER Postdoctoral Fellow, Labex TransferS, Mathesis, République des savoirs (USR 3608), École Normale Supérieure de Paris (ENS)-Centre national de recherche scientifique (CNRS)-Collège de France

Research project

Newton and Causation


It is surprising that Isaac Newton’s concepts of causation have never been intensively analyzed. After all, science investigates nature’s causal processes, Newton is a pivotal figure in the history of science, and some of the most important questions about his thought turn upon causal concepts. Moreover, those specific questions, described below, converge in this fundamental one: how exactly did Newton think that a better understanding of forces, which are mathematically-expressible causes operating in the physical world, could lead us to “the very first cause”, God? This question asks about the relationship between Newton’s metaphysics and his natural philosophy. It simultaneously asks about the ways in which he remained a natural philosopher, even as his theories and methods did so much to establish science as we know it today. Its answer must draw upon diverse disciplines, ranging from the history of physics to theology. The results, meanwhile, should interest anyone curious about the ways in which Newton remained at odds with the modern science he helped to inaugurate.


This project thus aims to investigate Newton’s causal concepts, with an eye toward illuminating the fundamental question mentioned. The specific objectives are as follows: (i): Identify Newton’s multiple concepts of causation and the purposes they serve. (ii): Determine space’s relation to God by explicating Newton’s concept of emanative causation. (iii): Understand Newton’s causal hierarchy and his search for the very first cause. This latter objective will draw upon my earlier findings (Kochiras, 2012) that Newton took substances to be nothing more than sets of causal powers. I expect to show that this notion of substance grounds the causal hierarchy by which forces might serve as the path to the deity. Because some groundwork for this research has already been laid, I plan three journal articles, also to be presented at international conferences. Looking beyond this fellowship, the results will subsequently be incorporated in my book, which examines the aforementioned question about connections between Newton’s metaphysics and his natural philosophy.




Previous to the EURIAS fellowship in Bologna, Hylarie Kochiras was a postdoctoral fellow at École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She has been postdoctoral fellow at The Cohn Institute of Tel Aviv University, visiting scholar at the Department of Philosophy & History of Science (ΜΙΘΕ) of the University of Athens, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Philosophy of Science; and visiting assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University at Buffalo. She held a European Institutes for Advanced Study (EURIAS) fellowship during 2011-2012 at Bucharest’s New Europe College.


She holds a MA and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she worked in metaphysics and epistemology before turning to the early modern period. She specializes in early modern philosophy of science, with an emphasis upon the thought of Isaac Newton. She is especially interested in problems about the nature of substance, matter, force and causation.



Selected publications


‘Causal Language and the Structure of Force in Newton'sSystem of the World', Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, vol. 3, no. 2, 2013, pp. 210-235. 


‘The Mechanical Philosophy and Newton's Mechanical Force’, Philosophy of Science, vol. 80, no. 4, 2013, pp. 557-578. 


‘By ye divine arm: God and substance in De gravitatione’, Religious Studies, September 2012, pp. 1-30. 


‘Spiritual Presence and Dimensional Space beyond the Cosmos’, Intellectual History Review, vol. 22, no. 1, 2012, pp. 41-68. 


‘Newton and the mechanical philosophy: Gravitation as the balance of the heavens’, with P. Machamer & J.E. Mcguire, Southern Journal of Philosophy, vol. 50, no. 3, 2012, pp. 370-388. 


‘Gravity's Cause and Substance Counting: Contextualizing the Problems’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, vol. 42, no. 1, 2011, pp. 167-184. 


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EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
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EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
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EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
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