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The Originality of Natural Philosophy Terminology in Ruđer Bošković

Institute of Philosophy; [email protected]
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  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy
  • Physics


The author aims to show the originality of Bošković's ideas in the field of natural philosophy. Special attention is paid to the central issues of natural philosophy, such as continuity, force, matter, space, time, and motion. In spite of all the difficullies that indicated that the law of continuity would be violated, Bošković stood firm in his belief that the law remained valid in both nature and geometry, providing proof for his thesis. This had brought him to express his thoughts on the continuum of real numbers, confirmed much later in a mathematically exact way by the German mathematician Dedekind. Continuity had also led him to a different understanding of the simplicity of curves, as well as to the possibility of non-Euclidean geometries, and to the concept of an infinitely distant point which J. V. Poncelet, the founder of projective geometry, later interpreted as the intersection of parallel lines. Retainment of the law of continuity made it necessary for Bošković to introduce the concept of a repellent force. Bošković's law of forces, represented by the curve of forces (curva Boscovichiana), is the one and only law that explains all the natural occurences. The idea of a single law is increasingly important in modern science in view of the intentions to unite all the known forces and as regards the reduction to a single reality. The Bošković's curve of forces implies that the fundamental elements of matter are simple, indivisible, nonspatial and non transparent. Bošković radically denied the existence of contact, contradicting the earlier philosophical tradition and experience. In the same way, his matter is not continually spatial, but discreetly spatial. Joining material points into compound structures introduced the so-called Bošković's model of atom (1748) which influenced later views on the structure of matter and which is quite similar to Bohr's (1913). The most recent achievements, such as the quark model and the theory of chaos, would not have been a surprise to Bošković. There are interesting similarities between Bošković's views on the changes dimensions of bodies in motion and the views of the theory of relativity. Motion in micro-world, as understood by Bošković, is likewise similar to the understanding of motion in quantum theory. Many terms in natural philosophy assume original, sometimes entirely different meanings in Bošković than in philosophical and scientific tradition, so it would be appropriate to name them after Bošković.

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