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Newton and the Magic Vase of Circe

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Time is a fundamental property of the physical world. Because time encompasses the antinomic qualities of transience and duration, the definition of time poses a dilemma for the formulation of a comprehensive physical theory. The partial elimination of time is a common solution to this dilemma. In his mechanical philosophy, Newton appears to resort to the elimination of the transient quality of time by identifying time with duration. It is suggested, however, that the transient quality of time may be identified as the active component of the Newtonian concept of inertia, a quasi occult quality of matter that is correlated with change, and that is essential to defining duration. The assignment of the transient quality of time to matter is a necessary consequence of Newton's attempt to render a world system of divine mathematical order. Newton's interest in alchemy reflects this view that matter is active and mutable in nature.


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