This article examines Isaac Newton's engagement with scholastic natural philosophy. In doing so, it makes two major historiographical interventions. First of all, the recent claim that Newton's use of the concepts of analysis and synthesis was derived from the Aristotelian regressus tradition is challenged on the basis of bibliographical, palaeographical and intellectual evidence. Consequently, a new, contextual explanation is offered for Newton's use of these concepts. Second, it will be shown that some of Newton's most famous pronouncements – from the General Scholium appended to the second edition of the Principia (1713) and from elsewhere – are simply incomprehensible without an understanding of specific scholastic terminology and its later reception, and that this impacts in quite significant ways on how we understand Newton's natural philosophy more generally. Contrary to the recent historiographical near-consensus, Newton did not hold an elaborate metaphysics, and his seemingly ‘metaphysical’ statements were in fact anti-scholastic polemical salvoes. The whole investigation will permit us a brief reconsideration of the relationship between the self-proclaimed ‘new’ natural philosophy and its scholastic predecessors.
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