Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 January 2022
Just as a debate about the fundamental nature of physical entities arose after Descartes, a similar issue arose after Newton. Like Descartes, but of course with very different epistemological and methodological considerations, Newton held that the most fundamental conserved quantity was “quantity of motion” or momentum. Leibniz opposed this, arguing instead for vis viva or “living force.” This controversy introduced two kinds of problems: 1) whether and how empirical proofs could be generated for metaphysical conceptions, and consequently 2) how to understand the relationship between metaphysics and experimental philosophy. These concerns were handled quite differently by two important philosophers: Gravesande and Du Châtelet. Their moves partly resolved older debates, but also partly reconfigured them into new questions we are still attempting to answer.