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Physics and NecessityRationalist Pursuits from the Cartesian Past to the Quantum Present$
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Olivier Darrigol

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198712886

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198712886.001.0001

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The Necessity of Classical Mechanics

The Necessity of Classical Mechanics

(p.47) 2 The Necessity of Classical Mechanics
Physics and Necessity

Olivier Darrigol

Oxford University Press

This chapter combines some assumptions of the rationalist founders of mechanics (the impossibility of perpetual motion, the causal relation between force and motion, the relativity principle, and what I call the secularity principle) with the definitions of four classes of ideal mechanical systems (connected systems, particles acting at a distance, continuous media, colliding particles) in order to derive the laws of equilibrium and motion of these systems. The usual laws of mechanics are retrieved in each case. The conclusion is that classical mechanics is the only theory of motion complying with a few natural requirements on the comprehensibility of motion at the macroscopic scale.

Keywords:   foundations of mechanics, perpetual motion, Newton’s laws, principle of virtual work, d’Alembert’s principle, connected systems, collisions, continuous media, relativity principle

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