Isaac Newton’s General Scholium to the Principia: Science, Religion and Metaphysics

October 24-26, 2013, University of King's College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, CANADA

Plenary lecture: Professor Andrew Janiak (Duke University): “Isaac Newton, philosopher”

This international, interdisciplinary symposium will bring together a contingent of leading historians and philosophers of science for a systematic examination of the ideas and legacies of the General Scholium to the Principia (2nd ed., 1713), arguably the most famous portion of Newton’s writings. At once humanistic and natural philosophical, the General Scholium includes Newton’s reflections on what he saw as some of the most important natural philosophical, theological, methodological and metaphysical corollaries to the mathematical physics and cosmology of his magnum opus.

In the General Scholium Newton powerfully rejects Cartesian vortices, discusses planetary and cometary dynamics, hampions the inductive method, articulates the design argument, considers the nature and attributes of God, ventures into biblical interpretation, declares that discoursing about God is a part of natural philosophy, touches on philosophical and metaphysical issues concerning space, matter and causation, presents a descriptivist view of gravity, speaks out against the reckless use of hypotheses and speculates about an electric spirit. And this does not exhaust the themes treated in the General Scholium. Under the surface are links with Newton’s late alchemical work, hints at heretical theology and responses to his natural philosophical critics.

All this, and the longest version of the General Scholium is under 1500 words in the original Latin!

For more information about this symposium, please contact Stephen Snobelen (King’s College, Halifax) and visit

The symposium programme can be found at:

The symposium is open to students, faculty and the general public. We hope to make videos of the symposium talks available online shortly after the event. The talks are to be published in a volume by 2015.

An expanding collection of resources on the General Scholium can be consulted and downloaded at

One of the purposes of this General Scholium page is generate and share questions and ideas about this remarkable document. Please do visit and share your ideas!

Posted: September 17, 2013