Between Kepler and Newton: Hooke’s ‘principles of congruity and incongruity’ and the naturalization of mathematics

Ofer Gal, Cindy Hodoba Eric

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Robert Hooke’s development of the theory of matter-as-vibration provides coherence to a career in natural philosophy which is commonly perceived as scattered and haphazard. It also highlights aspects of his work for which he is rarely credited: besides the creative speculative imagination and practical-instrumental ingenuity for which he is known, it displays lucid and consistent theoretical thought and mathematical skills. Most generally and importantly, however, Hooke’s ‘Principles … of Congruity and Incongruity of bodies’ represent a uniquely powerful approach to the most pressing challenge of the New Science: legitimizing the application of mathematics to the study of nature. This challenge required reshaping the mathematical practices and procedures; an epistemological framework supporting these practices; and a metaphysics which could make sense of this epistemology. Hooke’s ‘Uniform Geometrical or Mechanical Method’ was a bold attempt to answer the three challenges together, by interweaving mathematics through physics into metaphysics and epistemology. Mathematics, in his rendition, was neither an abstract and ideal structure (as it was for Kepler), nor a wholly-flexible, artificial human tool (as it was for Newton). It drew its power from being contingent on the particularities of the material world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-266
Number of pages26
JournalAnnals of Science
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Isaac Newton
  • Robert Hooke
  • early modern science
  • mathematization
  • scientific revolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science


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