Mach repudiated Newton's argument for absolute time. He denied there is such a thing as time itself that exists independently of any external change. In doing so, Mach failed to appreciate Newton's scientific practice. Absolute time is intrinsically related to Newton's laws of motion and the method of fluxions. Commentators have noted similarities between Mach's rejection of Newtonian time and his rejection of the independent existence of atoms. In this article, it shall be argued that the juxtaposition of absolute time and the atomic theory is unsound. Mach had good reasons to question the existence of substantial time, and he went on to provide an alternative, ontologically relational account. Whereas his dismissal of atoms can be seen as a questionable form of “phenomenalism” or “positivism,” this is not the case regarding his position on time.

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