The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 2 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 85

by the author's not distinguishing between a great force
applied at once, or a small one continually applied, to a mass of
matter, in order to move it. I think it is generally allowed by
the philosophers, and, for aught we know, is certainly true, that
there is no mass of matter, how great soever, but may be moved by
any force how small soever (taking friction out of the question)
and this small force continued, will in time bring the mass to move
with any velocity whatsoever.--Our author himself seems to allow
this towards the end of the same No. 2. when he is subdividing his
celerities and forces: for as in continuing the division to eternity
by his method of ½ _c_, â
“ _c_, ¼ _c_, â
• _c_, &c. you can never come
to a fraction of velocity that is equal to 0 _c_, or no celerity at
all; so dividing the force in the same manner, you can never come
to a fraction of force that will not produce an equal fraction of
celerity.--Where then is the mighty vis inertiæ, and what is its
strength; when the greatest assignable mass of matter will give way
to, or be moved by the _least_ assignable force? Suppose two globes,
equal to the sun and to one another, exactly equipoised in Jove's
balance; suppose no friction in the centre of motion, in the beam or
elsewhere: if a musketo then were to light on one of them, would he
not give motion to them both, causing one to descend and the other
to rise? If it is objected, that the force of gravity helps one globe
to descend, I answer, the same force opposes the other's rising: here
is an equality that leaves the whole motion to be produced by the
musketo, without whom those globes would not be moved at all.--What
then does vis inertiæ do in this case? and what other effect could
we expect _if there were no such thing_? Surely if it were any thing
more than a phantom, there might be enough of it in such _vast_
bodies to annihilate, by its opposition to motion, so trifling a

Our author would have reasoned more clearly, I think, if, as he has
used the letter _a_ for a certain quantity of matter, and _c_ for a
certain quantity of celerity, he had employed one letter more, and
put _f_ perhaps, for a certain quantity of force. This let us suppose
to be done; and then as it is a maxim that the force of bodies in
motion is equal to

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