The whole subject rests ultimately on the Newtonian law of motion and on some natural extensions of them.

In order to exert force, or at all events that force of reciprocal pressure which we best understand, and on which, in impact, the third law of motion was founded, there are always at least two bodies, enduring, triply extended, mobile, each inert, mutually impenetrable or resistent, different yet similar; and in order to have produced any effect but equilibrium, some bodies must at some time have differed either in mass or in velocity, otherwise forces would only have neutralized one another.

This view involves the denial of force as a cause, and the assertion that all we know about force is that the acceleration of one mass depends on that of another, as in mathematics a function depends on a variable; and that even Newton's third law of motion is merely a description of the fact that two material points determine in one another, without reciprocally causing, opposite accelerations.