Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science


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Such a composition of motions is the necessary first step in the mathematization of nature.

PHILOSOPHY - David Hume

The Phoronomy exhibits only the first step of a procedure completed only in the Phenomenology for making time into a mathematical magnitude. Whereas the Phoronomy treats matter simply as the moveable in space, the Dynamics considers matter as the moveable insofar as it fills a space. On this score, Kant decidedly sides with Euler: The MFNA, on the other hand, rejects the view of discrete force centers, since all the points in space must be independently movable and filled with elastic matter in general Also central to the dynamical understanding of matter is the concept of the fundamental force of attraction, which Kant conceives of as a penetrating force.


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A fundamental force of attraction is therefore needed to balance out the repulsive force. We first begin with the observation of volumes, figures and relative spatial positions, and by the argument of Book 3 of the Principia, establish the laws of the fundamental force of attraction universal gravitation , which then allows us to estimate quantity of matter. Friedman underscores the methodological importance of this course of action for Kant: The dynamical concept of density, quantity of matter, and the degree of the filling of space must thereby be replaced by corresponding mechanical concepts, especially the mechanical concept of mass, if such comparisons are to be possible.

Certain necessary conditions must hold if the procedure for the comparison of quantities of matter is to be carried through, and these conditions are articulated in the three Laws of Mechanics, each of which corresponds in important ways with each of the three Analogies of experience. The three Laws of Mechanics that follow are conditions governing the possibility of the communication of motion, which — because it can be communicated between substances — can then become the common measure for estimating quantity of matter.

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Kant's Construction of Nature | The Philosophical Review | Duke University Press

Friedman demonstrates that the principle of the conservation of the total quantity of matter is ultimately, for Kant, empirically realized by the conservation of momentum in all mechanical interactions As such, it significantly parallels Newtonian principles. However, it principally functions as a transcendental condition of empirical time determination.

This matter corresponds to the schematized notion of substance that must be presupposed in all causal interactions, and which, according to the first Analogy, is fundamental to all time determination. The idea that changes of matter have an external cause amounts, ultimately, to the notion the matter is lifeless, that is, it has no internal, merely monadic properties from which changes in its determinations might spring.

Rather, all the properties of matter are relational, and all changes in matter must be traced to external causes. Furthermore, it is precisely this lifelessness of matter that allows us to measure quantities of matter through its empirical criterion of quantity of motion at a given velocity in terms of each other through the transfer of momentum, and only if we presuppose that matter is lifeless can we also assume the conservation of momentum in all mechanical interactions.

The vis inertia amounts to an originally moving dynamical force that matter contains in itself, and is therefore quite the opposite of the lifelessness of matter that Kant puts forward in the second Law of Mechanics. Instead of the vis inertia, Kant posits the law of inertia, namely the idea that because matter is lifeless, it remains in a given state of motion until acted upon by an outside force. This law is key to time determination, since it allows us to determine the place of a moving body at a given moment in time if no outside dynamical forces were operative upon it before or after a given instant.

If such a body changes its state, we can then infer the action of an external force. Key to this construction is the assumption that two interacting bodies are not only affected to have equal and opposite changes of momentum relative to one another, they also always exert equal and opposite forces. If we assume that two bodies always exert equal and opposite forces, the impact of the bodies can then be considered relative to the center of mass of the two colliding bodies, in terms of which the two bodies are at rest after the impact.

Kant's Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science

The third Law of Mechanics is intimately linked with the second; there are no primitive inertial forces internal principles of activity exerted by bodies striving to remain at rest. Hence when the motion of an accelerating body is reduced on impact with another body, this reduction is not effected by the vis inertia of the body it impacts, but rather because this body must itself be considered to be moving, along with the space it inhabits, in an opposite direction, so that its motion cancels that of the impacting body.

Kant recognized that we have no empirical access to absolute space or time and that we cannot, as such, begin with them as absolute measures. Rather these must be constructed in terms of the motions of bodies relative to one another, to which we do have empirical access. Instead of an absolute space and time, Kant defines space in terms of the relative positions of the objects in it, and time in terms of the relative motions of such objects.

Since these objects are always in motion, for instance, the earth around the sun, the sun, along with its entire planetary system, within the Milky Way there can be no absolutely privileged space in terms of which to understand the relative motions of bodies. Want to Read saving….


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Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Kant's Construction of Nature: Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science is one of the most difficult but also most important of Kant's works. Published in between the first and second editions of the Critique of Pure Reason, the Metaphysical Foundations occupies a central place in the development of Kant's philosophy, but has so far attracted relatively little attention comp Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science is one of the most difficult but also most important of Kant's works.

Published in between the first and second editions of the Critique of Pure Reason, the Metaphysical Foundations occupies a central place in the development of Kant's philosophy, but has so far attracted relatively little attention compared with other works of Kant's critical period. Michael Friedman's book develops a new and complete reading of this work and reconstructs Kant's main argument clearly and in great detail, explaining its relationship to both Newton's Principia and eighteenth-century scientific thinkers such as Euler and Lambert.

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By situating Kant's text relative to his pre-critical writings on metaphysics and natural philosophy and, in particular, to the changes Kant made in the second edition of the Critique, Friedman articulates a radically new perspective on the meaning and development of the critical philosophy as a whole. Published January 2nd by Cambridge University Press. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Kant's Construction of Nature , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about Kant's Construction of Nature.

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Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science Kants Construction of Nature: A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science

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