In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Kant and the Laws of Nature ed. by Michela Massimi, Angela Breitenbach
  • Reed Winegar
Michela Massimi and Angela Breitenbach, editors. Kant and the Laws of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xii + 288. Cloth, $80.49.

This is a welcome collection of essays addressing Kant’s treatment of natural laws. Kant’s best-known discussion of natural laws is the Critique of Pure Reason’s second analogy, which argues that all alterations take place according to causal laws. But Kant’s overall treatment of natural laws extends far beyond the second analogy. For instance, the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science aims to derive specific laws of motion. The appendix to the Critique of Pure Reason’s transcendental dialectic and the introductions to the Critique of the Power of Judgment examine the notion of a systematic order of particular laws. And the Critique of the Power of Judgment discusses the relationship between mechanical and teleological laws. Recent decades have witnessed a marked interest in Kant’s overall account of the laws of nature, and this volume will provide a significant new contribution to these discussions. In their essays, Karl Ameriks and Eric Watkins analyze Kant’s general notion of law. Hannah Ginsborg, Paul Guyer, Thomas Teufel, and Rachel Zuckert examine the notion of a system of particular laws. Michela Massimi and James Messina defend dispositional essentialist interpretations of Kant. Michael Friedman, Marius Stan, and Daniel Warren discuss the relationship between the laws of nature and physics. And Angela Breitenbach and Catherine Wilson address teleological laws in biology. Taken together, these essays present a helpful picture of Kant’s overall views regarding the laws of nature.

Although the collection covers a large array of specific topics, one issue that runs through many of the essays is the relationship between necessity and the empirical laws of nature. According to a standard story, this issue arises as follows. The second analogy argues that all alterations take place according to causal laws but leaves open which particular causal laws might exist. Although the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science derives some particular laws, Kant also acknowledges that there seem to be laws of nature (for example, in chemistry) that cannot be so derived. Instead, these laws could be known only through empirical observation. But what grounds the necessity of these particular laws? And how can we know whether an empirically observed regularity actually corresponds to a particular law? In her essay, Massimi replies to these questions by arguing that the second analogy does not ground the necessity of particular laws. Instead, according to Massimi’s dispositional essentialist interpretation of Kant, there exist real grounds that ground the necessary causal dispositions of an object’s powers. However, the second analogy does provide the general template of a cause and effect relationship. And we can use empirical observations to fill in this template with real grounds so as to cognize particular laws (169). In his essay, Messina also develops a dispositional essentialist interpretation of Kant, arguing that substances have natures that are composed of both powers and particular laws governing those powers. But Messina speculates that there might be different kinds of grounds for various particular laws. The human understanding provides a priori grounds for the particular laws derived in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, but empirical laws will have supersensible grounds that are epistemically inaccessible to us. Consequently, we cannot [End Page 377] know why the empirical laws are what they are (146). Guyer pushes the notion of epistemic inaccessibility even further to argue that we cannot have any knowledge of empirical laws. Apparently revising his earlier view that the necessity of an empirical law results simply from its position in a system of laws, Guyer now argues that the necessity of an empirical law would result from its position in a system of laws that was itself necessitated by a divine mind. But we cannot know whether a divine mind exists. Thus, we cannot know whether there is a necessary system of laws. Consequently, we cannot know whether any empirical regularity corresponds to a necessary law (64–66). One might wonder how the notion of a divine mind here relates to the...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 377-378
Launched on MUSE
2018-04-17
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.