First international workshop on “Kant and the Lawfulness of Nature”, Edinburgh, 27-28 June 2013

After our successful series of public lectures at the Royal Institution in June (please see Facebook for our weekly diary; audios soon will be uploaded in our AV gallery), we concluded yesterday our first two-day workshop in Edinburgh.

Five papers were pre-circulated, commented on and collectively discussed on the topic of what a law of nature is for Kant, and how we should understand Kant’s famous claim that the “understanding prescribes laws to nature”. 

Eric Watkins (UCSD) opened the workshop with an intriguing paper that identified specific challenges for Kant’s account of laws, in the light of two different traditions that seem to be interwoven in Kant’s account (i.e. the natural right tradition and the natural sciences one). 

Peter McLaughlin (Heidelberg)  drew our attention to the Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic with its two main parts (ideas of reason, on the one hand, and systematicity, on the other hand), and the implications for how we should understand laws of nature.

Michael Friedman (Stanford) brought to the fore the issue of causal necessity and how empirical causal laws can become “necessary and universally valid”  in relation to the Postulates of Empirical Thought.

Konstantin Pollok (South Carolina) argued for the long and visible roots of the natural right tradition and of the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition in Kant’s hylomorphism, while Andrew Chignell (Cornell) concluded the workshop with a paper on various degrees of modality and the role of laws of nature in grounding what he called “empirically real possibility” for Kant.

The five papers will appear in a special issue of Kant-Studien.

Angela Breitenbach, Alix Cohen, Marius Stan, Catherine Wilson and myself commented on the papers and there were lots of really thought-provoking questions from a keen and very knowledgeable audience that included Kant scholars from Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Pittsburgh, Berlin, Brussels, and Israel, among others. 

We parted our ways with the remote sound of Scottish bagpipes reaching the windows of our venue and the desire to explore the topic more and more.

Next year’s workshop will be in Cambridge, on the 27-28 June 2014, and will be dedicated to Kant’s view of the laws in the physical sciences.

In the meantime, have all a great summer!




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