Newton, the pre-Critical Kant, and three problems about the lawfulness of nature

In this paper, I investigate Kant’s early view on the laws of nature. I argue that the young, pre-Critical Kant grappled with a specific governing conception of laws, offered by Newton, and with some of its open philosophical problems. In 1763 Kant gave his own solution to these problems. Kant’s solution borrows a key metaphysical notion (i.e. the notion of ground) from Christian Wolff to provide a bottom-up account of the necessity of the laws as grounded in nature’s forces and their determinations. While the key metaphysical notion is borrowed from Wolffian metaphysics, I show how Newton’s natural philosophy provided the template for the young Kant’s governing conception of laws.

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