Why must we presuppose the systematicity of nature?

Kant claims that, as a condition of empirical investigation into nature, we must presuppose that nature is systematic, in the sense that empirical laws and kinds can be ordered into a systematic hierarchy. Commentators have disagreed about Kant’s reasons for making this claim and whether the claim is justified. I will suggest that we think of the systematicity as a consequence of a more basic presupposition that nature is purposive for our cognitive faculties, where this presupposition in turn has an essentially normative character. Understanding the presupposition in this normative way, as amounting to the attitude that our cognitive activity is appropriate to the natural phenomena we seek to understand, allows us to see the presupposition as more defensible than it has often appeared.


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