Space, Pure Intuition, and Laws in the Metaphysical Foundations


I am interested in the use Kant makes of the pure intuition of space, and of properties and principles of space and spaces (i.e. figures, like spheres and lines), in the special metaphysical project of MAN. This is a large topic, so I will focus here on an aspect of it: the role of these things in his treatment of some of the laws of matter treated in the Dynamics and Mechanics Chapters. In MAN and other texts, Kant speaks of space as the “ground,” “condition,” and “basis” of various laws, including the inverse-square and inverse-cube laws of attractive and repulsive force, and the Third Law of Mechanics. Moreover, in his proofs of all the laws just mentioned, the language of “construction” figures prominently, which suggests that Kant’s proofs (somehow) rest on or involve mathematical construction in his technical sense. Such claims give rise to a number of questions. How do properties and principles of space and spaces serve to ground this particular set of laws? Which spatial properties and principles is Kant appealing to? What, if anything, does the spatial grounding of the inverse-square and inverse-cube laws of diffusion (treated in the Dynamics Chapter) have in common with that of the Third treated in the Mechanics Chapter)? What role—if any—does mathematical construction play in Kant’s proofs of these laws? Finally, how if at all, are Kant’s grounding claims consistent with his other commitments—for example, how are they consistent with his notorious denial in Prolegomena §38 that there are any laws that “lie in space” (Prol 4:321)? I offer answers to these questions.

Author Profiles

James Messina
University of Wisconsin, Madison


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