Kantian Essentialism in the Metaphysical Foundations

The Monist 100 (3):342-356 (2017)
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Ott (2009) identifies two kinds of philosophical theories about laws: top-down, and bottom-up. An influential top-down reading, exemplified by Ernst Cassirer, emphasized the ‘mere form of law’. Recent bottom-up accounts emphasize the mind-independent natures of objects as the basis of laws of nature. Stang and Pollok in turn focus on the transcendental idealist elements of Kant’s theory of matter, which leads to the question: is the essence of Kantian matter that it obeys the form of law? I argue that Kant has an independent theory of matter in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, one that gives what Kant himself calls a ‘real definition’ of matter as a theory-independent (if not mind-independent) entity. I argue that this matter theory underpins physical arguments about inertia and impenetrability, which resemble Einstein’s arguments about the unification of fields in general relativity.
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