The Priority of Natural Laws in Kant’s Early Philosophy

Res Philosophica 98 (3):469-497 (2021)
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It is widely held that, in his pre-Critical works, Kant endorsed a necessitation account of laws of nature, where laws are grounded in essences or causal powers. Against this, I argue that the early Kant endorsed the priority of laws in explaining and unifying the natural world, as well as their irreducible role in in grounding natural necessity. Laws are a key constituent of Kant’s explanatory naturalism, rather than undermining it. By laying out neglected distinctions Kant draws among types of natural law, grounding relations, and ontological levels, I show that his early works present a coherent and sophisticated laws-first account of the natural order.

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Aaron Wells
Paderborn University


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