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PSA 1972 pp 153-164 | Cite as

Kant, the Dynamical Tradition, and the Role of Matter in Explanation

  • Jill Vance Buroker
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Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 20)

Abstract

Both the history of science and the history of philosophy demonstrate that different explanations of nature are motivated by different assumptions about what types of things need to be explained and what types of things are capable of explaining them. The view that diversity must be explained, for example, decrees that what is most fundamental is the immutable, and that diverse features of nature arise from essentially unchanging elements. This sort of view is best illustrated in atomistic theories where the characteristics of objects of our experience are ultimately accounted for in terms of the varying configurations and motions of indestructible atoms.

Keywords

Impact Force Dynamical Theory Material Object Inertial Motion Dead Force 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Although attempts were made to develop dynamical theories both on the Continent and in Britain, I confine my discussion in this paper to the Continental dynamical tradition. For excellent studies of the British dynamical tradition see P. M. Heimann and J. E. Mc-Guire, ‘Newtonian Forces and Lockean Powers: Concepts of Matter in Eighteenth-Century Thought’, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, 3 (1971) 233–306, and J. E. McGuire, ‘Forces, Powers, Aethers and Fields’ in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. XIII (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See L. Pearce Williams, Michael Faraday, Basic Books, Inc., New York, 1964, p. 59;Google Scholar
  3. 2a.
    Trevor Levere, Affinity and Matter, Oxford University Press, London, 1971, p. 115.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    I do not mean to suggest that Newton consistently adhered to what I outline here as the ‘atomistic’ view. Indeed, the contrasts between his approach in the Principia and in the Opticks are striking. Helpful discussions of the development of Newton’s concept of force are available in Richard S. Westfall, Force in Newton’s Physics: The Science of Dynamics in the Seventeenth Century, American Elsevier, New York, 1971;Google Scholar
  5. 4a.
    A. R. and M. B. Hall, Unpublished Scientific Papers of Isaac Newton, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1962;Google Scholar
  6. 4b.
    J. E. McGuire, ‘Force, Active Principles, and Newton’s Invisible Realm’, Ambix 15 (1968) 154–208.Google Scholar
  7. 4c.
    J. E. McGuire, ‘Force, Active Principles, and Newton’s Invisible Realm’, Ambix 15 (1968) 154–208.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Philosophical Papers and Letters, (transl, and ed. by Leroy E. Loemker), University of Chicago Press, Chicago, vol. 2, p. 845.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    Immanuel Kant, Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (transl, by James Ellington), Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, 1970, pp. 77–78.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    Papers, vol. 1, pp. 173–174.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    Max Jammer, Concepts of Force, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1957, pp. 179–180.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    Gerd Buchdahl, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1969, p. 580.Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    Robert Wolff, Kant’s Theory of Mental Activity, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1963, p. 9.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Immanuel Kant, Gedanken von der wahren Schätzung der lebendigen Kräfte in Kants Werke, vol. 1, Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaft, Georg Reimer, Berlin, 1902, p. 38.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    Immanuel Kant, Gedanken von der wahren Schätzung der lebendigen Kräfte in Kants Werke, vol. 1, Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaft, Georg Reimer, Berlin, 1902 p. 39.Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    Immanuel Kant, Gedanken von der wahren Schätzung der lebendigen Kräfte in Kants Werke, vol. 1, Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaft, Georg Reimer, Berlin, 1902, p. 144.Google Scholar
  17. 14.
    Immanuel Kant, Meditationum quarandam de igne succincta delineatio, Werke, vol. 1, pp. 371–372.Google Scholar
  18. 15.
    Ibid., pp. 373–374.Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    Ibid., p. 375.Google Scholar
  20. 17.
    Ibid., p. 380.Google Scholar
  21. 18.
    Immanuel Kant, Metaphysicae cum geometria iunctae usus in philosophia naturali, cuius specimen I. continet monadologiam physicam, Werke, vol. 1, p. 481.Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    Ibid., pp. 485–486.Google Scholar
  23. 20.
    Ibid., p. 487.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Holland 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill Vance Buroker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CalliforniaIrvineUSA

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