The laws of nature as seen by Immanuel Kant

I’ve just discovered a fascinating project organised by one of our colleagues in philosophy at Edinburgh – Dr Michela Massimi – on the philosophy of the laws of nature, where the idea comes from, and what it means, all according to the seminal Enlightenment philosopher, Kant. Many questions that are of prime relevance to current debates in science and religion crop up here, not least the status of natural ‘law’, and the extent to which it could be a complete description of physical reality. The project, and its ongoing public outreach, are detailed here –

This is how the project is introduced:

‘What is the origin and nature of laws in physics and biology? In the eighteenth century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant gave remarkable answers to this question by drawing on the physical and life sciences of his time. Kant argued that the laws of nature, marvellously revealed by the sciences of his time (from Newtonian mechanics to the chemistry of Boerhaave; from the electrical experiments of Hauksbee to the hydrodynamics of Bernoulli; from natural history to the life sciences) were, in part, the result of our mind ‘projecting’, so to speak, an order onto nature.’

6 thoughts on “The laws of nature as seen by Immanuel Kant

  1. This reminds me of a recent Scientific American article on a new interpretation of quantum mechanics: the wave function, with it’s associated probability of finding the “particle” at a particular location, is regarded as a purely mental estimation of the odds with no ontological reality “out there”.

  2. The reference is:
    von Baeyer, H.C., 2013. Quantum Weirdness? It’s All In Your Mind. Scientific American, 308, No.6, New York.

    It’s the June issue!
    Gerald Partridge

    • Gerald:

      My name is also Gerald Partridge. If you would not mind sharing a little about yourself, am curious to know more about you.

      Gerald Partridge

  3. Great subject!

    “..But the key figure in the descent into modern irrationalism … was the figure of Immanuel Kant, for it was Kant who divided the world into phenomena (what is accessible to our senses and categories of thought) and noumena (the ultimate reality behind them). By closing off the noumenal reality to reason, Kant thought he had spared religion from the onslaught of scientific skepticism, when he had actually opened the door to all the baleful forms of irrationalism that followed. For in the Kantian system, all we can really know is our own nervous system — reason and science merely toy with the phenomena, leaving the deeper reality unknown and unknowable.

    The next time some [one] says to you, “perception is reality,” know that they are a metaphysically retarded son or daughter of Kant. …”


Comments are closed.