This paper examines Du Châtelet’s and Kant’s responses to the famous vis viva controversy – Du Châtelet in her Institutions Physiques (1742) and Kant in his debut, the Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces (1746–49). The Institutions was not only a highly influential contribution to the vis viva controversy, but also a pioneering attempt to integrate Leibnizian metaphysics and Newtonian physics. The young Kant’s evident knowledge of this work has led some to speculate about his indebtedness to her philosophy. My study corrects such speculations as well as misunderstandings of the Living Forces. This corrective result has implications for how to investigate Kant’s relation to the ever-evolving landscape of Leibniz exegeses.
This paper offers a novel solution to the long-standing puzzle of why the Canon of Pure Reason maintains, in contradiction to Kant’s position elsewhere in the first Critique, both that practical freedom can be proved through experience, and that the question of our transcendental freedom is properly bracketed as irrelevant in practical matters. The Canon is an a priori investigation of our most fundamental practical capacity. It is argued that Kant intends its starting point to be explanatorily independent of transcendental logic and the ontic more generally, an independence that would be compromised if transcendental freedom were included in that starting point, even in a mode of supposition. In a different sense, however, practical reason precisely is dependent on the ontic: it can be realized only in beings. This species of dependence is used to explain the puzzling claim that practical freedom can be experienced.
This paper considers a principal concept of metaphysics – the category of substance – as it figures in Kant’s critical program of establishing metaphysics as a science. Like Leibniz, Kant identifies metaphysical concepts through logical reflection on the form of cognitive activity. He thus begins with general logic’s account of categorical judgment as an act of subordinating predicate to subject. This categorical form is then considered in transcendental logic with reference to the possibility of its real use. Transcendental reflection reveals that the categorical form, in its potential for such use, constitutes the category of substance and accident, representing a first real subject and a determination of its existence. But to qualify for objective, scientific employment, metaphysics’ concepts must admit of real definitions, which show their objects to be possible, and such possibility, pace Leibniz, can be established only in relation to possible experience. Thus, relying on his doctrine of the schematism, Kant shows the category to figure constitutively in experience, as the ground of the first law of nature, that in all change substance persists.
This paper argues that in Christian Wolff’s theory of knowledge, logical regimentation does not take the place of experiential justification, but serves to facilitate the application of empirical information and clearly exhibit its warrant. My argument targets rationalistic interpretations such as R. Lanier Anderson’s. It is common ground in this dispute that making concepts “distinct” (articulating their component marks) issues in the premises on which all deductive justification rests. Against the view that concepts are made distinct only by analysis, which is carried out by the understanding independently of experience, I contend that for Wolff some distinct concepts are arrived at through experience. I emphasize that Wolff countenances empirical methods of obtaining distinct concepts even in mathematics. This striking feature of his view indicates how its empiricist elements can be reconciled with his injunction to follow “mathematical” method.
In the 1750s Optimism, the Leibnizian doctrine that the actual world is the best possible world, popularized by Pope in 1733 in his Essay on Man, was a hot topic. In 1759 Kant wrote and published a brief essay defending Optimism, Attempt at some Reflections on Optimism. Kant’s aim in this essay is to establish that there is one and only one best possible world. In particular, he argues against the claim that, for every possible world, there is a possible world better than it and against the claim that there are two or more equally good possible worlds that are better than all the rest. Although it is not clear why, Kant was later dissatisfied with his essay. In this article I shall reconstruct, discuss, and evaluate Kant’s arguments. My evaluation will be negative, and so I think Kant had reasons to be dissatisfied with his essay.
This essay argues that, with his much-maligned “infinite analysis” theory of contingency, Leibniz is onto something deep and important – a tangle of issues that wouldn’t be sorted out properly for centuries to come, and then only by some of the greatest minds of the twentieth century. The first two sections place Leibniz’s theory in its proper historical context and draw a distinction between Leibniz’s logical and meta-logical discoveries. The third section argues that Leibniz’s logical insights initially make his “infinite analysis” theory of contingency more rather than less perplexing. The last two sections argue that Leibniz’s meta-logical insights, however, point the way towards a better appreciation of (what we should regard as) his formal theory of contingency, and its correlative, his formal theory of necessity.