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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Philosophers on Science (2 of 4): Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant is a very important philosopher of science. In fact, he spent a large portion of his time working with physics. He had quite a lot to say about physics, so I can only give a short summary of his work. Probably the two fields he concerned himself with that are still prevalent today are Dynamics and Mechanics.

In his work on Dynamics, he tried to reason through how matter can exist in the way that it does. He reasoned that if there were only attractive forces acting on matter, the universe would simply implode as there would be no force to counteract the attractive force. However, if only a repulsive force was present, the opposite would happen: the universe would expand to infinity. As we know, neither of these have happened, so Kant reasoned that there must be a balance of attractive and repulsive forces at work. In addition to this, he also stated that matter is infinitely divisible.

In his work on Mechanics, he had three laws that he proposed. The First Law of Mechanics was that the amount of matter is constant throughout any changes in matter. His Second Law of Mechanics is that every change in matter is due to an external cause (you might notice that this law is very similar to Newton’s First Law, which states that a body will remain in its current state unless acted on by an external force. Kant stated that the difference is that he attempted to prove it through reason, whereas Newton went only by experience). His Third Law of Mechanics is in the communication of motion, action and reaction are the same.

By Nicholas Moore: Section 9, Group 1
Again, this is only a small summary of his work in physics. He had much more to say about physics, but he dabbled in biology, chemistry, and psychology as well. If you would like to know more, the site I used for information is http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-science/

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