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LTT: Ed Slowik
October 20 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Ed Slowik, Center Visiting Fellow
A Note on Kant as Precursor of Mach: Reconsidering Kant’s “Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science” from a Huygensian Frame
This talk will be held via Zoom and pre-registration is required. Register here: https://pitt.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_H0Xxw_YDRqaaW_NQJe1yYw
ABSTRACT: Over the past several decades, important studies of Kant’s pre-critical period natural philosophy (by, e.g., Watkins, Schönfeld, Stan) have demonstrated the significance of the Leibniz-Wolff school for the evolution of Kant’s thought. This presentation, which focuses on Kant’s most significant critical period tract on mechanics, the Metaphysical Foundations, will demonstrate the influence of a particular method for conceiving bodily motions and interactions that can be traced back to Huygens, namely, the center-of-mass reference frame. In opposition to a school of interpretation that often singles out Newtonian ideas as the main catalyst behind Kant’s critical period turn, an alternative historical lineage will be offered that links Kant to Huygens and Berkeley, and thus (via Popper) Mach. In short, and despite his deceptive appropriation of Newtonian “absolutist” terminology, Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations constitutes one the most highly developed examples of an Early Modern system of mechanics based on relationist concepts of space and motion, an approach that, moreover, has little in common with Newton’s own absolutist spatiotemporal ontology and methodology. Although the extent to which Kant was aware of the historical background to his use of the center-of-mass frame remains unclear, a reassessment of Kant’s place in, and influence on, the larger absolute versus relational debate is long overdue.