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Res Philosophica

Volume 98, Issue 3, July 2021

Aaron Wells
Pages 469-497

The Priority of Natural Laws in Kant's Early Philosophy

It is widely held that, in his pre-Critical works, Kant endorsed a necessitation account of laws of nature, where laws are grounded in essences or causal powers. Against this, I argue that the early Kant endorsed the priority of laws in explaining and unifying the natural world, as well as their irreducible role in grounding natural necessity. Laws are a key constituent of Kant’s explanatory naturalism, rather than undermining it. By laying out neglected distinctions Kant draws among types of natural law, grounding relations, and ontological levels, I show that his early works present a coherent and sophisticated laws-first account of the natural order. Laws are a key constituent of Kant’s explanatory naturalism with respect to the empirical domain, and do not undermine it.

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