Jessica Leech on Nicholas Stang’s “Kant’s Modal Metaphysics”

 

NICHOLAS STANG | Kant’s Modal Metaphysics | Oxford University Press 2016


 

By Jessica Leech

Kant’s Modal Metaphysics charts a fascinating course from Kant’s pre-Critical ideas about modality through to his more mature, Critical, view. We are not just offered an account of what Kant said about some narrow topic—modality—but rather a narrative according to which questions arising from Kant’s modal metaphysics play a crucial role in motivating and shaping the Critical philosophy. For example, in Chapter 6, it is proposed that questions of modal epistemology contribute to the Critical turn.

Given the importance of the pre-Critical ideas to this narrative, Stang devotes the first half of the book to them. In particular, much of Part I is taken up with reconstruction and discussion of the ideas and arguments that appear in Kant’s essay The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God (henceforth Beweisgrund). This discussion plays an important role in the push on towards the Critical turn. The conclusion of the Beweisgrund argument, as Stang reads it, leaves significant questions unanswered, and raises important issues. According to Stang, it is these questions and issues that, in part, drive Kant’s thought onwards.

In this note, my aim is to examine Stang’s reconstruction of the modal argument of the Beweisgrund. The aim of the argument is to show that a simple, unique, absolutely necessary being exists (i.e. God). My discussion will be quite focused—on the reconstruction of one argument discussed in Part I of the book. However, given the important role played by this argument, its conclusion, and indeed the step of the argument on which I shall focus in Stang’s narrative of the development of Kant’s thought, my aim is not as narrow as it might seem.

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Andrew Stephenson on Nicholas Stang’s “Kant’s Modal Metaphysics”

 

NICHOLAS STANG | Kant’s Modal Metaphysics | Oxford University Press 2016


 

By Andrew Stephenson

Modal metaphysics is one of the most fertile—I am tempted to say febrile—areas of research in contemporary philosophy. It is an area in which certain historical figures loom large, if only eponymously. Our talk of possible worlds is Leibnizian. David Lewis was Humean. Kit Fine is Aristotelian. Kant, however, tends merely to appear as a stalking horse for incautious conflations of the necessary and the a priori, of modal metaphysics with modal epistemology.

Even within the Kant literature itself, it cannot be said that modal metaphysics has been a focal point of attention. There is, of course, an enormous amount of work dedicated in one way or another to Kant’s metaphysics and Kant on metaphysics. But in contrast to, say, the nature of transcendental idealism, the theory of space and time, and the treatments of causality and the self, Kant’s views on modality have been somewhat neglected.

One might be forgiven for supposing, then, that all this is because Kant wasn’t much interested in the metaphysics of modality or that he didn’t have anything much of interest to say about it. Kant’s Modal Metaphysics shows how wrong this would be on both counts.

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Reply to David Sussman

 

CHRISTOPHER INSOLE | Kant and the Creation of Freedom. A Theological Problem | Oxford University Press, 2013 


 

By Christopher Insole

I would like to thank David Sussman for his patient, insightful, and full account of the sweep of my book’s argument, and the important questions that he raises at key points. I am deeply grateful for the time and attention taken, and the care shown. Sussman pushes me helpfully in some areas where further reflection and discussion is needed.

I shall focus on four points where Sussman challenges me, or asks for further clarification: (1) the “theological argument” for transcendental idealism; (2) noumena regarded as “ontologically distinct” from phenomena; (3) the defence of concurrence; and (4) the “incredible” nature of Kant’s world-view (on my interpretation). The first three areas involve more of a clarification of my position, than a refutation. The fourth area needs more extensive reflection.[1]

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Reply to Wolfgang Ertl

 

CHRISTOPHER INSOLE | Kant and the Creation of Freedom. A Theological Problem | Oxford University Press, 2013 


 

By Christopher Insole

I consider myself privileged to have received this attentive, insightful, and appreciative treatment from Wolfgang Ertl. There is so much in Ertl’s piece that is rich, provocative, and worthy of extensive reflection. It will provide me with much food for thought in my future research. In this response, I want to just pick up on three main criticisms, which are as follows:

1. My focus on Thomas Aquinas occludes other potentially significant scholastic sources, such as Occam, Scotus and Luis de Molina.

2. I neglect an alternative conception of ‘concurrence’, which might be closer to Kant’s position.

3. It is not clear that ‘creation and mere conservationism’ (without concurrence) are compatible with the significant freedom that Kant desires. Therefore, my claim that Kant’s transcendental idealism preserves such freedom is debatable.

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