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.