Reply to Jessica Leech and Andrew Stephenson


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


By Nicholas Stang 

Let me begin by thanking Andrew Stephenson and Jessica Leech for such detailed, insightful, and thought-provoking comments. Writing a book is a lonely business, and one is never sure that the product of one’s labours will find a receptive audience, much less a sympathetic one. In Andrew and Jessica, Kant’s Modal Metaphysics (henceforth KMM) has found both and I thank them warmly for it.

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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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