HPS Colloquium - Marius Stan


Location: 213 DeBartolo Hall

This talk is part of the HPS Colloquium Series

Marius Stan

Abstract Unlike most in his age, Kant was a constant and forceful defender of action at a distance. In virtue of this advocacy, he counts as a spokesman for Newtonian science. Less known are his views on contact interactions. As it rurns out, Kant developed these views so as to fulfill a foundational agenda inherited form Leibniz not Newton. This agenda required natural philosophers to show that action by contact is (1) intelligible, and (2) grounded in an a priori dynamics. To solve this dual problem, Kant draws on his metaphysics of motion and matter.

In Part 1, I present the early Kant's mechanics of contact action. At its heart is a concept of relative motion. I explain the peculiar sense of Kantian relativity, and how Kant developed so as to solve a problem bequeathed by Leibniz. Then I document how this a priori mechanics survives in Kant's Critical period.

Leibniz had complained that contact action -- paradigmatically, collision -- appears unintelligible, because it seems to involve a transfer of properties. In Part 2, I explain how the young Kant draws on his matter theory to avoid the unintelligibility charge. However, Kant's solution involves short-range action at a distance forces -- unacceptable to Leibniz but at home in Newton's system. In the 1780s, Kant switches to a doctrine of matter as a physical continuum. This brings him closer to Leibniz, but it threatens to break apart his concepts of force and matter.

About Marius Stan: Marius Stan is Assistant Professor at Boston College, MA. Between 2009 and 2012 Marius was a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In 2011 he was a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science (Berlin), as part of Vincenzo de Risi's research group "Modern Geometry and the Concept of Space." He is also a referee for: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science; HOPOS: Journal of the International Society for History of Philosophy of Science

Fields of interest: Kant's natural philosophy, Leibniz and Newton in the 18th century, Philosophical foundations of Enlightenment science
Currently Teaching: Perspectives on Western Culture, Bioethics, Philosophy of Space and Time