Kant on chemistry and the application of mathematics in natural science

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In his Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft, Kant claims that chemistry is a science, but not a proper science (like physics), because it does not adequately allow for the application of mathematics to its objects. This paper argues that the application of mathematics to a proper science is best thought of as depending upon a coordination between mathematically constructible concepts and those of the science. In physics, the proper science that exhausts the a priori knowledge of objects of the outer sense, only motions and concepts reducible to motions can be legitimately coordinated with mathematical constructions. Since chemistry can neither achieve its own a priori principles of coordination nor be reduced to the coordinated doctrine of motion, it is a merely improper science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-418
Number of pages26
JournalKantian Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 30 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© © Kantian Review 2014.


  • Kant
  • chemistry
  • construction
  • mathematics
  • mechanical philosophy
  • proper science


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