The Architecture of Matter: Galileo to Kant

By Thomas Holden | Go to book overview

6 The Kant-Boscovich Force-Shell Atom Theory

Whereas Copernicus had to persuade us to believe, contrary to all our senses, that the earth did not stand still, Boscovich taught us to disavow the final 'fixed' thing in the regard to the earth—the belief in 'substance,' in 'matter,' in the little residual earthly clump—the atom. This was the greatest triumph over the senses ever achieved on earth. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil


I Introduction

In this final chapter I examine one of the more ingenious and philosophically intriguing responses to the problems of material structure: the embryonic field theory first suggested by Henry More and subsequently developed as a fully fledged theory of matter by Boscovich and Kant in his younger, pre-critical period. (For brevity's sake, I shall call this account the Kant-Boscovich theory of matter. But the reader should bear in mind that the later, critical period Kant will renounce this theory for a different model of material structure altogether.)

In focusing on this response in particular, I do not mean to imply that it is the only viable approach to the problems of material structure, or even that it is necessarily the most plausible. For all that has been said in this book, certain other responses would still appear equally feasible. Think, for instance, of the potential parts resolution of Aristotle, Hobbes, and the later Kant (see Chapter 1 , section IX, 'faction 1'); or of Galileo's system of actual infinities of ultimate parts (see Chapter 1 , section IX, 'faction 3'). For a systematic survey of all the logically and conceptually respectable accounts of material structure, see the Conclusion.

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The Architecture of Matter: Galileo to Kant
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Galileo to Kant iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Contents xii
  • Problems of Material Structure 1
  • Appendix Paradoxes of Infinite M-Divisibility That Do Not Turn on Actual Parts 75
  • 2 Actual Parts and Potential Parts 79
  • 3 The Actual Parts Doctrine and Shortcircuit Arguments 132
  • 4 The Actual Parts Doctrine and the Argument from Composition 169
  • 5 The Case for Infinite Divisibility 206
  • Appendix: Minor Arguments 232
  • 6 The Kant-Boscovich Force-Shell Atom Theory 236
  • Conclusion 273
  • Bibliography 280
  • Index 295
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