Joel Morris

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This dissertation is an examination of Kant's rather notorious claim that natural science, or physics, has a priori principles, understood as the claim that physics is constrained by rules warranted by the essential nature of thought. The overall direction of this study is towards examining Kant's claim by close study of a particular principle of physics, the principle of the conservation of matter. If indeed this is a principle of physics, and Kant can successfully show that it is a priori, then it will be reasonable to conclude, in company with Kant, that physics has a priori principles.;Although Kant's proof of the principle of the conservation of matter has been traditionally regraded as a reasonably straightforward consequence of his First Analogy of Experience, a careful reading of his proof reveals that this is not really the case. Rather, Kant's proof of the conservation of matter is a consequence of (i) his schematisation of the category of substance in terms of permanence, and (ii) his identification of matter as substance, by appeal to what he thinks is the empirical criterion of substance, activity.;Careful examination of Kant's argument in defence of the principle of the conservation of matter, however, reveals a number of deficiencies, and it is concluded that Kant cannot be said to have satisfactorily demonstrated the principle of the conservation of matter or to have convincingly illustrated his claim that physics has a priori principles by appeal to this instance.



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