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Title:Space, time, ether, and Kant
Author(s):Wong, Wing-Chun Godwin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Melnick, Arthur
Department / Program:Philosophy
Physics, General
Physics, General
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Physics, General
Abstract:This dissertation focused on Kant's conception of physical matter in the Opus postumum. In this work, Kant postulates the existence of an ether which fills the whole of space and time with its moving forces. Kant's arguments for the existence of an ether in the so-called Ubergang have been acutely criticized by commentators. Guyer, for instance, thinks that Kant pushes the technique of transcendental deduction too far in trying to deduce the empirical ether. In defense of Kant, I held that it is not the actual existence of the empirical ether, but the concept of the ether as a space-time filler that is subject to a transcendental deduction. I suggested that Kant is doing three things in the Ubergang: First, he deduces the pure concept of a space-time filler as a conceptual hybrid of the transcendental object and permanent substance to replace the category of substance in the Critique. Then he tries to prove the existence of such a space-time filler as a reworking of the First Analogy. Finally, he takes into consideration the empirical determinations of the ether by adding the concept of moving forces to the space-time filler. In reconstructing Kant's proofs, I pointed out that Kant is absolutely committed to the impossibility of action-at-a-distance. If we add this new principle of no-action-at-a-distance to the Third Analogy, the existence of a space-time filler follows. I argued with textual evidence that Kant's conception of ether satisfies the basic structure of a field: (1) the ether is a material continuum; (2) a physical quantity is definable on each point in the continuum; and (3) the ether provides a medium to support the continuous transmission of action. The thrust of Kant's conception of ether is to provide a holistic ontology for the transition to physics, which can best be understood from a field-theoretical point of view. This is the main thesis I attempted to establish in this dissertation.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Wong, Wing-Chun Godwin
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9512598
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9512598

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