This year’s winner of the Markus Herz prize, awarded to the best graduate student paper presented at the group meetings of NAKS, is Bennett McNulty. 

McNulty’s paper, “Rehabilitating the Regulative Use of Reason: Kant on Empirical and Chemical Laws,” was presented at the 11th annual meeting of the Eastern Study Group of NAKS at Temple University in May, 2014. His paper clarifies the possibility and nature of the empirical, causal laws of chemistry. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant claims that laws carry necessity, yet it is unclear how non-physical sciences undefined those without clear connections to the a priori principles of the understanding undefined could be capable of such necessity. In his paper, McNulty contends that the regulative use of reason makes possible such laws in non-physical sciences, especially chemistry. Through experimentation we unify the chemical powers of substances under ideas of reason (specifically, ideas of elements). These ideas serve as the a priori grounds that necessitate the laws of chemistry. Although ideas are beyond the possibility of experience, their postulation is necessary for the achievement of reason’s theoretical ends: the unification and explanation of the cognitions of the sciences.

This paper is part of McNulty’s dissertation, “Kant’s Philosophy of Chemistry,” which elucidates Kant’s claim from the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science that chemistry is an improper, though rational, science by reflecting upon his scientific context and Critical system. McNulty also argues that Kant still held fast to this view of chemistry after his exposure to the chemical developments of the late 18th century. McNulty recently defended his dissertation in the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine, and will be a post-doctoral research fellow at Universität Salzburg during the 2014-5 academic year. 


The paper is available in the members-only section of our website inside the “Markus Herz” folder.
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