© 1991

The Philosophy of Right and Left

Incongruent Counterparts and the Nature of Space

  • James Van Cleve
  • Robert E. Frederick

Part of the The University of Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 46)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Robert E. Frederick
    Pages 1-14
  3. Immanuel Kant
    Pages 35-36
  4. Immamuel Kant
    Pages 37-38
  5. August Ferdinand Möbius
    Pages 39-41
  6. Norman Kemp Smith
    Pages 43-47
  7. Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Pages 49-49
  8. Martin Gardner
    Pages 61-74
  9. Martin Gardner
    Pages 75-95
  10. Jonathan Bennett
    Pages 97-130
  11. Graham Nerlich
    Pages 151-172
  12. Ralph Walker
    Pages 187-194
  13. James Van Cleve
    Pages 203-234

About this book


Incongruent counterparts are objects that are perfectly similar except for being mirror images of each other, such as left and right human hands. Immanuel Kant was the first great thinker to point out the philosophical significance of such objects. He called them "counter­ parts" because they are similar in nearly every way, "incongruent" because, despite their similarity, one could never be put in the place of the other. Three important discussions of incongruent counterparts occur in Kant's writings. The first is an article published in 1768, 'On the First Ground of the Distinction of Regions in Space', in which Kant con­ tended that incongruent counterparts furnish a refutation of Leibniz's relational theory of space and a proof of Newton's rival theory of absolute space. The second is a section of his Inaugural Dissertation, published two years later in 1770, in which he cited incongruent counterparts as showing that our knowledge of space must rest on intuitions. The third is a section of the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics of 1783, in which he cited incongruent counterparts as a paradox resolvable only by his own theory of space as mind-dependent. A fourth mention in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science of 1786 briefly repeats the Prolegomena point. Curiously, there is no mention of incongruent counterparts in either of the editions (1781 and 1787) of Kant's magnum opus, the Critique of Pure Reason.


Immanuel Kant Kant future idealism metaphysics nature philosophy physics space

Editors and affiliations

  • James Van Cleve
    • 1
  • Robert E. Frederick
    • 2
  1. 1.Brown UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Bentley CollegeUSA

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Philosophy of Right and Left
  • Book Subtitle Incongruent Counterparts and the Nature of Space
  • Editors J. van Cleve
    R.E Frederick
  • Series Title The University of Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-0-7923-0844-7
  • Softcover ISBN 978-94-010-5661-8
  • eBook ISBN 978-94-011-3736-2
  • Series ISSN 1566-659X
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages X, 373
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Philosophy of Science
  • Buy this book on publisher's site