The Possibility of Transcendental Philosophy


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Part IIIB: The Way into Phenomenological Transcendental Philosophy from Psychology. ...

At this point in the Preface Baumgarten is offering an analysis of the relation between error, justificatory grounds, and what he calls private sufficient reason privativa ratio sufficiens. Such speculation is not necessarily incorrect just because it is empty; it does not, however, rise to the dignity of knowledge justified by conceptually synthesized empirical content.

Speculation unsupported by empirical evidence should not be rejected as false, then, but treated with guarded suspicion. To illustrate the point, Kant concludes the. Philolaus was perhaps the first to assert that the earth does not occupy a central position in the universe, 29 and indeed Copernicus identifies Philolaus as a precursor to the heliocentric position elaborated in De Revolutionibus Copernicus, on the contrary, genuinely knew the truth of heliocentrism because his claim was accompanied by some unspecified manner of synthetic proof.

For more, see Friedman , p. Although Blumenberg is no doubt a better historian of science than Kant, the note I am now discussing clearly indicates that Kant—rightly or wrongly—considered Copernicus to have proven his hypothesis.

Transcendental Philosophy and Naturalism

For an alternative account of the structure of the proof deployed by Copernicus and Kant as well, he argues , see Schulting , pp. To the best of my knowledge, no other commentator mentions this passage. Since it is impossible exhaustively to catalog and verify all the possible effects of posited ground, the truth of an hypothesis can never be known with true certainty.


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The strength of an hypothesis and what separates it from mere speculation is its ability to explain as many of the relevant phenomena as possible without entailing any false or non-existent consequences. In addition to its ability to explain existing phenomena, an hypothesis must meet three additional criteria: the hypothesis itself must be empirically possible; the effects the hypothesis is intended to ground must properly follow by the lights of current natural science, presumably from the hypothesis; and the hypothesis cannot itself require further hypothetical support.

The exemplarity of the Copernican hypothesis is expanded in a roughly contemporary unpublished reflection. After listing the central features and limits of hypothetical reasoning that I have just glossed, Kant again presents Copernican. Before the text breaks off Kant notes that the heliocentric hypothesis meets the necessary criteria:. The Copernican system.

That the earth moves is possible. That the stars appear to move from east to west is certain. That this [effect] can follow from such [an hypothesis] [text breaks off]. Kant clearly views Copernican astronomy as something more than a choice example of the importance of the willingness to adopt a new perspective when traditional standpoints fail to provide sufficient explanatory power. Unlike the standard reading of the Copernican revolution as outlined in the first Critique , however, the change in perspective discussed here is not that from transcendental realism to transcendental idealism, but from the immediacy of perception to the rational mediation of experience.

Before turning to an analysis of historical signs as the. He writes:. If the course of human affairs seems so senseless to us, perhaps it lies in a poor choice of position [ Standpunkt ] from which we regard it. Viewed from the earth, the planets sometimes move backwards, sometimes forward, and sometimes not at all.

But if the standpoint selected is the sun, an act which only reason can perform, according to the Copernican hypothesis, they move constantly in their regular course. The Copernican hypothesis Kant refers to here is beyond a doubt a change in astronomical perspective that renders otherwise disorderly experiences systematically intelligible. Despite the repetition of the motif of a revolutionary change in perspective modeled after Copernican astronomy in these passages, the changes in perspective are not the same.

The Possibility of Transcendental Philosophy

In the note about Philolaus Kant avers that the difference between Philolaic speculation and Copernican science is related to the necessity of subsuming a series of empirical instances under a concept in order to give that concept real epistemic weight. There was surely some empirical experience, however, that led Philolaus to postulate the movement of the earth, so we cannot without testing credibility suggest that his astronomy was a product of unadulterated conceptual analysis executed in isolation from experiential epistemic motivation.


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Thus, the presence of empirical instances that motivate conceptual thinking cannot in itself be sufficient to account for the kind of proof that separates science from mere speculation. Although Kant does not provide the necessary tools for identifying what distinguishes Copernican legitimacy from Philolaic folly in this note, he does in another context we have already discussed.

Good hypotheses serve as analogues of certainty, he argues, insofar as they can ground or explain all of the phenomena to which they relate without either positing unobserved or false phenomena or themselves requiring further hypothetical support. As we have seen, Kant repeatedly identifies Copernican. That Philolaus was not a heliocentrist since he held that the sun orbited the great fire makes little difference for my larger argument. The importance of the Copernican revolution for Kant lies in his postulation of the movement of the earth less than the stability of the sun.

Diagram of Kant's Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Reason

What distinguishes Copernicus from Philolaus, then, is the quality of their hypothetical reasoning. We have already seen, though, that Kant denies that transcendental idealism is only hypothetically true. The position laid out in the first Critique differs from its Copernican analogue, Kant explains, inasmuch as it enjoys apodeictic and not merely hypothetical certainty.

Any account of synthetic a priori truths cannot, of course, rely on empirical support without abandoning the very apriority it attempts to secure. Copernicus indicates, for Kant, the necessity of providing proof for any speculative hypothesis, but does not himself provide a method for accomplishing that proof in the realm of metaphysics. Kant begins the B Preface with a discussion of the possibility of imparting the rigor of the sciences to the battlefield of metaphysics. If metaphysics cannot be rendered scientific, it ought to be abandoned; and if it is to become scientific, it must find its paradigm in the.

See Kant, Log , AA See also Lemanski In each of these cases, Kant argues, the mere groping characteristic of prescientific exploration gave way to a systematically organized and universally valid science through a revolution in its way of thinking. By isolating what Kant takes the revolutions in ancient mathematics and modern physics have in common, I will argue that the epistemic justification that he seeks to establish in metaphysics requires the identification of a new object of metaphysical inquiry.

The Transcendental Turn // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame

The new object of metaphysics, like those of the mathematical and physical sciences, will allow for the possibility of providing a kind of critical proof rather than mere dogmatic assertion in matters that outstrip the possibility of empirical verification. Abstraction from a series of empirical diagrams cannot provide the characteristic universality of mathematical results, and formal analysis alone cannot secure their exemplary veracity.

Mathematics neither generalizes from particular figures nor unpacks conventional definitions; it analyzes the synthetic content of spatio-temporal constructions. Such constructions account for the universality of mathematics through their necessary rules and its veracity through the production of a sensible figure.

What is important for my purposes is not whether Kant is correct, either about the proper object of mathematics or the historical development of the field, but how he introduces his own proposed metaphysical revolution—his Copernican revolution—as a repetition of the. Physics elevated itself above the disorganized groping of mere curiosity, Kant explains, when it took the experimental manipulation of natural phenomena, rather than nature as it is commonly available to observation, as its object of study. The central development of physics, like that of mathematics, is essentially tied to the recognition of a new object and the new methods that object demands.

Kant appeals to three scientists, each of whom produced results by observing nature in decidedly unnatural circumstances:. Galileo caused balls, the weights of which he had himself previously determined, to roll down an inclined plane; […] Torricelli made the air carry a weight which he had calculated beforehand to be equal to that of a definite volume of water; […] Stahl changed metals into oxides, and oxides back into metal, by withdrawing something and then restoring it.

What is important in each of these cases, Kant says, is the resolutely artificial object of investigation. Whether this is how these scientists thought of their own research is ultimately of little concern. The physicist cannot identify the laws of nature, whose universal necessity make her enquiry a science, if she does not begin by placing demands upon the phenomena she intends to describe. It must not, however, do so in the character of a pupil who listens to everything that the teacher chooses to say, but of an appointed judge who compels the witnesses to answer questions which he himself has formulated.

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To investigate systematically the laws of nature, physics requires at least two things: the principles or hypotheses supplied by the physicist herself and an experimental apparatus that forces nature to respond to these principles. As Kant understands it, physics, like mathematics, can only produce unified, general results if it first produces its own object. Mathematics, whether it knows this or not, produced for this purpose the concept of a construction, and physics produced the concept of an experimental system.

Their success should incline us, at least by way of experiment, to imitate their procedure, so far as the analogy which, as species of rational knowledge, they bear to metaphysics may permit. To follow in the footsteps of these revolutions, I argue, Kant reorganized metaphysical research according to the proper object of that science, an object that had previously been misidentified.

What Kant identifies as the proper object of metaphysics is not being qua. Nor is it beings as they are rather than only as they appear, as Kant himself maintained in the Inaugural Dissertation. The central question of transcendental idealism is of course that of the conditions of the possibility of synthetic a priori judgments. Leibnizian philosophy. These two characteristics place metaphysics is a precarious position; it is not clear that synthetic a priori judgments are possible at all. Metaphysics, even if we look upon it as having hitherto failed in all its endeavours, is yet, owing to the nature of human reason, a quite indispensible science, and ought to contain a priori synthetic knowledge.

For its business is not merely to analyse concepts which we make for ourselves a priori of things, and thereby to clarify them analytically, but to extend our a priori knowledge. And for this purpose we must employ principles which add to the given concept something that was not contained in it, and through a priori synthetic judgments venture out so far that experience is quite unable to follow us, as, for instance, in the proposition, that the world must have a first beginning, and such like. Thus metaphysics consists, at least in intention , entirely of a priori synthetic propositions.

Whether they are ultimately legitimate or not, metaphysical claims in general must be synthetic insofar as they assert that a concept possesses a characteristic not analytically contained in that concept and must be a priori insofar as they do not depend on experience for their validation. It is the task of transcendental philosophy to determine the conditions of the possibility of such synthetic a priori judgments and, by extension, to determine the legitimacy of metaphysical claims.

Transcendental ideas, or concepts of reason, like that of the beginning of the world, combine empirically conditioned concepts with their absolute, unconditioned ground. Explaining the structure of transcendental ideas in general, Kant writes:.

The transcendental concept of reason is, therefore, none other than the concept of the totality of the conditions for any given conditioned. Now since it is the. Transcendental ideas satisfy the conditions that metaphysical claims be both synthetic and a priori , and so serve as the paradigm of metaphysical inquiry. Ideas are synthetic insofar as they combine a given object or objects of experience with their unconditioned, absolute ground.

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Insofar as this ground is unconditioned, it is not subject to the spatio-temporal conditions of intuition, and so the synthesis of the given object of experience and its absolute ground cannot depend on experience. Of course Kant concludes that transcendental ideas, necessary though they may be, cannot legitimately extend knowledge beyond the limits of experience. The Transcendental Deduction argues that the objective validity of knowledge claims is conditioned by the givenness of an intuitive manifold. It is this conclusion that, very early on, earned the.

If Kant consistently maintained his claim that metaphysics has only three objects, then I would agree with Mendelssohn and those who find in transcendental idealism the replacement of metaphysics with epistemology. The transcendent concepts of reason are not the only a priori concepts Kant identifies, and so the project of articulating a properly critical metaphysics is not dashed by the negative results of the Dialectic. Although mathematics shares with metaphysics the characteristic of being a synthetic a priori body of knowledge, Kant urges that the tasks of philosophy and mathematics be rigorously distinguished.

Mathematics, by contrast, is knowledge achieved by the construction of concepts.

The Possibility of Transcendental Philosophy The Possibility of Transcendental Philosophy
The Possibility of Transcendental Philosophy The Possibility of Transcendental Philosophy
The Possibility of Transcendental Philosophy The Possibility of Transcendental Philosophy
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