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Kant's Theory of Science

Kant's Theory of Science

Gordon G. Brittan
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 232
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    Kant's Theory of Science
    Book Description:

    While interest in Kant's philosophy has increased in recent years, very little of it has focused on his theory of science. This book gives a general account of that theory, of its motives and implications, and of the way it brought forth a new conception of the nature of philosophical thought.

    To reconstruct Kant's theory of science, the author identifies unifying themes of his philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of physics, both undergirded by his distinctive logical doctrines, and shows how they come together to form a relatively consistent system of ideas. A new analysis of the structure of central arguments in theCritique of Pure Reasonand theProlegomenadraws on recent developments in logic and the philosophy of science.

    Professor Brittan's unified account of the philosophies of mathematics and physics explores the nature of Kant's commitment to Euclidean geometry and Newtonian mechanics as well as providing an integrated reading of theCritique of Pure Reasonand theMetaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. Contemporary ideas help both to illuminate Kant's position and to show how that position, in turn, illuminates contemporary problems in the philosophy of science.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6748-6
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Gordon G. Brittan Jr.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Chapter 1: the anti-reductionist Kant
    (pp. 3-42)

    Almost everyone follows Hegel in thinking that the history of modern philosophy has a nice symmetry about it. Rationalist thesis (“knowledge is based on reason”) gives way to empiricist antithesis (“knowledge is based on sense experience”), which in turn gives way to Kantian synthesis (“knowledge is a product jointly of understanding and sensibility”). For those who play the numbers game, the impression of symmetry is heightened by the fact that there are as many empiricists (Locke, Berkeley, Hume) as rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz), and one Kant, a magical seventh, to reconcile both traditions.

    This characterization is oversimplified, of course, but...

  5. Chapter 2: Kant’s philosophy of mathematics
    (pp. 43-67)

    One well-entrenched view of Kant’s philosophy of mathematics is as follows. Kant took Euclidean geometry as the paradigm of mathematical reasoning. However, neither in Euclid’s own time nor in Kant’s could all of Euclid’s proofs be carried out without the use of geometrical constructions. So Kant was led to insist on the centrality of constructions or, in his preferred vocabulary, “intuitions” in mathematical reasoning.¹ Yet further developments—principally the formalization techniques associated with the name of Hilbert—reveal that constructions are inessential from a logical point of view. Euclidean geometry can be given a formal axiomatization. Moreover, Kant’s emphasis on...

  6. Chapter 3: geometry, Euclidean and non-Euclidean
    (pp. 68-89)

    Kant and Aristotle are, in my view, the two greatest western philosophers. They are also the only two philosophers, to my knowledge, whose views often seem to have been decisively refuted by developments in science. In the case of Aristotle, it is generally believed that the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries destroyed his position, not only in details, but also its central theme, the primacy of teleological explanation. In the case of Kant, it is no less widely held that his philosophy of mathematics was disproved by the logicist reduction of Frege and Russell, and his theory...

  7. Chapter 4: the axioms of intuition
    (pp. 90-116)

    The section of theCritique of Pure Reasoncalled the “Axioms of Intuition” has received comparatively little commentary, and what it has received is unsatisfactory. On the one hand, there has been confusion about its relation to the Aesthetic. Commentators seem to argue either that it is a trivial consequence of the Aesthetic¹ or that it is incompatible with it.² On the other hand, many find it difficult to say exactly what theargumentis,³ or to relate it to any central theme of the Analytic,⁴ sometimes even assigning it to a demand of the “architectonic.”⁵

    In this chapter I...

  8. Chapter 5: Kant and Newton
    (pp. 117-142)

    Newton’s name is as inextricably connected with Kant’s theory of science as is Euclid’s. Usually we are told that Kant began with a belief in the validity of Newtonian physics.¹ But “Hume’s sceptical attack on the validity of causal inference—and thereby on the possibility of all empirical knowledge”²—made a philosophical defense of Newton’s theory necessary. What had to be done was to show that, in spite of Hume, causal inference is valid. Indeed, Kant did just this, and a great deal more besides. He showed that Newtonian physics can be derived from certain unquestionable premises having to do...

  9. Chapter 6: the substance of matter
    (pp. 143-164)

    The ever-present danger in giving a rational reconstruction of a philosophical position is that the search for what makes sense—inevitably taken as a function of current practices and principles—leads one too far away from the original text. I mention it here because the danger seems to me to be especially close when commenting on the Analogies of Experience. The argument in this section of theCritique of Pure Reasonis compressed; there are many different issues, and the impression of non-sequitur and inconsistency is great. For these same reasons, however, the text of the Analogies provides a kind...

  10. Chapter 7: time and causality
    (pp. 165-187)

    In the case of mathematical propositions, the main difficulty for a would-be Kantian is to show that they are synthetic. In the case of the Categories or the principles of the metaphysics of nature,¹ the difficulty is to show that they area priori. For a standard criticism of Kant is that such propositions are neither “necessary” nor “presupposed.” At best, they express certain methodological imperatives that have long guided the scientific enterprise. The criticism continues, moreover, that insofar as the propositions of mathematics, at least as concerns Euclidean geometry, or pure natural science are taken as synthetic, they are...

  11. Chapter 8: the problem of induction and its “solution”
    (pp. 188-208)

    The celebrated “reply to Hume” assumes a variety of forms. Many commentators, for example, have taken the second Analogy to be Kant’s solution to the problem of induction.¹ It is. But not for the reasons, or in the ways, usually suggested.

    As Hume develops it, the “problem” of induction is intimately connected with his analysis of causality.² On that analysis, to say that one event causes another is to say that events of the first kind are followed by events of the second kind; that is, there is a law or inductive generalization “covering” them. Hence justification of particular causal...

  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 209-210)
  13. Index
    (pp. 211-215)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 216-216)