Cambridge Kant Reading Group—final session for this term, 12th March

As part of our Semester 2 Research Seminars, today we conclude our series with van den Berg (2011) “Kant’s Conception of Proper Science”. The Cambridge Kant Reading Group will resume activity after the Easter break with a joint reading group with Edinburgh and St Andrews.

Please stay tuned!

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One Response to Cambridge Kant Reading Group—final session for this term, 12th March

  1. Katharina Kraus says:

    In our last session of term, we discussed van den Berg’s paper on Kant’s conception of proper science. In it, van den Berg discusses Kant’s three criteria of scientificity, i.e., systematicity, objective grounding, and apodictic certainty. Our discussion focussed on his analysis of systematicity. He comes to the conclusion that systematicity, i.e., a systematic order or connection of concepts, is not enough to establish a proper science; rather, in addition, two further conditions need to be fulfilled, namely the condition of rational interconnections in terms of grounds and consequences as well as the condition of apodictic certainty. Only the latter two conditions establish a priori principles that govern a science proper and that constitute the pure a priori part of a science.
    At the beginning, our discussion centred around van den Berg’s discussion of systematicity. Van den Berg interprets Kant’s requirement of systematicity in terms of a set of fundamental concepts that lie at the basis of a science and from which all other concepts can be derived. Together they establish a system of concepts that are connected by two relations, either conceptual extension (or containment; German: Umfang) or conceptual intension (content; German: Inhalt). Thus, “systematicity is brought about both by the analysis of the intension of concepts and by the specification of their extension” (p.9). “Kant’s conception of systematicity is exemplified by hierarchical systems of concepts (trees), proceeding from an elementary concept (genus summum) to more specific and complex concepts by adding differentia” (p. 10). But what exactly is this elementary concept of a science from which all other concepts can be derived through the principles of homogeneity, specification and continuity? Is this the idea that underlies a science and from which the structure of the science emanates?
    In order to get clear about these questions, we discussed some examples of sciences that for Kant count as proper science, e.g., physics, or that for Kant do not have quite the status of a science proper, but nevertheless, seem to be constituted through a system of concepts, e.g., biology and psychology. Thus, examples of ideas underlying these sciences are: “matter” underlying physics, the “organism” underlying biology, and the “soul” underlying psychology.
    In the Metaphysical Foundations, Kant gives a metaphysical explication of the concept of “matter”, which he claims constitutes the rational part of physics. But what exactly is the relation between this elementary concept (“matter”), their metaphysical explication (i.e., the metaphysical formulation of Newton’s laws of mechanics), the mathematical formulation of these laws and any empirical claim in physics (such as a claim about the motion of a particular planetary body). This is obviously a very wide and difficult question – about the relation between the pure rational part and the empirical part of a science, which we did not find answered in this paper.
    We finally turned to the question as to why systematicity alone is not enough to establish a science, but why Kant additionally requires objective validity as well as apodictic certainty. Van den Berg argues that “although in constructing a system we conventionally specify upper and lower limits [for the genus concepts] we cannot establish their objective reality. The ordo cognoscendi does not necessarily mirror the ordo essendi.” (p. 10). Van den Berg suggest that in order to guarantee objective validity, a grounding-relation between concepts and judgements has to be obtained – in terms of rational connections between cause and effect. He also discusses this grounding-relation in terms of the ground of being (ratio essendi) and the ground of cognition/knowing (ratio cognoscendi). However, we were not exactly sure how this distinction would finally lead us to a recognition of the “real grounds” of scientific knowledge claims. These “real grounds”, it seems, cannot just amount to a judgmental connection between cause and effect. Thus, we thought that a clearer distinction between “real grounds” and “causes” would be desirable in this context.

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