Fifth Cambridge-Edinburgh-St Andrews Kant Reading Group, 28th May 2013

We concluded our semester-three seminars by going back to Kant’s own Preface to the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science.

More network activities to come (i.e., weekly public lectures at the Royal Institution in London, and first international workshop in Edinburgh, 27-28 June).

Please stay tuned!

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2 Responses to Fifth Cambridge-Edinburgh-St Andrews Kant Reading Group, 28th May 2013

  1. mmassimi says:

    We ended our journey in the glorious Edgecliffe at St Andrews, with a final session on Kant’s Preface to the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Sciences. We went back to the issue of what is distinctively a priori in our knowledge of nature, and how the categories enter into ‘proper science’ as Kant defines it.

    We also discussed Kant’s famous comment about chemistry as being only a ‘systematic art’ and tried to reconcile it with our earlier readings (from Guyer to Buchdahl and Kitcher), which suggested that systematicity was the source of nature’s lawfulness. If that is the case, while chemistry, despite being systematic, does not deserve the name of ‘proper science’ for Kant?
    Is this grist to Guyer’s mill in that systematicity (around 1786) was still only regarded as a desideratum, and had not yet achieved the substantial role that Guyer envisages for it in the First Introduction to the third Critique?

    At the end of the seminar, we joined our Kantian fellows in St Andrews for a lovely stroll along the coast and up to the pier.
    Overcast sky of Scotland, seagulls, and a fresh breeze.
    We all felt that our journey had just started.

  2. hennyblomme says:

    Hi Michela,

    I hope all is well with you and I look forward to the upcoming workshop…
    With regard to your question about chemistry, I wrote a paper on exactly that question. Unfortunately it is in French, but I think that your Italien should suffice to understand it. The title is: “Pourquoi la chimie ne peut-elle aspirer au titre de science proprement dite?” and it appeared in the book “Kant et les sciences. Un dialogue philosophique avec la pluralité des savoirs” – edited by Sophie Grapotte, Mai Lequan and Margit Ruffing and published by Vrin (Paris) in 2011. If you can’t find it in Edinburgh, I can send you a scan.

    There is a short and a longer answer to the question why Kant says (in 1786) that chemistry does not deserve the name of proper science.

    The short – historical – answer is that, although Lavoisier (who can be considered as the father of modern) had written his “Réflexions sur le phlogistique” already in 1777, that text was first published in… 1786. Until the nineties, Kant does still refer to the “old” chemistry of Becher and Stahl.

    The longer answer has to do with the priority of phoronomy, as the a priori doctrine of movement, over dynamics (concerned with metaphysical forces) because of Kant’s requirement that the concepts of the natural sciences of matter have to be constructible in a priori intuition (remember that the MAN have to provide us with principles that show us the possibility of such constructibility). The constructibility of the concepts of a discipline within physics broadly construed is required to be able to apply mathematics – which for Kant (as it was for Galilei) is a condition sine qua non for the scientificity of it. A systematically presented doctrine thus still is not a proper science if the construction of it’s fundamental concepts is not possible.

    To Guyer, one should reply that Kant uses the term “systematic” or “system” in a lose and a strong sense. In the weak sense, “system” only means “well ordered presentation”.

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