Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Beyond Kant and Hegel: In Answer to the Question, "How Are Synthetic Cognitions a Priori Possible?"

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Beyond Kant and Hegel: In Answer to the Question, "How Are Synthetic Cognitions a Priori Possible?"

Article excerpt

KANT'S CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY (1) is largely regarded as an indictment against speculative metaphysics. In this essay the argument is made that Kant aimed to put an end not to speculative metaphysics, but only to those approaches to metaphysics that could not be validated objectively. (2) It is also argued that the science of which Kant speaks in his critical philosophy does not point to those works that Kant undertook after his critical philosophy, but to an as yet nonexistent science of metaphysics directed at a positive solution to the cosmological problems. (3)

This interpretation can therefore be called an open, as opposed to a closed, interpretation of Kant. It is also argued that the critical demands for a science of metaphysics stipulated in the Critique of Pure Reason and Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics are so far-reaching in their scope that they cannot properly be understood from a closed, but only from an open perspective.

Not only does a closed perspective make it impossible to understand these critical demands, but a closed perspective leads to an inevitable shortchanging of Kant with regard to his fundamental intention, which was to challenge and direct metaphysicians toward the end of a science of metaphysics. In what follows I will attempt to show what Kant meant by a science of metaphysics by citing his critical demand for objective validity. I will weigh this most difficult of all Kantian demands against the science Hegel advanced in response to Kant. Then I will propose a reformulation of Hegel's response to Kant so that it falls in line with Kant, and in so doing, not only show the continuing relevance of Kant's critical philosophy, but also offer speculative metaphysicians a possible first step that they can take toward the end of a science of metaphysics.

While there are several critical demands imposed by Kant toward this end, it is this demand for objective validity that will help more than anything else to show why it is all too easy to shortchange Kant, and why this shortchanging of Kant inevitably leads to certain misconceptions.

For instance, Mortimer J. Adler, remarking on what he thought was Kant's fundamental intention in his critical philosophy, offers the following: "To maintain that there are synthetic judgments a priori, as Kant does, is, perhaps, the single most revolutionary step that he took to overcome the conclusions reached by Hume that he found repugnant. What was his driving purpose in doing so? It was to establish Euclidean geometry and traditional arithmetic as sciences that not only have certitude, bur contain truths that are applicable to the world of our experience." Adler offers some valid criticisms in support of his evaluation, but in the course of his criticisms he denounces Kant's critical philosophy in its entirety by remarking: "How anyone in the twentieth century can take Kant's transcendental philosophy seriously is baffling, even though it may always remain admirable in certain respects as an extraordinarily elaborate and ingenious intellectual invention." (4)

However, Kant states with respect to his inquiry into mathematics and the pure science of nature: "Both sciences, therefore, stood in need of this inquiry, not for themselves, but for the sake of another science: metaphysics." (5)

Hence, if Kant did not undertake his inquiry into these other sciences for their sake, as Adler claims, but for the sake of metaphysics, the question arises: what connection can these other sciences have with metaphysics? Kant provides some clue with the following: "Does not this faculty [which produces mathematics], as it neither is nor can be based upon experience, presuppose some ground of knowledge a priori, which lies deeply hidden but which might reveal itself by these its effects if their first beginnings were but diligently ferreted out?" (6)

Kant believed that since these other sciences exhibit a priori principles or propositions, thought out in the minds of their authors independently of what they could know through direct observation and experience, then the possibility that metaphysicians should be capable of advancing something similar could not be ruled out. …

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