Kantian Journal

Current issue

Kant’s Philosophy

Trägheit und Raum: Kant und Euler

Abstract

Kant’s natural philosophy in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science is heavily influenced by Newton’s Principia. However, a closer look makes it clear that Kant’s project has also been influenced by other thinkers. One of these thinkers is Leonard Euler. His work was of great influence for Kant, not only with regards to his view on space and inertia but on the relation between metaphysics and natural science in general. Even though Euler’s Physics built on Newton’s work, he differs from him in fundamental regards, leading to crucial developments inside classical mechanics. Here I will discuss the influence of Euler on the work of Kant and focus on Euler’s view on the two entangled problems of inertia and space. It will become clear that both Euler and Kant went through a development concerning these fundamental notions. After shortly highlighting the differences between Kant and Newton (1), I shall go through the development of important parts of Euler’s natural philosophy concerning the above mentioned themes. I intend to demonstrate that he, through his refutation of Wolffianism, became an advocate for the necessity of absolute space but also denied the existence of an internal force of inertia (2). After that I will show how Kant’s reading of Euler lead to crucial changes of his natural philosophy in particular and his philosophical enterprise in general. I therefore analyze Kant’s revision of his theory of space and inertia in his precritical writings. Building upon that, I will show the influence of these thoughts on his Metaphysical Foundations (3).


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Von der mathematischen zur kritischen Metaphysik der Natur. Lambert und Kant

Abstract

In the mid-1760s, Johann Heinrich Lambert wrote a letter to Kant who offered cooperation with a view to reforming metaphysics. Based on the short correspondence between the two philosophers, it can be shown that this cooperation could never really come about. Nevertheless the thesis was sometimes put forward in research that Lambert had a defining influence on Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, also, and above all, with regard to the Newton-critical moments of this natur­al theory. However, this thesis can only be confirmed in relation to individual theorems, such as the relationship between attraction and repulsion force, even though the reasons for Lambert and Kant’s deviation from Newton’s theory of gravity also differ. For in its main features the transcendental metaphysics of Kant’s nature is substantially different from the mathematical methodology of Lambert’s theory of nature. In addition, Lambert stuck throughout his life to a theonomous natural teleology in the succession of Wolff, which was fundamentally made impossible by the Critique of Pure Reason: because the wise “intention of the creator”, which Lambert’s empirical-rationalistic cosmology could not and did not want to do without, could no longer be referred to in a rational context according to the Critique of Pure Reason. Even if Lambert certainly had moments of the Kantian theory of matter or — as Kant himself admitted — elements of the spatial theory of the first Critique, there is no way from his mathematisation of metaphysics and his natural teleology to the fundamental innovation of the Metaphysical Foundations.

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Semantic and Stylistic Features of Kant’s Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime: The Art of    Seeing and Describing an Object

Abstract

Immanuel Kant’s Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime is examined in the context of the emergence of the epistemological practice of scientific observation. By focusing on the genre-stylistic and semantic-structural features of the text the authors demonstrate the mechanisms of observation as well as the methods of describing the results characteristic of mid-eighteenth century science. The authors consider Kant’s treatise to be a hybrid text: on the one hand, it attests to the importance of the natural science paradigm and the degree of its influence on the humanities in the modern period; and, on the other hand, it bears witness to the multi-genre character of philosophical treatises, combining as they do the considered and serious wisdom of philosophy, the precision of scientific terminology and the figurativeness of a work of fiction. Kant is perceived not only as a researcher and philosopher capable of bringing out the essence of the particular and changeable captured in observation, but as a writer with a consummate command of the apparatus for keeping the reader’s attention through linguistic devices and practices of image-creating. The authors demonstrate how the categories of the “beautiful” and “sublime” become a general framework for the description of the moral and mental properties of human nature. The authors show that Kant’s use of “aesthetic” wording in the title of his treatise does not announce that his aim is analysis of artistic perception and practices, but mainly refers to the form of his anthropological study and conceptualisation of scientific knowledge. Kant has transferred the technique of visualisation from natural sciences to the objects of philosophical inquiry, thus contributing to the development in the humanities of representative practices, the scientific method of observation as well as the corresponding epistemic and literary genre.

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Kant: pro et contra

Kant and Wittgenstein on Thought Experiments and the Matter of Transcendental Arguments

Abstract

It is necessary to reconsider P. M. S. Hacker’s assessment of Kant and Wittgenstein’s philosophical affinities and the question concerning Wittgenstein’s alleged use of “transcendental arguments”. First, Alfred Norman’s reading of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus as a thought experiment receives revision to develop a view of the Critique of Pure Reason as a large-scale thought experiment that shares important logical features with the Tractatus. Then the question is addressed whether the middle Wittgenstein and the pre-critical Kant employed any thought experiments that could be equally characterised as “transcendental arguments”. A rational reconstruction of both thinkers’ arguments is carried out in the light of the contemporary literature on thought experimenting. The novelty and relevance of this approach is the emphasis laid upon a largely neglected affinity between Kant and Wittgenstein, namely the systematic use of thought experiments in their epistemological pursuits. The conclusions are: i) Wittgenstein’s and Kant’s magna opera can be seen as philosophical thought experiments that attempt to try out the limits of language and the limits of possible experience respectively; ii) Both philosophers developed arguments that can be designated as transcendental if only from a methodological standpoint; and iii) some key arguments put forward by the middle Wittgenstein in the determination of the structure of visual space could be characterised better as thought experiments than transcendental arguments.

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Discussion

Broken Facets of Ethical Universalism. Commentary on the Book Universality in Morality

Abstract

Some ideas expressed in the collective monograph Universality in Morality (2020), edited by Ruben Apressyan, are here critically examined. The book is based on the results of a large-scale study by professional ethical philosophers devoted to the question of the nature of universality in morality and the mechanisms of universalisation of individual maxims and norms from antiquity to modern ethical theories, represented above all by the analytical tradition in philosophy. Of great interest is the analysis of related phenomena in morality, which makes it possible to determine the causes and nature of the transformation of morality in different eras and the accompanying change in the terminological apparatus of absolute ethical universalism, considered to be the starting point in the analysis of key modern concepts of moral universality. The article also suggests possible avenues for continued research in this area which could prompt modifications not only to the history of the concept of universality in morality, but also to our assessment of the contribution of individual authors and entire eras to the progress of human civilisation. This concerns above all the moral theory of contractarianism and the Enlightenment. Focus on their ideas goes a long way to determining the direction of current historical-philosophical research that reconstructs the history of ethical teachings and individual concepts. The importance attached today to a new view of the theory of the social contract, considered not only from socio-political but also from moral positions, forces us to approach in a new way the question concerning the universality of the key philosophical categories developed within this theory throughout its history. Elaborating the ideas set forth in the monograph, the author also stresses the relevance of the problem of justifying the thesis about the moral law as an analogue of the universal law of nature in the modern context.

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Book reviews

Events

Report of the Roundtable “The Relevance of Hermann Cohen’s Philosophy”

Abstract

This report of the roundtable that took place on 25 November 2021 at The Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University) attempts to explain the obvious growth of interest in Neo-Kantian philosophy in general and the philosophy of the head of the Marburg School of Neo-Kantianism, Hermann Cohen, in particular. In their contributions, the participants in the discussion demonstrated that the current interest in Neo-Kantianism does not solely or even largely have to do with the history of philosophy but rather with the relevance of many of the ideas of Marburg Neo-Kantianism for the modern theory of cognition, the philosophy of culture, ethics and the philosophy of religion. The course of the discussion highlighted the relevance of Cohen’s theory of cognition based on logic and rationality. The main outcome of the discussion was the conviction that the potential of many of Cohen’s ideas has yet to be fully tapped and there are grounds for considering them to be heralds of a new philosophy which, in many of its features, is only maturing.

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