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Space and Time as A Priori Forms in the Works of Hermann Cohen and Ivan Lapshin



In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the need to rethink the status of space and time which Kant considered to be a priori forms of sensibility was prompted by the emergence of new approaches to the methodology of scientific cognition. In neo-Kantian interpretation these cognitive forms acquire a special epistemological status, manifesting themselves in theoretical research as “pre-given” foundations of knowledge. It seems necessary to conduct a comparative analysis of two interconnected neo-Kantian concepts, of Hermann Cohen and Ivan Lapshin. Studying Kant’s philosophy since his student days, Lapshin gradually came to the conclusion that the need to clarify and develop Kant’s transcendental method was dictated by the development of scientific knowledge. Indeed, the works of the Russian neo-Kantian contain echoes and polemical adjustments of Cohen’s spatio-temporal ideas. Our study has revealed common epistemological attitudes in Cohen and Lapshin: the wish to improve elements of Kantian philosophy, adjusting them to prove the possibility of scientific-theoretical cognition and of overcoming psychologism and developing the logicistic approach to the critique of cognition. Each of the two authors developed their own “mechanism” of reducing space and time to a range of intellectual procedures for the construction of the object of knowledge. In Cohen’s account space and time pre-establish the language of observation and found all scientific-theoretical work. Lapshin, on the other hand, in discussing the formal and substantive features of these categories (the introduction of “axioms” of time, the need to specify the concepts of time and space through other categories), notes that their use in scientific judgment implies an epistemological givenness of the concept of the object. This I see as a variant of solving one and the same epistemological task. I submit that Lapshin worked out an independent concept of space and time as cognitive forms that are congruent with the spirit of European neo-Kantianism and contemporary science.


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