Kant and Whewell on bridging principles between metaphysics and science

TitleKant and Whewell on bridging principles between metaphysics and science
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsDucheyne, S
JournalKant Studien

In this essay, I call attention to Kant's and Whewell's attempt to provide bridging principles between a priori principles and scientific laws. Part of Kant's aim in the Opus postumum (ca. 1796-1803) was precisely to bridge the gap between the metaphysical foundations of natural science and physics by establishing intermediary concepts or 'Mittelbegriffe' (henceforth this problem is referred to as 'the bridging-problem'). It will be argued, on the basis of a close reading of Whewell's Notebooks on Induction, that Whewell's account of the Idea of Cause (and by extension, his doctrine of Fundamental Ideas in general) grew out of his dissatisfaction with Kantian philosophy of science and its seeming inability to solve the bridging-problem. This analysis throws new light on the importance of Kantianism in Whewell's philosophy, for it will be shown that Whewell took over and transformed Kant's idea of a priori principles as conditions for the establishment of proper knowledge about the world (without always clinging to Kant's exact differentiation between them) and that Whewell was trying to address a typical Kantian topic: namely, to show how scientific knowledge could be both empirical and necessary and how the gap between metaphysics and physics could be bridged.

Citation Key1854786
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