Immanuel Kant

(22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804)

what is science
Immanuel Kant

German philosopher, Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, he is considered the last influential philosopher of modern Europe during the Enlightenment. The purpose of his work was to establish philosophy as a pure science.

According to Kant there is  no rational basis for the belief that the natural world is (or is not) arranged according to some purpose by a Designer. He believed though that the real incentive behind a scientist is the search for purpose in nature. Specifically for natural science he didn’t share Hume’s view that the root of all ideas is experience and he tried to show that there are a priori  judgments in humans that provide the necessary foundations for human knowledge. His argument was that qualities like the truths of mathematics cannot be explained by experience. For example, our knowledge the interior angles of any triangle add up to a straight line  is synthetic judgment , Kant held, since it contributes significantly to our knowledge of the world; the sum of the interior angles is not contained in the concept of a triangle.

a-priory knowledge

But then there is another question rising; how do we come to have such a-priori knowledge? a-priory knowledgeKant’s answer is that this knowledge is the product of the process of the conformity to the truths of mathematics that we impose to every object of our experience. So in other worlds there is a “filter” that we filter our experiences with and this filter is actually what Kant called a-priori knowledge¹. He argued that humans in order to perceive an object, the object must be regarded as being uniquely located in space and time. Space and time, Kant argued, are the “pure forms of sensible intuition” under which we perceive what we do².

conditions for science

Kant believed that in order for scientific knowledge to be possible the world must be not only perceivable but thinkable as well, and in order to be thinkable he set two conditions that must be fulfilled;

1. In principle it should be possible to trace the connections between our sensory images in order to arrange and organize the experiences. (synthetic unity of the sensory manifold)

2. It must be possible for a single subject to perform this organization by discovering the connections among perceived images. (transcendental unity of apperception.)


¹ Of course the term ‘knowledge’ gives to the the “filter” a rather positive meaning, on the contrary, some can say, that it is barrier between humans and the physical word, which can mean also that mathematics is a also a barrier.

² Understanding mathematics in this way Kant answered to the old controversy between rationalists and empiricists regarding the nature of space and time; Leibniz argued that space and time are a product of our minds. Newton, on the other hand, insisted that space and time are absolute. Kant now declares that both of them were correct! As synthetic a priori judgments, the truths of mathematics are both informative and necessary.


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