Monday, October 01, 2012

Was Kant anti-science?

Kant thought that the reality we perceive is not reality as it is in itself, but reality as it appears to us. If this is true, then what science describes is not reality as it is in itself. Is this an anti-science philosophy?

22 comments:

BeingItself said...

No. Scientists do not pretend to describe "reality as it is in itself".

Crude said...

Sure. For example, when scientists say evolution is true, they don't mean that it accurately describes reality or anything. They just mean it's a useful model. ;)

BeingItself said...

When a scientist says that evolution is true, she means that it is a fact. And by fact she means "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent".

There are almost certainly facts about how animals evolve that are currently not part of the theory.

Crude said...

When a scientist says that evolution is true, she means that it is a fact. And by fact she means "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent".

So evolutionary theory describes reality as it is in itself? :D

Matt DeStefano said...

Scientific anti-realism is not the same as being anti-scientific.

Crude said...

Scientific anti-realism is not the same as being anti-scientific.

I imagine some critics of scientific anti-realism would disagree.

What IS 'being anti-scientific'? And will the explanation be a statement about reality as it is in itself, or more about how it subjectively appears to us?

Dan Gillson said...

I'm no Kant scholar, but the good Dr Reppert seems to be reading early 20th c. phenomenology into Kant's philosophy--or, Dr Reppert is at least flirting with the possibility of interpreting Kant in that way.

Zach said...

Dan not really--I'd say that many phenomenologists are warmed-over Kantians.

Kant was a transcendental idealist. Not very controversial in terms of Kant interpretation. Whether Kant was right or not is a different story.

cl said...

I agree with Matt, which means we now have even more evidence for miracles :)

Zach said...

I think all rational interlocutors agree.

Next question.

Crude said...

Aww, look at the lil' Zach-baby, being all adorably passive-aggressive. ;)

Again I ask: what is being anti-scientific? What determines it?

Dan Gillson said...

Zach,

What makes you say that the phenomenologists of the early 20th c. were nothing more than warmed over Kantians? As far as I know, philosophers such as Jean Wahl, Alexandre Koyré, and Martin Heidegger, were, during that time period, constantly critiquing Kant's metaphysics and philosophy of mind, and were seeking to displace the neo-Kantian establishment of Bergson, Brunschvicg, and Meyerson.

Zach said...

Dan note your initial point was that Victor was reading phenomenologists into Kant. That isn't true. Kant was an idealist, not a transcendental realist.

But in my remark I was referring to the father of phenomenology, Husserl, and his school (grandfather was brentano who also had close affinities with Kant), and Merleau-Ponty.

Crude not everything is about you.

Crude said...

Crude not everything is about you.

Your snideness is transparent, and personal grudge is long established.

Anyway, I'll leave my question hanging out there for anyone to answer.

RD Miksa said...

Good Day to All,

I do not mean to slightly detour the topic at hand, but on a related note to the “whether Kant was anti-science” issue, I have always been struck by the fact that many atheists—and especially scientists who are atheists—are, in a very real way, anti-science.

Let me explain (and as it is quite late, please bear with me).

In answer to the fine-tuning problem, many atheists posit the Many-Worlds / Multi-verse explanation as an answer to this issue. In many respects, this explanation is a metaphysical one rather than being a scientific one. But for many atheists, it is a metaphysical position that is preferred to any theistic or deistic alternative. And yet, upon consideration, it is amazing to realize just how anti-scientific such a position actually is.

Consider, for example, the scientific theory of evolution. Given the Multi-verse explanation, this could simply be the one universe within the Multi-verse where all the empirical evidence seems to support the so-called Blind Watchmaker Thesis of evolution, and yet in reality, it is the one universe in which nearly all organisms have been intelligently designed by some alien designer. Given the Multi-verse, not only is such a universe possible, but it is actually very likely to be a reality. And how could we know the difference? Thus, given such a metaphysical position, our scientific theories would literally be provided us with entirely false information.

Or consider that on the Multi-verse explanation, this might be the very universe in which I am utterly delusional, and thus so, that would mean that this entire world is nothing but my own delusional fantasy. And so, perhaps the real world is entirely different from my delusional fantasies. Thus again, on the Multi-verse explanation, not only is such a universe possible, but it is actually very likely to be a reality. And how could I know the difference? Thus once again, given the Multi-verse explanation, our scientific theories could not be in any way trusted to provide us with an actual view of reality.

These examples, furthermore, could be multiplied endlessly. And thus it seems to me that the atheists that proffer the Multi-verse explanation—and there are many who do so—are truly positing an anti-scientific position if there ever was one.

Does anyone else see this to be the case?

Take care.

RD Miksa

Crude said...

RD Miksa,

One thing it's important to keep in mind here is that there are multiple types of 'multiverse', arrived at through supposedly multiple chains of reasoning.

That said, I pretty often hear about 'infinite multiverse' speculation and so on, which gets into some serious craziness. I think Alex Pruss has discussed some of this. What I'm always struck by is how multiverse advocates usually are pretty quiet about the intelligent design speculations that fall out of it (well, Brian Greene at least touched on it.)

Dan Gillson said...

Zach, I know the initial point of my post, but allow me to explain it. Dr Reppert's brusque treatment of Kant's transcendental philosophy makes it sound more like 20th c. phenomenology than it does like Kant's philosophy; Dr Reppert makes it sound like Kant believed that since we can only describe the contents of our minds, and never that of reality-in-itself, then science can only go so far as describing the contents of our minds, and not reality-in-itself. Thus, accord to Dr Reppert's reading, if this is true, then Kant's philosophy is an anti-science one. (I took the question at the end to be leading.) However, as I am familiar with it, this is not Kant's philosophy: 1.) Kant didn't posit two worlds, a phenomenal world to which we have access, and a transcendental world to which we don't (responding to Dr Reppert); nor 2.) did Kant posit a world superlatively dependent on human thought (responding to what I assume you mean when you call Kant an "idealist"). Now, I realize that I've done a lot of reading into myself, but Dr Reppert left a large gap to fill in. (I know, I know: It's a short little blurb, and I shouldn't get so hung up on it.) So, again, it seems (note again the language of subjectivity) like Dr Reppert reads early 20th c. phenomenology into Kant.

RD Miksa said...

Good Day Crude,

While it is indeed accepted that there are a number of different Multi-verse "theories", it is also the case that all of these essentially posit the existence of a vast number of different universes, each with different parameters. And that is all that is needed for my point. That if the metaphysical Multi-verse position is held, then, given such a massively large number of different universes, it is very likely that we reside in one where the vast majority of the science that we do is wrong, misguided, and does not reflect reality. And so, those holding to the Multi-verse arguably hold to an anti-scientific position, even as they think that they are being eminently scientific.

Take care,

Rados

Zach said...

Dan I think you are reading too much into Victor's extremely terse summary of Kant.

B. Prokop said...

RD,

What you have brought up is starting to sink in among scientists. In the latest (November) issue of Astronomy magazine, there is a column saying essentially what you are - that if the universe is truly infinite, then we can make no meaningful statement about it.

Matt DeStefano said...

RD,

That if the metaphysical Multi-verse position is held, then, given such a massively large number of different universes, it is very likely that we reside in one where the vast majority of the science that we do is wrong, misguided, and does not reflect reality. And so, those holding to the Multi-verse arguably hold to an anti-scientific position, even as they think that they are being eminently scientific.

Why should the (possible) existence of other universes suggest that our science in this universe is misguided? It's also not clear which "multi-verse" theory you are indicating here. You are lumping them together here, but they have vastly different consequences both in application and in theory.

rank sophist said...

Dan,

Phenomenology is Kantian, essentially. But I don't believe that Kant would have considered himself anti-science, because the subjective categories supposedly warped noumena in the same ways for everyone. That is, "time", say, was experienced by every transcendental ego in a similar fashion, but it was not really present in the noumena.