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Kant- Prolegomena 04.pdf

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Peter King

KANT: PURE NATURAL SCIENCE (II) [1] In the remainder of Part Two Kant tries to accomplish four tasks: (i) explain the “Pure Physiological Table of the Universal Principles of Natural Science,” which he does more or less in §§24–26; (ii) answer Hume’s doubts about causality and the possibility of science, §§27– 31; (iii) explain and elaborate the distinction between appearance (phenomenon) and thing-in- itself (noumenon), §§32–35; (iv) emphasize our constitutive activity in knowledge as described above, §§36–38. Kant adds an Appendix to this chapter about the virtues of his account of the categories. [2] Very roughly, Kant’s Table is “physiological” because it sketches the anatomy of any pos- sible natural science—that is to say, anything we would be prepared to recognize as a natural science has to conform to the principles listed on the Table. Briefly, the ‘Axioms of Intuition’ characterize the spatiotemporal nature of all our intuitions. The ‘Anticipations of Perception’ emphasize the problem of intensive qualities, that is, of degrees of a quality. Kant is concerned with both of these in order to show how mathematical form can be applied to physical theory and thence to experience. The ‘Analogies of Experience’ roughly characterize natural systems, which interact in a dynamical fashion. The ‘Postulates of Empirical Thought’ seem to apply to questions of method. Each calls for further comment. [3] The Axioms of Experience. These are disposed of in the first sentence of §24 [306]: The first of the physiological principles subsumes all appearances, as intuitions in space and time, under the concept of quantity, and is so far a principle of the application of mathematics to experience. Kant has already explained how pure mathematics is possible (namely through being constructed out of the pure forms of sensibility); now he wants to address the question how applied mathe- matics is possible. The answer is straightforward: natural science depends on experience, itself founded on the operation of intuition, and hence on appearances that incorporate the pure forms of sensibility. Since mathematics is constructed out of the pure forms of sensibility, it must apply to natural appearances that are themselves structured by these pure forms. The up- shot of the Axioms of Intuition is that appearances are susceptible to mathematical treatment— which Kant takes as equivalent to the claim that the objects presented in appearances are sus- ceptible of mathematical treatment. This latter claim paves the way for the next physiological principle. [4] The Anticipations of Perception. There is another way in which mathematics can be applied to what is met with in appearances: not the objects themselves but rather the qualities of the objects can be treated mathematically. For we experience the world as made up of things with features, or as Kant puts it of substances characterized by attributes, and these qualities can come in degrees. The ‘reduction of quality to quantity’ found here is a matter of treating at least some qualities as intensive magnitudes, capable of variation along a scale, which Kant takes to be a matter of sensations having different amounts of ‘reality’. [5] The Analogies of Experience. Kant is using the term ‘analogy’ in its mathematical sense. That is, on one style of analogy, we determine the value of x by considering an analogy x : b :: c : d. In mathematical terms, this is a ‘proportion’ or a
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