Kant’s conception of proper science

Abstract

Kant is well known for his restrictive conception of proper science. In the present paper I will try to explain why Kant adopted this conception. I will identify three core conditions which Kant thinks a proper science must satisfy: systematicity, objective grounding, and apodictic certainty. These conditions conform to conditions codified in the Classical Model of Science. Kant’s infamous claim that any proper natural science must be mathematical should be understood on the basis of these conditions. In order to substantiate this reading, I will show that only in this way it can be explained why Kant thought (1) that mathematics has a particular foundational function with respect to the natural sciences and (2) as such secures their scientific status.

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Acknowledgements

I wish to express my appreciation for the insightful comments of two anonymous reviewers. Any remaining shortcomings are of course my own. Research for this paper was conducted within the project The Quest for the System in the Transcendental Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, subsidized by the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research (NWO).

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Correspondence to Hein van den Berg.

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Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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van den Berg, H. Kant’s conception of proper science. Synthese 183, 7–26 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-009-9665-y

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Keywords

  • Kant
  • Proper science
  • Objective grounding
  • Mathematics