Kant’s Understanding of Science, Philosophy of Science

Kant’s Understanding of Science, Philosophy of Science

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

Kant was concerned with how science perceives the external world.

The relative stagnation of the sciences for a long time, after the Antiquity until the 200 years before Kant, and the distance and incredible progress made after these 200 years aroused admiration in Kant. Kant, like other philosophers, wondered about the source of this era and great development that was suddenly skipped in scientific research. The answer given to this question by many thinkers of the period is empiricism.

Empiricists such as John Locke and David Hume argue that there is no knowledge other than what we gain through our experiences in the world. They oppose the views of rationalist philosophers such as Descartes or Gottfried Leibniz, who argue that the mind’s ability to reason and deal with concepts is more important than experience in acquiring knowledge.

Empiricists attribute their success to scientists being more careful in their observations than in the past, and making fewer unconfirmed assumptions that are purely rational. According to Kant, although this is partially true, it is not a complete answer. Because it would be wrong to say that no detailed and careful empirical observations were made before the 16th century. Kant argues that the real issue is a new scientific method that makes empirical observations valuable. This method has an element. First, it suggests that concepts such as force and motion can be perfectly described in mathematics. The second is that he tests his own concepts of the world by asking specific questions about nature and observing the answers.

For example, experimental physicist Galileo Galilei wanted to test the hypothesis that two objects of different weights would never descend from the air to the ground at the same speed, and designed such an experiment to do this that the only possible explanation for the observed result would either be true or the hypothesis would be falsified.

Kant defines the importance and nature of the scientific method. He believes that this method will put physics and other subjects on the “safe path of science”. But his research doesn’t stop there. His next question is: “Why is our experience of the world such that the scientific method works?” In other words, why is our experience of the world always mathematical in nature and how is it always possible for the human mind to pose questions to nature?

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook