Neo-Kantianism, Scientific Realism, and Modern Physics

Michael Friedman

in Scientific Metaphysics

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199696499
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744983 | DOI:
Neo-Kantianism, Scientific Realism, and Modern Physics

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Kant’s original philosophical project took Euclidean geometry and Newtonian mechanics as synthetic a priori sciences fixed for all time. Developments in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century science made this view untenable, but a number of neo-Kantian philosophers responded by relativizing the conception of a priori principles to the historical development of mathematics and physics after Kant. Friedman’s conception of a dynamics of reason follows this tradition. Mark Wilson has addressed many of these same post-Kantian developments on behalf of a sophisticated version of scientific realism inspired by the earlier work of Hilary Putnam, and Wilson has expressed dissatisfaction with the ‘ersatz’ conceptions of scientific objectivity characteristic of neo-Kantianism. This chapter argues that Wilson’s and Friedman’s approaches can be seen as complementary rather than incompatible, responding to different but equally important aspects of the historical development of modern physics from Newton to the early twentieth century.

Keywords: Kant; Newton; neo-Kantianism; relativized a priori; dynamics of reason; Mark Wilson; scientific realism; scientific objectivity; modern physics

Chapter.  5989 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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