Metaphysics and Contemporary Science: Why the question of the synthetic a priori shouldn’t not be abandoned prematurely

Philosophie.Ch. Swiss Portal for Philosophy (07.10.2020) (2020)
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The problem of synthetic judgements touches on the question of whether philosophy can draw independent statements about reality in the first place. For Kant, the synthetic judgements a priori formulate the conditions of the possibility for objectively valid knowledge. Despite the principle fallibility of its statements, modern science aims for objective knowledge. This gives the topic of synthetic a priori unbroken currency. This paper aims to show that a modernized version of transcendental philosophy, if it is to be feasible at all, must “bid farewell” to the concept of being “free of empiricism” or the “purity” of the a priori. Approaches to this end can already been found in Kant’s reflections on non-pure synthetic knowledge. Moreover, the a priori validity of knowledge does not exclude the possibility that it can be discovered empirically. In keeping with Kant, Fries and Nelson anticipated this separation (usually first attributed to Reichenbach) between the validity and discovery context of knowledge and pointed out that the a priori could be discovered empirically, but never proven. There are currently still good reasons why transcendental philosophical concepts are of fundamental importance for modern science, although it must not be overlooked that even within the framework of a modernized transcendental philosophy, several unsolved problems remain or are raised. For example, the irredeemability of the universal validity and necessary claims of the a priori, the problem of a clear demarcation between the phenomenal and noumenal world. Moreover, the “beautiful structure” or the Kantian system, which constituted its persuasive power, is lost.
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