The logic and topology of Kant's temporal continuum


In this article we provide a mathematical model of Kant?s temporal continuum that satisfies the (not obviously consistent) synthetic a priori principles for time that Kant lists in the Critique of pure Reason (CPR), the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (MFNS), the Opus Postumum and the notes and frag- ments published after his death. The continuum so obtained has some affinities with the Brouwerian continuum, but it also has ‘infinitesimal intervals’ consisting of nilpotent infinitesimals, which capture Kant’s theory of rest and motion in MFNS. While constructing the model, we establish a concordance between the informal notions of Kant?s theory of the temporal continuum, and formal correlates to these notions in the mathematical theory. Our mathematical reconstruction of Kant?s theory of time allows us to understand what ?faculties and functions? must be in place for time to satisfy all the synthetic a priori principles for time mentioned. We have presented here a mathematically precise account of Kant?s transcendental argument for time in the CPR and of the rela- tion between the categories, the synthetic a priori principles for time, and the unity of apperception; the most precise account of this relation to date. We focus our exposition on a mathematical analysis of Kant’s informal terminology, but for reasons of space, most theorems are explained but not formally proven; formal proofs are available in (Pinosio, 2017). The analysis presented in this paper is related to the more general project of developing a formalization of Kant’s critical philosophy (Achourioti & van Lambalgen, 2011). A formal approach can shed light on the most controversial concepts of Kant’s theoretical philosophy, and is a valuable exegetical tool in its own right. However, we wish to make clear that mathematical formalization cannot displace traditional exegetical methods, but that it is rather an exegetical tool in its own right, which works best when it is coupled with a keen awareness of the subtleties involved in understanding the philosophical issues at hand. In this case, a virtuous ?hermeneutic circle? between mathematical formalization and philosophical discourse arises.

Author's Profile

Michiel Van Lambalgen
University of Amsterdam


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