Kant’s Space of Theoretical Reason and Science: A Perspectival Reading

In Luigi Caranti & Alessandro Pinzani (eds.), Kant and the Problem of Knowledge. Rethinking the Contemporary World. London: Routledge. pp. 109-135 (2022)
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Abstract

This paper aims to show how Kant’s account of theoretical reason can inform the contemporary debate over unity and pluralism of science. Although the unity of science thesis has been severely criticized in recent decades, I argue that pluralism as the sole epistemic principle guiding science is both too strong and too weak a principle. It is too strong because it does not account for the process of theory unification in science. It is too weak because it does not answer the question of how science ought to be done. I then look at a promising ‘perspectival’ (i.e., epistemically situated) approach to the problem Kant presents in the Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic. I argue that the logical principles of systematicity (homogeneity, specification, continuity) form a ‘perspectival space’ within which scientists can pursue both unity and disunity of cognition. Finally, I suggest that the existing conflict between pluralism and unity ultimately resides in a metaphysical characterization of unity that does not correctly capture its epistemic significance in science. Looking at Kant’s ‘perspectivism’ not only allows us to resolve this apparent antinomy, but also to rethink unity and pluralism as mutually inclusive regulative principles.

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Lorenzo Spagnesi
Universität Trier

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