Sunday, 19 August 2007

Kant's Foreshadowing of the Quantum and the non-Euclidean

Kant, I think, is often misrepresented in philosophical circles as having supposed that Newtonian physics and Euclidean geometry were the final words of their respective fields.

Certainly, Kant did think Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics were the most certain bodies of knowledge available, and his philosophy can be seen as providing a philosophical justification for why this is so, but I think a closer reading of his work will show that he never went on to suppose that nothing better than or different to these two bodies of thought were possible.

Now, having just read for the first time his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, I was pleased to find the following passage in the chapter titled On determining the boundary of pure reason that directly supports my view, even though I'm well aware that taking a tiny section from a much larger body of work as proof of any standpoint is a thoroughly misguided course of action to undertake:
The expansion of insight in mathematics, and the possibility of ever new inventions, goes to infinity; so too does the discovery of new properties in nature (new forces and laws) through continued experience and the unification of that experience by reason.

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