Re-Thinking Philosophy of Science?
IV. Emergence and the Brain: Philosophical Implications
Facing up to last week's challenge ...
Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy, Chapter 4
The conceptual framework of German Idealism was provided by Immanuel Kant who was the first to reconcile the conflicting empirical and rationalistic elements of the prevailing dogmatic philosophy. With one stroke he secured for mind priority over nature, and yet without endangering the validity of the principles of scientific investigation. By giving the primacy to practical reason, he placed religion and ethics on a sure footing and broke the ban of rationalism. In the first instance Kant's work was purely epistemological. He made it particularly his problem to rescue natural science from the (epistemological) skepticism of Hume, and then to rescue religion from nationalism. Kant demolished the rationalistic arguments of Anselm, Descartes, and others, for the existence of God. Science is valid, but it has to do only with phenomena. This phenomenal world, however, is produced a priori by the activity of consciousness, reacting on that external reality whose eternal nature cannot be known. The constancy of experience is accounted for by the very fact that the world as we know it is only the sum total of phenomena. This becomes the basis of the universal validity of certain principles of explanation. Space and time, and the categories of the understanding are subjective and thus ideal. Taken together they form a mold in which we shape the impressions coming from the unknowable, transcendent reality. Thus, the principles of science and the laws of nature are universally valid because they are in the subject, not in the object. Knowledge of ultimate reality comes through the practical reason, particularly through the a priori moral law in us. Kant's idea of inner freedom became the inspiration of the creative genius.
The effects of this idealistic development are apparent in the positive sciences no less than in metaphysics. In accord with the idea of the oneness of the world, the natural sciences have been given a subordinate position, or else reduced to natural philosophy. The new spirit is manifested even more clearly in the historical sciences, where the genetic method is everywhere employed and individual facts are treated in relation to the whole development. For instance, the historian of literature or art now seeks to bring the facts with which he is dealing into relation with other phases of life and thus grasp the life and ideals of a nation as a whole. Similarly, the philologist is no longer satisfied with the study of one language, but seeks to correlate it with kindred tongues and reconstruct the inner life of the people. Even in the field of jurisprudence the genetic method has been adopted and particular stress laid on the development of common law.
Pragmatism as a the needed philosophical perspective?