Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Quote of the Week, 2014-12-03

If there exists on any subject a philosophy (that is, a system of rational knowledge based on concepts), then there must also be for this philosophy a system of pure rational concepts, independent of any condition of intuition, in other words, a metaphysic. It may be asked whether metaphysical elements are required also for every practical philosophy, which is the doctrine of duties, and therefore also for Ethics, in order to be able to present it as a true science (systematically), not merely as an aggregate of separate doctrines (fragmentarily). As regards pure jurisprudence, no one will question this requirement; for it concerns only what is formal in the elective will, which has to be limited in its external relations according to laws of freedom; without regarding any end which is the matter of this will. Here, therefore, deontology is a mere scientific doctrine (doctrina scientiae).

Preface, The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics, by Immanuel Kant

Translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott

Retrieved from Project Gutenberg

This is the first paragraph of the Preface of Kant's book. I would disagree that any system of pure rational concepts can be had independent of intuition, but that may be a bad translation to the word "intuition". Any formal system of purely rational concepts requires a set of beginning points, and to avoid circularity these points can not be chosen via this rational system. The only way to make such choices, in the hopes that they apply to the world, it via our intuition or via experimentation.

Also, the notion that there is scientific doctrine seems faulty. The whole point of science is to dispense with doctrine and find answers empirically. We may teach the results of previous explorations in a fashion similar to doctrine, but it is always done with a mindfulness that our knowledge is tentative and primitive; that reality continually wriggles out of our grasp.

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