Kant & counterrevolution & Einstein

13 views
Skip to first unread message

zOz

unread,
Jan 14, 2001, 4:58:39 PM1/14/01
to
John Wilkins wrote in talk.origins:

| Einstein admits in his autobiographical sketch that he was dealing
| with Kantian issues of synthetic aprioria (and that he disputes
| them): "Ich bin aber davon überzeugt, dass diese Unterscheidung
| irrtümlich ist, bezw. dem Problem nicht in natürlicher Weise
| gerecht wird." He is at least influenced by the topic and debate
| deriving from Kant. [...]

| PA Schilpp, ed. _Albert Einstein: Philosopher scientist. The
| Library of Living Philosophers_, La Salle IL: Open Court, 1949-51.

Because my own theories agree at least in some respects more with
Kant than with Einstein, I want to explain my opinion on Einstein's
participation in the "counterrevolution" against Kant.

The above quote could suggest that Einstein considered Kants
philosophy "irrtümlich (erroneous)" as a whole. Here the quote
with some context (written by Einstein at the age of 67):

"Kant, von der Unentbehrlichkeit gewisser Begriffe durchdrungen,
hielt sie - so wie sie gewählt sind - für nötige Prämissen
jeglichen Denkes and unterschied sie von Begriffen empirischen
Ursprungs. Ich bin aber davon überzeugt, dass diese Unterscheidung
irrtümlich ist, bzw. dem Problem nicht in natürlicher Weise
gerecht wird. Alle Begriffe, auch die erlebnisnächsten, sind vom
logischen Gesichtspunkte aus freie Setzungen, genau wie der
Begriff der Kausalität, an dem sich in erster Linie die
Fragestellung angeschlossen hat." (Schilpp, Vieweg, 1983, p.5)

Einstein is right in criticizing Kant's clear separation between
concepts of empirical origin and categories of pure reason, and in
criticizing Kant's personal choice of such categories.

Nevertheless, it seems clear to me that some concepts are less
empirical or arbitrary than others. So instead of Kant's clear
separation we have a continuum from purely empirical concepts to
what can be called "categories of pure reason", and the category
"causality" is a good example of a (rather) non-arbitrary and
non-empirical concept.

Very revealing is the following Einstein quote from the same book:

"Er [Kant] aber wurde verführt durch die in seiner Zeit schwer zu
vermeidende irrtümliche Meinung, die euklidische Geometrie sei
denknotwendig und liefere sichere (d.h. von sinnlicher Erfahrung
nicht abhängige) Erkenntnisse über Gegenstände der "äusseren"
Wahrnehmung. Aus diesem leicht verständlichen Irrtum schloss er
auf die Existenz synthetischer Urteile a priori, welche die
Vernunft allein produziere, und die deshalb unbedingte Gültigkeit
beanspruchen dürfen." (p. 244)

My translation:

Kant however was seduced by the in his time hardly avoidable
erroneous opinion that euclidean geometry is an inevitable
consequence of our thinking and that it provides secure (i.e.
independent of sense experience) knowledge about objects of
"exterior" perception. From this easily understandable error he
concluded the existence of synthetic a priori judgements produced
by pure reason and therefore universally valid.

Apart from some actual problems of Kantianism (such as e.g. the
limitation to three spacial dimensions and equating ideal space and
time with physical space and and time) it is rather Einstein who
was seduced by the in his time hardly avoidable erroneous opinion
that euclidean geometries have no more apriori justification than
non-euclidean geometries, and by the prevailing formalistic
approaches to mathematics and logic.

Because in a similar way as religiousness in his childhood, a
Kant-like view of geometry had became manifest in his youth,
Einstein concluded that Kant's views are somehow primitive and
naive and that they have been overcome by further evolution of
philosophy and science. In fact however, the Kantian view (also
as a result of Kant's lack of clarity) had not been digested,
let alone refuted by mainstream science.

Einstein in his autobiographical sketch:

"Diese primitive Auffassung, welche wohl auch der bekannten
Kantschen Fragestellung betreffend der Möglichkeit 'synthetischer
Urteile a priori' zugrundeliegt, beruht natürlich daraus, dass die
Beziehung jener geometrischen Begriffe zu Gegenständen der
Erfahrung (fester Stab, Strecke, usw.) unbewusst gegenwärtig war.

Wenn es so schien, dass man durch blosses Denken sichere
Erkenntnis über Erfahrungsgegenstände erlangen könne, so beruhte
dies 'Wunder' auf einem Irrtum." (page 4)

Nevertheless, Einstein's epistemology remained quite close to
the one of Kant:

"Die hier vertretene Auffassung unterscheidet sich von der Kants
nur dadurch, dass wir die 'Kategorien' nicht als unabänderlich
(durch die Natur des Verstandes bedingt), sondern als (im
logischen Sinne) freie Setzungen auffassen. 'A priori' erscheinen
sie nur insofern, als Denken ohne die Setzung von Kategorien und
überhaupt von Begriffen so unmöglich wäre wie Atmen in einem
Vakuum." (p.240/241)

Especially interesting is Einstein's defense of Kant (and Poincaré)
against epistemological consequences drawn by Hans Reichenbach from
general relativity. (p. 242-244). Einstein's last letters show that
he had become rather skeptical also about his own theories. (That
he never accepted the validity of QM is obvious).

BTW, in order to understand Einstein, one should read Feuerbach.


Wolfgang Gottfried G.


On geometrical problems resulting from black holes:
http://www.deja.com/=dnc/getdoc.xp?AN=532301397
http://www.deja.com/=dnc/getdoc.xp?AN=568163832
http://www.deja.com/=dnc/getdoc.xp?AN=569572319
http://www.deja.com/=dnc/getdoc.xp?AN=569998701 ***
http://www.deja.com/=dnc/getdoc.xp?AN=570732454
http://www.deja.com/=dnc/getdoc.xp?AN=571349086
http://www.deja.com/=dnc/getdoc.xp?AN=571795934

Finite time in an INFINITE space-time continuum?
http://www.deja.com/=dnc/getdoc.xp?AN=598305929 ***
http://www.deja.com/=dnc/getdoc.xp?AN=600989887

Physik und Erkenntnistheorie:
http://members.lol.li/twostone/a5.html


Sent via Deja.com
http://www.deja.com/

Orangie

unread,
Jan 14, 2001, 5:36:56 PM1/14/01
to
In article <93t7ed$1l0$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>, wissensch...@my-deja.com
says...

> Apart from some actual problems of Kantianism (such as e.g. the
> limitation to three spacial dimensions and equating ideal space and
> time with physical space and and time) it is rather Einstein who
> was seduced by the in his time hardly avoidable erroneous opinion
> that euclidean geometries have no more apriori justification than
> non-euclidean geometries, and by the prevailing formalistic
> approaches to mathematics and logic.
>
>
why is einstein's opinion on Kant relevant? because it shows a kind of
error?

and isn't this (Kant's for einstein) the kind of error that we look for
in a source when we are working out our own hypothesis? an error that
shows a negation of our picture and allows whatever's left of the
positive and negative to be elemental?

einstein always said he came to his conclusions not through a rational
progression, but only through a final shrug based on a rational
progression. what would Kant have been to him, anymore than Kant was to
Wittgenstein? (i.e., known only as gossip [about Kant] from others)

>> Alle Begriffe, auch die erlebnisnächsten, sind vom

>> logischen Gesichtspunkte aus freie Setzungen, [...]
-- this is a tactical statement.

mike

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages