taga priori

Richard Lewontin on Presumptive Scientific Naturalism


Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.

Immanuel Kant on Examining Reason Alone


I flatter myself that I have discovered the cause of, and consequently the mode of removing, all the errors which have hitherto set reason at variance with itself.

I have not returned an evasive answer to the questions of reason, by alleging the impotency of the faculties of the mind. I have examined them completely in the light of principles, and have solved them, discovering the cause of the contradictions into which reason fell. It is true, these questions have not been solved as dogmatism had expected; for it can only be satisfied by the exercise of magical arts, and of these I have no knowledge. It was the duty of philosophy to destroy illusions, whatever darling hopes be ruined. My chief aim has been thoroughness; and I make bold to say that there is not a single metaphysical problem which does not find its solution, or at least the key to its solution, here. I think I see upon the reader’s face signs of displeasure mingled with contempt at declarations seemingly so boastful and extravagant; and yet they are incomparably more modest than those advanced by the commonest programme of the commonest dogmatist.

Such a dogmatist promises to extend human knowledge beyond the limits of possible experience; while I humbly confess that this is beyond my power. I confine myself to the examination of reason alone, and its pure thought; and I do not need to seek far for its full knowledge, since it has its seat in myself.”