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Kantian Themes in Contemporary Philosophy: Michael Friedman

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This paper considers the extent to which Kant’s vision of a distinctively ‘transcendental’ task for philosophy is essentially tied to his views on the foundations of the mathematical and physical sciences. Contemporary philosophers with broadly Kantian sympathies have attempted to reinterpret his project so as to isolate a more general philosophical core not so closely tied to the details of now outmoded mathematical-physical theories (Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics). I consider two such attempts, those of Strawson and McDowell, and argue that they fundamentally distort the original Kantian impulse. I then consider Buchdahl’s attempt to preserve the link between Kantian philosophy and the sciences while simultaneously generalizing Kant’s doctrines in light of later scientific developments. I argue that Buchdahl’s view, while not adequate as in interpretation of Kant in his own eighteenth century context, is nonetheless suggestive of an historicized and relativized revision of Kantianism that can do justice to both Kant’s original philosophical impulse and the radical changes in the sciences that have occurred since Kant’s day.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Indiana

Publication date: 1998-06-01

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