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Home Kant’s Illuminating Experiment: On the Placement, Purpose and Essential Procedure of the Experiment of Pure Reason in the Critique of Pure Reason

KANT’S ILLUMINATING EXPERIMENT: ON THE PLACEMENT, PURPOSE AND ESSENTIAL PROCEDURE OF THE EXPERIMENT OF PURE REASON IN THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON

Brett FULKERSON-SMITH

Abstract. In his Preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, and many of his lectures on logic, Kant discusses and lauds the efforts of Francis Bacon to establish physics as a natural science. In this essay, I explore the methodological influence of Bacon on Kant’s own efforts to establish a scientific metaphysics in the Critique of Pure Reason. I argue that the experiment of pure reason that occurs in the Antinomy of Pure Reason can be considered a Baconian ‘illuminating experiment’, since: 1) as Bacon allows, illuminating experiments that intervene upon nature should be performed at a theoretical crossroads in order to make observable to the experimenter the facts necessary to determine which of available, plausible alternatives is correct; 2) given at least two important features of the Critique of Pure Reason, the Antinomy of Pure Reason is a theoretical crossroads about the fundamental principle that will allow metaphysics to become a science; and 3) the experiment of pure reason requires the philosopher to intervene upon pure reason’s natural ratiocination in order to observe the facts necessary to decisively determine the correctness of the doctrine of transcendental idealism over against the doctrine of transcendental realism.

Keywords: Immanuel Kant, Experiment of Pure Reason, Philosophical Method, Transcendental Method, Francis Bacon, Illuminating Experiments, Experiment der Reinen Vernunft, experimenta lucifera.

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