Ross Shields: The Theory of Everything: Kant and Goethe on the Fictive Foundation of Empirical Science
Lecture as part of a series of seminars organized by the BCB Science & Religion Project, a part of the Oxford-led project New Horizons for Science and Religion in Central and Eastern Europe with support from the Templeton Foundation, at Bard College Berlin
In his Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant criticizes the tendency of reason to transcend the limits of human knowledge. Dissatisfied with the finite state of empirical experience, reason leads us to invent three speculative ideas that extend this experience to infinity: the idea of the soul (qua unity of all representations), the idea of the world (qua totality of the sequence of causes and effects), and the idea of God (qua systematic interconnection of everything in general). According to Kant, we cannot say anything meaningful about these ideas—and this failing leads us to philosophical debates that can never be resolved: the so-called transcendental dialectic. However, while Kant criticizes the transcendent use of the three rational ideas (soul, world, and God) he simultaneously approves of their immanent use as regulative principles of scientific investigation—a notion that Goethe adopts in his own scientific pursuit.
For the next installment of the lecture series, please read the “appendix to the transcendental dialectic” where Kant unfolds this argument. Participants will discuss, among other things, the survival of Kant’s idea(s) in the scientific search for a theory of everything.
This seminar is open to BCB Students only, participants will be required to read an assigned text in advance. If you are interested in taking part, please contact Dr. Aaron Tugendhaft.
The germanist and comparatist Ross Gillum Shields is a research associate at the ZfL with the project “Formation is Life”. Organicism and Aesthetic Modernism.