Kant, Reichenbach, and the Fate of A Priori Principles

European Journal of Philosophy 19 (4):507-531 (2011)
Abstract
Abstract: This article contends that the relation of early logical empiricism to Kant was more complex than is often assumed. It argues that Reichenbach's early work on Kant and Einstein, entitled The Theory of Relativity and A Priori Knowledge (1920) aimed to transform rather than to oppose Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. One the one hand, I argue that Reichenbach's conception of coordinating principles, derived from Kant's conception of synthetic a priori principles, offers a valuable way of accounting for the historicity of scientific paradigms. On the other hand, I show that even Reichenbach, in line with Neo-Kantianism, associated Kant's view of synthetic a priori principles too closely with Newtonian physics and, consequently, overestimated the difference between Kant's philosophy and his own. This is even more so, I point out, in the retrospective account logical empiricism presented of its own history. Whereas contemporary reconstructions of this history, including Michael Friedman's, tend to endorse this account, I offer an interpretation of Kant's conception of a priori principles that contrasts with the one put forward by both Neo-Kantianism and logical empiricism. On this basis, I re-examine the early Reichenbach's effort to accommodate these principles to the paradigm forged by Einstein
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