Signs, Toy Models, and the A Priori

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 40 (3):281-289 (2009)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

The Marburg neo-Kantians argue that Hermann von Helmholtz's empiricist account of the a priori does not account for certain knowledge, since it is based on a psychological phenomenon, trust in the regularities of nature. They argue that Helmholtz's account raises the 'problem of validity' (Gueltigkeitsproblem): how to establish a warranted claim that observed regularities are based on actual relations. I reconstruct Heinrich Hertz's and Ludwig Wittgenstein's Bild theoretic answer to the problem of validity: that scientists and philosophers can depict the necessary a priori constraints on states of affairs in a given system, and can establish whether these relations are actual relations in nature. The analysis of necessity within a system is a lasting contribution of the Bild theory. However, Hertz and Wittgenstein argue that the logical and mathematical sentences of a Bild are rules, tools for constructing relations, and the rules themselves are meaningless outside the theory. Carnap revises the argument for validity by attempting to give semantic rules for translation between frameworks. Russell and Quine object that pragmatics better accounts for the role of a priori reasoning in translating between frameworks. The conclusion of the tale, then, is a partial vindication of Helmholtz's original account.

Similar books and articles

Historicizing Hermann von Helmholtz’s Psychology of Differentiation.Liesbet De Kock - 2018 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 6 (3).
Knowledge of Validity.Sinan Dogramaci - 2010 - Noûs 44 (3):403-432.

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-08-29

Downloads
602 (#32,093)

6 months
81 (#73,228)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Lydia Patton
Virginia Tech

Citations of this work

Maxwell, Helmholtz, and the unreasonable effectiveness of the method of physical analogy.Alisa Bokulich - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 50:28-37.
Articulating Space in Terms of Transformation Groups: Helmholtz and Cassirer.Francesca Biagioli - 2018 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 6 (3).
Perception and Coincidence in Helmholtz’s Theory of Measurement.Matthias Neuber - 2018 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 6 (3).
Hermann von Helmholtz and the Quantification Problem of Psychophysics.Francesca Biagioli - 2023 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 54 (1):39-54.
Communicative Rationality of the Maxwellian Revolution.Rinat M. Nugayev - 2015 - Foundations of Science 20 (4):447-478.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1922 - New York, NY: Routledge. Edited by Luciano Bazzocchi & P. M. S. Hacker.
Tractatus logico-philosophicus.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1922 - Filosoficky Casopis 52:336-341.
A confutation of convergent realism.Larry Laudan - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (1):19-49.
Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology.Rudolf Carnap - 1950 - Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4 (11):20-40.

View all 31 references / Add more references