Kant and the scope of analogy in the life sciences

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 71:67-76 (2018)
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In the present paper I investigate the role that analogy plays in eighteenth-century biology and in Kant’s philosophy of biology. I will argue that according to Kant, biology, as it was practiced in the eighteenth century, is fundamentally based on analogical reflection. However, precisely because biology is based on analogical reflection, biology cannot be a proper science. I provide two arguments for this interpretation. First, I argue that although analogical reflection is, according to Kant, necessary to comprehend the nature of organisms, it is also necessarily insufficient to fully comprehend the nature of organisms. The upshot of this argument is that for Kant our understanding of organisms is necessarily limited. Second, I argue that Kant did not take biology to be a proper science because biology was based on analogical arguments. I show that Kant stemmed from a philosophical tradition that did not assign analogical arguments an important justificatory role in natural science. Analogy, according to this conception, does not provide us with apodictically certain cognition. Hence, sciences based on analogical arguments cannot constitute proper sciences.

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Author's Profile

Hein Van Den Berg
University of Amsterdam

References found in this work

Kritik der reinen Vernunft.Immanuel Kant - 1923 - Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.
Models and Analogies in Science.Mary B. Hesse - 1963 - University of Notre Dame Press.
Models and Analogies in Science.Mary Hesse - 1965 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 16 (62):161-163.
Physics: The Elements.N. R. Campbell - 1921 - Mind 30 (118):207-214.
Vitalizing Nature in the Enlightenment.Peter Hanns Reill - 2005 - University of California Press.

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