The title to one of Kant's most famous books is "Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Present Itself as a Science", where he presents the outlines of his metaphysical theory further explained in Kant's Critiques.

I wondered a very simple question, did Kant considered it possible that another metaphysical theory be represented that he would consider "able to present itself as a science", or was it simply a better looking title than "Prolegomena to My Metaphysics That Presents Itself as a Science"? (or, maybe it's simply a translation "mistake"?)

I would like to note the importance of the question though, at least for me. If Kant indeed considered it possible that another metaphysical theory may present itself as science, it would mean that Kant treated his Transcendental Deduction as a possibility, rather than a final, finished, complete conception of metaphysics. Which would also separate Kant even further from Hegel on this topic, and bring him closer to Schelling. I guess there are other, probably more significant implications.

  • I am pretty sure Kant, using the broader German definition of science, and not the later English one that has ultimately taken over, considered his philosophy to be a science. The Prologomena presents the facts he thinks all such undertakings must consider, and the Critiques then undertake that considering in earnest. – user9166 Aug 6 '18 at 23:04
  • The German title is Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik, die als Wissenschaft wird auftreten können. The translation is fairly literal, Google gives "Prolegomena to any future metaphysics that will occur as science". I agree that Wissenschaft (science) narrowed its meaning since then, but note that Kant presents a meta-metaphysical framework, which reflects his epistemological turn, rather than a metaphysical theory. Like most classical philosophers Kant did of course believe that he found the "one true path" (see e.g. the CPR preface), not mere possibility, but then so did Hegel. – Conifold Aug 7 '18 at 1:44
  • @Conifold that's exactly what I'm seeing here - Kant giving a meta-metaphysical framework, then gives a metaphysical framework within it. My question is, would Kant consider a different metaphysical theory acceptable as long as it stays within his Prolegomena's limits? It might be a bit too speculative question regarding Kant's private thoughts. – Yechiam Weiss Aug 7 '18 at 5:05
  • I doubt that even access to Kant's private thoughts would give us an answer. He worked from what he had to work with in his time, but who knows how he would have reacted to subsequent developments that challenged his whole system. Kant himself flirted with "intellectual intuition" and started tweaking his framework at the end of his life, in Opus Postumum, romantics saw it as going their way. German idealists then rejected his epistemological restrictions, but neo-Kantians altered them more conservatively later. – Conifold Aug 7 '18 at 5:47
  • @Conifold so in the scope of the Prolegomena, the German Idealists stay true to the Kantian framework, simply offering competitive metaphysical theories (like so often done in modern-day science)? Are you familiar with any correspondence of Kant's where he talks about any other metaphysical theory in a positive manner? – Yechiam Weiss Aug 7 '18 at 5:58

My impression is that Kant believed that there was a single metaphysical framework in terms of which the phenomenal world and our experience of it can be represented, and that he had discovered, brought to light, the essential elements of it - even if not perfectly, then basically correctly.

I do not think that he would have regarded changes in our understanding of the world, especially as regards the nature of space and time and the notion of causality, as unhinging his enterprise. He would have recognised, as a self-critical (and incidentally scientifically well-informed) thinker, the need to revise his metaphysics to fit the new understanding. In any case, psychological speculation aside, there would have been no need to abandon the enterprise, merely to revise it.

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