In Critique of pure reason, Kant mentions the theory of space and time, which is a priori. It will be used in Heidegger's Being and Time. However, In his second meditation, it seems that Descartes eliminated space and time. Any relation between them in terms of space and time.


A few points:

  1. Kant did indeed say that space and time can be known a priori as the forms of outer and inner sense, and this idea and Kant's broader system did indeed inform the whole subsequent development of German idealism from which, in part, phenomenology through Husserl and Heidegger etc. developed. Later Husserl is basically an evolution of Transcendental Idealism.

  2. Descartes's point is more epistemological than ontological - he doesn't say that there is no space and time he says that we cannot be certain, the external world can be doubted, and then goes onto reconstruct certainty (although his method for doing this not fashionable as it involves proving the existence of God!) so he ends up showing that space and time are there after all.

  3. It is often said that the discovery that the geometry of the world is non-Euclidean refuted Kant. But there is I think a very strong argument that this is too simplistic. If you have patience for some maths a great book on this is The Reign of Relativity by Thomas Ryckman. Basically, while transcendental idealist ideas clearly need to be updated to account for physical discoveries since Kant's day they were actually very influential on some of the pioneers of relativity theory, most notably Hermann Weyl who was deeply influenced by Husserl, and one of the most significant mathematical physicists of the twentieth century. In addition to his work on the formulation of relativity theory, Weyl's work - explicitly influenced by Husserl! (who btw took his doctorate in mathematics) - is foundational to modern gauge symmetry and gauge theories including the standard model.

  • So, you say that the modern understanding of space and time did not refute Kant, because... Kant was influential on some pioneers of relativity? That does not follow. Geocentrism with epicycles was influential on heliocentrism, but also refuted by it. Influential does not mean correct. – causative Feb 5 at 20:42
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    @causative, Wonder how a physical theory could refute a metaphysical philosophy. They are not directly competitory. One may be more favourable or fashionable locally or chronically over the other, I wouldn't call it refutation. – ttnphns Feb 5 at 22:37
  • @ttnphns Kant's assertion was that humans have an innate a priori concept of space and time, and that this concept accurately reflects space and time in reality. If the concept doesn't accurately reflect space and time in reality (or if the naive human idea of space and time is not fully innate), then Kant was wrong about that. It's a assertion by Kant about human psychology and about physics. – causative Feb 5 at 22:41
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    Sure, that is true, we can agree on that. But I think a more substantive and interesting point is that there is actually a surprising amount of continuity between Kant's ideas and the underlying ideas of both relativity and (other) gauge theories. – Rollo Burgess Feb 5 at 23:43
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    @causative This discussion shows it even more pointedly: Kant's theory of physical space is written down in his Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science and different from his metaphysical theory. It contains some interesting advancements from Newton and gets rid of some of the metaphysical nonsense in his theory, but, certainly, is wrong from a contemporary perspective. Kant explicitly contrasts a priori concepts and empirical concepts of space and time. And the Critique of Pure Reason explicitly is about the necessary conditions of human experience, not about natural sciences. – Philip Klöcking Feb 8 at 13:55

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