I've just watched a video of a Philosophy Professor who said this in a conference:

"paraphrasing Kant, the scientist does not work as an observer of reality. He rather works as an interrogator whose job is to squeeze information out of it".

The professor has already passed away, so I can't ask him what quote this is based on.

(I'm assuming he wasn't making things up in front of his fellow professors, of course)

Although this is just a paraphrase, it sounds like it came from a famous quote.

Does anyone know which is it? At least what book it is probably from?

Thank you!

  • 6
    Critique of Pure Reason, early in the text:"Clarity emerged when Galileo began to roll spheres... Natural scientists realized that reason could only see whatever it created according to its own plan, and it... had to go forward according to permanent laws and make nature answer its questions instead of dragging behind it as if under its girdle ... Reason ... in order to draw knowledge from nature, not like a pupil who gets the hints he needs from his teacher, yet like a judge who interrogates a witness making him answer the questions he asks.
    – sand1
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 21:26
  • @sand1: you should probably put that into an answer. Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 11:44
  • @sand1 I agree with Fizz
    – rmdmc89
    Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 16:59

1 Answer 1


Perhaps this:

Such conceptions of reason are not derived from nature; on the contrary, we employ them for the interrogation and investigation of nature, and regard our cognition as defective so long as it is not adequate to them

This quote can be found here: https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/kant/reason/critique-of-pure-reason.htm in the appendix, "Of the Regulative Employment of the Ideas of Pure Reason." Just ctrl-F for the quote. Kant is claiming that the unification of observations under a scientific rule is not derived from nature (i.e. not a pure observation), but is instead for the interrogation of nature.

  • The regulative use of the ideas (soul, world, and God) do indeed guide our cognition of nature, but I do not see how this relates to the quote given, to be honest.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 21:48
  • 1
    @PhilipKlöcking "such conceptions of reason are not derived from nature" = "the scientist does not work as an observer of reality" and "we employ them for the interrogation and investigation of nature" = "he rather works as an interrogator."
    – causative
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 22:09
  • There are similarities, yes. But the context is completely different: It is how empirical cognition as a whole (not only scientific one) is structured by our ideas of pure reason. Your reading implies that the scientist employs only the pure ideas of soul, world, and God in his interrogation of nature. But in Kant, science builds on a priori concepts.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 7:46
  • @PhilipKlöcking "Soul, world, and God" is a phrase you introduced, not me. Also this distinction you are drawing between "empirical cognition" and "scientific cognition" is not Kant's. The surrounding paragraph in Kant's text is about deriving natural laws.
    – causative
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 8:08

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