Is there anything left in contemporary epistemology and science from the German Idealism?



Kant, Reinhold, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel.. Is there anything left from the Kantian movement today in the thoughts of knowledge and nature? The question is focused especially after Popper essentially "removed" (though I don't know if successfully, tell me if not) the dialectic method at the core of those Idealists as pseudo-science.

Yechiam Weiss

Posted 2018-02-10T19:51:11.180

Reputation: 3 468

1As far as I can tell nothing has changed. Kant and Hegel are still ahead of the game waiting for the rest of the Academy to catch up or to leapfrog them into nondualism. – None – 2018-02-11T11:57:02.110

@PeterJ really? Didn't Popper completely got rid of the dialectic method by considering it as pseudo-science? – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-02-11T12:01:46.023

1Idealism has been shadowed since the 19th century for different reasons. This is particularly true in analytic philosophy throughout the 20th century. Russell and the logical empiricists were quite dismissive of it. However there were neo-kantian in the beginning of 20th century. To my knowledge, large parts of continental philosophy (phenomenology, existentialism) take Hegel, Fichte and Schelling to be important figures. In the analytic tradition, Kant's philosophy also influenced pragmatism a lot and it is still somehow influential (but not Hegel Fichte or Schelling). – Quentin Ruyant – 2018-02-11T14:29:25.980


Anything left? It is hard to avoid them. Positivists themselves were Kantian through and through. More direct followers are Sellars, who is also partial to Hegel, Michael Friedman and McDowell, whose opposition to "disenchanted nature" you may find congenial. Pretty much all of continental philosophy of science is permeated with both.

– Conifold – 2018-02-11T23:57:13.293

@Conifold please look at the edit, and correct me if I'm wrong. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-02-12T06:53:13.453

All names I mentioned come after Popper's prime. Popper was largely ignored by positivists, and later by analytic philosophers, which is why he sought, and gained, popularity with scientists directly. After Kuhn Lakatos, Popper's "successor", directly used Hegelian triadic scheme in his Proof and Refutations. The "hypothetico-critical method" was developed 30 years before Popper by C.S. Peirce, who said he drank philosophy "from Kant's bottle", and incorporated much of Hegel's triadism, anti-foundationalism and dialectic of mediation into his pragmatism, but in demystified form. – Conifold – 2018-02-12T07:16:49.730

@Conifold that is very interesting, I had no idea Popper was ignored. How come is his pseudo-science falsification so widely popular today then? – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-02-12T08:51:55.773

Of the names mentioned it seems to me that only Bradley and Peirce learned much from Kant and Hegel. Both are considered out of the mainstream for being too 'mystical' and this is the price of taking Kant seriously. In his own tradition very few do. As for 'removing the dialectic method', the only way to do this would be to stop thinking about metaphysics. Indeed, it might require stopping thinking altogether since it is how we do it. – None – 2018-02-12T10:56:24.587

@PeterJ are you saying that contemporary science relies on the dialectic method metaphysically? – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-02-12T11:05:33.347

Popular where? Falsificationism captures some aspects of theory development in simplistic idealized form, especially in hard sciences, and so is as useful as a practical attitude as platonism in mathematics. It came to be associated with Popper because he was its most skillful promoter, the ideas long predate him. But even in hard sciences it happily co-exists with scientific realism despite the obvious tension between the two. Practical attitudes need to be effective, not coherent. – Conifold – 2018-02-12T21:34:03.830

@Conifold I understood it as popular in the realms of the scientific community. Correct me if I'm wrong. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-02-12T22:31:05.503


"Scientific community" is very diverse. Physicists are fans, in aspirational sense especially, biologists, psychologists and sociologists not so much. It is hard to stage something like critical experiments in their fields, and they are not mathematizable enough to make falsificationism formally applicable. Bayesian approach of slow accumulation of improvements is much more popular in soft sciences, I wrote a brief review on hsm.

– Conifold – 2018-02-13T00:23:59.507

@YechiamWeiss - My point was that we rely on the dialectic method to think (as Aristotle noted). If we abandon it we would be unable to survive. – None – 2018-02-22T12:16:29.937

1The notion of the inaccessibility of noumena seems to shape the entire modern approach to science at a very deep level. So score one for Kant (who also did science.). Dialectic is still a valid way of generating hypotheses and evolving theories, it is just not a reasonable way of testing them. Science obviously uses it often: Speeds add, the speed of light is constant, the Lorentz computation... String theory seems to run entirely on dialectic interpolations most of the time: we have fice string theories, find the conflict and add a dimension, we have one string theory. – hide_in_plain_sight – 2020-04-06T15:54:06.570



The question is focused especially after Popper essentially "removed" (though I don't know if successfully, tell me if not) the dialectic method at the core of those Idealists as pseudo-science.

Well Joseph Brenner has written in Logic in Reality (2008):

I thus claim that logic not only should but can be extended to reality, provided one takes into account, and gives proper metaphysical weight to, some of its characteristics that have tended to be neglected. These include the concepts, present also since antiquity, of dialectics – conflict as well as change and alternation between the different but closely related, interactive elements of a phenomenon.

So I'd say the dialectical forms of thought are still alive and kicking. One point I would emphasise is that dialectics is not just about conflict - this often seems to take the lion share of attention, but also about synthesis ...

Mozibur Ullah

Posted 2018-02-10T19:51:11.180

Reputation: 1

This question should've sunk in the sea of unanswered questions on the site :) don't know why it has been edited (with merely tag edit) and popped up again. The comments (and your answer) are more than enough for this ignorant question! – Yechiam Weiss – 2020-04-06T10:58:01.920