Kant's Epistemological geography : the role of Schwärmerei and demarcation in the conception of critical philosophy

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study intends to examine one Kantian problematic that has been often overlooked, especially in recent years. It explores Kant's reactions to so-called occult phenomena and related teachings. Kant's initial and the single most important interlocutor in this respect was Emanuel Swedenborg. Kant refers to his visions and the tone of his writings as Schwärmerei, that is an exaltation or an exalted tone. The problem of explaining the conditions of possibility or impossibility of the knowledge-claims of this type, is apparent in Kant's writings from the late 1760s. The object of the exalted knowledge-claims, it is argued, continued to figure in the critical period as one of the prime s of the unkowable objects, that is, noumena. Therefore, it is claimed that Schwärmerei and the related practices played an intrinsic role in Kant's conception of the Grenze, a limit of the conditions of possibility of human knowledge. For , the demarcation between the phenomena and noumena relies on an assumption of the particular nature of the knowledge-claims, modelled upon the claims of Schwärmerei, pertaining to objects which are beyond our grasp. In addition, Kant's concept of Grenze and the outcome of his demarcation has been put into an historical perspective. Thus, his demarcation criteria are contrasted to modern pre-Kantian attitudes towards the occult practices and the attempts to devise demarcation criteria in science. In this respect special attention has been given to Newton's methodology and research. The study also contains an examination of more recent criteria of demarcation proposed in philosophy of science which draw from Kantian conception of demarcation. Of particualar interest are Popper's and Kuhn's demarcation criteria between the scientific and non-scientific as well as some recent demarcation policies that is argued, can be related to them. The primary sources of this study can be found in an interdisciplinary field: Kantian scholarship, history of science and the occult in the period of Renaissance and early Enlightenment, contemporary philosophy of science, and the recent debates concerning modernity.

Bibliography: leaves 218-230.