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How Kant Matters for Biology

A Philosophical History

A re-evaluation of Kant’s influence on science in light of Kant’s own views on biology.

Kant denied biology the status of a proper science, yet his account of the organism profoundly influenced a range of intellectual disciplines. This book examines Kant’s influence on biology in the British Isles by proposing that his influence owes to misunderstandings of his philosophy. Andrew Jones exposes the incompatibility between transcendental realism and scientific naturalism and charts how Kant, nevertheless, influenced various aspects of the scientific method. With this context in mind, Jones examines the extent to which core concepts in contemporary philosophy—natural law, the unity of science, and our understanding of organisms— are compatible with scientific naturalism and proposes new avenues for developing Kant-inspired approaches within contemporary philosophy of science.

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Table of Contents

1Understanding influence: the role of transcendental idealism for the development of biology21
1.1Transcendental idealism as subservient to the scientifically minded philosopher24
1.1.1The scientifically minded philosopher and the relation between appearances and things in themselves24
1.1.2Strawson’s account of the self31
1.1.3Strawson and the problem of translation, transcendental idealism and transcendental realism34
1.2The role of influence and theory for history and science38
1.2.1Berlin and Kuhn on the relation between history and science39
1.2.2Scientific revolutions and incommensurability46
1.3The context of research programmes and the Lenoir thesis52
1.3.1Lakatos’s conception of research programmes and the Lenoir thesis52
1.3.2Criticisms of the Lenoir thesis57
1.4Expanding the scope of influence63
1.4.1Bloom: influence in poetry64
1.4.2Feyerabend: science as a creative process66
1.4.3Potochnik: idealization and science68
1.4.4Collingwood: metaphysics as absolute presuppositions70
1.4.5The emerging conception of influence73
2Kant’s response to Hume and the status of laws in contemporary philosophy of science79
2.1Kant’s interpretation of Hume81
2.1.1The sources of Kant’s interpretation of Hume82
2.1.2Kant’s misunderstanding of Hume’s relations of ideas and matters of fact84
2.2Interpretations of Hume’s philosophy93
2.2.1The sceptical realist interpretation of Hume94
2.2.2Transcendental idealism as developing from Humean empiricism101
2.3Metaphysical arguments regarding the existence of laws110
2.3.1Bhaskar’s transcendental realism and Cartwright’s nomological pluralism111
2.3.2A mathematical antinomy: Bhaskar and Cartwright120
2.3.3Transcendental arguments in Bhaskar’s and Cartwright’s accounts.126
3Kant’s influence on Whewell132
3.1The relationship between Whewell and Kant134
3.1.1The similarities and differences between the philosophies of Kant and Whewell135
3.1.2Whewell’s colligation of facts and the consilience of inductions147
3.1.3Whewell’s theological resolution of the fundamental antithesis154
3.2The status of consilience in contemporary philosophy of biology158
3.2.1Contemporary interpretations of Kant’s philosophy of science159
3.2.2Consilience and reductivism in philosophy of science168
4Whewell’s influence on Darwin and role of design for the organism177
4.1Whewell’s influence on Darwin’s Origin.179
4.1.1The role of design in Whewell’s philosophy180
4.1.2The influence of Whewell and Herschel on the arguments of Darwin’s Origin187
4.2Darwin and design: The relation between artificial and natural selection in Darwin’s Origin194
4.2.1The relation between artificial and natural selection195
4.2.2The distinction between organisms and artefacts for Darwin, Paley and Kant.199
4.3Organisms and design in contemporary biology212
4.3.1Kant’s account of design and its relation to contemporary philosophy of biology212
4.3.2Organisms without design219
5Kant’s significance for contemporary philosophy of biology228
5.1Definitions of biological individuality in contemporary philosophy of biology230
5.2Natural teleology and biological autonomy238
5.2.1Biological autonomy in contemporary philosophy of biology239
5.2.2The relationship between physical and moral teleology in Kant’s philosophy243
5.3Kantian morality and biological freedom249
5.3.1Dupré’s account of biological freedom250
5.3.2Determinism and the Second Analogy252
5.3.3The role of Kant’s account of freedom for guiding the development of science254

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