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Idealistic Studies

Volume 45, Issue 3, Fall 2015

Juan Manual Garrido Wainer
Pages 355-379

A Kantian Account of the Knowledge of Life and the Life Sciences

This paper offers an interpretation of Kant’s philosophy of biology in the context of current debates concerning experiment and causality in scientific practice. My interpretation is strongly indebted to Neo-Kantian contributions, and does not intend to provide a historically exhaustive reconstruction of Kant’s philosophy of biology. My aim is to show that the third Critique offers a relevant theoretical framework to explore the limits and scopes of experimental practice in life sciences. From a Kantian (and Neo-Kantian) point of view, biology is causal research that objectifies causal systems; it neither proposes nor presupposes a theoretical understanding of the idea of “life.” Therefore, fundamental concepts such as “program,” “gene,” “organicism,” etc., should be referred to causal entities or processes that have no meaning outside concrete experimental contexts. Kantian and Neo-Kantian approaches reject any mode of knowing living nature based on vitalistic intuitions of inner life and indirect lived experience.

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