Origins of Coleridge’s System of Naturphilosophie
The emergence of Naturphilosophie was intimately connected to the spectacular growth of transcendentalist thought in Germany that began with the work of Immanuel Kant. It is to Kant that we must turn in order to reconstruct the origins of this movement and comprehend its subsequent developments in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. In Critique of Pure Reason (1st edn, 1781; 2nd edn, 1787) Kant undertook the task of rescuing metaphysics from the inferior position into which it had fallen in his time and raising it to the level of a science in its own right. He showed that the degeneration of metaphysics was caused by two main factors. First, metaphysical studies had been dominated by the false assumption that ‘knowledge must conform to objects’, which made it impossible to explain how, this being the case, one could attain knowledge of objects by means of a priori concepts. The purpose of the Critique was to demonstrate that, to the contrary, objects must conform to the constitution and function of our cognitive faculties, and that ‘we can know a priori of things only what we ourselves put into them’ (Preface to the Second Edition, pp. 22–3). Second, metaphysics had lost its main claim to scientific status when it aligned itself with dogmatism, which presupposes that ‘it is possible to make headway in metaphysics without a previous criticism of pure reason’, which is its organ (p. 29).
KeywordsNatural Science Organic World Pure Reason Transcendental Idealism Metaphysical Foundation
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