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During his long and prolific tenure at Marburg, Natorp came into contact with a number of illustrious scholars and writers. In the fateful summer of the young T. Eliot caricatured Natorp, the director of the summer program in which he was enrolled [ image available online ]. This departure was less a shift in his basic philosophical outlook than the sounding of new themes, some native to the Marburg School, others arising out of dialogue with other philosophers. Neo-Kantianism, it is often said, was the dominant current of late nineteenth-century German academic philosophy.
While true, this statement is uninformative, since the label conveys no clear doctrinal content. Given the widespread perception that philosophy had become discredited by the untenable claims of the German Idealists, the various neo-Kantian schools shared a conviction that Kant—on some interpretation of his sobriety—could give philosophy a respectable and genuine task again, now that it had awakened from its long post-Hegelian hangover cf.
But what does that mean? Cassirer Because the transcendental method anchors philosophy in facts eminently the fact of mathematical physics , of which philosophy is to establish the conditions of possibility or justification Rechtsgrund Natorp c: ; By limiting itself to this task of justification, philosophical reason keeps itself from ascending into the aether of speculation. At the same time, by discovering the source of scientific objectivity and thus of rational objectivity generally , i.
Poma , ch. At the same time, the Marburg School finds in the critical philosophy an idealistic bulwark against the empiricism epitomized by Mill. Just as the critical theory of science begins from the concrete theories developed by the special sciences, so philosophy in general should begin from the achievements of culture e. Like Cassirer, Natorp makes this view of philosophy in the Kantian spirit the basis of his own philosophy of science and of his historical interpretations.
Natorp —, , et passim. Of all rational activities, philosophy alone has the task of discovering the conditions and regulative ideals that make such activities at all possible. Cohen and Natorp faced a difficult task. Already in his , Natorp objects to such psychologism though he does not use the term on the grounds that science and knowledge, and the very notion of objective truth these presuppose, would be rendered senseless if grounded in the subjective experience of the thinking or knowing psyche see esp.
Section 4. Laks , During his life, Paul Natorp was overshadowed by his mentor, Cohen, and after his death, by the more glamorous Cassirer. For decades, if he was mentioned at all, one remembered his controversial Plato book, or, perhaps, his other contributions to the study of Greek thought cf.
But Natorp has been further obscured by the general eclipse of neo-Kantianism for most of the twentieth century. Willey ; Jegelka ; Natorp , philosophically informed though they are Cohen It is a commonplace of nineteenth-century German intellectual history that with the collapse of post-Kantian Idealism, philosophy ceded its claim of scientificity to the positive sciences.
Philosophy, meanwhile, seemed to have lost its way, and many thinkers pinned their hopes for a rehabilitation of philosophy on a return to Kant. For all that, Natorp by no means conceived philosophy as a humble handmaiden. On the contrary, its task is to discover and establish the highest principle s of rational understanding, and thereby the principles not only of the sciences, but also of ethics and aesthetics, in short, of all the domains of human culture cf.
Cohen It must however take science as its primary object of inquiry because science represents the paradigm of knowing Erkenntnis. Kant Prolegomena. The first of their modifications stems from an anti-psychologistic critique of Kant himself, namely of what they see as a confusion in the first Critique between the task of a transcendental grounding of the sciences and that of a transcendental logic of human cognition Stolzenberg But compare Holzhey The former is in their view the genuine critical enterprise, for it promises to reveal the autonomous sources of objective knowledge, whereas the latter threatens to trace science back to psychological, and therefore contingent, subjective albeit a priori wellsprings.
Partly this is a result of their anti-psychologism, which forbids them from grounding the objectivity of science in the subjective faculties of cognition; but it is also because they see, with Kant, the essence of thinking in its activity and spontaneity, whereas intuition at least as defined by Kant is passive and receptive cf. Hence, intuition thus conceived threatens to introduce a heteronomous, and therefore rationally unacceptable, factor into science.
Finally, the Marburgers follow their German Idealist predecessors in dismissing all talk of things in themselves, conceived as things existing independently of knowledge. For reason to be autonomous, its activity must be spontaneous; but this spontaneity cannot be conceived of psychologically, because human cognition as a matter of fact has a passive, and therefore heteronomous, intuitive element, namely sensibility.
Furthermore, things in themselves can play no explanatory role here because they are ex hypothesi alien to reason. The first is a new conception of science; the second is a new conception of the categories see Section 4. How in general could the rationally constructed system be related to experience or constrained by it?
How in particular could physics, the science of motion in space and time, be possible if the pure forms of intuition, space and time, were banished from science cf. Friedman 26, ff. What is the foundation of the reality which is given in such facts?
What are the conditions of that certainty from which visible actuality takes its reality? The laws are the facts, and [hence] the objects [of our investigation]; not the star-things. Cohen 27, f. The point is that the scientific or epistemic value of, say, astronomy, is not to be found in what is given and observable by the senses, but rather in the mathematical exactness of its equations.
As noted above, the essential characteristic of science lies in its objectivity, and that objectivity is rooted in its lawfulness. While for Kant himself such traction is the only warrant that we are cognizing a genuine object, for Natorp the nexus of science and apparent reality is irrelevant to the spontaneous, legislating factor of science that is the activity of reason alone and therefore of paramount interest to philosophy. How such essentially subjective application of categories to sensible phenomena in fact happens is a problem of psychology, not philosophy, to investigate.
Natorp c: By the end of the nineteenth century, it was obvious to any informed observer of science that its categorial structures were in fact hypothetical and dynamic: the fact of scientific experience could no longer be taken as the essentially complete edifice of Newtonian physics, as Kant had done. Hence, what makes science scientific—i. Instead, the Marburgers argue, the essence of science can only reside in its method , i. And since this scientificity is equivalent to objectivity or lawfulness, transcendental critique must determine the relation of lawfulness to method.
By this Gadamer means that Natorp, for most of his career, focused on the methodical aspect of thinking to the point of reducing thinking to method. He writes:. Ideas, as Kant argues in the Transcendental Dialectic, are a priori concepts whose source lies in pure reason alone.
Reason thereby offers the understanding a rule—viz. In other words, the thing in itself is the ideal of an object exhaustively determined by concepts, that is, completely known.
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As with Kant, however, our cognitive finitude means that the process of conceptual determination can only approach this ideal asymptotically. Sometimes he puts it more pointedly: hypothesis is method. Cohen ; , ff. These glosses all emphasize the activity of hypothesis: it is less a posit than a positing, an act by which thinking proceeds and becomes experience.
Natorp writes:. The act of hypothesis has two aspects. These constructions in turn are founded on hypotheses of a lower order, viz. To take up our earlier example, when the astronomer speaks of planets and their laws of motion, he is speaking objectively of scientific phenomena, as opposed to the subjective appearance of sensible phenomena to you or me. To pull our strands together, thinking in the strict sense is scientific thinking, for it alone is generative of knowledge, i. Science and therefore knowledge as a matter of fact evolves through time: science is a fieri.
These determinations of experience just are the objects of science. The philosophical task therefore is to analyze the condition of possibility of the regularity of this methodical determination of experience. Natorp like Cohen; identifies this condition as hypothesis, interpreted as law Ge-setz , posit ; experience in the strict sense is only possible given a law Gesetz that functions as its interpretational groundwork or foundation Grundlegung.
The first hypothesis or primal posit then must be the law of lawfulness, viz.