Further Resources


An exploration of the intellectual problem situation facing Kant - Kant's dilemma. Kant was enchanted by the success story of Newton's Principia, it's universal explanatory reach and its precise predictions. But he was also enchanted and convinced that Hume's argument against induction as the method of science was devastating. Kant, guided by the principle that knowledge had to be justified, was led to suggest another way out - that our minds bring a priori synthetic knowledge (e.g., Euclidien Geometry) to, and make possible, experience, because this general knowledge is the precondition of any ordered experience. This serves as a background to the way both Popper and Chomsky look at language, as something that is a genetic developmental plan of the growing human brain. It is something we "know" in some sense before we are born, rather in the way we "know" how to develop vision or an auditory system: language just grows. Popper's and Chomsky's biological emphasis on our prenatal genetic developmental plans as a way we can have general knowledge (of language) without induction is analogous to the emphasis of the Rationalist philosophers on A priori synthetic knowledge. So Kant's problem situation can throw philosophical light on Popper's and Chomsky's view of language and how their views are a part of the rationalist tradition of thought. My portrayal of Kant's intellectual problem situation is indebted to Karl Popper's treatment. See his The Two Fundamental Problems of The Theory of Knowledge and Conjectures and Refutations.

Popper's answer to Kant is the theory of Conjecture and Refutation. Our imaginations try to impose theories on the world, but that these theories may be rudely refuted by a recalcitrant reality that is not of our making.




The Popper Newsletter

A Directory of People Interested in Popper's Work