Experiment, induction, probability, and certainty in eighteenth century German philosophy of physics: Wolff, Crusius, and Kant [ongoing]. Van den Berg, H. and Demarest, B. 0.
abstract   bibtex   
In this paper, we analyze debates on the role of experiment, induction, probability, and certainty in eighteenth century German philosophy of physics. We discuss two competing philosophical perspectives on physics: (i) the perspective of Christian Wolff and his followers, who assigned experiment and induction an important role in physics, but nevertheless argued that physics should ideally be a demonstrative science containing certain propositions, and (ii) the perspective of Christian August Crusius, who was critical of the scope of Wolff’s ideal of certain science and certain physics. Against interpretations that take Wolff’s proofs in physics to be based on empirical and experimental propositions that are probable, we show how inductively and experimentally established propositions can be certain according to Wolff. We further study Crusius little known work on physics and show that he attacked Wolff, arguing that many principles and propositions of physics are probable. Finally, we argue that Kant’s philosophy of physics articulates a position that mediates between the Wolffians and Crusius. Similar to Crusius and empiricists such as Hume, Kant argued that induction cannot yield complete certainty or universality and he took several regulative maxims of science and physics to be objects of belief rather than certain knowledge. However, similar to the Wolffians, Kant assigned these regulative maxims a form of necessity and he argued that in physics empirical judgments can be taken to be certain and physically necessary if they are grounded by a priori constitutive principles. Kant’s strategy in physics can be interpreted as a strategy to maximize the degree of certainty of scientific judgments whenever possible, a strategy that was common in the eighteenth century.
@unpublished{van_den_berg_experiment_0,
	title = {Experiment, induction, probability, and certainty in eighteenth century {German} philosophy of physics: {Wolff}, {Crusius}, and {Kant} [ongoing]},
	abstract = {In this paper, we analyze debates on the role of experiment, induction, probability, and certainty in eighteenth century German philosophy of physics. We discuss two competing philosophical perspectives on physics: (i) the perspective of Christian Wolff and his followers, who assigned experiment and induction an important role in physics, but nevertheless argued that physics should ideally be a demonstrative science containing certain propositions, and (ii) the perspective of Christian August Crusius, who was critical of the scope of Wolff’s ideal of certain science and certain physics. Against interpretations that take Wolff’s proofs in physics to be based on empirical and experimental propositions that are probable, we show how inductively and experimentally established propositions can be certain according to Wolff. We further study Crusius little known work on physics and show that he attacked Wolff, arguing that many principles and propositions of physics are probable. Finally, we argue that Kant’s philosophy of physics articulates a position that mediates between the Wolffians and Crusius. Similar to Crusius and empiricists such as Hume, Kant argued that induction cannot yield complete certainty or universality and he took several regulative maxims of science and physics to be objects of belief rather than certain knowledge. However, similar to the Wolffians, Kant assigned these regulative maxims a form of necessity and he argued that in physics empirical judgments can be taken to be certain and physically necessary if they are grounded by a priori constitutive principles. Kant’s strategy in physics can be interpreted as a strategy to maximize the degree of certainty of scientific judgments whenever possible, a strategy that was common in the eighteenth century.},
	author = {Van den Berg, Hein and Demarest, Boris},
	year = {0},
}
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