Ortega y Gasset: Kant and the contraction of philosophy

Overwhelmed by this superiority, the philosopher was ashamed of being overwhelmed, which meant that he became ashamed of not being a physicist. As the problems which are genuinely philosophic do not permit of solution according to the method of the physical sciences, the philosopher gave up any attempt to attack them; he renounced his philosophy, contracting it to a minimum, putting it humbly at the service of the physics. He decided that the only philosophic theme worth pursuing was meditation on the fact that philosophy was merely a theory of knowledge, and nothing more.

Kant was the first to adopt such an attitude in a radical form; he did not interest himself directly in the great cosmic problems, but with the imperative hand of a town policeman he stopped all philosophic traffic – twenty-six centuries of metaphysical thought – by saying, “let all philosophizing remain suspended until this question is answered: How are synthetic judgments possible a priori?” Well, now, “synthetic judgments a priori” meant to him physics, the factum of the physio-mathematical science.

But these statements of the problems as he saw it were not even a theory of knowledge. Their point of departure was the knowledge was the knowledge of physics as it existed, and they did not ask “What is knowledge?” (Jose Ortega y Gasset, What is Philosophy?, pp. 46)

This is also the problem with the “New Atheists” – men talking about philosophical and theological issues who aren’t even trying to deal with the primary questions of said sciences!

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