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Publicly Available Published by De Gruyter April 1, 2020


Andrea Sebastiano Staiti

The first issue of the Journal of Transcendental Philosophy gathers a selection of papers presented at the international conference “Transcendental Philosophy and Naturalism”, held at the Università degli Studi di Parma (Italy) on May, 15th–18th 2018.

Naturalism has been described as the dominant worldview of contemporary philosophy. It is variously defined as the rejection of supernatural entities, as the view that the method of philosophy does not (or must not) differ from the method of natural science, and as the epistemological claim that science offers all the knowledge that is humanly possible. Despite its wide acceptance, in recent years a loose chorus of critics of naturalism has emerged. Many of them associate their work with the tradition of transcendental philosophy, i. e., the manner of philosophizing inaugurated by Immanuel Kant and recast creatively by a variety of leading philosophers of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. This comes hardly as a surprise, considering that transcendental philosophy after Kant often presented itself as an alternative (perhaps the only intellectually viable alternative) to a naturalistic worldview. Critics of naturalism from the transcendental philosophical camp broadly construed typically claim that normativity cannot be reduced to natural causality, that consciousness as condition of access to the world is not a natural fact in the world, that the validity of knowledge rests on a priori truths that are not empirical in nature. By contrast, however, some philosophers identifying themselves with the transcendental tradition have expressed sympathy to naturalistic views. Early on thinkers such as Fries, Beneke, Herbart, Bona Mayer, Helmholtz, and Riehl tried to connect Kantian claims about a priori knowledge with considerations about human psychology and with the deliverances of natural science. Similarly, early-day pragmatists, such as C. S. Peirce, held Kant’s philosophy in great esteem but advocated a fundamentally naturalistic view on the relationship between philosophy and science. Nowadays, the landscape is still mixed. While it is customary to associate naturalism with analytic and anti-naturalism with Continental philosophy, despite the intrinsic vagueness of these labels, one can find naturalistically-minded thinkers within the ranks of phenomenology, such as Evan Thompson, and anti-naturalists, such as Thomas Nagel, among the ranks of analytically trained philosophers. The relationship between transcendental philosophy and naturalism is, hence, far from clear and a done deal, both historically and systematically.

The papers in this issue offer an excellent sample of current research on the complex relationship between transcendental philosophy and naturalism. Despite the thematic diversity, a common trait is the rejection of an oversimplifying view of these two philosophical stances as thoroughly incompatible and antagonistic. The opening essay by Robert Louden explores the humans-only norms of Kant’s anthropological work, thereby illuminating a naturalistic side to the founding father of transcendental philosophy. Plato Tse and Rory Phillips turn to consider the work of Fichte and propose innovative ways of reading his understanding of the relationship between the Wissenschaftslehre and the empirical sciences. Moving forward in history, Charlotte Morel presents the anti-naturalistic strategies of an unduly neglected giant of 19th century European philosophy, Rudolf Hermann Lotze, thereby painting a nuanced picture of epistemological Kantianism where the battle-lines between naturalists and non-naturalists are blurrier than one might assume. Philipp Berghofer offers an engaging picture of the relationship between Husserlian phenomenology and empirical psychology in early 20th century Germany. Despite Husserl’s protestations to the contrary, a significant number of psychologists and philosophers endeavored to appropriate phenomenological insights and integrate them in a naturalistic framework. David Suarez and Jack Reynolds turn to phenomenology in the present and develop sophisticated approaches to articulate a phenomenological stance that takes the naturalistic challenge into full consideration. The closing essay by Wolfgang Huemer is devoted to a systematic exploration of rule-following behavior and the extent to which it can be fully accounted for in a naturalistic framework.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the participants in the Parma conference, as well as students and personnel who assisted me in the organization. The conference was generously co-funded by the Rita Levi Montalcini program, the Fulbright foundation and DeGruyter.

Corresponding author: Andrea Sebastiano Staiti,Universitá degli Studi di Parma, Parma, Italy; and Boston College, Boston, United States. E-mail:

Published Online: 2020-04-01
Published in Print: 2020-03-26

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston