Kant Lexicon

Dogmatic: dogmatisch (German)

The dogmatic method is a way of pursuing metaphysics. It is a version of the scientific method. In “The History of Pure Reason,” Kant mentions only “the illustrious Wolff” as a practitioner of the dogmatic method (A856/B884). Wolff’s predecessor Leibniz and follower Baumgarten could have been mentioned as well.

The dogmatic method is not described in the passage from the “History of Pure Reason” and is not explicitly defined in the Critique. The best description comes from his lectures on metaphysics. One begins with a set of unprovable general principles that are widely accepted and infers other principles from them.

A treatment of science is dogmatic when it does not trouble to investigate from which powers of mind a cognition arises, but rather lays down as a basis certain general and accepted propositions and infers the rest from them. (Metaphysik Mrongovius, Ak 29:772)
For example, in his “Monadology,” Leibniz lays down the Principle of Sufficient Reason: “there can be no fact real or existing, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason, why it should be so and not otherwise, although these reasons usually cannot be known by us” (“Monadology,” ยง32). He gives no basis for accepting the principle.

The dogmatic method takes its cue from the success of mathematics (A713/B741, A724/B752). Mathematics in turn operates with definitions, axioms and demonstrations. Kant tried to show that none of these are appropriate to philosophy, as the dogmatic method would have it.

From all of this it follows that it is in no way fitting for the nature of philosophy, above all in the realm of pure reason, to strut about with a dogmatic gait and adorn itself with the titles and ribbons of mathematics, for philosophy still does not belong in the order of mathematics, despite having every cause to hope for a sisterly union with mathematics. (A735/B763)
The dogmatic method may also be unique to metaphysics (A737/B765), though this would strip it of its association with the success of mathematics.

Technically, Kant describes a “dogma” as “a directly synthetic proposition based on concepts“ (A736/B764), which is distinguished from the “mathema” of mathematics based on the construction of concepts. The problem for the dogmatic method in its application to metaphysics is that there are no dogmata, because no synthetic proposition can be based on concepts alone.

While Kant condemned the dogmatic method, in the second edition of the Critique he endorsed the dogmatic procedure (Verfahren). Metaphysics as a science must be based on strict proofs from secure a priori principles (Bxxxv). More specifically, it must (as stated at Bxxxvii):

This procedure has much in common with the dogmatic method. But the dogmatic method ends in dogmatism because it deploys its alleged demonstration without a prior investigation into their origins and the legitimacy of their use.

The dogmatic method is contrasted the skeptical and critical methods.

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