László Tengelyi: "Agonistic World Projects: Transcendentalism versus Naturalism"

Lecture by László Tengelyi, Philosophisches Seminar, Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Germany: "Agonistic World Projects: Transcendentalism versus naturalism"


A world project can be understood as an infinite idea with finite experiential evidence. That is why there are always—or at least may always be—different world projects, which enter into conflict with each other. It can be shown how, in our age, a methodological transcendentalism inspired by the phenomenological tradition is encountered and combatted by a naturalism that does not necessarily take reductivist forms. The examples of Alfred North Whitehead, Wilfried Sellars and David Chalmers indicate how a non-reductivist version of naturalism can be based on the interpretation of nature as a self-contained realm of natural laws. The controversy of methodological transcendentalism with such a naturalistic autarcicism cannot be simply decided on the ground of empirical evidence; nor can it be conceived of as an instance of a scientific paradigm shift. Therefore, it turns out to be useful to distinguish the agonistic relationship between divergent world projects from any conflict between rival scientific theories. This does not mean, however, that no rational arguments could be adduced in favour of a particular world project. Indeed, an interesting argument stemming from Husserl’s Ideas II can be elaborated in favour of a strictly methodological transcendentalism. Yet no argument settles the question definitively in such debates. Therefore, in terms forged in another context by William Connolly, an “agonistic respect” is required in order to make a more or less peaceful coexistence of divergent world projects possible.