Astrophysicists maintain the idea that time and space came about with the Big Bang. Is there any way in which this notion can be related to Kant's concept which states that time and space are not objectively real, but that both are transcendental conditions of the perception of objects in terms of phenomena? Yours, Stephan R. (Aachen, Germany)

First, it should be noted that not all astrophysicists agree that time and space began with the Big Bang. There may be no meaningful way to measure or study space and time before the Big Bang, but that does not necessarily mean that there is no such thing. Scientists can agree on empirical findings and on the theories that best predict further findings without agreeing about the nature of the reality that underlies those findings. (This is especially clear in the case of Quantum Mechanics, where several competing interpretations have scientific adherents.)

Kant claimed that an entirely empty space, and an entirely empty time, are perfectly conceivable. So if the reason behind believing that space and time began with the Big Bang is the belief that the intelligibility of space and time depend on the presence of objects in space and time, he would disagree. Indeed, this view is the explicit target of several of his arguments in the Transcendental Aesthetic of the Critique of Pure Reason.

On the other hand, (in the Antinomies of the Critique of Pure Reason and elsewhere) Kant also warned against the attempt to decide whether space and time are finite or infinite. That is not a decidable question according to him. So I imagine that he would be sympathetic to those who simply refuse to speculate about space and time before the Big Bang.

Finally, the claim that space and time are transcendental conditions on the perception of objects does not by itself require a denial of their objectivity. We may need to experience objects in space and time in order to experience anything at all, but that leaves open the possibility that space and time also exist quite apart from our experience. Kant does sometimes assert that space and time are forms of experience that are imposed by us; but he also offers powerful arguments against the view that objects do not exist independently of us in space and time; how to reconcile these two claims is a disputed area of Kant scholarship.

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