regulative idea

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Regulative ideas are to be distinguished from constitutive ideas. A constitutive idea, or hypothesis, is a statement of what actually happens in reality. For example if we say that an organisation actually is a system operating to fulfil some real purpose, then we are putting forward a constitutive idea. We are saying that the organisation really exists and it is really fulfilling some real purpose. However, if we put forward an hypothesis in which we are thinking about an organisation 'as if' it were a system operating 'as if' it had a purpose, then we are thinking in terms of regulative ideas. Obviously Kant would not talk about constitutive ideas because he held that we could never know reality in itself.

The scientist has a mind consisting of categories of time, space, causal links and the capacity for forming 'as if' hypotheses, which enable him or her to formulate hypotheses about the appearances of reality and then test them.

Source: Stacey, 2007, pp 30