Kant on Reason and Reality

seddon's picture
Submitted by seddon on Mon, 2011-09-26 13:32

It is a commonplace in Objectivism that Kant severed reason from reality. I would like to examine this notion.
In Stephen Hicks' (highly recommended) book, EXPLAINING POSTMODERNISM, he tries to explain that Kant’s very bad philosophy is based on two assumptions. In this post I will take a loot at the first assumption he discusses, viz., that “the knowing subject’s having an identity is an obstacle to cognition.” (37) This complaint against Kant was first introduced by Rand in her “we’re blind because we have eyes” line in FNI but made thematic by Kelley in ES where is was christened “the diaphanous model” (and yes it was inspired by lingerie.) The diaphanous model contains two theses: (1) consciousness has no identity and hence (2) is able to gain an “awareness of reality.” (This phrase appears three times in two pages, viz., 37-38.) Because consciousness has no identity, there is nothing to interfere with our awareness of reality as it really is.

A counter position follows by denying thesis (1). There are those philosophers who assert that consciousness has an identity, e.g., Rand and Kant. But this is no big deal for Rand because she doesn’t “assume that our sense organs should have nothing to do with our awareness of reality.” (37) And here is the big difference, claims Hicks, between Kant and Rand. Kant assumes, as I quoted above, that “the knowing subject’s having an identity is an obstacle to cognition.” (37) I think Hicks gets Kant exactly 180° wrong. I maintain that Kant holds the strict objectivist position on this issue, to wit; that consciousness has an identity and it is BECAUSE of that they we can have an awareness of reality. Why do I say this?

In the last paragraph of section 5 of the PROLEGOMENA Kant asks several question, the first two of which are important for the issue of diaphanousness. These two questions are, “How is pure mathematics possible? How is pure natural science [physics] possible? He answers these questions in the last paragraph of section 10 when he writes, “Geometry is based on the pure intuition of space. Arithmetic accomplishes its concept of number by the successive additions of units in time; and pure mechanics especially cannot obtain its concept of motion without employing the representation of time.” Both space and time, as forms of intuition, are part of the identity of consciousness. It is because we have these forms of intuition that we can have the knowledge we have in geometry, arithmetic and physics. Hence we can see how Kant thought that the identity of consciousness is not a BARRIER to an awareness of reality, but rather the MEANS to such an awareness of reality.

Fred


( categories: )

Ding an Sich

seddon's picture

"I think you are begging the question here; why is Physics in a state of disarray?"

I have already given you one site, (Joe Sachs' intro to Aristotle's PHYSICS) but let suggest another one: Lee Smolin's THE TROUBLE WITH PHYSICS. I might also mention Harriman's THE LOGICAL LEAP. And I fail to see how I'm begging the question. Could you elaborate?

"One only needs to look at non-euclidean geometry to attest to the merely contingent, and not necessary, a apriori feature of our intution of space."

But I have already dealt with this. But let me repeat. Space can still be an a priori intuition and yet give rise to several different theories of space on a theoretical level. Think of the underdetermination thesis in modern phil. of science.

"It seems as though the sciences can provide the ready answers to any philosopher's metaphysics."

This kind of positivism died in the mid 20th century. There is no reason to revisist it "unless it be on HISTORICAL grounds." Forgive the "tu quoque." A good guy to read on this is you want to cure yourself is Feyerabend. There is a whole world of questions that science is ill equipped to answer. Or try Popper. Science can't even give us knowledge. All we can get is a "woven web of guesses."

"And neither would re-interpreting it do so either, which is the case with Heidegger."

And you know this without even reading the re-interpretation. Wow. I'm impressed. Is this an a prioir structure of your mind? Tee hee.
And why assume that the ONLY function of philosophy is to solve problems? Maybe philosophy is to raise problems. That is certanly the attitude of seeing philosophy as part of a liberal education. Or maybe it is an exercise in THEORIA, ala Aristotle. etc.

Fred

Problems

ding_an_sich's picture

"Of course it matters. If physics is in a state of disarray, one can hardly point to it as a refutation of Kant."

I think you are begging the question here; why is Physics in a state of disarray?

Furthermore, looking at Kant's arguments qua Physics is but one way way to decimate his metaphysics. One only needs to look at non-euclidean geometry to attest to the merely contingent, and not necessary, a apriori feature of our intution of space. For Kant maintains that the only space that can be known a priori and in every possible world in which we exist, is the space that he gives. Since his space is, in some sense, Euclidean, it immediately crumbles once we introduce another space, which just so happens to be the one developed by Riemann, Hilbert, etc. during the 19th century. So we have provided a counterexample to Kant's space; it is not the only one we can intuit, and hence it is not necessary a priori. Ergo, Kant's metaphysical project fails, because now you no longer have pure inuitions to go along with pure concepts.

So really there is no reason to talk about Kant unless it be on HISTORICAL grounds. His philosophy does not solve any problems. And neither would re-interpreting it do so either, which is the case with Heidegger.

Wow. And I did not need to bring up conciousness, or any of the other garbage Rand talks about to dismantle Kant. It seems as though the sciences can provide the ready answers to any philosopher's metaphysics. Hell, maybe even point out that that philosopher was severely misguided in his assertions.

Seddon

Leonid's picture

Right, and we do deal with them as good as we could.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"Alas, she is dead."

Alas, so is Kant but neither fact should stop us from dealing with their philosophies. Right?
Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"It's Rand's analogy. Take it up with her."

Alas, she is dead. If she were alive she would probably say that this what is happening to the representation of reality when it processed by Kantian filters.

F L Light

seddon's picture

"Digestion brings forth energy. It is not the excretory process."

I'm sorry, but what is your point. Do you think Rand was talking of excretion? Or what?

Fred

Leonid

seddon's picture

"This analogy is wrong."

It's Rand's analogy. Take it up with her.

Fred

"Digestion brings forth

Leonid's picture

"Digestion brings forth energy."

Yes, but the analogy refers to the process of changing of food by digestion as in Kant's view the senses and mind change representation of the real nature of things.

Digestion

F L Light's picture

Digestion brings forth energy. It is not the excretory process .

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"Just as our stomach processes food in digestion, likewise our senses process the data coming in from reality"

This analogy is wrong . The process of digestion processes food and changes it to you know what. Are our senses and mind do the same thing to reality? I repeat: the main difference between Kant and Rand is that Kant claimed that we cannot know things as they are and Rand said, "Yes, we can!"

Ding an Sich

seddon's picture

“but I am sick of reading the Critique.”

But that's no argument. It is a confession of sickness. It may be time for you to move on to "greener" pastures.

“Does it matter if physics does not do so well in light of itself”

Of course it matters. If physics is in a state of disarray, one can hardly point to it as a refutation of Kant.

“Without pure intuitions, you cannot have pure concepts of the understanding.”

What is interesting here is that this is one of Kant’s points!! See the opening line in his “Introduction.”

“And it seems absurd to say, "Well my intuition of space gives me two separate and conflicting sets of axioms." I hope no one buys into that.”

I think almost all philosophers buy into that, at least in the form of the phrase that all theories are underdetermined and the same set of facts can and often do give rise to contradictory theories.

“Instead I want to point out that we are not really doing philosophy at all. And if this philosophy, then all the more reason to get out of it and do something practical.”

This sounds like a “one’s man’s meat is another man’s poison” kind of thing. I happen to love this stuff and if you don’t, well, there is a lot of things you can do instead, some of which may even be “practical.”

Fred

Leonid

seddon's picture

"If you don't like "distorted" I take it back and change it to "processed.""

Yes, I prefer "processed" and it is exactly the word Rand uses in her digestion metaphor. Just as our stomach processes food in digestion, likewise our senses process the data coming in from reality. Kant says exactly the same thing. But just as one would differentiate the contents of one's stomach from the food prior to digestion, likewise Kant distinguishes between the data provided to our senses and how we process that data. I don't see thsi difference. For both the senses are means, not distortions, or reality.

Fred

Seddon

ding_an_sich's picture

"“we should really stop talking about Kant. He does not do so well in light of modern physics.”

But physics doesn’t do well in the light of modern physics. See Joe Sachs’ introduction to Aristotle’s PHYSICS for the details. But even if we grant that Kant took hit from both physics and the non-Euclidean geometries, why not read CPR as mainly and fundamentally concerned with time. This is, of course, Heidegger’s way of reading him."

Does it matter if physics does not do so well in light of itself? No. And once it resolves it's own problems, which I am sure it will, Kant will still remain contradictory to it's findings.

I could read CPR in much the same manner that Heidegger did, but I am sick of reading the Critique.

"Northrop simply makes the categories optional rather than necessary. Poincare and Einstein agree. The categories are “free creations of the human mind.” Or what Russell called “theoretical constructs” or “incomplete symbols.” In addition, non-Euclidean geometries would only affect the transcendental and not the metaphysical exposition of space."

But even if the categories are optional, why does that matter? Clearly that is not the work of Kant. Kant wanted the Categories to be necessary a priori. That is, these Categories could not be otherwise and they are a priori. But I do not care for the Categories. All it takes is to undercut the inuitions of space and time to undercut the rest of Kant's thought. Without pure intuitions, you cannot have pure concepts of the understanding.

"“Do I intuit the world in a Euclidean or non-Euclidean way?”

Kant would say that all objects of external experience are either in front or behind or left or right or above or below you. Geometry is based on the fact that you intuit objects spatially. A clever person might even be able to save the transcendental exposition this way."

But our derivation of Geometry has to come from space. And it seems absurd to say, "Well my intuition of space gives me two separate and conflicting sets of axioms." I hope no one buys into that.

"“So really it is not a thing-in-itself. It is something that we know about and that's all we need for a counterexample against Kant.”

We know a lot about the thing-in-itself, Kant never denied that. What he denied is simply knowledge of the thing-in-itself as it is in itself. We have negative knowledge of it, we have practical knowledge of it, we have synthetic a posteriori knowledge of it, regulative knowledge of it etc. The only thing we don’t have of it is theoretical synthetic a priori knowledge of it. So you don’t counterexample Kant merely by showing that we have some kind of knowledge of it."

Yeah I figured that would not do very well because I remember Kant specifically talking about all the things concerning what the thing in itself is not.

"“I don't quite know, and I do not really care either.”

Sure you do. That is why you post. Please remember Socrates warning to Simmias and Cebes in the PHAEDO: Let us no become misologues."

What I do not care for is this banter about Kant, or Aristotle for that matter. It is a waste of time. Why not, instead of remaining deeply entrenched in philosophical dogmas, simply step back and think about the problems. All of this is not really philosophy. Instead it is something akin to the history of philosophy. It does not solve any philosophical problems, if there are any; and I do not post out of some misological disposition. Instead I want to point out that we are not really doing philosophy at all. And if this philosophy, then all the more reason to get out of it and do something practical.

Seddon

Leonid's picture

If you don't like "distorted" I take it back and change it to "processed." The main question is : whether or not our senses and our mind give to us the representation of the things as they are. Rand said "YES" and Kant said " NO" . This is true that both Rand and Kant believe that consciousness is non-diaphanous, but for Rand this doesn't prevent man to know the real nature of the world. In fact this is the only way which is open to man to get the true representation of the things as they are and the proof of it is that man is fit to survive. For Kant this is an epistemic hindrance. However he never explained how man survives in the environment without to know its true nature.

Leonid

seddon's picture

“the representation doesn't represent an object as it is but our conscious perception of it DISTORTED by our organs of sense and inherent structures of our mind..”

We have argued this often and you can’t win this argument by using loaded terms like “distorted.” Besides Kant already answered this. You want perception with the means of perception. That a contradictory demand.

“At least when you are stoned you know for sure that your experience is an illusion.”

Actually not. People tell me that think when their high their experience is absolutely the most real.

And again, you keep ignoring the diaphanous problem—and I would really like to get your thoughts on that. And both Rand and Kant believe that consciousness is non-diaphanous. Bet you wish you were stoned now. Tee hee.

Fred

Ding an Sich

seddon's picture

“we should really stop talking about Kant. He does not do so well in light of modern physics.”

But physics doesn’t do well in the light of modern physics. See Joe Sachs’ introduction to Aristotle’s PHYSICS for the details. But even if we grant that Kant took hit from both physics and the non-Euclidean geometries, why not read CPR as mainly and fundamentally concerned with time. This is, of course, Heidegger’s way of reading him.

Northrop simply makes the categories optional rather than necessary. Poincare and Einstein agree. The categories are “free creations of the human mind.” Or what Russell called “theoretical constructs” or “incomplete symbols.” In addition, non-Euclidean geometries would only affect the transcendental and not the metaphysical exposition of space.

“Do I intuit the world in a Euclidean or non-Euclidean way?”

Kant would say that all objects of external experience are either in front or behind or left or right or above or below you. Geometry is based on the fact that you intuit objects spatially. A clever person might even be able to save the transcendental exposition this way.

“So really it is not a thing-in-itself. It is something that we know about and that's all we need for a counterexample against Kant.”

We know a lot about the thing-in-itself, Kant never denied that. What he denied is simply knowledge of the thing-in-itself as it is in itself. We have negative knowledge of it, we have practical knowledge of it, we have synthetic a posteriori knowledge of it, regulative knowledge of it etc. The only thing we don’t have of it is theoretical synthetic a priori knowledge of it. So you don’t counterexample Kant merely by showing that we have some kind of knowledge of it.

“I don't quite know, and I do not really care either.”

Sure you do. That is why you post. Please remember Socrates warning to Simmias and Cebes in the PHAEDO: Let us no become misologues.

Fred

Leonid

seddon's picture

"Kant contrasts "intellectual" with "sensible" intuition (Anschauung) on the basis of the active or passive role of the object. Thus, while objects are presented to a (passive) sensible intuition, objects are created by an (active) intellectual intuition. To Kant himself, this meant that only God would have an intellectual intuition.”

Let me address this sentence. The first sentence is confused. Do you mean to say “’intellectual’ with ‘sensible’ intuition” –since this means he contrasts God’s intuition, which is intellectual, with man’s intuition, which is sensible. But you can’t mean that since in the rest of the sentence you talk about “’the active or passive role of the object,’ –but surely you mean subject—and this seems to refer only to man, not to God. Kant does contrast God’s mind with ours. He creates things as he perceives them, we are dependent, in a double sense on a preexisting reality. The understanding is passive vis-à-vis the materials provided by the senses that are themselves dependent on input from reality. The understanding is active in the sense that, after getting the material from the senses, it then organizes that material according to the categories. It does not CREATE objects.

Nor does this address my post vis-à-vis diaphanous consciousness.

Fred

You'd be quite right if you

Leonid's picture

You'd be quite right if you ignored the notion below, namely: the representation doesn't represent an object as it is but our conscious perception of it distorted by our organs of sense and inherent structures of our mind.. Such a representation could be identical to the thing in itself, could differ from it in the one single detail, or may have no relation whatsoever to the object as it is. We don't know and couldn't know in principle!. That what is a Kantian experience. Take it or leave it or live with it, knowing that in fact you don't know and cannot know anything for real. If I were a Kantian I'd become a drug addict long time ago. At least when you are stoned you know for sure that your experience is an illusion.

You'd quite right if you

Leonid's picture

cancell

You know...

ding_an_sich's picture

we should really stop talking about Kant. He does not do so well in light of modern physics. Also, regarding the pure intuition of space, Kant assumes, if I am not mistaken, that space is Euclidean. Well, we also have non-Euclidean Geometry with it's own set of axioms. Is this also necessary a priori as well? Do I intuit the world in a Euclidean or non-Euclidean way? Or can I do both at the same time?

Also, here is another interesting exercise. It is a bit of a rought sketch, but it goes something like this:

Let's say we have an object that is being intuited through the pure a priori intuitions of space and time; now, we know that the object itself is not known as it is in-itself. We do know that the object is acting on my senses. Furthermore, we can express a relation between the thing in-itself. Let us call the thing x, and let us call the subject (which can be any subject, you, me, Leonid, the present king of France, etc.) y. Well then, there will be a relation between the thing x and the subect y, which can be expressed as xRy or Rxy. So, as it turns out, we do know something about the thing in-itself, and hence, there really is not such a problem after all. We know at least one thing about the thing-in-itself, namely, that it acts on my sensations. So really it is not a thing-in-itself. It is something that we know about and that's all we need for a counterexample against Kant.

Jeez, the philosophical problems keep popping up. Or are these really just psychological and physical problems? Perhaps pseudo-problems? Or really just misunderstandings with language? I don't quite know, and I do not really care either.

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"Either the object alone must make the representation possible, or the representation alone must make the object possible [Entweder wenn der Gegenstand die Vorstellung, oder diese den Gegenstand allein möglich macht]. In the former case, this relation is only empirical, and the representation is never possible a priori. This is true of appearances, as regard that [element] in them which belongs to sensation. In the latter case, representation in itself does not produce its object in so far as existence is concerned, for we are not here speaking of its causality by means of the will." [§14, A92, B124-125, Norman Kemp Smith, St. Martin's Press, 1929, 1965, p.125]

In other words the representation of the object is generated by our consciousness which has build-in filters (categories) . In such a way we never could know whether or not the representation has any actual connection with the features or properties of the represented object. Since, according to Kant, the knowledge of space, geometry and maths is apriori, it is not based on any representation, and therefore disconnected from reality

"Kant contrasts "intellectual" with "sensible" intuition (Anschauung) on the basis of the active or passive role of the object. Thus, while objects are presented to a (passive) sensible intuition, objects are created by an (active) intellectual intuition. To Kant himself, this meant that only God would have an intellectual intuition.

Read more: http://www.meta-religion.com/P...

Seddon

Kasper's picture

Thanks heaps for putting us all onto this book. I'm reading some chapters online and they are absolutely fantastic. The clarity of his thinking is extremely admirable.

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