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1 Introduction Immanuel Kant revolutionized philosophy. What prompted this revolution in Kant¶s mind was his profound concern over a problem that the philosophy of his day could not deal with successfully or adequately. The elements of his problem are suggested by his famous comment that ³two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe«the starry heavens above and the moral law within´. Kant is sometimes introduced as the philosopher who synthesized rationalism and empiricism. This does not mean that Kant simply adopted the central views of both schools of thought, for even within the empiricists and rationalists, there are major disagreements. Also, there are fundamental disagreements between the two schools of thought; while the rationalists hold that humans possess some ideas that are not derived from any experience, the empiricist insist that all our ideas must be derived solely from experience. Here, Kant selected certain doctrines of the rationalists and certain doctrines of the empiricists and put them together into his own philosophy. He profoundly transformed those views themselves, in such a way that their meaning and implications were deeply altered, and by rejecting both rationalism and empiricism, he incorporates elements of rationalist and empiricist thought into a genuinely new approach, which he called critical philosophy. The rationalists all held that humans can have knowledge of non-empirical reality ± a realm of things that can exist but yet cannot be perceived by the senses or accessed by introspection. They all maintained that we can have knowledge of certain entities (such as God, immortal souls and substances underlying thing¶s properties) that are not objects of any possible experience, that is, that can never be presented to us either in sense perception or in
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge introspection. Kant rejected this claim and he sought to show that there can be no human knowledge at all of any non-empirical reality. In this respect, Kant is as much of an empiricist as David Hume. Although Kant rejects the claim that humans can have knowledge about any nonempirical reality, he does not deny that the existence of such a reality is a legitimate topic of human concern. He believes that there are three specific topics of rationalist metaphysics that are legitimate, important and even inevitable topics of human concern ± God, immortality of the human soul and human freedom. His position here is that granted that we cannot know whether God, immortality of the soul and freedom exists, we may believe that they do. This was in his attempt to place religion outside the vicious attack of reason. ³I have found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith´. The fundamental principle of empiricism is that all our ideas must come from experience, that is, from sense perception or the introspective awareness of our own states of mind. Kant does not accept this principle, for he sees the development of empiricism from Locke to Hume, and especially Hume¶s work, as showing that the principle leads to skepticism ± to the impossibility, not only or rationalist metaphysics but also of scientific knowledge and everyday µcommonsense¶ knowledge. Kant upholds the possibility of scientific and commonsense knowledge against Hume¶s skeptical empiricism. In his attempt to liberate science form the skepticism of Hume, Kant posits that there are special concepts that do not originate in experience but have what he calls µobjective validity¶ ± ³Pure Concepts´ or ³Pure Categories of Understanding´ as Kant names them. Kant¶s basic argument here is that all our knowledge begins with experience but is not derived from it.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge After a thorough study of the works of Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza (Continental rationalists) on one hand, and Locke, Berkeley and Hume (British empiricists) on the other hand as well as other philosophers before him, Kant¶s study of philosophy and metaphysics eventually led him to ask one question: ³How do we know that metaphysics, as a pure science, is valid?´. This question, and his search for the ability to do logically valid philosophy, led Kant to publish one of his two most famous works, ³The Critique of Pure Reason´. In this volume where his epistemology lies, Kant deals with questions about how science is possible, what makes mathematics work, and whether the same reasoning can be applied successfully to philosophy, specifically metaphysics. His answers to these questions led a new groundwork for philosophy and gave startling insights into how we perceive the world around us and how nature works.
Immanuel Kant¶s Life and Works Immanuel Kant was born on April 22, 1724, in Konigsberg, East Prussia, Germany. He
was the second son, and the sixth of nine children, born to Johann Georg Kant, a humble saddler (or leather-worker) of very modest means, and Anna Regina Reuter, daughter of a member of the same saddler's guild.1 He was the child of poor but devout followers of Pietism, a Lutheran revival movement stressing love and good works, simplicity of worship, and individual access to God. Kant's promise was recognized by the Pietist minister Franz Albert Schultz, and he received a free education at the Pietist gymnasium. At sixteen, Kant entered the University of Königsberg, where he studied mathematics, physics, philosophy, theology, and classical Latin literature. His leading teacher was Martin Knutzen (1713-51), who introduced him to both Wolffian philosophy and Newtonian physics, and who inspired some of Kant's own later views
Graham Bird, p. 10.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge and philosophical independence by his advocacy of physical influx against the pre-established harmony of Leibniz and Wolff. Following from his father's death in 1746, Kant left the University to support himself as tutor, serving in households near Konigsberg for the next eight years. 2Although Kant began lecturing at the University of Königsberg in the fall of 1755, he was practically destitute, depending on fees from tutoring and lectures. After several unsuccessful applications for professorships in logic and metaphysics, he received his first salaried position in 1766 as assistant librarian at the palace library not until 1770, at the age of forty-six, was Kant awarded the professorship he desired. In 1747 he completed his first work, Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces (published in 1749), in which he attempted to resolve a dispute between Leibnizians and Cartesians over theories of physical forces. Until the 1760s Kant was a devotee of Leibniz through the teachings of Christian Wolff. In 1768 he published the short treatise On the Differentiation of Directions in Space. Kant took his first step toward the critical philosophy; the theory presented in his three Critiques, in his Inaugural Dissertation of 1770, On the Form and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World. Here he radically distinguished the sensibility from the intellect, arguing that the former provides knowledge only of phenomenal appearances. Nevertheless, he retained Leibniz view that the intellect has access to noumena, the reality behind the appearances. Later, Kant had come to see that he needed a more systematic treatment of the intellect, in both its theoretical and practical activities.3 In fact he did not produce the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason until 1781, almost twelve years after conceiving the project. Unfortunately the work initially drew negative responses, both for its obscurity and its conclusions. Eventually opinion
GUYER, PAUL (1998, 2004). Kant, Immanuel. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/DB047SECT14 3 Jill Vance B, p. 4
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge shifted, and the Critique began to exert its influence in Germany and elsewhere. In 1786 Kant was made a member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences; in 1794 he was inducted into the Petersburg Academy, and in 1798 into the Siena Academy. Once engrossed in developing his critical philosophy, Kant became a recluse and led a celibate life throughout his lifetime. This is the only explanation for his enormous output from 1781 to his death in 1804. These are the major works in that period: The Critique of Pure Reason, first edition (1781), The Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783), The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), The Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786), The Critique of Pure Reason, second edition (1787), The Critique of Practical Reason (1788), The Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790), The Metaphysics of Morals (1797), Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (1798).4 During this period Kant also wrote many shorter essays, among them are The Idea for a Universal History with Cosmopolitan Intent (1784), What is Enlightenment? (1784), Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone (1793), On Eternal Peace (1795), and The Conflict of the Faculties (1798). On October 8, 1803, Kant became seriously ill for the first time. He died four months later, on February 12, 1804. He died at the age of eighty.
Kant¶s Preliminary Clarifications on The Kinds of Knowledge and Judgments Immanuel way of critical philosophy began by distinguishing between the kinds of
knowledge. Before him, philosophers had identified the a priori knowledge and a posteriori knowledge and had been divided over them as to the sure way of knowledge acquisition. The rationalists insisted that man¶s knowledge is a priori and of an analytic judgment, as against the empiricists who claimed that man¶s knowledge was a posteriori and of a synthetic judgment.
The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia to Philosophy, ed. Edward Craig, p. 491
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge Kant¶s terminology rests on two different contrasts ± one between analytic and synthetic judgments, and one between a priori and a posteriori knowledge. In practice, with two sets of distinctions, it looks as if there could be four kinds of judgments: analytic a priori, analytic a posteriori, synthetic a priori, and synthetic a posteriori. In fact, however, only three kinds of judgments are possible. At A7/B11 Kant discusses the possible combinations and explains the problematic character of synthetic a priori judgments. First he notes that there are no analytic a posteriori judgments. ³For it would be absurd to ground an analytic judgment on experience´, since determining their truth values requires appealing only to logical form or meanings of terms.5 From here, I would proceed give an account the possible combinations Kant accepted.
2.3.1 A Priori Knowledge The term µa priori¶ means µknown prior to experience´ or ³known independently of experience´6. For Immanuel Kant, humans possess a faculty that is capable of giving us knowledge without an appeal to experience. He agreed with the empiricists that our knowledge begins with experience, but he added that ³though our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it all arises out of experience´. This was the point Hume had missed, for Hume had said that all our knowledge consists of a series of impressions, which we derive through our senses. Yet we clearly possess a kind of knowledge that does not arise out of experience even though it begins with experience.7 Examples of a priori knowledge include, µevery change must have a cause¶, µall bachelors are unmarried men¶ Kant went further to assert that examples of a priori knowledge are found in the sciences, particularly mathematics. ³Mathematical
Jill Vance Buroker, Kant¶s Critique of Pure Reason: An Introduction, p. 31. Georges Dicker, Kant¶s theory of knowledge; an analytic introduction, p. 7 7 Samuel Stumpf, Philosophy History And Problems, p. 303.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge propositions«are always judgments a priori, not empirical; because they carry with them necessity, which cannot be derived from experience (B 14-15)´8. Kant offers a criterion for identifying a priori knowledge: strict universality and necessity. ³Necessity and strict universality are therefore secure indications of an a priori cognition, and also belong together inseparably´(B 4).9 Necessary truths are just those that obtain in all possible worlds; the universal truths are those that express generalizations about all entities of a particular kind. To see how this criterion is supposed to work, consider the proposition ³every even number is divisible by two´. Its truth is necessary because there cannot be any counterexamples, and strictly universal because there are not only µare not¶ but there µcannot be¶ any exceptions to it. Strict universality entails necessity, but not vice versa, and that necessity is the fundamental criterion. Kant¶s adoption of necessity as the fundamental criterion of the a priori knowledge accords with his often-repeated and important claim that no proposition that rests on experience can be necessary. As he puts it: ³Experience tells us, indeed, what is, but not that it must necessarily be so, and not otherwise´. (A 1)10. Having clarified the a priori knowledge, an epistemological term which has to do with the way in which a proposition can be known, Kant went further to assert that all a priori knowledge are analytic. The term analytic has to do with what makes a proposition true or false. In analytic judgments, the predicate is already contained in the concept of the subject. The judgment that µall bachelors are unmarried men¶ is an analytic judgment, for the predicate µunmarried men¶ is already contained in the subject µbachelors¶. Because the predicate is already implicit in the subject of an analytic judgment, such a predicate does not give us any new knowledge about the
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. by Norman Kemp Smith, (New York: St. Martin¶s Press, 1965), p. 52. 9 Paul Guyer, The Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy, p. 37 10 Ibid., p. 9 ± paul guyer, the Cambridge companion to kant
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge subject and hence, tautological. An analytic judgment is true only because of the logical relation of the subject and predicate. To deny an analytic judgment would involve a logical contradiction.11
2.3.2 A Posterior Knowledge The term µa posteriori¶ means µknown posterior to experience¶, or µknown dependently on experience¶12. The phrase µcan be known only by experience¶ requires some clarification, for it does not mean, as one might think, µcan be known just by experience¶ or µcan be known by experience alone¶. Kant had rejected the Humean doctrine that all our knowledge is derived from experience and so to accept the later explanation would be a contradiction. By a posteriori knowledge, Kant referred to knowledge which begins from experience and has roots in them. At least some a posteriori statements require reasoning, well as experience, in order to be known; for example, our knowledge of scientific laws rests not only on observations but also on complex inferences or extrapolations from those observations. This point implies that all knowledge requires conceptualization, which is a form of thought that philosophers often contrast with the raw data of experience. Examples of a posteriori knowledge include µthe building is tall¶, µthe car is white in colour¶, µall bodies are heavy¶. ³There can be no doubt that all our knowledge begins from experience. For how should our faculty of knowledge be awakened into action did not objects affecting our senses partly of themselves produce representations, partly arouse the activity of our understanding to compare these representations, and, by
Samuel Stumpf, P. 304. Georges Dicker, Kant¶s theory of knowledge; an analytic introduction, p. 7
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge combining or separating them, work up the raw material of the sensible impressions into that knowledge of objects which is entitled experience? In the order of time, therefore, we have no knowledge antecedent to experience, and with experience all our knowledge begins´13 At this, point Kant brings a new element into philosophy. Before him, the empiricists held that all a posteriori knowledge are synthetic judgments. A synthetic judgment is one whose predicate is not contained in the notion of the subject. Thus, in a synthetic judgment the predicate adds something new to our concept of the subject and thus gives us a new and productive knowledge; it is not tautological and denying the truth of a synthetic judgment would not involve a logical contradiction. Kant¶s point of variance with the empiricists is on their insistence that µall posteriori knowledge are synthetic¶. Rather, Kant argues that synthetic judgments are for the most part a posteriori, that is, they occur after an experience of observation. He posits that besides analytic a priori, and synthetic a posteriori, there exists the synthetic a priori. And it was by the possibility of the synthetic a priori that Kant sought to show how knowledge is possible.
2.3.3 Synthetic A Priori Kant¶s immediate target is the division, found in Leibniz and Hume, of all our knowledge into two fundamental classes, knowledge that is necessary and a priori, and knowledge that is contingent and a posteriori. Leibniz divides knowledge into truths of reason (derivable from logical principles and so necessary) and truths of fact, contingent propositions known through experience. He classifies metaphysical knowledge as a truth of reason, along with geometry and
Epistemology: Contemporary Readings, ed. Michael Huemer, p. 142 citing Immanuel Kant Critique of Pure Reason
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge mathematics. Correspondingly, Hume divides knowledge into relations of ideas (which can be discovered µby the mere operation of thought¶ and include geometry and mathematics) and matters of fact, distinguished by the conceivability of their contradictory. Hume bases his critique of causality and general repudiation of metaphysics on the impossibility of assigning metaphysical propositions to either class (causal relations are not relation of ideas, since the contradictory of any causal judgment is always conceivable, and necessity is not given in senseexperience). Kant aims to challenge the bipartite picture of knowledge and thereby undermine both Leibniz and Hume¶s conclusions regarding metaphysics. Kant¶s first step was in his formulation of the following puzzle: ³If metaphysical judgments are a priori, how is it possible for them to extend our knowledge, as they are intended to do?´14 Any extension of our knowledge would seem to require experience (Hume¶s view being that, for that very reason, metaphysics cannot extend our knowledge). With a view to answering this question, Kant introduces a new distinction between analytic and synthetic judgments. Leibniz and Hume would expect all necessary and a priori judgments to be analytic, and all contingent and empirical judgments to be synthetic; their accounts of the sources of knowledge allow no alternative. Unlike Hume and Leibniz¶s distinction, Kant however maintains that the two distinctions do not correspond. Metaphysical judgments, whilst being a priori, are not analytic but synthetic. Consider µevery event has a cause¶. Because it is necessary, it must be a priori. But it is not analytic, for the concept of the predicate is not contained in the concept of the subject; the concept of an event does not contain that of an effect. This makes the judgment synthetic. To say that metaphysical judgments are synthetic a priori is to say that they cannot be derived from either logic (since they are synthetic) or sense experience (since they are a priori).
A. C. Grayling ed., Philosophy 2: Further through the subject, (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 1998) Sebastian Gardner, p. 580
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge Kant argues that mathematical propositions and geometry are synthetic a priori judgments. Arithmetical judgments such as 7+5=12 cannot be regarded as analytic; the concept of the sum of 7 and 5 does not contain the concept of the number 12; a synthesis is required to establish their connection. The same synthetic status is assigned by Kant to geometrical judgments, such as that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. It is on this ground, that Kant admits the possibility of a synthetic a priori judgment in general and it follows that in order to account for the possibility of mathematics and geometry, we must reject Leibniz and Hume¶s division of knowledge into two fundament types, and install in its place a tripartite division, the third class consisting of synthetic a priori judgments. Metaphysics is not, therefore, derivable from logic, as Leibniz supposed; but nor can Hume have been right to reject it on the basis that it is grounded neither on logic nor on sense-experience.15 Synthetic a priori judgments are prior to experience, yet they are not tautological. They cannot be contradicted by experience, they are not derived from experience, yet they give information; we learn something new from them. Thus they are both a priori and synthetic.16
Kant¶s Copernican Revolution Kant solved the problem of the synthetic a priori judgment by substituting a new
hypothesis concerning the relation between the mind and its objects. It was clear to him that if we assume, as Hume did, that the mind, in forming its concepts, must confirm to its objects, there could be no solution to the problem. Hume¶s theory would work for our idea of things a posteriori. But a synthetic a priori judgment cannot be validated by experience; if I say, for example, that every straight line is the shortest way between two points, I certainly cannot say
A. C. Grayling ed., Philosophy 2: Further through the subject, (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 1998) Sebastian Gardner, p. 581-582 16 Joseph Omoregbe, Epistemology: A Systematic And Historic Study, (), p. 33
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge that I have had an experience of every possible straight line. If as Hume believed, the mind is passive and simply receives information only from the objects, it follows that the mind would have information only about that particular object. But the mind makes judgments about all objects, even those that it has not yet experienced, and in addition, objects do in fact behave in the future according to these judgments we make about them. This scientific knowledge gives us reliable information about the nature of things. But since this knowledge, which is both synthetic and a priori, could not be explained on the assumption that the mind conforms to its objects (as in the case of how it could conform to every straight line«every change), Kant was forced to try a new hypothesis regarding the relation between the mind and its objects. Kant¶s new hypothesis was that it is the objects that confirm to the operations of the mind, and not the other way around. He came to this hypothesis with a spirit of experimentation, consciously following the example of Copernicus, who, µfailing of satisfactory progress in explaining the movements of the heavenly bodies on the supposition that they all revolved round the spectator, he tried whether he might not have better success if he made the spectator to revolve and the stars to remain at rest´.17 Seeing an analogy here with his own problem, Kant says, Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects. But all our attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regard to them a priori by means of concepts have, on this assumption, ended in failure. We must, therefore, make trial whether we may not have more success in the tasks of metaphysics, if we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge«. If intuition must conform to the constitution of
Samuel Stumpf, p. 307
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge the objects, I do not see how we could know anything of the latter a priori; but if the object (as object of the senses) must conform to the constitution of our faculty of intuition, I have no difficulty in conceiving such a possibility.18 Kant did not mean to say that the mind creates objects, nor did he mean that the mind possesses innate ideas. His Copernican revolution consisted rather in his saying that the mind brings something to the objects it experiences. With Hume, Kant agreed that our knowledge begins with experience, but unlike Hume, Kant saw the mind as an active agent doing something with the objects it experiences. The mind, says Kant, is structured in such a way that it imposes its way of knowing upon its objects. By its very nature, the mind actively organizes our experiences. That is, thinking involves not only receiving impressions through our senses but also making judgments about what we experience. Just as a person who wears coloured glasses sees everything in that colour, so every human being, having the faculty of thought, inevitably thinks about things in accordance with the natural structure of the mind.
Transcendental Aesthetic Kant¶s transcendental aesthetic contains his doctrine of the human sense perception. The
senses include, for Kant, not only the five outer senses (the eyes for sight, ears for hearing, nose for smell, skin for touch and tongue for taste) but also the inner sense (imagination, memory, common sense, and instinct)19. In conscious opposition to the dominant rationalist and empiricist tenets of his day, Kant agreed that human beings have distinct sensory and intellectual faculties. But in opposition to Aristotle and the Scholastics he insisted that neither can yield knowledge on
Immanuel Kant, Op. cit., p. 22. Kant¶s empirical account of human cognition
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge its own. For Kant, our senses are insufficient for the perception of particular objects. Perception only occurs when the information acquired by the senses is recognized as an instance of an object of a certain kind. This necessarily involves a concept (the concept of a kind of object) as well as an act of judging that the sensory information falls under the concept. Kant insists that apart from this characteristically discursive operation, which invokes concepts and hence involves the intellect, we can still be affected by objects and can still have sensory experiences, but insofar as we do not categorize these experiences, we know nothing. ³Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind´.20 Consequently, rather than identify the senses and the intellect as the capacities to know particulars and universals, Kant identified them by how they work. His critical theory begins with a fundamental distinction between a lower-order capacity to receive impressions through the senses, and higher-order capacities of the intellect and imagination to process this data. Broadly, this is the distinction between the sensibility and the intellect. The senses are passive. They only supply us with representations insofar as they are affected. The intellect, in contrast, is active or spontaneous.21 Before making this argument on pure intuition, Kant defines the key technical terms: intuition, sensibility, sensation, appearance, the distinctions between matter and form of intuition, and between outer sense and inner sense. In whatever way and through whatever means a cognition may relate to objects, that through which it relates immediately to them«is intuition. This, however, takes place only insofar as the object is given to us; but this in turn, [at least for us humans] is possible only if it affects the mind in a certain way. The capacity
Jill Vance Buroker, p. 37 citing Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason Graham Bird ed. A Companion to Kant, p. 141.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge (receptivity) to acquire representations through the way in which we are affected by objects is called sensibility. Objects are«thought through the understanding and from it arise concepts. But all thought, whether straightaway (directe) or through a detour (indirect), must«ultimately be related to intuitions, thus, in our case, to sensibility, since there is no other way in which objects can be given to us.22 Having defined and explained the terms ± intuition, sensibility, sensation, appearance, and the matter and form of intuition in the opening chapter of this long essay, I would proceed with Kant¶s distinction and characteristics of the outer and inner sense. From his distinction between the matter and form of appearances, Kant argues that while the matter of appearances (which is what in appearance corresponds to sensation) is a posteriori, its form must be a priori. Consequently, there must be intuitions that do not contain anything belonging to sensation and provide the form of appearances; these are pure intuitions, as opposed to empirical intuitions. The form of appearances is, Kant tells us, space and time. He classifies space as an outer sense and time as an inner sense. While the outer sense is our ability to be affected by objects distinct from us, the inner sense is our capacity to be affected by the states of ourselves. He claims that we can think of space and time as continuing to exist even were everything else in the world annihilated, but that nothing else can be represented without being located somewhere in space, with the exception of my own mental states, which must occur at some time. From this he inferred that the representation of space and time is necessary for the
Immanuel Kant, Op. cit., p. 65.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge representation of other things, but that the representation of other things is not reciprocally necessary for that of space and time.23 Since the function of the senses is to receive representations, and space and time are orders in which various elements can be disposed, it follows that our senses must be so constituted as to receive representations over space and time, and hence that space and time must be the µforms¶ of sensory experience. What items are disposed where is of course not something that can be anticipated (a priori). But that the space they are disposed in has a certain geometry and the time a certain topology is something that can be known, because to know that is simply to know how our own senses are constituted, not what things there are in the world outside us.24
2.5.1 Space: The Form of Outer Sense Kant holds that space is not an empirical concept that has been drawn from outer experiences. The concept of space cannot be arrived at by pilling up concepts of spatial characteristics. We could not in fact acquire any representation of space by means of experience because any representation of sensations as spatially related already presupposes a capacity for spatial representation. He also argues that space is a necessary representation, a priori, which underlies all outer intuitions. It µunderlies¶ all outer intuitions because µone can never form a representation of the absence of space, though one can very well conceive that no objects are to be found in it¶.25 It is therefore the condition for the possibility of appearances. That is, no objects can be represented except as in space (although Kant accepted that we can think of an
Graham Bird (ed.), A Companion to Kant, p. 144. Graham Bird, ibid., p. 147. 25 Paul Guyer (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Kant and modern philosophy, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006) p.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge µempty space¶). Since space is required for the very possibility of appearances (of objects), it is a necessary representation whose spatial and temporary structure doesn¶t arise from the intellect. As a condition of appearances, it is not a determination that is dependent on appearances; hence is not empirical but a priori. The many outer objects and the many parts of space neither exemplify space nor fall under it, but rather are in it. ³Therefore, the original representation of space is an a priori intuition, not a concept´.26 He goes on further to say that the representation of space is an intuition, a singular representation. ³Space is not a discursive or, as is said, general concept of relations of things in general, but a pure intuition´.27 There¶s only one space ± ³if one speaks of many spaces, one understands by that only parts of one and the same unique space ± and the concept of space is a basic one´.28 It is not a representation of a definite description that is mediated by the concept of a kind or sort of thing. Hence, it¶s not µdiscursive¶ in the sense of having the kind of internal conceptual complexity that could make it possible for propositions of geometry in principle analyzable down to the analytic form.
2.5.2 Time: The Form of Inner Sense In essence, Kant¶s account of time exactly parallels his account of space. In his conceptual analysis of the concept of time, he argues, first, that the representation of time holds universally and necessarily of experience, and so is not derived from experience but rather given a priori, and, second, that it is not a discursive or general concept but rather an intuition, a singular representation. Like space, time is a necessary unitary intuition and has only one dimension, and that different times are not simultaneous but successive. This last principle, Kant adds, is particularly important, because it makes comprehensible the possibility of an alteration.
Immanuel Kant, Op. cit., p. 70. Immanuel Kant, Op. cit., p. 69. 28 Ibid., p. 66.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge An alteration of a combination of contradictorily opposed predicates in one and the same object, for instance, the being and the not-being of one and the same thing in one and the same place. Only in time can to contradictory opposed predicates meet in one and the same object, namely, one after the other. Thus our concept of time explains the possibility of that body of a synthetic a priori knowledge which is exhibited in the general doctrine of motion, and which is by no unfruitful.29 Kant concludes, then, that, just as in the case of space, time is neither a (Newtonian) container nor a (Leibnizian) collection of empirical relationships among events, but the form of inner sense. In his very words, ³Time is nothing other than the form of inner sense, that is, of the intuition of our self and inner state´. Since our µinner state¶ includes all our representations of µouter things¶, however, time turns out to be an a priori condition of all appearance in general, µthe immediate condition of inner intuition and thereby also the mediate condition of outer appearances¶.30
2.5.3 Space and Time as Transcendentally Ideal and Empirically Real Kant argues for the transcendental ideality and empirical reality of space and time. From the fact that space and time are pure intuitions, Kant concludes that they are merely forms of the subject¶s intuition. This is the basis of the transcendental ideality and empirical reality of space and time.
Immanuel Kant, Op. cit., p. 76. Immanuel Kant, Op. cit., p. 77.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge In the concluding sections of the Transcendental Aesthetic, Kant claims that space and time do not represent properties or relations of things in themselves; that they do not provide information about properties or relations of things in themselves. From here, he argues that space and time must be subjective conditions of sensibility, or the forms of outer and inner sense. From the above conclusions, Kant develops his theory; that space and time are transcendentally ideal means that they are nothing more than conditions of human sensibility. In reference to space Kant states the point as follows: We can accordingly speak of space, extended things, and so on, only from the human standpoint. If we depart from the subjective condition under which alone we can acquire outer intuition, namely that through which we may be affected by objects, then the representation of space signifies nothing at all. This predicate is attributed to things only insofar as they appear to us, i.e., are objects of sensibility.31 He makes similar remarks about time. But if space and time are only subjective representations, then all spatiotemporal appearances are likewise subjective in the same sense. Kant spells out this consequence in his General Observations: We have therefore wanted to say that all our intuition is nothing but the representation of appearance; that the things that we intuit are not in themselves what we intuit them to be, nor are their relations so constituted in themselves as they appear to us; and that if we remove our own subject or even only the subjective
Jill Vance Buroker, Kant¶s Critique of Pure Reason: An Introduction, p. 51 citing Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge constitution of the senses in general, then all constitution, all relation of objects in space and time, indeed space and time themselves would disappear, and as appearances they cannot exist in themselves, but only in us.32 The transcendental ideality of space and time means that were there no perceivers with these forms of intuition, space and time would not exist; neither, consequently, would the spatiotemporal properties of things. It follows that things in themselves, whatever they are, are non-spatial and non-temporal. Here Kant clearly rejects the theory of absolute space and time, according to which (in Kant¶s terms) space and time are transcendentally real, since they exist independently of perceivers. Despite their ideality, however, Kant also maintains that space and time are empirically real. By this he means that they are not illusory, that the objects that appear to us really are given in space and time. Since Kant as argued that space and time are necessary features of appearances, it follows that all objects of intuition are temporal, and all outer objects are spatial. He also describes space and time as objectively valid, as in his conclusions on time, ´Our assertions accordingly teach the empirical reality of time, i.e., objective validity in regard to all objects that may ever be given to our senses. And since our intuition is always sensible, no object can ever be given to us in experience that would not belong under the condition of time´. Here there is a connection between objectively validity and truth values; that space and time are objective valid implies that we can make true or false judgments about them as well as about spatiotemporal objects. In connecting empirical reality with objective validity, Kant relativizes the notions of an object and objective truth. Empirical realism entails that what counts as an
Ibid., , p. 51 citing Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge object for us, and therefore what counts as objective truth for us, is relative to our cognitive capacities. The Aesthetic establishes those conditions from the side of human sensibility while in the Transcendental Analytic Kant examines the contribution of the understanding to the objective conditions of cognition.33
Transcendental Analytic In the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant breaks a
new ground, arguing that the most fundamental categories of thought as well as the forms of perception are themselves human products which are necessary conditions of the possibility of experience. All our cognitive achievements, and so, in particular, our experiences of the natural world, arise from the conjoint exercise of two complementary faculties, ³the reception of representations (the receptivity of impressions)´ issuing in ³intuitions´, through which objects are ³given´, and the ³faculty for cognizing an object by means of these representations (spontaneity of concepts)´, through which objects are ³thought´. If we will call the receptivity of our mind to receive representations insofar as it is affected in some way sensibility, then on the contrary the faculty for bringing forth representations itself, or the spontaneity of cognition, is the understanding«. Neither of these properties is to be preferred to the other. Without sensibility no object would be given to us, and without understanding none would be thought. Thoughts without concepts are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind. It is thus just as necessary to make the
Jill Vance Buroker, p. 60
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge mind¶s concepts sensible, as it is to make our intuitions understandable.34 Kant here makes clear his disagreements with both Descartes and Hume. Contrary to Descartes¶ views, Kant concludes that reason alone cannot yield any sort of knowledge of the natural world, that is, the world that we encounter in experience. Without sensory intuitions to give our concepts empirical content, our thoughts could not be about the world. They would be ³empty´. But experience is also, as Hume thought, simply a matter of passively receiving sensory impressions. Rather, we ourselves contribute something to both aspects of our experience: On the sensory content of our intuitions, we impose a spatio-temporal form, and to the cognitions of objects and events in the world evoked by those sensory impressions, we contribute a conceptual structure without which those intuitions would be µblind¶.
2.6.1 The Categories of Thought and the Forms of Intuition Just as he earlier undertook to identify the contributions to our experience which flow from our capacity for sensible intuition, Kant now proposes to identify the contributions to our experience which flow from our capacity for conceptual thought. His point of departure for this project is a radically new theory of concepts, which, in turn, rests on two fundamental insights: That concepts are the principle of unity and that all consciousness that something is the case is µjudgmental¶ consciousness (has propositional form). The distinctive activity of the mind is to synthesize and to unify our experience. It achieves this synthesis by imposing on our various experiences in the µsensible manifold¶ certain forms of intuition; space and time. µSynthesis¶, here, consists in the µaction of putting different representations together with each other and
Immanuel Kant, Op. cit., p. 105.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge comprehending their manifoldness in one cognition¶. Kant calls the principle of unity of the action of µordering different representations under a common one¶, a µfunction¶.35 Kant¶s categories are simply the forms of judgment, specialized to cognitions of sensibly intuited objects. More precisely, given the forms that judgments can take, the categories (collectively) functionally specify the sorts of concepts of sensibly intuited items that are suitable to serve as the judgments about objects in space and time. According to Kant, the faculty of thinking or understanding is also the faculty of judgment. Since to think is the same as to judge, if can discover the functions of judgment we shall have thereby discovered the functions of understanding, and if we can find out the different kinds of judgment we will be able to discover the categories of understanding.36 Kant goes on to classify the forms of judgment into four headings, each containing three forms as follows: Table 1.1 Quantity Universal Particular Singular Quality Affirmative Negative Infinite Relation Categorical Hypothetical Disjunctive Modality Problematic Assertorical Apodeitical
Like the forms of judgments, there are twelve categories; quantity, unity, plurality, totality, quality, reality, negation, limitation, relation, inherence and subsistence, causality and dependence, community, modality, possibility and impossibility, existence and non-existence, necessity and contingency.37 The Table of Categories thus reflects operations of the understanding in its synthetic role. Table 1.2
Jay F. Rosenberg p. 92. Joseph Omoregbe, A Simplified History of Western Philosophy, (Ikeja: ), pp. 95-96. 37 Georges Dicker, Kant¶s theory of knowledge: An analytic introduction, p. 50.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge
Quantity Unity Plurality
Quality Reality Negation
Relation Inherence and Subsistence Causality and Dependence
Modality Possibility - Impossibility Existence existence ± Non-
Necessity - Contingency
The categories reveal the structure of the understanding since they are the a priori principles according to which human understanding or the faculty of thinking operates. They are the a priori concepts by means of which we think or understand anything. They are the principles or rules of thinking and understanding. In other words, it is only through these categories that any object can be thought about, or conceived and known. This means that it is only through the categories that knowledge can be acquired or that any object can be known.38 In the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant concludes his chapter on the discovery of all the pure concepts of the understanding with a few structural observations regarding the Table of Categories at which he has arrived. He observes that the three entries under the main headings in the Table of Categories in each case themselves stand in an interesting relationship, namely, that µthe third category always arises from the combination of the first two in its class¶.39 Thus he suggests that when we regard a µplurality¶ as a µunity¶, we treat it, so to speak, under the aspect of µtotality¶ (i.e., in its totality). When µreality¶ is combined with µnegation¶, what results is µlimitation¶ ± the limits or boundaries of something real are marked by its absence, i.e., where it¶s not. µCommunity¶ is the reciprocal causal determination of substances by each other. And finally, µnecessity¶ is nothing but existence that is given by possibility itself. Kant insists, however, that these relationships do not make the third concept merely derivative, since the combination of the first and second in order to bring forth the third
Joseph Omoregbe, A Simplified History of Western Philosophy, (Ikeja: Joja Educational Research And Publishers Limited, 2001), p. 97. 39 Ibid., p. 105
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge concept requires a special act of the understanding (in Kantian terms, understanding is synonymous to the intellect).40 The most significant of these is that the four groups of categories divide into classes. The former, consisting of the categories of Quantity and Quantity, he designates as µmathematical¶. The latter subsumes the categories of Relation and Modality and is referred to as µdynamical¶. The four sets of corresponding principles are labeled axioms of intuition, anticipations of perception, analogies of experience, and postulates of empirical thought in general. The axioms of intuition deal with how mathematics is applied to the world. Based on the principle of axioms of intuition, that ³all intuitions are extended magnitudes´, Kant argues that our inquiries about sizes or areas are always appropriate when we are dealing with things that occupy space since every such thing can be regarded as an aggregate of parts produced by the observer as he synthesizes his experiences. Under the anticipations of perception, Kant is concerned with the question of the applicability of mathematics to sensations. What guarantee have we, he asks, that every sensation will turn out to have a determinate degree, in principle quantifiable? Might we not find, for instance, that an object is colored but with no precise depth of saturation, or a smell present in a room but with no specific magnitude? Kant attempts to rule out such possibilities by attention to the formal properties of sensations. We cannot anticipate the matter of sensation, but we can say in advance of experience that every sensation will have intensive magnitude, that is, a determinate degree, because it is possible to think of any given sensation as fading away until it is imperceptible, and conversely as being built up by continuous transitions on a scale from zero to the magnitude it has.
Georges Dicker, Op. Cit., p. 105
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge In the analogies of experience, Kant deals with the permanence of substance and causation. The principle of permanence of substance is that, ³in all change of appearances substance is permanent; its quantum in nature is neither increased nor diminished´. To believe in the permanence of substance is to believe that, whatever happens, nothing goes completely out of existence and nothing totally new is created: All change is transformation. Kant justifies the acceptance of this presupposition (which in his view, it should be remembered, applies only to things phenomenal) by arguing that without it we could not have a unitary temporal system. Kant argues that if things could go completely out of existence, so that it would make no sense to ask what became of them, the establishment of connections between one part of experience and another would be impossible. Experience would be (or at least might be) full of unbridgeable gaps, with the result that no one set of happenings could be integrated with another, and the unity of time would be totally destroyed. Like David Hume, causality for Kant is a relation between successive events; a cause is an event that regularly precedes its effect. But whereas Hume is content to treat the occurrence of regular sequences as an ultimate and entirely contingent fact, Kant believes that without the presumption of sequences that are regular (determined by a rule) there could be no knowledge of objective succession. His reason is that we have to distinguish successions that happen only in ourselves, successions merely in our apprehension, from those that occur in the objective world and are independent of us. We can do this only if an objective sequence is defined as a sequence happening according to a rule. The objective world is a world of events in which each occurrence determines the precise place in time of some other event. But though events are necessarily connected in this way, we must not conclude that causal connections can be established a priori; for Kant as for Hume causal propositions are one and all
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge synthetic and empirical. All we can know a priori is that there are such connections to be found, provided we have the skill or good fortune to discover them. 41 Under the postulates of empirical thought, Kant explains of the notions of possibility, actuality, and necessity from the critical point of view. By ³really possible´ Kant means ³that which agrees with the formal conditions of experience, that is, with the conditions of intuition and of concepts´. A two-sided figure enclosing a space is not really possible, though its concept is not self-contradictory, because such a figure does not accord with the formal conditions of intuition. Telepathy and precognition are not real possibilities; they ³cannot be based on experience and its known laws´, presumably because their actuality would violate some principle of the understanding. The notion of real possibility is for Kant intermediate between logical and empirical possibility. We need it and can use it only because the world we have to deal with is a world that is not independently existent, but has its being in essential relation to consciousness.42 From here Kant goes to show that our conceptual intuiting necessarily embody the categories. That is, recalling that the categories are meta-conceptual classifications; that the concepts under which we intuit spatio-temporal items belong to the classes of concepts functionally picked out by the categories. He argued that our sensory intuitions necessarily fit (or answer to) the categories. That all the items which we intuit as in space and time in fact fall under concepts belonging to the classes picked out by the categories. Thus, the categories can only be applied to objects of sense perception.
2.6.2 Imagination and Understanding
Robert Audi (ed.) et. al., The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, (Cambridge University Press, 1999 ), pp. 464465 42 Donald M. Borchert (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (USA: Macmillan Reference, 2006 ), pp. 18-20
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge In the first part of the ³Analytic´ Kant has much to say not only about concepts, judgments, and the understanding but also about the imagination. For example, he remarks in a cryptic passage: Synthesis in general is the mere result of the power of imagination, a blind but indispensable function in the soul, without which we should have no knowledge whatsoever, but of which we are scarcely ever conscious. To bring this synthesis to concepts is a function which belongs to understanding, and it is through this function of the understanding that we first obtain knowledge properly so called.43 The contrasting and, in places, overlapping roles of understanding and imagination are among the most puzzling features of Kant¶s exposition. The reason why they are both introduced is related to the fact that, in the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason in particular, Kant was concerned with two quite distinct questions. He first asked himself what conditions have to be fulfilled if any sort of discursive consciousness is to have objective knowledge; he then went on to put the question as it relates to the human discursive consciousness, which not only intuits data passively, but does so under the particular forms of space and time. When the first question is uppermost Kant tends to speak of the understanding; when the second is to the fore, he brings in the imagination as well. The passage quoted above, typical of many, suggests that it is the business of the imagination to connect, whereas that of the understanding is to make explicit the principles on which the connecting proceeds. But in one chapter, ³Schematism of the Pure Concepts of Understanding,´ a more satisfying account of the relationship is offered.
Immanuel Kant, Op. Cit., p. 112.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge 2.6.3 Schemata The problem of the chapter on what Kant called ³schematism´ is the central problem of the analytic: How can concepts that do not originate in experience find application in experience? At first Kant speaks as if there were no comparable difficulty in the case of concepts originating in experience, although he later makes clear that there are schemata corresponding both to empirical and to mathematical concepts. To possess the concept triangle is to know its formal definition, to be able to frame intelligible sentences containing the word triangle, and so on; to possess the schema corresponding to the concept triangle is to be able to envisage the variety of things to which the word triangle applies. Thus for Kant a schema is not an image, but a capacity to form images or (perhaps) to construct models. Pure concepts of the understanding are such that they ³can never be brought into any image whatsoever´; the thought they embody, springing from the pure intellect, cannot be pictured or imagined. Yet there must be some connection between the abstract idea and the experienced world to which that idea is expected to apply; it must be possible to specify the empirical circumstances in which pure concepts of the understanding can find application. Kant thinks that for the categories this requirement is met by the fact that we can find for each of them a ³transcendental schema,´ which is, he explains, a ³transcendental determination of time.´Without such a schema the categories would be devoid of ³sense and significance,´ except in a logical (verbal) way. With it, use of the categories is clearly restricted to the range of things that fall within time - meaning, for Kant, restricted to phenomena. The meaning of this baffling doctrine can perhaps best be grasped through Kant¶s examples of schemata of permanence, community, actuality and necessity: The schema of substance is permanence of the real in time, that is, the representation of the real as a substrate of empirical
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge determination of time in general. « The schema of cause« is the real upon which, whenever posited, something else always follows. It consists, therefore, in the succession of the manifold, in so far as that succession is subject to a rule. « The schema of necessity is existence of an object at all times.44 It emerges from these cryptic sentences that the transcendental schema is something like an empirical counterpart of the pure category. It is what the latter means when translated into phenomenal terms. In Kant¶s own words, the schema is ³properly, only the phenomenon, or sensible concept, of an object in agreement with the category´45. A category without its corresponding ³sensible concept´ would be a bare abstraction, virtually without significance. Insofar as he argues that schematization is the work of the imagination, Kant has found a genuine function for the imagination to perform.
2.6.4 Phenomena and Noumena This distinction is found in the ³Transcendental Aesthetic´ to explain our having a priori knowledge of the properties of space and time, and is invoked again in the ³Transcendental Analytic´ to account for ³pure physics´. A major impact of Kant¶s critical philosophy was his insistence that human knowledge is forever limited in its scope. This limitation takes two forms. First, knowledge is limited to the world of experience, and second, our knowledge is limited by the manner in which our faculties of perception and thinking organize the raw data of experience. Kant did not doubt that the world as it appears to us is not the ultimate reality. He distinguished between the world as it appears to us or the world as we experience it and the
Immanuel Kant, Op. Cit., p. 184. Immanuel Kant, Op. Cit., p. 186.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge world as it is in itself, which is purely intelligible, or nonsensual; the µphenomena¶ and the µnoumena¶. He argues that our knowledge is limited to the phenomenal reality ± things that could be the subject of experience. For only things that are experienced are subject to the categorizing and unifying activity of the mind. To be experienced, objects must be in space and time, be related to one another by cause and effect, and otherwise be subject to the principles of cognition; but we cannot apply these categories and principles to things ³as they are in themselves´ ± noumena, or things that exist outside experience.46 Concerning this noumenal world, skepticism is unavoidable, for Kant. When rules that apply to the world of experience are applied to a reality beyond experience, contradictions and mistakes result. Kant argued that there are three regulative ideas that we tend to think about; ideas that lead us beyond sense experiences but about which we cannot be indifferent because of our inevitable tendency to try to unify all our experience. These ideas are of the self, the cosmos and of God. They are transcendental and are not produced by intuition but by pure reason alone. They at least, point to possibilities in the noumenal realm but we can have no knowledge of the realm. Kant¶s use of these regulative ideas exemplifies his way of mediating between dogmatic rationalism and skeptical empiricism. With the empiricists, he agrees that we can have no knowledge of reality beyond experience. These transcendental ideas cannot give us any theoretical knowledge of realities corresponding to these ideas. As solely regulative ideas, they give us a reasonable way of dealing with the constantly recurring questions raised by metaphysics. To this extent, Kant acknowledged the validity of the subject matter of rationalism. His critical analysis of the scope of human reason, however, led him to discover earlier
Brooke N. Moore and Kenneth Bruder, Philosophy: The Power of Ideas, (New York: The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc., 2005), p. 142
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge rationalists had made the error of treating transcendental ideas as though they were ideas about actual beings.47 The Transcendental Analytic shows that there cannot be a world of mere appearances, mere objects of sense that do not fall under any categories or instantiate any rules. But we cannot conclude from this that there is a non-sensible world that is established by the intellect alone. To accept the existence of extra-sensible objects that can be studied by the use of pure reason is to enter a realm of illusion, and in his µtranscendental dialectic¶ Kant explores this world of enchantment.
Transcendental Dialectic Transcendental dialectic is introduced as if it were merely the negative counterpart of
analytic - as if its sole purpose were to expose the illusions generated when dogmatic philosophers, unaware of the sensuous conditions under which alone we can make successful use of a priori concepts, attempt to apply them outside the sphere of possible experience. In fact a large part of the section titled ³Dialectic´ is devoted to the exposure of metaphysical sophistries. But insofar as Kant recognizes in this part of his work the existence of a further set of intellectual operations involved in scientific inquiry, he seeks to show that the faculty of theoretical reason as well as that of the understanding has its appropriate pure employment.
2.7.1 The Elimination of Dogmatic Metaphysics At the end of the section of the Critique of Pure Reason devoted to the transcendental analytic, there is a passage that can be taken as summarizing the second stage in Kant¶s emancipation from Leibnizian rationalism:
Samuel Stumpf and James Fiesser, Op. Cit., pp. 310-311.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge The Transcendental Analytic leads to this important conclusion, that the most the understanding can achieve a priori is to anticipate the form of a possible experience in general. And since that which is not appearance cannot be an object of experience, the understanding can never transcend those limits of sensibility within which alone objects can be given to us. Its principles are merely rules for the exposition of appearances; and the proud name of an Ontology that presumptuously claims to supply, in systematic doctrinal form, synthetic a priori knowledge of things in general « must, therefore, give place to the modest title of a mere Analytic of pure understanding.48 Kant thus repudiates the possibility of knowledge through pure concepts of things as they really are. Having disposed of ontology, Kant needed to consider, to complete the negative side of his work, the tenability of the remaining parts of metaphysics (rational psychology, rational cosmology, and natural theology in Baumgarten¶s classification). He criticizes traditional and speculative metaphysics as simply an illusion, and its claim to be able to provide man with genuine knowledge as illusory. To complete his own alternative to rationalism he needed to clarify the status of the propositions involved in ³pure practical faith.´
2.7.2 Reason Most of the conclusions of the ³Dialectic´ follow directly from those of the ³Analytic,´ though there are new points of interest. As in the ³Analytic,´ Kant¶s views are expressed inside a framework that is heavily scholastic. Kant claimed that human beings have an intellectual faculty
Immanuel Kant, Op. Cit., p. 264.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge in addition to the understanding. This additional faculty is reason, and it is equipped with a set of a priori concepts of its own, technically known as ideas of reason. An idea of reason can have no object corresponding to it in sense experience, for the ambition of reason is to arrive at absolute totality in the series of conditions for the empirically given, and in this way to grasp the unconditioned that falls outside experience altogether. However, this ambition can never be realized, and the only proper function for reason in its theoretical capacity is to regulate the operations of the understanding by encouraging it to pursue the search for conditions to the maximum extent that is empirically possible. All human knowledge, he says, begins with the senses, proceeds to the understanding, and finally ends up with reason. All our knowledge begins with sense, proceeds thence to understanding, and ends with reason, beyond which nothing can be discovered in the human mind for elaborating the matter of intuition and subjecting it to the highest unity of thought.49 Although reason is the highest faculty in man, nevertheless, it cannot be validly employed in applying the a priori concepts (the categories) of human understanding beyond the sphere of phenomena. Any such application is illegitimate and illusory, and the result can be nothing but an illusion.
2.7.3 Refutation of Speculative Psychology Kant¶s handling of the ³psychological idea´ at the beginning of the main part of the ³Dialectic´ is exceptionally brilliant. He maintains in the ³Analytic´ that what he there calls the ³I think,´ or the unity of apperception, is the ultimate condition of experience, in the sense of being the logical subject of experience or the point to which all experience relates. All
Immanuel Kant, Op. Cit., p. 300.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge experience is experience for a subject; whatever thoughts or feelings I have I must be capable of recognizing as my thoughts or feelings. But the subject here referred to is not something substantial; it is merely a logical requirement, in that nothing follows about the nature of my soul or self from the fact that I say ³I think.´ So far from being ³an abiding and continuing intuition´ (the sort of thing Hume vainly sought in the flow of his inner consciousness), for Kant the ³representation µI¶« [is] simple, and in itself completely empty « we cannot even say that this is a concept, but only that it is a bare consciousness which accompanies all concepts. Through this I or he or it (the thing) which thinks, nothing further is represented than a transcendental subject of thoughts ´.50 The same view is expressed in an earlier passage in the Critique, where Kant says that ³in the synthetic original unity of apperception, I am conscious of myself, not as I appear to myself, nor as I am in myself, but [I am conscious] only that I am. This representation is a thought, not an intuition´.51
2.7.4 Refutation of Rational Psychology These subtleties are unknown to the exponents of rational psychology, who develop the whole of their teaching around a ³single text,´ which is ³I think.´ From the fact that I am the subject of all my thoughts they infer that I am a thinking substance; from the fact that the ³I´ of apperception is logically simple they conclude that I am, in substance, simple and not composite. The proposition that ³in all the manifold of which I am conscious I am identical with myself´ is taken by them as implying that I am possessed of continuing personal identity. Finally, my distinguishing my own existence as a thinking being from that of other things, including my own body, is put forward as proof that I am really distinct from such things and so could in principle
Donald M. Borchert, Op. Cit., p. 22, citing Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason Ibid., p. 22, citing Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge exist in complete independence of them (as simple, immaterial, permanent substance, the subject of the act of thinking). None of these inferences is justified, for in each case a move is attempted from an analytically true premise to a synthetic conclusion. The µI¶ of µI think¶ is a transcendental ego which is in the noumenal world, beyond sense perception. We can know nothing about it except as the unity of consciousness and the subject of thinking. It is simply an idea, a conception and since we can never know it, any science that claims to be able to provide man with knowledge about it is a pseudo science, an illusion. Hence speculative psychology is according to Kant, a false science.
2.7.5 Refutation of Speculative Cosmology Speculative cosmology claims to be able to provide man with objective knowledge about the world taken as the totality of phenomena. But this involves the invalid and illegitimate application of the categories of human understanding beyond the sphere of phenomena, and the inability of the mind ever to do so successfully is indicated by what Kant calls the µantimonies¶ into which we fall. Kant examines four of such antimonies, each consisting of a thesis and an antithesis. The first antimony is that the world is limited in time and space, or that it is unlimited. The second antimony is that every composite substance in the world is made up of simple parts, or that no composite thing in the world is made up of simple parts since there nowhere exists in the world anything simple. The third antimony is that besides causality in accordance with the laws of nature there is also another causality, that of freedom, or that there is no freedom since everything in the world takes place solely in accordance with the laws of nature. The fourth
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge antimony is that there exists an absolutely necessary being as a part of the world or as its cause, or an absolutely necessary being nowhere exists.52 These antimonies reflect the disagreements generated by dogmatic metaphysicians and the two doctrines in each pair contradict one another directly, and have been vigorously defended with valid arguments by philosophers before Kant. Kant produces for each pair what he regards as watertight proofs of both sides of the case, maintaining that if we adopt the dogmatic standpoint assumed without question by the parties to the dispute, we can prove, for example, both that the world has a beginning in time and that it has no beginning in time, both that ³causality in accordance with laws of nature is not the only causality´ and that ³everything in the world takes place solely in accordance with laws of nature.´ Thus Kant exhibits in systematic form the famous contradictions into which, as he notes, reason precipitates itself when it asks metaphysical questions. Kant is enormously impressed by the discovery of these contradictions for the fact that they provide an additional argument for the saying that the world of space and time is phenomenal only and that such in a world freedom is a coherent idea. . The only way to avoid these antinomies, in Kant¶s opinion, is to adopt his own (critical)
point of view and recognize that the world that is the object of our knowledge is a world of appearances, existing only insofar as it is constructed; this solution enables us to dismiss both parties to the dispute in the case of the first two antinomies, and to accept the contentions of both parties in the case of the other two. If the world exists only insofar as it is constructed, it is neither finite nor infinite but indefinitely extensible and so neither has nor lacks a limit in space and time. Equally, if the world is phenomenal we have at least the idea of a world that is not phenomenal; and natural causality can apply without restriction to the first without precluding the application of a different type of causality to the second. This is admittedly only an empty
Samuel Stumpf and James Fiesser, Op. Cit., pp. 311-312.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge hypothesis so far as theoretical reason is concerned, but Kant argues that it can be converted into something more satisfactory if we take account of the activities of practical (moral) reason.53
2.7.6 Refutation of Speculative Theology Kant criticizes all the traditional arguments for the existence of God used by past philosophers as invalid. There are, Kant argues, only three ways of proving God¶s existence on the speculative plane. First, we can proceed entirely a priori and maintain that the very idea of God is such that God could not not exist - since God is the absolutely perfect and necessary being, and existence is a perfection, to deny his existence would be self contradictory: This is the method of the Ontological Argument. Second, we can move from the bare fact that the world and all it contains exists to the position that God is its ultimate cause, as in the First Cause ± the Cosmological Argument. Finally, we can base our contention on the particular constitution of the world, especially as it manifests order, harmony, wisdom and purposefulness as the product of an intelligent being who is responsible for it - the ³physico - theological proof´ (the Argument from Design). Kant argues that all three types of proof are fallacious. The Ontological Argument fails because it treats existence as if it were a ³real predicate,´ whereas ³it is not a concept of something which could be added to the concept of a thing. It is merely the positing of a thing, or of certain determinations, as existing in themselves´. Thus, existence is neither a perfection nor a predicate. The Cosmological Argument fails on several counts: because it uses the category of cause without realizing that only in the schematized form is the category significant; because it assumes that the only way to avoid an actually infinite causal series in the world is to posit a first
Edward Craig (ed.), The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (New York: Taylor and Francis Group, 2005), p. 499.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge cause; finally and most important, because it presupposes the validity of the Ontological Proof, in the step which identifies the ³necessary being´ or First Cause with God. The Argument from Design makes all these mistakes and some of its own, for even on its own terms it proves only the existence of an architect of the universe, not of a creator, and such an architect would possess remarkable but not infinite powers.54 In spite of Kant¶s criticisms of the classical arguments for God¶s existence, he is neither an atheist nor an agnostic. He both believes in God and holds that the belief can be rationally justified. Although speculative theology is, broadly, a tissue of errors, moral theology is perfectly possible. But the moral proof of God¶s existence differs from the attempted speculative proofs in at least two significant respects. First, it begins neither from a concept nor from a fact about the world, but from an immediately experienced moral situation. The moral agent feels called upon to achieve certain results, in particular to bring about a state of affairs in which happiness is proportioned to virtue, and knows that he cannot do it by his own unaided efforts; insofar as he commits himself to action he shows his belief in a moral author of the universe. Affirmation of God¶s existence is intimately linked with practice; it is most definitely not the result of mere speculation. Again, a proof like the cosmological argument claims universal validity; standing as it does on purely intellectual grounds it ought, if cogent, to persuade saint and sinner alike. But the moral proof as Kant states it would not even have meaning to a man who is unconscious of moral obligations; the very word God, removed from the moral context that gives it life, is almost or quite without significance. Accordingly Kant states that the result of this proof is not objective knowledge but a species of personal conviction, embodying not logical but moral certainty. He adds that ³I must not even say µIt is morally certain that there is a God «,¶ but µI am morally certain¶´ (B 857). In other words, the belief or faith Kant proposes as a replacement
Donald M. Borchert, Op. Cit., p. 23.
Chapter Two: Immanuel Kant¶s Theory of Knowledge for discredited metaphysical knowledge can be neither strictly communicated nor learned from another. It is something that has to be achieved by every man for himself. His purpose was to deny the possibility of rational knowledge ± about God, about the way things are in themselves in order to make room for faith.
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