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Among contemporary epistemologists who claim some inspiration from Kant, there are a number whose Kantian leanings manifest themselves most clearly in their emphasis on the notion of objective validity. Bill Brewer's account of perceptual knowledge in Perception and Reason serves as a good example of a contemporary view which is Kantian in this way. In his account, an account which Brewer describes as "broadly Kantian in spirit" (1999, 206), Brewer argues that it is problematic for epistemologists to begin with the assumption that we have beliefs about the world, and wonder only how we justify some and reject others on the basis of our sensations. Rather, Brewer argues that it is useful to follow Kant in starting with the question of how we can have determinate beliefs about objects at all, how we can have beliefs that even purport to be about objective states of affairs in the world. In explaining how we come to have such beliefs we cannot remain neutral on the question of whether perceptual experiences provide reasons for empirical beliefs, Brewer contends; according to Brewer, the sheer empirical significance of our beliefs is already dependent on this reason-giving character of experience. (1999, ch. 2) Like Kant, Brewer goes on to argue that we should not see inner experience as prior to awareness of the outer world: rather, "a correct account of the nature of a person's perceptual experiences essentially draws upon the concepts involved in characterizing the objective spatial world around him" (I999, 206). Where Brewer parts company with Kant is on the mind-independence of these outer objects. Kant claims that these objects are not mind-independent with respect to their form; indeed he insists on the subjectivity of spatio-temporal organization, and maintains that experience yields direct knowledge only of objects so organized by the mind, and not of mind-independent things in themselves.' Meanwhile Brewer uses the terms "objective spatial world"
1 Kant goes so far as to assert that 'if we remove our own subject or even only the subjective constitution of the senses in general, then all constitution, all relations
I'll argue in what follow that it is not so easy to take the popular part of Kant's epistemology without the unpopular part: in fact. Meanwhile the part of Kant's position Brewer aims to drop. More broadly. However. If I have a priori knowledge of the objective validity of geometry. indeed space and time themselves would disappear'. Space and time do not make an impression on us in the course of sensation.. A 42/B 59 (1997» . is widely considered unappealing. If the objects of perception had the sort of mind-independence Kant assigns to things in themselves. One might think that Kant's attractive ideas about objective validity could be disentangled from his remarks about the mind-dependence of the objects we perceive. modality. It is easy to see the appeal of Brewer's restricted Kantianism. rather than washes of color of objects in space and time. 220). and in a strikingly unKantian turn of phrase speaks of experience as our "epistemic openness to the way [.700 Jennifer Nagel and "mind-independent world" interchangeably. (KrV. and so on. the promise to make this knowledge direct is one of the most attractive parts of Kant's epistemology. he does so only in a weak sense of "mind-independence" that would also be acceptable to Kant. we can know in advance that objects are necessarily subject to the rules of causation. spatio-temporal organization is something that the mind brings to sensation. enabling us to know in advance that every possible object of experience will conform to its rules. because these are the categories by means of which the mind unifies the manifold of intuition into conceptions of objects. J things are in themselves" (1999. Given the difficulties with inferential and indirect accounts of perceptual knowledge. then I can judge how an object will look from a variety of perspectives without having first to check how I am affected by it in each of them. to the extent that Brewer succeeds in reconciling a roughly Kantian line on the directness of perceptual knowledge with the mind-independence of what is experienced.. The reason why we do not have to infer that our sensations arise from spatio-temporally organized objects is because space and time are the forms of our intuition or receptivity. Kant draws a dose connection between the part of his position Brewer rejects and the part he accepts: the assertion that perceived objects are in a sense mind-dependent is for Kant an indispensable condition for the directness of perceptual knowledge. Brewer's own account of perceptual knowledge would be untenable. the part about the mind-dependence of the objects of experience. or the rules by means of which our sensations become determinate perceptions of robust objects. rather.
but if the object (as an object of the senses) conforms to the constitution of the faculty of intuition. whose rule I have to presuppose in myself before any object is given to me.Broadly Kantian Epistemology and the Limits of Mind-Independence 701 and sound with no more than subjective significance. one could argue that Kant was wrong about needing metaphysical knowledge to have direct experience of an objective world. 110/ KrV. "If intuition has to conform to the constitution of objects. B xvii-xviii). where having reasons for belief that the subject can recognize as such constitutes what Brewer calls the "recognition requirement'l. and. The main idea of this argument . Kant thinks that knowledge of the objects of the senses is enabled by the fact that experience itself is a rational process: "experience itself is a kind of cognition requiring the understanding. .' The defining feature of a second-order account. which rule is expressed in concepts a priori. In order to reconcile direct perceptual knowledge and mind-independence. hence a priori. both classical foundationalism and coherentism are indirect or "second-order" accounts of how experience yields reasons for belief that the subject can recognize as such. There are many ways to resist the Kantian view. Brewer's recognition requirement will stand unchallenged. Brewer's claims about directness are best understood by examining his criticisms of positions he considers indirect.that only such recognizable reasons can support beliefs that are appropriately determinate . B xvii). In his estimation. and with which they must agree" (1997. Kant claims. 1111KrV. to which all objects of experience must necessarily conform.). if the objects we perceive were fully mind-independent it would not be possible for us to have such knowledge of them. only the directness argument will be discussed in what follows. then I do not see how we can know anything of them a priori. The reasons why I do not think Brewer can separate his account from Kant's in any of these ways arise from his arguments concerning the way in which perceptual knowledge is direct. For reasons of expediency.has much in common with the main idea supporting Brewer's claims about directness. is this: 2 3 According to Kant. or wrong about thinking that this knowledge should have to be a priori. A separate argument in chapter 3 of Perception and Reason is intended to establish that only reasons the subject can recognize as such can really ground rational beliefs about the world (ruling out many forms of reliabilism. etc.i Direct perceptual knowledge is possible only given such a priori knowledge of the basic metaphysical framework of the objects we perceive. or wrong to rule out a priori knowledge of what is fully mind-independent. then I can vety well represent this possibility to myself" (1997. for Brewer.
it is unclear they should even count as empirical beliefs about the objective world. 409-410. The foundationalism he has in mind in the part summarized here is supposed to be what Dancy has called classical foundationalisrn (1988). 113).. and second. lacking either objective import (for the foundationalist) or any positive epistemic status (for the coherentist): beliefs about the outer world gain recognizable rational support only through the subject's reflection5 on the manner of formation of the firststage beliefs. Both foundational ism and coherentism deny that we have rationally grounded beliefs about the objective world unless we can complete the second stage. Coherentism has a similar two-stage structure: first. Brewer finds this second-stage reflection problematic. experience yields certain "given" appearances. 129) In foundationalism. . Brewer contends.702 Jennifer Nagel Perception meets the recognition requirement only by the subject's secondorder reflection upon the credentials of her first-order method of belief acquisition. Varieties of foundationalism and coherentism differ as to whether this reflection must be actual. however. 4 5 This is an extremely brief summary of Brewer's extended and subtle discussion of foundationalism and coherentism. 4 In either position. explanatory integration. or only possible. one starts with empirical beliefs that are simply cognitively spontaneous. in order for the target beliefs to gain rational support. and yet in order to complete the second stage successfully it seems we must already possess knowledge of how things objectively are. the subject can recognize these coherence relations as truth-co nducive. The differences should not matter for present purposes. (2001. Without such knowledge. and the subject moves from experience to beliefs about the world via some "linking" principle according to which "being appeared to in this way is a reliable indicator that things are as she believes them to be out there" (1999. the coherentism here is a position roughly like Laurence BonJour's in The Structure of Empirical Knowledge. Brewer maintains. we could not know that being appeared to thusly or having coherent beliefs should count as a rational indication of how things are in the world. candidate beliefs are recognized to have various relations of consistency. 1999. unless we have reason to believe that our ground-level beliefs are indicative of how things are. for simplicity restricted to rather extreme versions of each position. etc. and these two levels are independent in that she might on any particular occasion equally have acquired the very same belief by just the same first-order method and yet not have had the second-order knowledge of reliability in question. cf. Brewer maintains.
Brewer thinks that our beliefs about objects have a determinacy that this sort of phenomenalism could not capture. positive (although defeasible) epistemic status comes as a built-in feature of all empirical beliefs.Broadly Kantian Epistemology and the Limits of Mind-Independence 703 [s]atisfaction of the recognition requirement is integral to the subject's very possession of the empirical beliefs in question. it would remain at least an epistemic possibility that another scene matching this very idea could exist elsewhere in the universe. 187). 41) Rather than forming empirical beliefs whose justification then requires some exercise of reason (whether actual or only potential). the fact that I am now experiencing this one must play a role: experience must "display the location of the relevant object in such a way as to provide the subject with identifying knowledge of which particular object is in question" (1999. or as Kant puts it. The argument from massive reduplication stresses the importance of the subject's actual experience of an object. Brewer invokes Strawson's argument from massive reduplication here: my belief that a particular object is a certain way (that this table is brown) cannot be thought of as an idea with purely descriptive content. A 320/B 377 (1997». we do not conceive of the objects we experience simply as bundles of phenomenal qualities. in order for . indicates that our conceptions of objects are not simply compilations of qualities that could be instantiated by various objects at various places. At the same time.27) If I want to convey that it is this very table that I mean. there is at least the initial appearance of a tension between the argument from massive reduplication and the claim that the world we know through experience is mind-independent. (200 1. essential to her grasp of their determinate contents. one cannot have an empirical belief at all without recognizing an experiential reason to believe it. no matter how precisely I might detail the features of the object and its relation to other objects (also identified descriptively). strictly in terms of marks "which can be common to several things" (KrV. Brewer 1999. (Strawson 1959. for. Our capacity to single out a particular object of which various experiences might be possible. and to see a contrast between qualitative and numerical identity.20. rather than the product of any independent secondorder reflection upon the process by which she acquires such beliefs. The quickest first-order theory would be a phenomenalism in which perception gives us direct reasons to believe that things are thus-and-so because there is nothing more to reality than the sum of our perceptions. As Brewer himself notes. uniquely identified in virtue of its location relative to the perceiving subject.
the thought that determinate empirical reference requires an ability to grasp systematic relations applies not only to spatial particulars. they are to be interpreted as aspects of a systematically organized world. but also to non-spatial objects like sounds. individuated by location. For Brewer. But if experience so conceived is to yield direct knowledge of things as they are in themselves. 200) The phenomenal qualities of one's experience are not free-standing occurrences. it had better be the case that our systematic tendencies (to see things as geometrically organized in a certain fashion and so on) align with the way things are objectively organized. J the possibility of alternative experiential snapshots of the very same phenomena under alternative circumstances. Brewer needs to explain how objects could be known in advance to have to conform to geometrical laws. in his view. and to have to exhibit the kind of dispositions that could underwrite all those conditionals about what would happen in alternative circumstances... One possibility would be to argue that . In general. is more than an egocentric sense of where objects are relative to us. but an awareness of a place set in a system of places. 190). To have experience of mindindependent objects. Brewer is still in line with Kant. and under different perceptual circumstances. Without invoking Kantian mind-dependence. what a subject must understand is [ ••. Brewer notes. Brewer contends that the tension here is only apparent: what experience delivers. This is what makes it the case that her essentially experiential demonstrative thinking nevertheless has objective content. whose presentation from an unlimited number of perspectives could be known in advance. In thinking that our consciousness of space is such as to enable a variety of perspectives on any physical object. The subject's grasp of location is not a discrete subjective hunch (like the sense of how hard one would need to stretch to touch some target). from different points of view. although Kant would argue that the legitimacy of our perspectival thought is underwritten in part by the mind-dependence of what we perceive.704 Jennifer Nagel his thought to be of a mind-independent object. the subject "must [. "the subject's Idea of its location must be an Idea of a location in a world of places and things which are quite independent of his actual experience of them" (1999. J understand that the very same location might have been spatially related in a quite different way with him: that thing there might equally have been perceived from any number of different points of view" (I 999. 190). (1999.
there is no experience of external objects at all until one has the capacity to sort things out spatially precisely enough to specify in a way resistant to massive duplication exactly which object one's idea denotes. "which object is in question . given the task Brewer wants knowledge of the framework to do.3). Second-order theorists like coherentists can argue that a grasp of the framework gradually emerges from experience. 192).Broadly Kantian Epistemology and the Limits of Mind-Independence 705 knowledge of this systematic framework is not a priori but empirical. then there is no working gradually towards an empirically-grounded understanding of this independence? 6 The requirement is quite strongly worded: as far as physical objects are concerned. According to Brewer. Objection: perhaps there is a mutual dependence between empirical knowledge of the framework and of particular facts about spatial objects. Brewer writes. In addition. and until one recognizes the independence of this location from one's point of view. Thus. We move from a condition in which we have mere conditioned responses to objects to one in which we have knowledge of them. This is not the sort of thing which could be determined as the object of his Idea in that case. and which transformation rules about perspective best work a manageable structure into the flux of experience. section 4. but neither need be prior. There are some indications Brewer might be unwilling to pursue such a path in his critical treatment of Sellars' account of the transition from verbal habits to knowledge (1999. His appreciation in some sense of the relevant metaphysical possibilities is essential to their obtaining with respect to the objects and places which are thereby determined as the semantic values of the Ideas which he entertains of them" (1999. then it is wrong to claim that he has an Idea of a mind-independent spatial thing at all. Brewer faces difficulties here. if we don't already need to meet Brewer's strong conditions on spatial awareness or even the particular identity of the objects we experience to have beliefs about external objects at all. however. This empirically-based hypothesis could then enjoy further empirical confirmation to the extent that it succeeded in making sense of subsequent experience. however.is determined in part by his Idea of its location. After accumulating many "cognitively spontaneous" empirical beliefs. one could form some hypotheses about which of these beliefs are about the same objects. if he has no understanding whatsoever of the independence of this location from his actual experiential point of view upon it.6 If one cannot have an idea of a spatial thing until one already grasps the independence of location from point of view. Perhaps the set of transformation rules which show how the same object appears from various distances and angles could be learned empirically. perhaps passing through a grey zone in which reference is somewhat indeterminate and our awareness of the system of places and dispositions is something less than full-blown empirical knowledge proper. there will be several further 7 .which object his Idea is an Idea of .
This is a line of response Brewer himself has pressed in his response to an earlier version of this paper (delivered at the APA meetings in Chicago." Unless the counterfactual potentialities of the object could somehow have a present causal impact on us in sensation. for example. we see that it will roll if pushed. it is because this expectation has been inculcated in us by a track record of experience with similar objects. perhaps biology has supplied our knowledge of the basics of spatio-temporal and causal organization. On one construal of this suggestion we have inductive and indirect knowledge of the thing currently perceived." Any genuinely mind-independent object could violate our subjective perceptual expectations quite sharply. It's reasonable enough to suggest that the perception of an object might need to involve the representation of various non-actual possibilities for that object. explaining the alignment between mind and world by natural selection. One might be tempted by a naturalism in which "a priori" means innate. if we are justified in expecting some particular object that appears round to roll. On another construal of the suggestion we have direct knowledge of something that is not mindindependent: the object of which we are directly conscious is a construct generated by the rules of our perceptual system. and although we would be justified in thinking that this object has a rich set of dispositional properties we can grasp quite directly. What is harder is to maintain that we thereby gain direct knowledge of mindindependent things in themselves. we have no reason to conclude that these properties inhere in anything mind-independent. surely help us master the independence of location from point of view. it is hard to see how perceptual knowledge of these possibilities could be direct knowledge of the mind-independent. but also of the relevant sets of possibilities open to it. perhaps it is a priori. for example. 2005).706 J ennifer Nagel One might argue knowledge of the metaphysical framework of objects is empirical in a more direct fashion: perhaps a single moment of experience can itself afford direct knowledge not only of the present condition of an object. Cognitive mechanisms of visual processing. But Brewer is reasons (to be discussed shortly) why one might not in principle want to make this knowledge out to be empirical. If knowledge of the metaphysical framework of perceived objects can't be empirical. and so on. In seeing that an object is round. for example. 8 9 . For a detailed defence of such an account of perception see Hoffman (1998). it's been argued that even the awareness of simple phenomenal properties like colour involves complex dispositional expectations concerning the appearance of the object in various circumstances of observation.
making perceptual knowledge no longer direct in the manner he had intended. notably the following principle about the individuation of spatial particulars: "there is fundamental in terdependence between making a numerical distinction between qualitatively identical spatial particulars and assigning them different locations at a given time: for every time t. I presume that. a . our capacities are legitimate because the objects of 10 Indeed. Whatever the merits of such a suggestion. every mind-independent spatial object which exists at t has a location at t.Broadly Kantian Epistemology and the Limits of Mind-Independence 707 particularly vulnerable to the standard criticisms of naturalist accounts of a priori knowledge: natural selection breeds us for reproductive success. one might have some worries about the truth of certain framework principles Brewer actually cites. we are not entitled to conclude that things are indeed so.1o One could attempt to retrench by suggesting that our cognitive instincts deliver knowledge only of the manifest image of the world. Brewer's own theory moves into the second-order camp. According to the narrow Kantian. but considerable caution seems to be required in developing an epistemology of any principles about the individuation of things in space and time. 1998. this sort of appeal to rational insight would be problematic for Brewer: if the capacities in virtue of which one's determinate empirical beliefs are legitimate are legitimate only in virtue of some (actual or potential) exercise of rational insight. 11 Bonjour. Perhaps more general. so that even if we are naturally inclined to see all events as causally determined. or to represent physical objects in Euclidean space. Another way to try to explain knowledge of the framework would be to argue that it is possible to have a priori knowledge of the mindindependent through some rational capacity of ours. to the extent that contemporary physics might undercut this principle. it has just one such location at t. and that further scientific work is required to figure out how things really are. not knowledge. Brewer would be willing to substitute an approximation or restrict the application of the principle to those macroscopic cases for which it is accurate. abstract or simple principles of absolute geometry could still claim an uncontroversial a priori status. It is worth noting the contrast between the broadly Kantian position and the narrowly Kantian position on this last point. 187). passim. but that avenue is not open to Brewer given his insistence that perception itself is to be a direct source of knowledge of the mind-independent world itself. Perhaps Laurence Bonjour is right to argue that we have intuitive rational insight into various non-trivial metaphysical truths:11 perhaps these include the relevant facts about geometry and causation. and no two numerically distinct objects (of the same sort) have the same location at t" (1999.
If the narrow Kantian is right about objects conforming to our minds in this way. Where objects are mind-dependent. the objects would not exist. necessary for a person to reflect on that epistemological fact in order to enjoy fully justified empirical beliefs. it restricts these deliverances so that we can no longer take ourselves to be enjoying direct knowledge of things as they are in themselves). These objects are mind-independent in the sense that we do not simply identify them with some particular set of subjective impressions we happen to have received from them. the mind-independent objects would not move in step. the fundamental difficulty is that Brewer's claims about direct knowledge and mind-independence are modal claims that pull in opposite directions. the very fact that this is so can itself serve to justify the deliverances of our empirical faculties (although.rules about spatia-temporal organization. but extend through time and across different possible circumstances of observation. it is not. on the other hand. it makes no sense to speak of these objects as possibly falling out of line with the rules of our capacities.are partly constitutive of the objects. we see our experience of these objects as the product of the object and our . one should note. On Brewer's broadly Kantian view. causal order and so forth . the mind-independent world conforms to certain rules. the subject enjoys at best a "pre-established harmony" between the way her mind works and the way things go in the world. If one grants that the rules of our epistemic capacities . and her claim to empirical knowledge is in doubt. in parallel. but because her judgments about the sets of possibilities properly accompanying each snapshot would not track what is truly possible for the external objects. in the sense that these objects must conform to our capacities as far as their form is concerned. however. one has capacities with certain "built-in" presuppositions. her resulting beliefs about the categorical objects would not constitute knowledge of them. If her underlying capacities were to differ. the relation between our rules of thought and these objects is a tight one: if it were not for these rules of thought. In the end. Brewer has a robust conception of the objects of experience.708 Jennifer Nagel experience are mind-dependent. unless the subject goes through the stage of rational reflection on the truth of those external rules. unless she exercises her rational insight into metaphysical necessity to see that mind-independent objects conform to her rules of thought. so these objects are more than just momentary stages or phenomenal impressions. insofar as these rules govern how the objects are individuated. the subject might succeed in tracking some characteristics of objects by continuing to receive experiential snapshots from them. and.
_. (1988) ed. Mass. New York: Cambridge University Press. to defend the claim that these very objects are strongly mind-independent. is mindindependent in a stronger sense. Laurence.Broadly Kantian Epistemology and the Limits of Mind-Independence 709 perspective upon it. The Structure of Empirical Knowledge. Perceptual Knowledge. New York: Cambridge University Press. Guyer and A. But to say that an object is independent of the current state of my mind (the table would have existed even if I hadn't looked at it just now) is not to say that this object. New York: Norton. 12 Thanks to Bill Brewer.: Harvard University Press. Bill (1999) Perception and Reason. Hoffman. or knowledge of the very robust categorical objects we encounter. (2001) "Precis of Perception and Reason'. (1997) Critique of Pure Reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press. . London: Methuen. Direct knowledge of such rich objects requires an extended. the harder it is to accommodate any possibility of variation or divergence between these capacities and these objects.V References Bonjour. J. 1. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63:2. dose fit between our mental capacities and the objects. the table. _' 1998. In Defense of Pure Reason. Brewer. 1985. Strawson. Arthur Ripstein and Sergio Tenenbaum for comments on earlier versions of this piece. At the same time. Wood. Kant. 405-416. trans. Hans Lottenbach. New York: Oxford University Press. a sense in which one stresses the dynamic capacities of the mind. P. D. E (1959) Individuals. (1998) Visual Intelligence: How we create what we see. Gurpreet Rattan. Dancy. the more it is emphasized that we are enjoying epistemic openness to the objects as they are in themselves. Cambridge. P. one would need to appeal to at least the possibility of exactly that sort of variation or divergence.
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