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René Descartes

1. Descartes is often referred to as the father of modern philosophy in part for giving it a fresh start. He would not
base his new philosophy on the authority of a great philosopher (such as Aristotle) or the Church (although he
had great reverence for the institution). Instead the basis of intellectual certainty would be his own reason.

a. He appears to be aware of the uniqueness of his undertaking for he said:

“although all the truths which I class among my principles have been known from all time and by all
men, there has been no one up to the present, who, so far as I know, has adopted them as the
principles of philosophy…as the source from which may be derived a knowledge of all things else
which are in the world. This is why it here remains to me to prove that they are such.”

b. His goal was construct a system of thought whose principles were true and clearly connected. Such
a rational scheme he believed would ultimately allow for knew knowledge to be discovered. This
rational scheme would be his method.

B. Descartes Method

1. Descartes saw the lack of systematic methodical thinking as the cause of wasted mental effort. He said of the
scholars of his day that they were “burning with an unintelligent desire to find treasure, continuously roam[ing]
the streets, seeking to find something that a passerby might have chanced to drop.” He continued, “It is very
certain that unregulated inquiries and confused reflections of this kink only confound that natural light and blind
our mental powers.”

2. Descartes saw mathematics as the exemplar from which he would model his method: “My method contains
everything which gives certainty to the rule of arithmetic.”

a. Descartes was convinced that mathematics contained within itself a special way of thinking that
assured certainty.

b. He therefore set about to find out what it was about mathematics that made it precise so that he
could then apply it to all forms of thinking.

c. From his study of mathematics he came to the following conclusions:

(1) That the mind is capable of apprehending certain truths directly with absolute clarity.

(2) We can then apply these truths systematically and gain knew knowledge.

3. Descartes envisioned an orderly application of intuition (immediately apprehended truths) and deduction:
“these two methods are the most certain routes to knowledge.” He further added that any other approach
should be “rejected as suspect of error and dangerous.”

a. Intuition gives us foundational concepts. Intuition is an intellectual activity or vision of such clarity
that it leaves no doubt in the mind.

(1) Intuition provides “the conception which an unclouded and attentive mind gives us so
readily and distinctly that we are wholly freed from doubt about that which we understand.”

(2) Intuition gives us clear notions and truths about reality.

b. Descartes describes deduction as “all necessary inference from facts that are known with certainty.”

(1) By intuition we grasp a simple truth completely and immediately, whereas by deduction we
arrive at a truth by a process, “a continuous and uninterrupted action of the mind.”

(2) Whereas a syllogism involved a relationship between concepts (premises) to each other,
for Descartes deduction involved a relationship between truths.
(3) This distinction is a central point to Descartes’ method. It is one thing to move from a
premise to a conclusion, after all, if the premise was wrong then the conclusion would also
be wrong.

(4) It was vital to Descartes’ method that one move from an indubitable fact since then was
could be certain of the truthfulness of the conclusion.

c. Descartes wanted to rest knowledge upon a starting point that had absolute certainty in the
individual’s own mind.

(1) Knowledge requires the use, of intuition and deduction, where “first principles are given by
intuition alone while the remote conclusions…are furnished only be deduction.”

(2) But to arrive at the truth requires that one follow certain rules in employing intuition and
deduction.

4. Descartes spent many years formulating his Rules of Method. Of the 21 rules found in his Rules for the
Direction of the Mind, the following are the most important:

a. Rule III: When we propose to investigate a subject, “our inquiries should be directed not to what
others have thought, nor to what we ourselves conjecture, but to what we can clearly and
perspicuously behold and with certainty deduce.”

b. Rule IV: This is a rule requiring that other rules be adhered to strictly, for “if a man observe them
accurately, he shall never assume what is false, as true, and will never spend his mental efforts to no
purpose.”

c. Rule V: We shall comply with the method exactly if we “reduce involved and obscure propositions
step by step to those that are simpler, and then starting with the intuitive apprehension of all those
that are absolutely simple, attempt to ascend to the knowledge of all other by precisely similar steps.”

d. Rule VIII: “If in the matters to be examined we come to a step in the series of which our
understanding is not sufficiently well able to have an intuitive cognition, we must stop short there.”

5. Descartes’ method was Rationalistic basing its knowledge on the processes of the mind apart from the senses
(Empiricism), which he believed could only confuse and not be a source of true and certain knowledge.

a. How is it that we can know an external reality such as a piece of wax? Not through our senses,
Descartes responds, since it is always in a state of flux (as are all things). How then can we know it?
It cannot be anything that I observed by means of the senses, since everything in the field of taste,
smell, sight, touch, and hearing is changed, and still the same wax nevertheless remains” It is
“nothing but my understanding alone which does conceive it…solely an inspection of the mind.”

b. Descartes relies on truths contained in the mind, “deriving them from [no] other source than germs of
truth which exist naturally in our souls.”

c. Descartes assumed that we possess certain innate ideas, in the sense that we are “born with a
certain disposition or propensity for contracting them.” And because we can know these truths, we
can be assured of a reliable foundation for our deductions.

C. Methodic Doubt

1. To assure himself that he does not hold as true anything that is false he set himself to doubt everything:
“Because I wished to give myself entirely to the search after truth, I thought it was necessary for me…to reject
as absolutely false everything concerning which I could imagine the least ground of doubt.” And in the process
he begins to question nearly everything that we take for granted.

a. He questions if there is anyway to know with certainty that what we are experiencing is real or a
dream: “there is no conclusive indications by which waking life can be distinguished from sleep.”

b. Furthermore, he questions whether things exists or if his senses are deceiving him: “I have learned
that [my] senses sometimes mislead me.”
c. He then questions whether or not God is deceiving him. How can he be sure that God “has brought it
about that there is no earth, no sky, no extended bodies?” In spite of how evident his impressions
are of the world around him, there is a possibility that it is all a divinely implanted hallucination.

2. Descartes then go about the task of find the one truth upon which he can base his philosophical system, like
Archimedes looking for the fulcrum point upon which he could place his lever and move the world.

a. He finds his fulcrum point and articulates it in one of the most famous passages in philosophy:

“But I was persuaded that there was nothing in all the world, that there was no heaven, no earth, that there were no
minds, nor any bodies: was I not then likewise persuaded that I did not exist? Not at all; of a surety I myself did exist
since I persuaded myself of something. But there is some deceiver or other, very powerful and very cunning, who ever
employs his ingenuity in deceiving me. Then without doubt I exist also if he deceives me, and let him deceive me as
much as he will, he can never cause me to be nothing so long as I think that I am something.?

b. According to Descartes, even if God is deceiving me in every possible way, I know that I exist, since,
in the very mental act of doubting I am affirming my own existence. Descartes expresses this in the
phrase, “I think, therefore I am.” (cogito ergo sum)

c. His fulcrum point has two potential flaws:

(1) it does not appear to help him know that anything exist outside of his mental processes—
not even his own body, and

(2) it is still possible that God exists and he can deceive us into believing that which is false is
true.

d. His solution, then, must be to prove that God exists and that He is not a deceiver. But to do this he
cannot use the proofs of Aristotle or Aquinas, which are based on the idea of a Prime Mover since
this would require knowledge of extended bodies (a world outside of his mind), which for him, at this
point, he has no convincing evidence exist. Thus, he must again look to the thoughts of his own
mind for a solution.

(1) In studying the course of ideas in his mind he makes the following conclusions:

a. ideas have causes,


b. the cause must have at least as much reality as the effect, and
c. he is finite and imperfect.

(2) From these three points he concludes that his idea of a perfect and infinite Being comes
from outside himself—from a perfect Being who exist—God:

“by the name God I understand a substance which is infinite, independent, all knowing, all-
powerful and by which I myself and everything else, if anything else exists, have been
created.” [How can I, a finite substance, produce the idea of an infinite substance?
Indeed, how could I know that I am finite unless I could compare myself with the idea of a
perfect being? The idea of perfection is so clear and distinct that I am convinced that it
could not proceed from my imperfect nature.]

(3) He further concluded that God is not a deceiver “since the light of nature teaches us that
fraud and deception necessarily proceed from some defect,” which could not be attributed
to a perfect Being.”

e. Having proven the existence of a God that does not deceive he then proceeded to demonstrate that
external reality exists:

(1) We have clear and distinct experiences of changing our position and moving about. In
addition, we are constantly receiving impressions of sight, sound, touch, and smell from
things external to us.
(2) This overwhelming inclination to believe that these impressions “are conveyed to me by
corporeal objects” must come from God; otherwise, he could not “be defended from the
accusation of deceit if these ideas were produced by causes other than corporeal objects.
Hence we must allow that corporeal objects exist.”

D. Mind and Body

1. Having thus proven to his satisfaction that he, things, and God existed he proceeded to examine the
relationship between the mind and the body. His approach is described as dualistic.

a. Descartes believed that mind and body were composed of two different substances. Descartes
defined substance as “an existent thing which requires nothing but itself to exist.”

b. The operation of the mind and the body were completely distinct. The body was governed by
physical forces. In the case of animals, their existence was limited to simple mechanics. It was a
fallacy to suppose that animals think: “the greatest of all prejudices we have retained from infancy is
that of believing that brutes think.”

c. Human consist of a mind and a body. Some activities of the body are purely mechanical. However,
the mind has some control over the body (Descartes believe the mind interfaced with the body via the
pineal gland in the brain).

2. Descartes conception of the relationship between mind and body was in stark contrast to that of the Medieval
Scholastics that mind was the form of the body and that together they formed an integral whole.

Even so at times Descartes insisted on the dualism, he was at times uncomfortable with it and admitted:
“nature also teaches me by these sensations of pain, hunger, thirst, etc., that I am not lodged in my body as a
pilot in a vessel, but that I am very closely united to it, and so to speak so intermingled with it that I seem to
compose with it one whole.”

3. One of the consequences of this dualism was that Descartes separated theology and science. Whereas, the
Medieval conception was that theology was the “queen of the sciences,” Descartes had separated them
completely into different spheres of activity such that one could not inform the other.

Spinoza

E. Method

1. Like Descartes, Spinoza believed that the method of geometry could provide a pattern, which could establish
certainty to philosophy.

a. Whereas Descartes method was relatively simple, Spinoza created a complete set of axioms and
theorems (about 250 altogether) that would explain the whole system of reality.

b. Some of his contemporaries (Hobbes) argued that Spinoza’s system told him nothing about reality
because his axioms were mere words or arbitrary definitions.

c. Spinoza rejected this argument because he believed, like Descartes, that our rational minds are
capable of forming ideas that reflect the true nature of things: “Every definition or clear and distinct
idea is true. …the order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things.”

2. The order of things is of utmost important to Spinoza for to understand a thing one must first know from what
that thing originates. And since, as Spinoza believed, reality originates from God, our first questions should be
about God and his nature since from that we can deduce accurately about nature, and man.

a. Spinoza would reject an empirical approach of science since there is no way we can know God from
nature.

b. He would have also rejected Descartes’ first principle, I think therefore I am, since this too could not
tell us anything about God.
F. God: Substance and Attribute

1. Spinoza identified God with the whole cosmos. His famous formula was “God or Nature” (Deus sive Natura) as
if to suggest that the two words were interchangeable.

“Whatever is is in God, and nothing can exist or be conceived without God.”

“God I understand to be a being absolutely infinite, that is, a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of
which expresses eternal and infinite essence.”

2. Both of the above statements seem to suggest that Spinoza was a pantheist. Such a position would indeed get
him into trouble with the Synagogue. In any event, Spinoza’s thought revolves around the concept of
substance and attributes.

3. Spinoza arrives at the conclusion that the ultimate nature of reality is a single substance.

a. He defines substance as “that which is in itself and is conceived through itself: I mean that the
conception of which does not depend on the conception of another thing from which it must be
formed.”

b. Substance has no cause other than itself. Furthermore, the very idea of substance demands that it
exist: “Therefore from its mere definition its existence can be concluded.” (similar to Anselm’s
ontological argument).

4. This single substance has infinite attributes.

a. An attribute, Spinoza says, is “that which an intellect perceives as constituting the essence of
substance.”

b. Spinoza was suggesting that God is that single substance, but what the mind perceives as distinct
substances are, in fact, attributes of that single substance.

(1) Actually, Spinoza said we can only know two attributes of substance: thought and
extension.
(2) Whereas Descartes thought that these two attributes showed the existence of two
substances, thereby leading him to affirm the dualism of mind and body, Spinoza saw two
attributes as different modes of a single substance.

c. God is therefore substance perceived as infinite thought and infinite extension. Being infinite, God
contains everything.

G. The World as Modes of God’s Attributes

1. Spinoza does not distinguish God and the world as though God were the immaterial cause of the material
world. For Spinoza there is only one substance and God and Nature or interchangeable. Nevertheless, he
does make a distinction in regard to Nature.

2. Natura Naturans: Substance and its attributes of God, insofar as God is considered to act by the requirements
of his own nature.

3. Natura Naturata: “everything which follows from the necessity of the nature of God, or of any one of God’s
attributes…. By natura naturata I understand…all the modes of God’s attributes in so far as they are
considered as things which are in God, and which without God can neither be nor can be conceived.”

4. The world is not distinct from God but is God expressed in various modes of thought and extension, of thought
and corporeality.

a. Everything in the world acts in accordance with necessity since they are determined by God’s
substance” “everything which follows from the necessity of the nature of God.”
b. The universe unfolds in a determined manner: “in the nature of things nothing contingent is granted,
but all things are determined by the necessity of divine nature for existing and working in a certain
way.”

5. God is free but we are not.

a. God is free, not because he not because he could have willed not to create the universe (he could
not since it was in his nature to do so), but because there was no outside agency acting upon him.
b. Man however is not free since we are modes of God’s substance and must act in accordance with
that substance.

c. All modes of God’s attributes are fixed from eternity, for “things could not have been produced by
God in any other manner or order than that in which they were produced.”

d. All the things we experience “are nothing else than modifications of the attributes of God [Nature], or
modes by which attributes are expressed in a certain and determined manner.”

6. Because everything is eternally as it must be, and because particular events are simply finite modifications of
substance, there is no direction towards which things are moving.

a. There is no end or purpose, no final cause. Neither the universe or man is pursuing purposes; they
are only doing what they must.

b. This “truth might have lain hidden from the human race through all eternity, had not mathematics,
which does not deal with final causes but with the essences of things, offered to men another
standard of truth.”

c. And the truth is that all events are a continuous and necessary set of modifications of the eternal
substance, which simply is. Thus, Spinoza had reduced the biological and the spiritual to the
mathematical.

H. Knowledge, Mind and Body

1. Spinoza distinguishes three levels of knowledge and describes how we can move from the lowest level to the
highest.

a. We begin with the most familiar things: “the more we understand individual things the more we
understand God.”

b. By refining our knowledge of things we can move from imagination, to reason, and finally to intuition.

2. Imagination: At the level of imagination our ideas are derived from sensation. These ideas are specific but
they are vague and inadequate. Although imagination is necessary for practical life this is not the level of true
knowledge.

3. Reason: Reason is scientific knowledge. At this level a person’s mind can rise above immediate and particular
things and deal with abstract ideas, as it does with mathematics and physics. At this level knowledge is
adequate and true.

4. Intuition: Through intuition we grasp the whole system of nature. At this level we can understand particular
things we thought we knew on the first level, but now we see them as part of the whole scheme of the universe.
When we reach this level we become more and more conscious of God and hence, “more perfect and blessed”
for through this vision we grasp the whole system of Nature and see our place in it.”

Leibniz

A. Substance:

Leibniz was concerned about Descartes dualistic approach because of the problems associated with describing the
relationship between mind and body. Spinoza’s monistic approach blurred the distinctions between God, man, and
nature and Leibniz believed it was essential to maintain that distinction. Furthermore, he was concerned about the
deterministic nature of Spinoza’s cosmology even though he would ultimately adopt a monistic and mechanistic
ontology.

1. Extension versus Force:

a. Descartes had argued that extension refers to a material substance that is extended in space
and is not divisible into something more primary.

b. Spinoza agreed with Descartes to a point except that this extension was an extension of the
single substance, that is, God.

c. Leibniz argued that there was no reason to believe that extension is primary; it is just as
reasonable to believe that it is a composite, but here he is not suggesting an atomic theory such
as that of Democritus or Epicurus, but something new.

(1) His principle argument with the atomic theory was that atoms are bits of matter, which
must get their motion (force) from outside themselves.

(2) Leibniz suggested that the “true atoms of nature” (Urstoff) are monads. Leibniz said
that matter is not the primary ingredient of things. Instead, monads with their element
of force constitute the essential substance of things.

2. Monads

a. According to Leibniz, the monad is “capable of action.” He added that a compound substance is
a collection of monads. Monas is a Greek word signifying unity. “Simple substances, lives,
souls, spirits, are unities. Consequently all nature is full of life.”

b. Monads are unextended; they have no size or shape. A monad is a point, not a mathematical or
a physical point, but a metaphysical point. Leibniz sometimes refers to monads as “souls” to
emphasize their immaterial nature.

c. Monads are independent of other monads and do not have any causal relation to each other.
Leibniz describes monads as “windowless” meaning that the rest of the universe has no
influence upon them.

d. Each monad is different from another and they possess their own sufficiency and force. As
Leibniz says, “there is a certain sufficiency which makes them the source of their internal actions
and, so to speak, incorporeal automata.”

e. Nevertheless, the universe is orderly. How can this harmony exist given so many independent
autonomous monads?

3. Preestablished Harmony

a. Each monad behaves in accordance with its own created purpose. These windowless monads,
each following its own purpose, form a unity of the ordered universe. Even though each is
isolated from the other, their separate purposes form a large-scale harmony. Leibniz describes it
thus:

“Several different bands of musicians and choirs, playing their parts separately, and so placed
that they do not see or even hear one another…. [they] keep perfectly together, by each following
their own notes, in such a way that he who hears them all finds in them a harmony that is
wonderful, and much more surprising than if there had been any connection between them.”

b. This “preestablished harmony” could not be the product of an accidental assortment of monads,
instead it the result of God’s handiwork.

B. Human Freedom
1. How can freedom exist in Leibniz’s “preestablished harmony” of monads? Consider that each monad is involved in

developing its built-in purpose, and “every present state of a simple substance is naturally a consequence of its

preceding state, in such a way that its present is big with its future.”

2. Each person, whose identity centers around a dominate monad, his soul, must represent in this mechanical view an

unfolding of a life that has been set from the beginning.

a. Yet, since the basic nature of this person is thought, his development through life consists in
overcoming confused thoughts and arriving at true ideas, which lie in all of us in the murky form of
potentiality seeking to become actual.

b. When our potentialities become actual, we see things as they really are, and this is, according to
Leibniz, what it means to be free. I am free to the extent that I know why I do what I do.

C. Epistemology

1. Leibniz distinguished between truths of reason and truths of fact. We know truths of reason purely by logic,
whereas we know truths of fact by experience.

2. Truths of Reason are necessarily true since for them to be false would be a contradiction. For example, “a
triangle has three sides” is a truth of reason and is necessarily true since by definition a triangle has three
sides. To say that “a triangle has four sides”
would be a contradiction and is necessarily false.

a. Truths of reason are tautologies, because the predicate simply repeats what is already contained
in the subject.

b. Truths of reason do not require or affirm that the subject of the proposition exists. It is true, for
example, that a triangle has three sides even though one does not refer to any specific existing
triangle.

c. Truths of reason are self-evident truths. They are analytic propositions, the predicate of which is
contained already in the subject, and to deny the predicate is to be involved in a contradiction.

3. Truths of fact are known through experience and are contingent. Consider the statement, “Flying Saucers
from outer space, exist.” Such a statement is not a truth of reason since the predicate is not contained in
the subject and its truth is not known a priori. For this statement to be true, that is, a truth of fact, we would
have to know this through experience. Such knowledge is a posteriori.
4. To God, all knowledge is Truth of Reason since he knows the predicates of all subjects. Since a person
possesses all his predicates in a state of potential (monadally?), God can deduce the predicates of any
person.

5. Leibniz’s Law of Continuity stated that a subject unfolds its predicates in an orderly and predictable way (at
least from God’s perspective). The Law of Continuity states “Nature makes no leaps.” Change is
continuous. Rest and motion are aspects of each other, merging into each other through infinitesimal
changes, “so much so that the rule of rest ought to be considered as a particular case of the rule of motion.”

6. Although the human mind cannot know all reality as God knows it, we can know certain innate ideas, self-
evident truths. Even the truths we come to know, as we mature can be considered virtually innate. Like all
the rationalists, Leibniz optimistically appraises the capacity of reason to know reality.
7. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

a. Bodies in Motion

(1) Philosophy, according to Hobbes, is concerned chiefly with the causes and
characteristics of bodies. There are three major types of bodies: physical bodies
(such as stones), the human body, and the body politic.

(2) There is one principal characteristic that all bodies share and which alone makes it
possible to understand how they came to be and what they do—that is, motion.

(3) Physical and mental events are nothing more than bodies in motion. “Motion is a
continual relinquishing of one place and acquiring of another.”

(4) Hobbes adopts the Newtonian view of motion, inertia, resistance, etc. But he applies
this not only to locomotion, but also to all processes of change and even thought.

(5) Hobbes refers to two kinds of motion that are peculiar to people: vital and voluntary
motions.

a. Vital motions include birth, growth, respiration, digestion, reproduction, etc.

b. Voluntary motion, such as going, speaking, and deliberate movement, are first of
all movements in our minds, “because going, speaking, and the like voluntary
motions, depends always upon a precedent thought of whither, which way, and
what; it is evident that the imagination is the first internal beginning of all voluntary
motion.”

(6) Imagination is the cause of voluntary acts, but imagination itself and the human activity
we call thought are also explained as being effects of prior causes—as being
consequences of prior motions.

b. Mechanical View of Human Thought

(1) Hobbes envisions human thought as including perception, imagination, and memory.
Perception is the most fundamental of these processes as it starts the others in
motion.

(2) A body outside of us enters our mind through a phantasm and causes the internal
motion of perception. Perception may linger even after the object is no longer in view
much like ocean waves that continue to roll after the winds that caused them have
subsided (a sort of perceptual inertia).

(3) Hobbes uses the same model for thinking. He explains that thoughts occur one after
another (like colliding sensations) in almost a linear or cause-effect fashion. He
recognized that some individuals do not think as logically (linearly) as other because
they allow irrelevant sensations to alter the prescribed pattern of thought collisions.

(4) What makes humans different than animals is our ability to use signs (words) to mark
our sensations. With these words we are more readily able to recall these sensations.
Science and philosophy are possible because of our ability to link these words into
sentences.

(5) Knowledge is either that of fact or consequence. Recall of a word (sensation) is simply
fact. Linking words together tie the sensations into consequence: If A, then B. This
reduces all knowledge to sensation, that is, empiricism. Furthermore, words are
merely signs of sensations and do not represent an objective reality, hence Hobbes
was a nominalist.

c. Political Philosophy and Morality

(1) Hobbes employed his materialistic, empirical Nominalism to the study of political
philosophy. Unlike his predecessors he does not look to explain when and what form
the political state emerges, but how in the context of his model of bodies in motion.

(2) He begins with describing human nature before there was any state or civil society. In
this condition every person has the right to do whatever he or she consider necessary
for his or her survival.

a. The word “right” means the freedom “to do what he would, and against whom he
thought fit, and to possess, use and enjoy all that he would, or could get.”

b. The driving force in a person is the will to survive, and the psychological attitude
pervading all people is fear—fear of death and particularly violent death.

c. The picture we get of this state of nature is of people moving against each—
bodies in motion—or the anarchic condition—“the war of all against all.”

(3) Why do people behave this way? Hobbes states that man is motivated by a twofold
drive: appetite and aversion.

a. This drives account for our motions towards or away from other people and
objects.

b. People are attracted to what they think will help them survive, and they hate
whatever they judge to be a threat to them.

c. The good and evil have whatever meaning each individual will give them, and
people will call good whatever they love and evil whatever they hate, “there being
nothing simple and absolutely so.”

d. We are fundamentally egotistical in that we are concerned chiefly about our own
survival and we have no moral obligation towards other people. How then do we
possess the capacity to create a peaceful society?

(4) Hobbes argued that even in the state of nature man could deduce the natural law (not
to be confused with the formulations discussed earlier) from his fundamental desire for
survival.

a. The first law of nature is that everyone ought to “seek peace and follow it.” It is
obvious that I have a better chance of survival if I help to create the conditions of
peace.

b. From this first law a second law can be derived: “a man be willing, when others
are so too, as farforth as for peace, and defense of himself he shall think it
necessary, to lay down his right to all things; and be contented with so much
liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.”
d. The Social Contract

(1) By following the natural law we should seek peace, renounce some of our rights or
freedoms, and enter into a social contract. In so doing, we create an artificial person—
the great leviathan called a state.

(2) The contract by which we avoid the state of nature and enter civil society is an
agreement between individuals, “as if every man should say to every man, I authorize
and give up my right of governing myself, to this man, or to this assembly of men, on
this condition, that you give up your right to him, and authorize all his actions in like
manner.”

(3) Two things standout in the above comment:

a. The contract is between individuals and not the sovereign and the individuals.

b. The type of government is not specified, that is, it could be autocratic or


democratic. Nevertheless, the sovereign has absolute authority to govern.

(4) The only way to transform multiple wills into a single will (thereby avoiding anarchy) is
to agree that the sovereign’s single will and judgment represents the will and judgment
of all the citizens.

(5) Resistance against the sovereign by a citizen is illogical on two counts: first, such
resistance would amount to resistance to oneself, and second, to resist is to revert to
independent judgment, which is to revert to the state of nature or anarchy. Therefore,
the power of the sovereign must be absolute.

John Locke

A. Introduction to the British Empiricists

1. Empiricism was not a new idea. It had been advocated by several ancient Greek philosophers and by the
scientists of the Renaissance.
2. Francis Bacon had sought a “total reconstruction of … all human knowledge” through scientific empiricism.
3. The founder of the British empiricist movement, John Locke, proposed the less ambitious program of “clearing
the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge.”
4. Nevertheless, he and his fellow empiricists, Berkeley and Hume, developed a program with broad philosophical
implications.
B. Locke’s Theory of Knowledge
1. Locke postulates that knowledge is ideas and that we acquire ideas through experiences. Hence he rejects the
rationalist’s notion of innate ideas. Consequently, each mind starts off as a blank slate (tabula rasa).
2. His rejection of innate ideas was founded on the concern that such a notion could lead to abuse:
“It is an established opinion among some men, that there are in the understanding certain innate
principles…stamped upon the mind of man, which the soul receives in its very first beginning, and brings into
the world with it.”
He was particularly concerned that a skilful ruler could appeal to innate ideas in order to manipulate people and
“take them off from the use of their own reason and judgment, and put them on believing and taking them upon
trust without further explanation…. [and] in this posture of blind credulity, they might be more easily governed.”
3. Those who argued for the theory of innate ideas did so on the grounds that people universally accept the truth
of various rational principles. Among these are the principles:
• The Principle of Identity: “What is, is.”
• The Principle of Noncontradiction: “It is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be.”
a. Locke argued that these principles are certain because once we reflect on the nature of things as they are,
our minds will not let us think otherwise.
b. Even if these principles were accepted by everyone, this would not prove that they were innate.
c. Moreover, he argued, there is some question whether there is universal knowledge of these principles:
“Seldom [are these general principles] mentioned in the huts of Indians, much less are they found in the
thoughts of children.”
d. He reasoned that if such principles can be apprehended only after the mind matures, then why call them
innate? Locke therefore concluded that the theory of innate ideas was at the least superfluous.
4. Simple and Complex Ideas
a. The raw material of knowledge comes from experience:
“Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any
ideas:—How comes it to be furnished?… Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge?
To this I answer, in one word, from experience.”
b. Experience gives us two sources of ideas: sensation and reflection. From the senses we receive
into our minds everything from yellow, to heat, to music, and pain. The mind reflects on these
sensations and produces ideas. Hence all ideas originate from sensation and reflection and can be
classified as either simple or complex.
c. Simple ideas constitute the chief source of the raw material out of which our knowledge is made.
These ideas are received passively by the mind through the senses.
(1) Our minds receive these ideas sequentially as with a flower such as a red rose. We
receive the sensation of red through one sense and the fragrance of the rose through
another.
(2) Even when multiple sensations enter through the same sense they are received
sequentially and then differentiated.
(3) Other ideas are the result of reflection, that is, by reasoning and judging. Hence, we may
find the fragrance of the rose agreeable.
d. Complex ideas are not received passively but are put together by our minds as a compound of
simple ideas. Here the emphasis is upon the activity of our minds, which takes three forms:

(1) The mind joins ideas: as with the whiteness, hardness, and sweetness of a lump of sugar.
(2) Brings ideas together but holds them separate for the purpose of thinking of relationships:
as when comparing the redness of two different flowers.
(3) Abstracts. Here the mind separates ideas “from all other ideas that accompany them in
their real existence” as when we separate the idea of man from Joe and Mary.

5. Primary and Secondary Qualities:

a. Do are ideas accurately represent the objects of our senses? They do if we perceive an object’s
primary qualities.

(1) A quality is “the power [in an object] to produce any idea in our minds.”
(2) For example, the 1st qualities of a tennis ball would be that it is round and moves.
But the tennis ball is also yellow and fuzzy—are these not qualities that can be known?
Not on the same level as 1st qualities since these are secondary qualities.

b. Locke believed that secondary qualities such as colors, sounds, tastes, and odors, do not belong to
objects except as powers to produce these ideas in us.

(1) Locke had come to this conclusion because of the influence of other thinkers including
Democritus, Descartes (his idea of extension which is similar to Locke’s 1st qualities), and
Newton who believed that color was the result of the motion of invisible minute particles.
(2) Hence we do not know 2nd qualities, which are effects, on the same level at which we
know 1st qualities which are the cause of color, etc.
(3) Nevertheless, in the discussion of 1st and 2nd qualities Locke assumes that there is
something, which possesses these qualities—something he calls substance.
c. Locke is at a loss to describe the nature of substance except that logic demands that if something
possesses qualities it must reside somewhere at that where is in substance.

6. Degree of Knowledge

a. Although ideas enter our minds in single file, they may subsequently be arranged, rearranged,
connected and disconnected from each other in many ways.
(1) Whether our ideas are true or fantasy depends upon our perception of the relationships of
our ideas to each other.
(2) There are three types of perception: intuitive, demonstrative, and sensitive.
b. Intuitive knowledge is immediate, leaves no doubt, and is “the clearest and most certain that human
frailty is capable of.”
(1) Such knowledge “like sunshine forces itself immediately to be perceived as soon as ever
the mind turns its view that way.”
(2) Intuition gives us immediate and sure knowledge that a circle is not a square and that I
exist: “Experience then convinces us, that we have intuitive knowledge of our own
existence, and an internal perception that we are.”
c. Demonstrative knowledge occurs when our minds try to discover the agreement or disagreement of
ideas by calling attention to still other ideas.
(1) Ideally, each step of the demonstration must have intuitive certainty.
(2) Using this approach he makes the following argument:
“Man knows, by an intuitive certainty, that bare nothing can no more produce any real
being than it can be equal to two right angles.”
“Nonentity cannot produce any real being, it is an evident demonstration that from eternity
there has been something.”
“It is plain to me we have more certain knowledge of the existence of God, than of anything
our senses have not immediately discovered to us.”
d. Sensitive knowledge is not knowledge in the strict sense of the term; it only “passes under the name
of knowledge.”

(1) Locke did not doubt the existence of things that we perceive with our senses, but such
things we cannot know with certainty.
(2) The object of our senses we may know in part only when it is present to our senses. When
it is no longer perceived we can no longer be assured of its existence. Hence, sensitive
knowledge does not give us certainty.
(3) The ideas we experience through our senses give us the impression that they are related
since we received them sequentially. But we cannot be certain that they are, in fact,
related.
(4) Sensitive knowledge does not inform us about the substance of things.
George Berkeley

A. George Berkeley was born in Ireland in 1685. At the age of 15 he entered Trinity College in Dublin, where he
studied mathematics, logic, languages, and philosophy. He was later ordained a clergyman in the Church of
England, becoming a bishop in 1734.
B. Berkeley’s controversial starting point for his philosophy was the statement, esse est percipi, “to be is to be
perceived.”
1. Berkeley seemed to be suggesting that something exists only when it is perceived, that is, that objects have
not absolute existence of their own. Objective existence is dependent upon Subjective perception.
“The table I write on I say exists; that is, I see and feel it: and if I were out of my study I should say it
existed; meaning thereby that If I were in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually
does perceive it.”

2. This radical notion was in part developed as a result of Locke’s theory of knowledge. Locke had concluded
that objects possessed substance but that this substance was “something we know not what.”
a. Berkeley took the next step by stating that this substance was nothing—nothing but ideas.
b. When Berkeley examined the processes of his mind in their reflection on objects he concluded
that there were no circumstances he, which he directly experienced, objects independent of his
mental ideas of them.
“When we do our utmost to conceive the existence of external bodies we are all the while
contemplating our own ideas.”

c. For example:
Berkeley: What is a cherry?
Answer: it is red, soft, round sweet, and fragrant.
Berkeley: All of the qualities are ideas in the mind that the cherry has the power to produce
through the senses. The very existence of these qualities consists in their being perceived. “In
truth, the object and the sensation are the same thing, and cannot therefore be abstracted from
each other.” A thing is therefore, the sum of its perceived qualities; hence to be is to be
perceived.
3. If substance and matter does not exist, what then does exist? Spiritual beings, which are minds that
perceive, are the only things that truly exist.
a. Berkeley believed that the concept of matter complicated philosophy and could not be
substantiated. Furthermore, if unchecked materialistic philosophies could eventually develop into
a “monstrous systems of atheists” which history has shown to be true.
b. Nevertheless, Berkeley recognized that there would be some (many) who would criticize his
ideas as absurd, to which he responded:
“What therefore becomes of the sun, moon, and stars? What must we think of houses, rivers,
mountains, trees, stones; nay even of our own bodies? Are all these so many chimeras and
illusions of fancy?” He answers by stating that by his system, “we are not deprived of any one
thing in nature. Whatever we see, feel, hear, or any wise conceive or understand, remains as
secure as ever, and is as real as ever…. I do not argue against the existence of any one thing that
we can apprehend, either by sense or reflection…. The only thing whose existence we deny, is
that which philosophers call matter or corporeal substance. And in doing of this, there is no
damage done to the rest of mankind, who, I dare say, will never miss it.”
4. In regard to science, Berkeley wanted to purge it from assumptions and misunderstandings in which
scientists attribute as real things, which are not directly perceived such as force, gravity, and causation.
a. Berkeley argued that just like firmness, redness, colors, smell, taste are attributed (mistakenly) to
a single substance (an apple), scientists mistakenly attribute connections between individual
perceptions (causation).
b. We may observe that A is followed by B, by we do not experience (perceive) why this is so.
Hence, the sensible world shows us neither substance nor causality.
5. How then do things exist when they are not perceived by us? To this question, Berkeley responds:
“When I deny sensible things an existence out of the mind, I do not mean my mind in particular, but all
minds. Now it is plain they have an existence exterior to my mind, since I find them by experience to be
independent of it. There is therefore some other mind wherein they exist, during the intervals between the
time of my perceiving them.” Hence “there is an omnipresent eternal Mind, which knows and comprehends
all things, and exhibits them to our view in such a manner and according to such rules as he himself has
ordained, and are by us termed the Laws of Nature.”

a. God’s ideas constitute the regular order of Nature. The ideas that exist in our minds are God’s
ideas, which He communicates to us, so that the objects or things that we perceive in daily
experience are not caused by matter or substance but by God.
b. Therefore, perceived ideas are caused within us by the infinite Mind whereas imaginary ideas
(such as causation) are the product of our finite minds.

6. Berkeley was confident that esse est percipi would undermine philosophical materialism and religious
skepticism. It did not. Furthermore, Berkeley is not so much known for his Idealism, but for his taking
empiricism to the next step. Berkeley had made the point that the human mind reasons only and always
about a particular sense experience and that abstract ideas refer to no equivalent reality.
Hume would build upon Berkeley’s empiricism and credited him with laying the foundation for which would
be his philosophical program:

“…a great philosopher [Berkeley] has disputed the received opinion in this particular, and has asserted that
all general ideas are nothing but particular ones…. I look upon this to be one of the greatest and most
valuable discoveries that has been made of late years in the republic of letters.”

David Hume

A. David Hume took the empiricism of Locke and Berkeley and purged it of any remaining metaphysics. What he
produced was perhaps the most rigorous formulation of empiricism ever proposed.

1. Hume was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1711. During his time at the University of Edinburgh he wrote
that he regarded “every object as contemptible except the improvement of my talents….” And he stated an
“insurmountable aversion to everything but the pursuits of philosophy and general learning.”

a. He spent the years 1734—1737 in France where he composed his Treatise of Human Nature.
He was disappointed by its reception. He later re-wrote and re-titled the essay as An Enquiry
Concerning Human Understanding.
b. He wrote several other treatises including An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals,
Political Discourses, and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.
c. His friends and colleagues including such divergent thinkers as Rousseau and Adam Smith.

2. Hume, consistent with the attitude of the day, was impressed with the methods of science and their ability
to elucidate the hidden workings of the universe.
a. He believed that these methods offered hope to the elucidation of human behavior and thinking.
b. But his early optimism in science ultimately would give way to skepticism.
B. Hume’s Theory of Knowledge
1. At first consideration, the mind would seem to be limitless and unrestrained by experience and even reality.
For example, with the mind one can explore the out regions of the universe and imagine dragons as well as
horses with wings. But upon further examination, Hume concluded that it its “really confined within very
narrow limits.”
2. The contents of the mind can be reduced to the materials given us by the senses and experience, and
those materials Hume calls perceptions. The perceptions of the mind take two forms: impressions and
ideas.
3. The original stuff of thought is an impression. An idea is a copy of an impression. The only difference
between the two is the extent of their vividness.
a. The original perception is an impression. These impressions are “lively” and clear.
b. When we reflect on these impressions we generate ideas. These ideas are less-lively and more
vague.
4. Hume argues that without impressions there can be no ideas since an idea is simply a copy of an
impression.
a. But not every idea is an exact copy of an impression. The mind is capable of “compounding,
transposing, or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses of experience.”
b. The idea of a flying horse is a compounding of impressions: horses and birds. Such an analysis
of ideas will yield, according to Hume, an understanding that they are all derived by the mind’s
working on the impressions provided us by our senses and experiences.
c. This would also hold true of our idea of God which is a result of our minds “augmenting without
limit” the qualities of goodness and wisdom that we experience among human beings.

5. Hume believed that “some bond of union, some associating quality, by which one idea naturally introduces
another.” Hume calls it “a gentle force, which commonly prevails…pointing out to every one those simple
ideas, which are most proper to be united in a complex one.”
a. Hume further suggested that there were certain “qualities” in ideas by which ideas are associated
with each other. These qualities include resemblance, contiguity in time or place, and cause and
effect.
b. Hume gave the following account to explain these qualities:
“A picture naturally leads our thoughts to the original [resemblance]: the mention of one
apartment in the building naturally introduces an enquiry…concerning the others [contiguity]: and
if we think of a wound, we can scarcely forebear reflecting on the pain which follows it [cause and
effect].”

6. Hume’s most significant epistemological contribution (?) was on the problem of causality. Whereas
Berkeley had said that we could not discover efficient causes in things, his intention was to lead us to the
predictable order of God’s universe. Hume, on the other hand, brought the entire issue of causality in
question.

a. Hume asks, “What is the origin of the idea of causality?” Since ideas are copies of impressions,
Hume further asks what impression gives us the idea of causality. His answer is that there is no
impression corresponding to this idea. How then does causality arise in the mind? It must be,
Hume asserts, that the idea of causality arises in the mind when we experience certain relations
between objects.
b. When we speak of cause and effect, we mean to say that A causes B. But what kind of a
relation does this show between A and B? Experience furnishes us with two relations:
(1) There is a relation of contiguity, for A and B are always close together.
(2) There is priority in time, for A, the “cause” always precedes B, the effect.
c. But there is another relation that the idea of causality suggests to common sense, namely, that
between A and B there is a “necessary connection.”
(1) But neither contiguity nor priority implies “necessary” connection between objects.
There is no object that implies the existence of another when we consider objects
individually.
(2) “It is therefore by experience only that we can infer the existence of one object from
another.”
(3) While we do have impressions of contiguity, priority, and constant conjunction, we do
not have any impression of necessary connections. Hence….

(4) Causality is not a quality in the objects we observe but rather a “habit of association” in
the mind produced by the repetition of instances of A and B.
d. Insofar as Hume assumed that the causal principle is central to all kinds of knowledge, his attack
on this principle undermined the validity of knowledge.
(1) He saw no reason for accepting the principle that whatever begins to exist must have a
cause of existence as either intuitive or capable of demonstration.
(2) Thus, in the end, Hume considered thinking or reasoning “a species of sensation” and
as such our thinking cannot extend beyond our immediate experience.

C. Ontology: The Nature of Reality

1. Hume took seriously his theory that our ideas are mere copies of impressions. These impressions are
internal subjective states and are not clear proof of an external reality. Consequently, there can be no
proof of a world outside of our minds:
“Let us chase our imagination to the heavens, or to the utmost limits of the universe’ we never advance a
step beyond our selves, nor can we conceive any kind of existence, but those perceptions which have
appeared in that narrow compass. This is the universe of imagination, nor have we any idea but what is
there produced.”

2. Our belief that things exist external to us is the product of our imagination as it deals with two special
characteristics of our impressions.
a. From impressions our imagination becomes aware of both constancy and coherence.
b. Consider if I look around my classroom. Chairs, desks, and students are in a relatively orderly
arrangement. If I close my eyes and then open them again I find a constancy of arrangement.
And it is this constancy that leads us to believe that these impressions are actually exist outside
of myself.
c. Similarly, I light a candle, leave the room and then return sometime later I find that the candle
has burned down. There is a coherence in the process of change and this leads me again to
conclude that the candle exist and is not merely a mental impression.
d. In either of the above cases, it is a belief and not a rational proof that these things have existence
outside of us.
3. Hume asks if there is an impression that corresponds to the self. He concludes that there is not since
every time he considers the question he gets multiple impressions:
“When I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or
other, of heat or cold, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a
perception and never can observe anything but the perception.”
a. Hume denies the existence of a continuous self-identity. How then does he account for our
concept of self?
b. Hume compares the mind to “a kind of theatre where several perceptions successively make
their appearance,” but adds that “we have not the most distant notion of the place where these
scenes are represented.”
4. It was inevitable that Hume’s premise that “our ideas reach no further than our experience” would lead him
to question the existence of God.
a. Most proofs for the existence of God rely on design and causality. But as he claimed previously,
there is no empirical evidence for the existence of causality so proofs of God that rely on
causality prove nothing.
b. Furthermore, the order of the universe is simply an empirical fact (if it even exist outside of us) for
which we have no other experience to judge how it became so.

Immanuel Kant

A. The Shaping of Kant’s Problem


1. The major philosophical systems of his time, Rationalism and Empiricism, seemed to Kant inadequate to
explain the two major issues which he articulated in his famous statement:
“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe…the starry heavens above and
the moral law within.”
a. On the one hand, the heavens as understood by science seemed to be ordered by deterministic
laws while on the other, man was free.
b. For Kant, the problem was in reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable problems.
2. It appeared to Kant, the direction that science was going was to incorporate all reality, including human
behavior, into a mechanical model.
a. This would suggest that all events, being part of a unified mechanism, could be explained by
cause and effect.
b. Pushing this method to its ultimate conclusion science would eventually have no need for such
notions as freedom and God.
3. Kant was impressed by science. And it appeared to him was that its success lay in the fact that it
functioned independently from either strict Empiricism or Rationalism.
a. Rationalism was based upon a mathematical model which emphasized the relationship between
ideas and not necessarily the way things are in reality. Rationalism ultimately leads to
dogmatism since its metaphysical speculations were not based upon experience.
b. Hume’s attack on causality made inductive inference, the very heart of science, problematic.
Empiricism ultimately led to skepticism.
4. Kant faced two major questions:
a. If the scientific method was applied to study all reality, notions of morality, freedom, and God
were threatened by absorption into a mechanical universe.
b. How can scientific knowledge be justified, that is, have scientists sufficiently explained how they
come to understand nature.
5. As it turns out, these two questions are related. In fact, Kant concluded that scientific knowledge is similar
to metaphysical knowledge. Thus the justification or explanation of scientific thought on the one hand and
metaphysical thought concerning freedom and morality on the other are the same.
a. Kant rescued metaphysics without attacking science. Both in science and in metaphysics our
minds start with some given fact, which gives rise to a judgment within our reason.
“The genuine method of metaphysics is fundamentally the same kind which Newton introduced into
natural science and which was there so fruitful.”
b. With this interpretation of scientific and moral thought, Kant provided a new function and life for
philosophy. This new function was the critical appraisal of the capacity of human reason.
c. In pursuing this line of thinking, Kant achieved what he called his Copernican revolution in
philosophy.
B. Kant’s Critical Philosophy
1. Critical philosophy was “a critical inquiry into the faculty of reason with reference to all the knowledge which
it may strive to attain independently of all experience.”
a. Kant was attempting to ascertain what and how much can we know apart from experience.
b. He thought it was irrelevant for metaphysicians to be asking ontological questions such as
whether or not God exist or if man has free will until they first address the epistemological
question as to whether we can even know anything about these issues.
c. Kant was not trying to negate metaphysics rather lay a foundation for it.
d. In so doing he wanted to know that if metaphysics has to do with knowledge as developed by
reason alone, prior to experience (a priori) the question is, how is such a priori knowledge
possible?
2. The Nature of a prior Knowledge
a. Kant agreed with Hume (and the empiricists) that knowledge starts with experience, but he
disagreed with them in their concluding that experience is the source of all knowledge: “though
our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it all arises out of experience.”
b. Kant further rejected Hume’s explanation that causality was simply a habit of mind connecting
two events that we call cause and effect. Instead, Kant believed that we have knowledge about
causality and that we get this knowledge not from sense experience but directly from the faculty
of rational judgment and, therefore, this knowledge is a prior.

c. What is a priori knowledge? It is knowledge that cannot be derived from experience.


(1) For example, we know that every change has a cause, but we do not know this from
experience because we have not experienced every change. Neither can experience
tell us that events are necessary.
(2) Hence, experience does not give us knowledge of the universality of proposition or the
necessary connections. For this knowledge we rely on a prior judgments.

3. The Synthetic A Priori

a. Kant defines a judgment as an operation of thought whereby we connect a subject and predicate,
where the predicate qualifies in some way the subject.
b. In analytical judgments, the predicate is already contained in the concept of the subject.
(1) The judgment that all triangles have three sides is an analytical judgment.
(2) Because the predicate is already implicit in the subject it offers us no new knowledge
of the subject.
(3) To deny an analytic judgment would involve a logical contradiction.
c. A synthetic judgment differs from the analytic in that its predicate is not contained in the subject.
Thus in a synthetic judgment the predicate adds something new to the subject.
(1) Thus the statement, “the flower is pink” joins to independent concepts since pink is not
implicit in flower.
d. All analytic judgments are a priori since our knowledge of such matters does not require
experience. Furthermore, Kant continues, “necessity and strict universality are sure marks of a a
priori knowledge.” Synthetic judgments are, for the most part, a posteriori, that is, they occur
after an experience of observation.
e. But Kant takes it a step further by proposing the existence of the synthetic a priori. This was the
judgment that Kant was most concerned about.
(1) Consider the judgment that 7 + 5 = 12. This is a priori but also synthetic because it
contains the marks of necessity and universality: 7 plus 5 necessarily equals 12 and it
universally (always) equals 12.
(2) Kant also offers a further illustration: “that a straight line between two points is the
shortest, is a synthetic proposition. For my concept of straight contains no notion of
quantity, but only quality. The concept of shortest is thus wholly an addition, and it
cannot be derived by any analysis from the concept of a straight line. Intuition must,
therefore, lend its aid here, by means of which alone is this synthesis possible.”
(3) His comment earlier about “…the moral law within,” a suggestion of the Natural Law, is
an example of the synthetic a priori in metaphysics since it too implies necessity and
universality.
(4) Kant further suggests that “natural science contains within itself synthetic a priori
judgments as principles.” Every statement of scientific law or theory exists as a
synthetic a priori since it is marked by necessity and universality.
f. Thus, not only does metaphysics rely on the synthetic a priori, but also mathematics and science.
If these judgments pose problems for metaphysics then they pose the same problems for
science and mathematics. Thus, Kant figured that if he could explain the synthetic a priori he
could justify both science and metaphysics.

C. The Structure of Rational Thought


1. Kant says that “there are two sources of human knowledge, which perhaps spring from a common but to us
unknown root, namely, sensibility and understanding. Through the former objects are given to us; through
the latter they are thought.
a. Knowledge is a cooperation between the thing known and the knower. Although I can distinguish
myself as the knower from the object of my knowledge I can never truly know an object as it is.
b. My mind imposes a framework on the object of knowledge as I attempt to know the object. It is
as though I were seeing the world through colored glasses never perceiving it as it really is.
c. What specifically is this framework that my mind brings to those things perceived through the
senses?
2. Categories of Thought and Forms of Intuition
a. The mind attempts to synthesize a unity from the plurality of experience, which it receives from
the senses.
b. The mind achieves this by imposing certain forms of intuition on these experiences.
c. We intuitively perceive things in space and time. Space and time are not immediately
understood through experience and a thus known a priori
d. There are other intuitive forms. When we impose quantity on experience we differentiate one or
many. When we make a judgment of quality we make a positive (good) or negative (bad)
statement. When we think of relation we think of cause and effect or the relationship of subject
and predicate. Finally, when we think of modality we judge things as either possible or
impossible.
3. The Self and the Unity of Experience
a. What makes it possible for us to have a unified grasp of the world? This type of knowledge
involves sensation, imagination, memory, and the capacity of intuitive synthesis. Yet if each of
these were a separate operation they could yield an incoherent picture of the world.
b. Kant reasoned that the fact that this is not the case indicates that there exists a unity of self.
(1) He calls this single subject that accomplishes this unifying activity the “transcendental
unity of apperception”—the self.
(2) He calls the self “transcendental” because we do not experience the self directly
through experience. Thus the idea of self is a priori — a necessary condition to
experience the world around us as a unified whole.
c. In the act of unifying all the elements of experience, we are conscious of our own unity so that
our consciousness of a unified world of experience and our won self-consciousness occur
simultaneously.
(1) Our self-consciousness, however, is affected by the same faculties that affect our
perception of external objects. I bring to the knowledge of myself the same apparatus
and, therefore, impose upon myself as an object of knowledge the same “lenses”
through which I see everything.
(2) Just as I do not know things as they are apart from the perspective from which I see
them, so also I do not know the nature of this “self” except that I am aware of the
knowledge I have of the unity of experience.
4. Phenomenal and Noumenal Reality
a. It is clear that Kant’s epistemological system limits knowledge because our faculties of
perception and our thinking imposes on the raw data of experience in such a way that we do not
know if the things perceived are in fact the way they really are.
b. Kant concludes therefore that there are two realities:
(1) Phenomenal Reality, that is, the world as we experience it, and
(2) Noumenal Reality, that is, purely intelligible, or nonsensual reality.

c. When we experience a thing we perceive it through the lens of our a priori categories of thought.
But what is a thing like when it is not being perceived? What is a thing-in-itself (Ding an sich)?
(1) According to Kant, we cannot know a thing-in-itself since there is no such thing as
nonsensual perception.
(2) Consequently, human knowledge is fundamentally limited in its ability to know external
reality.

5. Transcendental Ideas of Pure Reason


as Regulative Concepts

a. Kant proposes that there are three regulative ideas that lead us beyond sense experience and
which are necessary in our attempt to unify the plurality of our experiences. These ideas are:
the self, cosmos, and God.
b. These ideas are transcendental because they do not correspond to any object of our direct
experience.
(1) Kant suggests that they are not the result of intuition, but pure reason.
(2) Furthermore, they are prompted in the sense that we think of these ideas in our
attempts to achieve a coherent synthesis of our experience.
c. Kant says that “the first [regulative] idea is the ‘I’ itself, viewed simply as thinking nature or
soul…endeavoring to represent all determinations as existing in a single subject, all powers, so
far as possible, as derived from a single fundamental being, and all appearances in space as
completely different from actions of thought.”
d. Pure reason also tries to create a synthesis of many events in experience by forming the concept
of the world or cosmos:
“…the second regulative idea of merely speculative reason is the concept of the world in
general…. The absolute totality of the series of conditions…an idea which can never be
completely realized in the empirical employment of reason, but which yet serves as a rule that
prescribes how we ought to proceed in dealing with such series…. The cosmological ideas are
nothing but simply regulative principles, and are very far from positing…an actual totality of such
series.”
e. Finally, Kant sees the idea of God as an extension of reasons attempt to unify our experience
beyond that of cosmos:
“The third idea of pure reason, which contains a merely relative supposition of a being that is the
sole and sufficient cause of all cosmological series, is the idea of God. We have not the slightest
ground to assume in an absolute manner the object of this idea…. It becomes evident that the
idea of such a being, like all speculative ideas, seems only to formulate the command of reason,
that all connection in the world be viewed in accordance with the principles of a systematic unity—
as if all such connection had its source in one single all-embracing being as the supreme and
sufficient cause.”
f. Kant chooses the middle ground between skeptical empiricism and dogmatic rationalism. He
agrees with the empiricists that we cannot know anything except what is presented to us through
our senses. Nevertheless, ideas produced by reason alone such as self, cosmos, and God can
help us synthesize coherence to our experiences. However, Kant makes it clear that he
disagrees with the rationalists who believed that these ideas corresponded to objects:
“…there is a great difference between something given to my reason as an object absolutely, or
merely as an object in the idea. In the former case our concepts are employed to determine the
object [transcendental]; in the latter case there is in fact only a scheme for which no object, not
even a hypothetical one, is directly give, and which only enables us to represent to ourselves
other objects in an indirect manner, namely in their systematic unity, by means of their relation to
this idea. Thus, I say, that the concept of a highest intelligence is a mere idea.”

6. The Antinomies and the Limits of Reason

a. Because regulative ideas do not refer to any objective reality about which we can have
knowledge, we must consider these ideas as being the products of our pure reason. As such we
cannot bring to these ideas the a priori forms of time and space or the category of cause and
effect since these are imposed by us only upon the sensible manifold.

b. Science is possible because all people, having the same structure of mind, will always and
everywhere order the events of sense experience in the same way. But science is not possible
for metaphysics [regulative ideas].

c. Kant states that we can have scientific knowledge of phenomena but not the noumenal realm.
Our attempts at a “science” of metaphysics are doomed to failure. As proof of this Kant says that
when we attempt to describe the self, cosmos, or God we inevitably fall into antinomies.

d. For Kant an antimony occurs when we can state opposite positions with equal force. Kant stated
that there were four fundamental antinomies:

(1) The world is limited in time and space or it is unlimited.

(2) 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.

(3) 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.

(4) There exists an absolutely necessary being as part of the world or as its cause, or an
absolutely necessary being nowhere exits.

e. These disagreements occur in metaphysics because they are based on “nonsense”—that is,
upon attempts to describe a reality about which we have, and can have, no sense experience.

f. Nevertheless, Kant believed that these antinomies had value. For example, we can think of a
person in two different ways: as a phenomenon and as a noumenon.

(1) As a phenomenon, a person can be studied scientifically as a being in space and time
and in the context of cause and effect.

(2) As a noumenon, what he is like beyond our sense perception of him cannot be known.
The person as self exists at the limits of reason, an antimony, and here freedom and
therefore moral obligation can exist.

D. Practical Reason

1. Introduction

a. Kant understood that the same reason involved in trying to understand the “starry heavens
above” was also responsible for the “moral law within.”

b. Kant was also aware that the tendency of science was to increasingly include the entire cosmos,
including human behavior, into a mechanistic view which would preclude human freedom:
“I could not…without palpable contradiction say of one and the same thing, for instance the
human soul, that its will is free and yet is subject to natural necessity, that is not free.”

c. Kant’s solution was to say that the person’s phenomenal self is subject to the cause and effect
necessitated by a mechanistic universe. However, the person’s noumenal self possesses
freedom.

d. This freedom exist more as a result of the limits of reason than being an ontological reality of
personhood:

“Our Critique limits speculative reason, it is indeed negative, but since it thereby removes an
obstacle which stands in the way of the employment of practical reason, nay threatens to destroy
it, it has in reality a positive and very important use.”

e. Kant therefore limits science to the phenomenal world and practical reason (ethics) to the
noumenal world.

4. The Basis of Moral Knowledge

a. The task of moral philosophy is to discover how we are able to arrive at principles of behavior that are
binding upon all people.

b. Kant did not believe that induction was an appropriate method for ascertaining these principles since
that would simply tell us how people do behave not how they ought to behave.

c. For Kant the moral judgment, “we ought to tell the truth” is arrived at in the same way as the scientific
statement, “every effect has a cause.”

(1) In both cases, these judgments are derived from reason not experience.

(2) Thus, just as theoretical reasoning brings the category of causality to the phenomenal
world, practical reason brings the ought to the noumenal world.

d. Both in science and in moral philosophy we use concepts that go beyond any particular facts and like
science, practical reason employs a priori judgments. Hence, he says:

“The basis of obligation must not be sought in human nature or in the circumstances of the world in
which [humanity] is placed, but a priori simply in the concepts of reason.”

e. The qualities of universality and necessity are the marks of a priori judgments. This is further evidence
to Kant that moral judgments are the result of practical reason a priori and not the Natural or Divine
Law.

5. Morality and Rationality

a. As a rational being I not only ask, “What shall I do?” but also “What ought I to do?”

b. As I consider what I ought to do I recognize that this “ought” should be applicable to all rational
persons.

c. Therefore, a morally good act is wither its principle can be applied to all rational beings and applied
consistently.

d. Moral philosophy is the quest for these principles that apply to all rational beings and that lead to
behavior that we call good.

6. “Good” Defined as the Good Will

a. Nothing is intrinsically good:


“Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called ‘good,’ without
qualification, except good will”

b. The essence of the morally good act is the disposition of the individual performing the act, not the act
itself.

“The good will is good not because of what it causes or accomplishes, not because of its usefulness in
the attainment of some set purpose, but alone because of the willing, that is to say, it is good of itself.”

c. An action cannot be judged as moral because the result of this action is determined to be a “good”
such as the promotion of happiness for another. Rather, a moral action is good if it is performed for the
sake of the moral law.

“For all these effects—even the promotion of the happiness of others—could have been also brought
about by other causes, so that for this there would have been no need of the will of a rational being.”

d. The seat of moral worth is the will, and the good will is one that acts out of a sense of duty; and “an
action done from duty must wholly exclude the influence of inclination, and with it every object of the
will, so that nothing remains which can determine the will except objectively the law and subjectively
pure respect of this practical law.”

e. Our duty towards the moral law arises because it comes to us as an imperative. There are two types of
imperatives: hypothetical and categorical.

(1) A hypothetical imperative is one which applies only if we enter the sphere of its operation.

(2) A technical imperative is an example of a hypothetical imperative. If one wishes to be a


doctor there is the technical imperative that one must learn certain skills.

(3) A prudential imperative suggests that if we wish to attract someone of the opposite sex it
would be prudent to use deodorant. Of course we do not have to—but it is unlikely though
that someone will want to come into the sphere of our operation!

7. The Categorical Imperative

a. A categorical imperative is one which applies to all people and commands “an action as necessary of
itself without reference to another end, that is, as objectively necessary.”

b. It is categorical because it applies to all rational beings, and it is imperative because it is the principle
on which we ought to act.

c. Kant observed “everything in nature works according to laws. Rational beings alone have the faculty of
acting according to the conception of laws.” He concludes from this the following axiom:

“Act as if the maxim of your action were to become a universal law of nature.”

d. The categorical imperative does not give us specific rules rather it gives a rather abstract formula.
Once we understand this formula then we can apply it to specific situations.

e. The individual human being as possessing absolute worth becomes the basis for the supreme principle
of morality:

“The foundation of this principle is: rational nature exists as an end in itself. All men everywhere want
to be considered persons instead of things for the same reason that I do, and this affirmation of the
absolute worth of the individual leads to a second formulation of the categorical imperative which says:
So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end
withal, never as a mean only.”

f. Kant’s final formulation is as follows:

“Always so act that the will could regard itself at the same time as making universal law through its own
maxim.”
(1) Kant speaks of the autonomy of the will, that each person through his own act of will
legislates the moral law. This is in contrast with heteronomy in which another is the
legislature of law.
(2) A heteronomous will is influenced by desires and inclinations. An autonomous will is free
and independent and as such is the “supreme principle of morality.”
(3) Central to the concept of the autonomy of the will is the idea of freedom, the crucial
regulative idea, which Kant employed to distinguish between the worlds of science and
morality—the phenomenal and the noumenal worlds:
“I affirm that we must attribute to every rational being which has a will that it has also the
idea of freedom and acts entirely under this idea. Fro in such a being we conceive a
reason that is practical, that is, has causality in reference to objects.”

8. The Moral Postulates

a. Kant believed it was impossible to prove that freedom exists. Yet he believed that it had to be
assumed that it existed because of our experience of moral obligation, that is, “because I must, I can.”
The first moral postulate therefore is that freedom must be assumed.
b. The second moral postulate is immortality. Although virtue is the supreme good we as rational beings
are fully satisfied only when there is a union between virtue and happiness.
(1) Though it does not always happen so, we all assume that virtue ought to produce
happiness. Kant maintained that the moral law commands us to act not so that we will be
happy, but so that our actions will be right.
(2) Still, the full realization of a rational being requires that we think of the supreme good as
including both virtue and happiness. But our experience shows that there is no necessary
connection between virtue and happiness.
(3) If we limit human experience to this world, it would then appear impossible to achieve the
supreme good in its fullness.
(4) Still, the moral law does command us to strive for perfect good, and this implies an
indefinite progress towards this ideal:
“but this endless progress is possible only on the supposition of the unending duration of
the existence and personality of the same ration being, which is called the immortality of
the soul.”

c. The former line of reasoning also compels us toe postulate the existence of God as the grounds for the
necessary connection between virtue and happiness.
(1) If we mean by happiness “the sate of a rational being in the world with whom in the totality
of his experience everything goes according to his wish and will,” then happiness implies a
harmony between a person’s will and physical nature.
(2) But a person is not the author of the world, nor is he or she capable of ordering nature so
as to effect a necessary connection between virtue and happiness.
(3) But we do conclude from our conception of the supreme good that virtue and happiness
must go together. Consequently, we must postulate “the existence of a cause of the whole
of nature which is distinct from nature and which contains the ground of this connection,
namely, of the exact harmony of happiness with morality. And thus “it is morally necessary
to assume the existence of God.”
“Through the idea of the supreme good as object and final end of the pure practical reason
the moral law leads to religion, that is to the recognition of all duties as divine commands,
not as sanctions, that is, as arbitrary commands of an alien will…but as essential laws of
every free will in itself, which, however, must be looked on as commands of the supreme
Being, because it is only from a morally perfect and at the same time all-powerful will…that
we hope to attain the highest good, which the moral law makes it our duty to take as the
object of our endeavor.”