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A Term Paper Presented to the Faculty of the Department of Philosophy College of Arts and Sciences University of San Carlos Cebu City, Philippines
______________________ In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Course Epistemology _________________
by GLENN REY ANINO October 2010
This paper endeavored to present the three methods in approaching the problems of modern philosophy most especially in the field of epistemology. These methods are rationalism, empiricism, and criticism. First, the researcher tried his best to provide an exposition on the theories of knowledge in both rationalism and empiricism and also on its valuable points and weak points. Each philosopher who belongs in a particular method has been discussed including their theories and criticisms. Rationalism and empiricism have contributed to the demystification of knowledge through their insightful philosophies. However, each method has its lacuna to which each of them is criticizing each other. This dispute leads to the third method. The third method is called criticism which aims to resolve the conflict between rationalism and empiricism.
Method of Rationalism Rationalism is a philosophical outlook on knowledge that considers the perfectibility of human reason. As a school of thought, rationalism argues that the substantial claims about the world can be grasped by the capacity of a priori reason without the need or reliance on senseexperience. Reason is the only source of truth on matters of knowing the nature of man and of the reality. A rationalist, a person who adheres the tenets1 of rationalism, is very optimistic on the power of reason and has a great regard on its fate due to his assumption that what he “thinks clearly and distinctly”2 in his mind did really exist in the reality outside of his mind. Although rationalism appeared in different period, this system has its best representatives in its highest achievement during the 17th to 18th century. In this way, the epistemological standpoint of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Christian Wolff must be elucidated in this paper.
Tenets are the doctrines being embraced, followed, and held to be true. In Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy, it provides ten tenets or principles hold by the school of rationalism as follows: (1) by the process of abstraction and reasoning we can arrive at fundamental undeniable truths, (2) reality is knowable independently of observation, (3) the mind is capable of knowing some truths about reality that are prior to any experience but are not analytic truths, (4) reason is the principal origin of knowledge, (5) truth is not tested by sense- verification procedures, (6) there is a rational (deductive, logicomathematical, inferential) method that can be applied to any subject matter whatsoever and can provide us with adequate explanations, (7) absolute certainty about things is the ideal of knowledge and is attainable to some extent by finite minds, (8) only those necessary and self- evident truths derived from reason alone can be known as true, real, and certain; all else are subject to falsification, illusion and certainty, (9) the universe ( reality) follows the laws and rationality of logic, and lastly (10) once this logic is mastered, all things in the universe can be seen to be deducible from its principles or laws. [Angeles, Peter. The Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy. Edited by Eugene Ehrlich. (New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 1992), 252- 253.]
So precise and different from all other objects that it contains within itself nothing but what is clear. The complete text is found in First Part, Principle 43 & 45 of Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy. [Descartes, Rene. Key Philosophical Writings. (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Edition Limited, 1997), 292-293.]
Rationalism in Descartes’ Innate Idea Rene Descartes was situated on the period of great cloud of doubts3 and for this condition his major problem was concerned on how we can arrive at certitude. He searched for a method and he was successful to find one and he called it a methodic doubt. It is stated: “Universal doubt is meant to lead to “perfect knowledge” of truth and it is for this reason that he calls it methodical.”4 Descartes doubts knowledge of everything whether it is based from the senses5 or even the demonstration of mathematics as an exact science. 6 All objects of our knowledge have been put into doubt except for one thing that there is the one that doubts. The event of doubting cannot be doubted and the more one doubts the more it is certain that he doubts. The first certitude is, in the words of Descartes, “Cogito ergo sum,” which is known as “I think, therefore I am.”7 This certitude concludes that there exists a res cogitans which can be named in different ways such as the thinking I, the thinking being, the thinking self, or the thinking substance that will serve as the foundation of Descartes’ philosophy as the father of the modern period.
In his time, there was a great cloud of doubts because everything was put into the canopy of doubt. Nicolas of Cusa doubted the logic of Aristotle as a tool for knowing the infinite. The logic of Aristotle is only capable of knowing the finite but as for the matter of God it is not capable because there is no link or middle term between the finite and infinite. Finite et infinite nulla proportio. Francis Bacon goes beyond the criticism of Cusa by totally rejecting the deductive logic of Aristotle because it is full with assumptions and will lead as a source of the idols of the mind. He proposes a Novum Organon, an inductive logic to replace the deductive of Aristotle. Bacon only abolished the four idols of the mind namely the idol of the cave, tribe, marketplace and theatre. There is still subject matter to be doubted not for the sake of doubt itself but to arrive at certitude. Here, No doubt that Descartes was motivated to pursue his search for epistemological certitude.
Nelson, Alan (editor). A Companion to Rationalism. (Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2005), 5.
Descartes, Rene. Key Philosophical Writings. (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Edition Limited, 1997), Principle 4, p. 277.
Ibid.,[ Principle 5], 278.
Ibid., [Principle 7], 279.
He arrived at this certitude not on the reliance and verification of the senses or from experience but only on the activity of the mind. This method presupposes that there is an idea in the mind in which the mind is not totally conscious of that idea. To an extent, Descartes was saying implicitly that we are born with ideas; a rationalist conclusion which we can trace back from the philosophy of Plato.8 From this innatism, Descartes used the ontological argument as a causal argument on knowing the existence of God which arises from the cogito alone that means that the idea of God is innate in the “I.” His implicit innatism can be found in his argument as follows: “We come to know them [innate truths] by the power of our own native intelligence, without any sensory experience. All geometrical truths are of this sort- not just the most obvious ones, but all the others, however abstruse they may appear. Hence, according to Plato, Socrates asks a slave-boy about the elements of geometry and thereby makes the boy able to dig out certain truths from his own mind which he had not previously recognized were there, thus attempting to establish the doctrine of reminiscence. Our knowledge of God is of this sort.” 9 Descartes is sure that he cannot err about his conclusion on the basis that he knows clearly and distinctly.10 To see clearly and distinctly is to have a conclusion which is “present and apparent to the attentive mind.”11 Given this argument, Descartes was trying to convince that reality is knowable independent of observation and any other empirical methods.
The rationalism of Plato is illustrated in his famous allegory of the cave and the idea of innatism or innate mental content in Meno. In the allegory, the real and true knowledge is not found on the lower level symbolized by the cave but on the ascent to the upper world. The level of knowledge in the World of the Senses is lower and it is only an opinion while the level of knowledge in the World of Forms is the true episteme because it is unchanging and eternal. To reach the real knowledge is done through the process of education or the laborious training of the mind. In Plato’s Meno, knowledge is reminiscence because we are born with innate idea. The dialogue goes when an uneducated and slave boy of Meno was asked by Socrates with mathematical questions. Socrates found out that the slave boy was able to come up with an exact answer which boy did not learn before. Here, Socrates argues that the boy must have an innate idea and the way to know them is to remember what we have known before our birth through knowledge as midwifery.
Descartes, Rene. Philosophical Writings. 2 vols. Trans. J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch, and A. Kenny. ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 222-3.
After the first certitude, the “I” is certain about its knowledge because of a benevolent and non-deceiving God. In this case, the theories of sciences and the knowledge of the physical things follow.
Descartes, Key Philosophical Writings, [Principle 45], 293.
Rationalism in Leibniz’ Monadology The first thing that we need to know about Leibniz is his conception of monads. Monads are derived from Greek which means a unit or one. He defined monad merely as “a simple substance, which enters into composites; simple, that is to say without parts.”12 The monads have some qualities which makes one monad possibly distinguishable from the other. To Leibniz, monads are the “true atoms of nature”13 because they are self- contained, self- sufficient, and self- propelling. He supported this conception by describing the windowlessness of monads. The monads have no windows through which anything can enter or depart. 14 This means that each monad has a capacity of internal dynamism which all changes come from within without affecting each other. Everything that happens to a monad comes from its inherent nature or program and nothing outside the monad can cause its own activities. But although there are different independent monads, all are reducible to one supreme Monad, the Monad of all monads which Leibniz would mean as God. We can label Leibniz in the rationalist tradition on account of his epistemology because he argued that the true level of reality is the monadic level by which the fundamental substratum is the immaterial monads that have no parts, extension, and divisibility but an indivisible mental entities. What we perceived by our senses as a body that has a shape are just composites of the mere result of aggregate soul-like monads. Though his metaphysics is a kind of immaterialist, he
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. The Monadology in Modern Classical Philosophers by Benjamin Rand. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908), [Principle 1], 199.
Ibid., Principle 3. The atoms mentioned here is not the same with the material atoms of Democritus.
Ibid., Principle 7.
considers also that things that are outside of the mind are real. But this material reality only made possible if we are well- grounded on the monadic reality which cannot be known through senseexperience. If this would be the case, then we could make a sense of recognizing the substantial form of our body through the method of contemplation. Not only on the concept of monad which we can consider Leibniz as a rationalist. He is also well- known for his three principles fundamentally referring to the principles of logic. The principle of identity which suggests “Whatever is, is” or “A thing is identical with itself.” 15The second is the principle of non-contradiction which is an important tool in the validity of logic’s search for the necessary truth. This principle argues that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time16 or it is impossible for the same thing to be true and false at one time. This would suggest that we can reason out as long as we can upon in the condition that we are not contradicting ourselves. The third principle, an argument which will give credit to the optimism of Leibniz but not to all philosophers who followed him, is the principle of sufficient reason.17 This principle asserts that everything happens in the world happens for a certain reason and it is reasonable to reason out why things happen or behave in this particular way and not otherwise. If one says of something then he must have sufficient reason to say so. Synthesizing these three principles, Leibniz arrives at the logical use of reason as a sole source of knowledge. Given that a thing is
Jaime, Virginia. An Introduction to Logic. 2nd edition. (Cebu City: ABC Publications, 2002), 51. One common example that I can give is my experience with an ant. No matter what I do in order that an ant will not bite me is still a useless passion because it is already part of ant’s nature to bite.
Reason in the time of Leibniz was so dear because of its capacity to know the truth but the case was not anymore the same at the coming of the 19th to early 20th century. Some thinkers at this age did not contented on reason alone but emphasize the uniqueness of human experience including its passion, will, and feeling. The existentialists are the major proponent of this position because of their emphasis on the irrational side of man. Most of them if not all are deeply rooted in metaphysics. Irrationalism, here, does not mean unreasonableness in a literal sense of interpretation but it goes beyond reason. Albert Camus used to call this dilemma as absurd, a conclusion of the unintelligibility of the world. Also, Sartre argues that there is no sufficient reason to explain the existence of the world because the world is just what it is or in his term he calls it as a being in itself.
identical with itself (principle of identity) because a thing cannot be and not be at the same time (principle of non- contradiction), there must be a necessary reason to account why a thing is at it is and not otherwise. Reason must necessarily exist in the very nature of things. This conclusion may seem echoing Descartes’ implicit concept of innatism. In the end, the ultimate sufficient reason that explains everything is the immaterial Monad (God) as a source of rational internal dynamism of the whole universe.
Rationalism in Spinoza’s Geometry in Philosophy Spinoza’s contribution to the Continental rationalism is of great importance partly because of his conception of seeing things in the perspective of eternity. By this perspective, we mean to have a conception of the whole reality at one time. This kind of “seeing” is more than the empirical seeing and ordinary use of lenses. What Spinoza wanted to express is to see things in the perspective of God. This seems impossible to us humans. In order to make clear on this method of knowing reality, it is necessary to know first what he means by God. To this, Spinoza’s metaphysics which include the idea of substance, attributes, thought, extension, and mode must be made also into a clear and thorough explanation. He offered a monistic metaphysics by arguing that there is only one substance which is infinite and he calls it as God or Nature. He anticipated the view of pantheism in his conception of God being identified with the whole cosmos.18 Since it is pantheistic, we can use either God or Nature to refer to a substance. He defined Substance and God in the following passages:
Stumpf Samuel Enoch & Fieser James. Socrates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy. Eight ed. (New York: McGraw- Hill, 2008), 216.
“By substance I understand what is in itself and is conceived through itself, i.e., that whose concept does not require the concept of another thing, from which it must be formed.”19 “By God I understand a being absolutely infinite-that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality.”20
This means that a substance is that which we can think as existing without relating it to any external reason to account its existence. Substance can exist in itself and this substance is God. Spinoza agreed with Anselm’s ontological argument because the very conception of the substance necessitates that God exists. In the case of man as finite being, he cannot exist on its own because they are not substance as Spinoza defined the term substance. “Finite things cannot be understood or explained apart from God’s causal activity.”21 This argument means that the existence of humans and other finite entities are dependent on God and also presuppose that God is present in all of these entities. Spinoza explicitly said, “Whatever is, is in God, and nothing can exist or conceived without God.”22 In this pantheistic view, Spinoza meant here that finite entities are the modification of the self-cause substance which is God. As for the mode, he says, it is the affection of substance, that which is in somewhat else, through which also it is conceived.23 Given the argument above that God is a “substance consisting of infinite attributes,” God possesses unlimited qualities. “By attribute I understand that which intellect perceives
Spinoza, Baruch. Ethics. Trans. Edwin Curley. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), Part 1, def. 3.
Ethics, Part 1, def. 6.
Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy. Volume IV. (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc, 1994), 217.
Ethics, Part 1, prop. 15.
Ibid., Part 1, def. 5.
concerning substance, as consisting the essence thereof.”24 According to Spinoza, humans can only know two attributes out of the infinite attributes of God because of its limit as a finite being. These attributes that are known to human are the attributes of thought and extension. Everything that human beings can say about the nature is either a finite mind as a mode of God under the category of the attribute of thought and a finite body as a mode of God under the category of the attribute of extension. Concerning Spinoza’s epistemology, he classified knowledge in general into two: adequate idea and inadequate idea. By adequate, Spinoza means that “it is an idea which, in so far as it is considered without regard to the object, has all the properties or intrinsic marks of a true idea.”25 To arrive at an adequate idea does not need the support of the senses for the truth of an idea justifies itself. “He who has a true idea knows at the same time that he has a true idea, nor can he doubt concerning the truth of the thing.”26 On the other hand, inadequate ideas are the ideas that come to us through sense- perception. We come to know as long as our senses are affected by the external objects or by the stimulus. Further, his Ethics gives three ascending levels of knowledge from (1) opinion or imagination, to (2) reason, and most importantly to (3) intuition. The first level and the lowest kind is the knowledge on the level of opinion or imagination. A person has knowledge of something as long as his body is being affected by external objects through his senses. This kind of knowledge is sense- dependent. The mind at this level is not active but passive because it is only capable of receiving impressions from the
Ibid., Part 1, def. 6
Ibid., Part 2, def. 4.
Ibid., prop. 43.
outside. A person conceives things only in a particular way and so his knowledge of a thing is specific and concrete because he can ostensibly define. Knowledge of this kind is inadequate. But although this knowledge is inadequate it does not mean that it should be rejected because this knowledge has a practical utility to us. “And thus I know nearly all things that are useful to life.”27 The second level of knowledge is reason which is characterized as an adequate idea and scientific knowledge. Reason is both an adequate idea and scientific knowledge because it abandons its source of validity from the sense-perception and reason arises when “we have common notions (common notions) and adequate ideas of the property of things”28 due to the activity of the mind in dealing with abstract ideas which are common and perceived by all. Reason deals with common characteristic and universal laws, and formulates its knowledge in general and abstract terms.29 This is done through the process of abstraction by which a common characteristic is abstracted from the characteristics of particular things. We see particular things in the first level of knowledge and from these particularities come out the universal and abstract idea because reason perceives them only as one. Spinoza further stated that reason is an adequate idea of the formal essence of a certain attributes of God. The essences of thins being abstracted are put into the context of modification of God’s two attributes known to man which are the modes of the attribute of thought and extension. Reason as such has knowledge of God only as the primary cause of all existence in terms of necessary laws of the universe but not on God as actually existing unique Substance. In the logical process of deduction from infinite substance to finite modes, reason cannot perfectly know the infinite substance. What reason can only know is
Copleston, A History of Philosophy, 233.
Ethics, Part 2, prop. 40, corollary 2.
Terrenal, Quintin. Causa Sui And The Object of Intuition in Spinoza. (Cebu City: San Carlos Publication,
the God through its creation as His manifestation on nature as a Natura naturata. Hence, reason can only know God in two attributes out of His infinity of attributes. Spinoza introduces the third level of knowledge because he sees the limitation of reason when it comes to the knowledge of God as He is Himself or Natura naturans. This level of knowledge is called intuition. Intuition neither arises from imagination nor from just a leap of a mystic but it arises from reason. From reason as an adequate idea of the formal essence of a certain attributes of God, it arises to intuition as an adequate idea of the essence of things. This level goes back to the conception of the individual objects being perceived by the first level of knowledge but at this time intuition nullifies the role of the senses. Intuition sees things in the perspective of God because it cannot conceive of a thing without the conception of God as a Causa Sui or self-cause that necessarily causes everything to exist. The second and the third level of knowledge are the true and adequate knowledge. In these two levels, Spinoza speaks of the possibility of knowledge in the perspective of eternity. “It is the nature of reason to perceive things under a certain aspect of eternity.”30For him, this is possible because our reason has a criterion of judging a thing which is based on necessity but not on contingency. To regard a thing in relation to necessity does not need experience because it can only teach the particular.31We only regard things as contingent when we conceived the particular things through the senses as a lowest kind of cognition. This happens when we perceived things in relation to time such as a thing existed in the past, exists in the present and will exist in the future. Problem may arise in this way because the imagination wavers and comes up with confused expectations and ambiguities which is the result of the inconsistency of
Ethics, Part 2, prop. 44, cor. 2.
We see a particular table, for example, that its color is brown but it does not necessarily follow that its color must be brown in order to consider other tables as a table.
sensation in connecting one particular thing to the other. To conceive things as necessary, reason and intuition must regard things as they are in themselves as a mode of God and God Himself as a necessarily cause respectively. This necessity characterizes the very necessity of God’s eternal nature. “From the very necessity of the divine nature must follow an infinite number of things in infinite ways- that is, all things can full within the sphere of Infinite Intellect.”32 Our reason has the ability to have this perspective because our human mind is a finite version of the infinite mind of God. “All our ideas, insofar as it is related to God, are true.” Whatever ideas we have as long as it is in the perspective of God or in eternity cannot err because the truth of an idea validates itself. Spinoza’s rationalism is to have a coherent view of the whole nature by providing canons of unquestionable principles that are based from geometry. This whole nature is identified with God. Since God is infinite, He must be present in all its modification and hence He unites everything whether it is a thought or extension. The whole of reality then is reducible to one absolutely infinite Substance which is God. Thus in his Ethics he concludes that “the mind’s highest good is the knowledge of God, and the mind’s highest virtue it to know God.”33 Only by nullifying the role of sensation, this Spinozistic bliss is possible. Rationalism in Wolff’s Coupling of Mathematics and Logic Wolff divides knowledge into two: namely, history and mathematics. The former is the knowledge of the facts of the existent finite beings that are based from observation while the latter is the knowledge of the quantity of thing. Wolff gives the following definition of
Ethics, Part 1, prop. 16.
Ethics, Part 4, prop. 28.
philosophy as “the science of all possible things insofar as they are possible” 34 and by possible he means that which does not entail contradiction, or which is impossible (Ontologica, 85).35 The existent finite beings as the completion of possibility are no longer the concern of philosophy as science of something to be possible. As a science of the possible, philosophy being aided by the principles of logic must consider the clearness of the identity of the world of possible and at the same time with reason why these possible become true. The first is determined by the principle of identity or non- contradiction and as for the reason why this possible must be is determined by the principle of sufficient reason. Let us consider his argument regarding the principle of noncontradiction as follows36:
1.) While we are judging something to be, it is impossible at the same time to judge it not to be. 2.) It cannot happen that one and the same thing be and at the same time not be. 3.) If A is B, it is false that A is not B
From the principle of non- contradiction, knowledge of all the essence will come out as the principle of identity. Wolff seems to follow the innatism of Descartes because he regarded the principle of non- contradiction as something innate in the human mind. It is also noticeable that Wolff’s rationalism is echoing Leibniz’s three principles of logic but he reduces them into two for the reason that the principle of non- contradiction and principle of identity are taken as one. Further, the principle of sufficient reason explains why something is and this becomes the basis of science. This principle argues that everything that is or is possible must have reason or causes sufficient to produce it precisely as it is.37 These principles are used by reason as tools for
Tonelli, Giorgo. Christian Wolff, in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 8. (New York: The McMillan Company and Free Press, 1967), 341.
Sullivan, Emmanuel. Christian Wolff’s Concept of the Possible. (USA: The Catholic University of America, 1971), 27.
Corazzon, Raul. “Twin Pillars of Philosophy.” Available [online]<http://www.ontology.co/christian-wolffontology.htm> 08 August 2010.
knowledge. For Wolff, philosophy must be coupled with mathematics because it deals not on the knowledge of facts. “Mathematics employs a method of extraordinary power which is applicable to philosophy; insofar as philosophy shares in the values of mathematical method, it attains to complete certitude.38 If mathematics is used systematically in philosophy, it will lead to a further knowledge. The combination of mathematics and the principles of logic can claim the absolutely knowable world in a clear and distinct way. As for the principles of logic, the mind is active and as it does in mathematics. In the words of Wolff he once said: “We can present to ourselves what we have never sensed before. We experience this in geometry, when we present to ourselves the drawing of the curved line of a kind we have never before seen, also when following this we draw the same line on a paper and thereby bring it to sensation for the first time.”39 Christian Wolff's Classification of Sciences in the Preliminary Discourse to Philosophy in General
Nelson, A Companion to Rationalism, 337. One example is the triangle. The three- sidedness of the three angles is a sufficient reason that suffices us to think of a triangle that has three angles.
Corazzon, Raul. “Preliminary Discourse on the Philosophy in General.” Available [online]<http://www.ontology.co/christian-wolff-ontology.htm> 08 August 2010.
Nelson, A Companion to Rationalism, 336.
Source: Richard J. Blackwell - Introduction to: Christian Wolff - Preliminary discourse on philosophy in general Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1963, pp. IX-XI. Available online at: http://www.ontology.co/christian-wolff-ontology.htm
Mathematics in general is a refined reason because of its character as productive and has the power of invention separated from the senses. His philosophy is optimistic when it regards to the capacity of the human reason to reach the truth through an insistence of a method. Perhaps this optimism made him influential in his time and this Wolffian system experienced no successful and critical development until Kant rose from his dogmatic slumber.
The Method of Empiricism Empiricism is a philosophical outlook on knowledge that acknowledges experience as the only source of knowledge. The primary method that is used is observation, experiments, and other empirical evidences by the aid of sense- perception. Generally, empiricism follows Aristotle’s dictum, “There is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses.”40 By this argument we can only have truth-claims about reality if it can be established and verified though senseexperience. The major proponents of this system of thought were the British empiricists: Locke, Berkeley and Hume. Each philosophy arises as a direct attack to the three areas left undoubted by Descartes namely: innate ideas, substance, causality which are attacked by Locke, Berkeley, and Hume respectively. Besides, they also attacked the dogmatic claims of some rationalists.
Locke on His Attack of Innate Idea The epistemological goal of Locke is to know the origin, certitude, and extent of human knowledge so that human can establish a firm ground for belief, opinion and assent. He feels the necessity of self-knowledge as the basis of drawing a dichotomy between what human can know and what he cannot know. In his Essay41, he begins with an analysis whether there is or there is
Turner, W. “Aristotle” in The Catholic Encyclopedia. Available [online]<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01713a.htm> 12 August 2010.
no innate idea. There was an opinion generally accepted by his predecessors that at birth there is already an idea “stamped upon the mind of man”42 Locke defines idea in the following words: “I must here in the entrance beg pardon of my reader, for the frequent use of the word Idea, which he will find in the following treatise. It being that term, which, I think, serves best to stand for whatsoever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks… or whatsoever it is, which the mind can be employed about in thinking.”43 “Whatsoever the mind perceives in itself, or is the immediate object of perception, thought, or understanding, that I call idea.”44 The criterion of something to be innate is that there must certain principles where all men agreed and in Locke’s term he calls it a “universal assent.” Locke commented that if there are innate ideas agreed by all mankind then, those ideas must have been known to all of us now. Yet, there are still contradictions among intellectuals.45 By all this inconsistencies, he scrutinizes the idea of innatism which may either be innate speculative principle or innate practical principle. As for the innate theoretical principle, he mentioned the principle of identity and noncontradiction.46 These two principles which argued Locke are actually an abstraction formed by combining and recombining of what is experienced. There is priority in sensation and we primarily see things as they are for that is how the way we see them and they appear to us. By our habit we conclude that they are identical with their own identity. Locke did not question the
Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Edited by Peter H. Nidditch. Oxford: Clarendon, 1975.
Ibid., Book I, chapter 1, paragraph 1.
Ibid., para. 8 Ibid., Bk. III, ch. 8, para 8.
There was one event in the life of Locke where group of intellectuals were gathered at the chamber of his house. There, they had their usual conversation and it always end up in dispute. Their opinions always disagree with each other which cannot be settled in simple way. Perhaps the topic cannot just simply verified by empirical investigation. It is my conjecture that their topic maybe on God, eternity, belief and so on. This agreement among them leads Locke to in his attempt to examine the nature of understanding or reason. These principle are still the same principles being discussed in rationalism and hence, Locke is attacking the same principle but not on its validity but as innate in us.
certainty of these principles but what he denied was that when we considered these principles as innate in us. They are true not because they are innate but once we perceive external objects as they are our mind will not allow us to think otherwise. Given that all of us had agreed for something, it does not necessarily mean that it is innate. Therefore, he concluded, there is no innate theoretical principle. As for the innate practical principle, he attacks the idea of synderesis that suggests “do good and avoid evil.” If this is true, then there is no need to teach moral values and to reason why certain moral rules are valuable. Locke does not only consider innate idea as not true but also they are dangerous. For example, if a saintly priest or a gifted leader could convince the people that there is an innate idea of doing good and avoiding evil, then, they will not bother to make some laws, teach moral values, and explain the ethics of living and they will just let the people do what is innate in them. Locke aims not to put morality as relative but “to presuppose that morality entails the right use of individual reasoning power, rather than draws upon an innate reservoir.”47 So, Locke concludes there is no innate practical principle. Furthermore, Locke employs empirical evidence to test the universal assent which may be either in the area of universal acceptance or scientific value. By universal acceptance of the innate principle, he doubts the presence of innatism in the minds of children and idiots.48 By scientific values, innatism is not beneficial for scientific investigations. In general, his counter-thesis to the present knowledge that is due to innate ideas ends up in a conclusion that there are no innate ideas. The mind was empty at birth as like as a chalkboard was empty before the teacher came to class. This is synonymous with the tabula rasa
Collins, James. A History of Modern European Philosophy. (Maryland: University Press of America,
Locke comments: If therefore children and idiots have souls, have minds, with those impressions upon them, they must unavoidably perceive them, and necessarily know and assent to these truths; which they do not; it is evident that there are no such impressions.” Locke, Essay, Bk. I, ch. 1, para. 5.
or an empty tablet of Aristotle. Though our minds are empty at birth or there is no inborn idea, the minds have only inborn power which will later on be capable of intellectual acts. It would be an exaggeration of every interpretation to say that the mind is totally empty at birth according to Locke. What he only denies is the innate idea but not on the innate faculty. He argues: “God… hath furnished man with those faculties, which will serve for the sufficient discovery of all things requisite to the end of such a being; and I doubt not but to show, that a man by a right use of his natural abilities may without any innate principles, attain the knowledge of God, and other things that concern him.”49 “For we cannot act anything, but by our faculties; nor talk of knowledge itself, but by the help of those faculties, which are fitted to apprehend even what knowledge.”50 Because the mind has its innate power, it is possible that man can attain knowledge. But how come we know of anything? Locke wholly answers, “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?.... To this I answer, in one word, from experience.”51 This conclusion makes him an empiricist and it is necessary to know what he means by experience as a source of knowledge. According to Locke, experience as a source of knowledge is in two way which is either external or internal. We come up with an idea through external experience when a stimulus affects the senses and from the senses the mind receives various and distinct perception from the outside. There is a recognition of particular receptivity in every external senses e.g., color, sound, flavor, etc. or a cooperation in them and comes up with an idea of figure, motion and rest. This external experience as one source of ideas is called sensation.52 Here, the mind is passive because it is receptive. The other
Locke, Essay, Bk. I, ch. 6, para. 12.
Ibid., Bk. IV, ch. 1, para. 2. Ibid.,, Bk. II, ch. 1, para. 2.
Locke argues: “This great source of most of the ideas we have, depending wholly upon our senses, and derived by them to the understanding, I call sensation (Essay Bk. II, ch. 1, para. 3).
source is internal experience which draws ideas from the internal act of the mind through memory and comparison by involving the ideas which are formed in sensation. The activities belong here are “perception, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing, and all different acting’s of our mind.”53 This source of ideas is called reflection. The mind functions as active because it takes of its own operation. Ideas arise from experience which can be classified either to sensation or to reflection, and still Locke has another distinction between simple and complex ideas. In History of Modern European Philosophy,54 Collins differentiates simple and complex ideas into two ways which are objective content and cognitive operation. In the basis of objective content, the ground for this classification is the objects that are outside of us. Simple ideas in our mind come in specific, distinct, and unmixed appearances, while complex ideas are the combination of several simple ideas. These ideas are caused by the external objects when it affects the sense organs and we can only have knowledge if those senses of ours are affected. There is an impossibility of the mind at the moment of its existence to form an idea from its own ideational content without depending to the objects. Locke argues: “It is not in the power of the most exalted wit, or enlarged understanding, by any quickness or variety of thought, to invent or frame one new simple idea in the mind…nor can any force of understanding, destroy those that at there. The dominion of man, in this little world of his own understanding…reaches no farther, than to compound and divide the materials, that are made to his hand.”55 “As simple ideas are observed to exist in several combinations united together; so the mind has a power to consider several of them united together, as one idea, and that not only as they are united in external objects, but as itself has joined them. Ideas thus made up of several simple ones put together, I call complex…which though complicated of various simple ideas, or
Locke, Essay, Bk. II, ch. 1, para. 4.
Collins, James. A History of Modern European Philosophy. Maryland: University Press of America,
Locke, Essay, Bk. II, ch. 2, para. 2.
complex ideas made up of simple ones, yet are, when the mind pleases, considered by itself, as one entire thing, and signified by one name.”56 In the basis of cognitive operation, simple and complex ideas are differentiated according to the function of the mind. The mind is passive as it receives ideas from the outside source; the ideas produce are simple. The mind is active when it forms an idea in the act of the mind as it furnishes ideas that are coming from sensation. The ideas that are formed are complex idea. Locke advances another distinction concerning the relation between ideas formed in the mind and the objects that affect the sense organ of the human body. He needs to know and answer the question whether the external objects really are the way we think of them. He argues that the object has quality. By quality, he means, a power in a real thing to produce any ideas in our mind.57 He acknowledges two distinct qualities which are primary and secondary quality. Every object has qualities which are able to produce ideas in our mind. Primary qualities are qualities that are “really do exist in the bodies themselves.” 58 They are independent of any condition whether the mind has perceived them or not. Our ideas caused by these qualities correspond to those qualities that are inseparable and inherent in the things themselves. Examples of these qualities are weight, motion, rest, number, etc. On the other hand, secondary qualities do not belong to the object but they have the power to produce an idea in us. They reproduce only on the effect of the outer reality on our senses.59 The qualities belong here are sound, color, smell, taste and so on. Since these qualities are not really part in the things themselves, they must be in somewhere else. For Locke, they are not the qualities that “exist
Ibid.,, ch. 7, para. 1. Collins, A History of Modern European Philosophy, 328.
57 5 58
Stumpf, Socrates to Sartre and Beyon, 233.
Gaardner, Jostein. Sophie’s World. Translated by Paulette Moller. (London: Phoenix House, 1994), 204.
there” but they are just mental effects of power, and this power to produce an idea depends from the primary qualities.60 What is essential in his epistemology is that our experience of the objects that are outside of us is necessary for both the ground and the application of our ideas. Experience provides us two sources of ideas which are sensation and reflection and the ideas formed are either simple or complex ideas. These ideas are produced by an object that has quality which may be either primary or secondary qualities. “Thus the first capacity of the human intellect, is, that the mind is fitted to receive the impressions made on it; either, through the senses, by outward objects; or by its own operations, when it reflects on them. This is the first step a man makes towards the discovery of any thing, and the groundwork, whereon to build all those notions, which ever he shall have naturally in this world. All those sublime thought, which tower above the clouds, and reach as high as heaven itself, take their rise and footing here: In all that great extent wherein the mind wanders, in those remote speculations, it may seem to be elevated with, it stirs not one jot beyond those ideas, which sense or reflection, have offered for its contemplation.”61 Though he was influenced by Aristotle, Locke rejects the abstraction of Aristotle because ideas are formed when the intellect denudes the phantasm of its individuating notes and thereby grasping only the essence of the thing. The ideas being formed are abstract ideas. For Locke, ideas are not formed by abstraction but by association. This means that ideas can be linked in the mind. Whenever a person has an idea it will immediately lead him to form another idea even though those ideas are not necessarily connected with each other.
We can all agree to our judgments of primary qualities that a particular object such as a ball is at rest or in motion, that it is circular in shape and it weights one kilogram. But with regards to secondary qualities, every individual has its own opinion and is entitled to his own opinion. For example, a mango may taste sweet for one but it is sour on the other and yet they are talking of one and the same fruit which is mango.
Locke, Essay, Bk. II, ch. 1, para. 24.
Empiricism in Berkeley’s Notion of “No Mind? No Matter” After Locke’s Essay influenced the modern thought, there were materialist, skeptical tendencies and seemingly all too radical empiricistic epistemology. Later on, empiricism was applied in the field of ethics and politics. The mind’s capacity, complexity, and creative power seemed underestimated by some materialists. Berkeley refuses to accept their claims. It is without doubt about the sincerity of Berkeley’ religious conviction62but with regard to his scientific63 and philosophical writings, they stand on their own.64 Berkeley’s main thesis is to counteract materialism and skepticism. Materialism, for him, is simply untenable as metaphysics and ontology and its conclusion that all things are material is an inconsistent proposition. Let us begin his criticism against materialism by asking one of the most commonly ask questions both in science and in philosophy: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”65 Following John Locke, Berkeley begins with his introduction of Principles of Human Knowledge saying: “It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind, or lastly ideas formed by help of memory and imagination, either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways.”66
He was appointed Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland.
He is expert in the field of optics and one of those intellectuals to formulate the basic principles of monocular and binocular depth perception.
This is like the case of Hume in raising his skeptical doubts of knowledge without relating it to his personal life and his position concerning religion.
This question is a paraphrase from Berkeley’s proposal. He suggests: “The objects of sense exist only when they are perceived; the trees therefore are in the garden, or the chairs in the parlour, no longer than while there is somebody by to perceive them.” Section 45. Berkeley, George. A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues. Translated by Howard Robinson. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), §1.
He agrees with Locke that the object of knowledge is perceived either by sense or by reflection but what he denies is the philosophic distinction between primary and secondary qualities. It is as if the object exists on its own and independent of any condition because it has qualities which are able to produce an idea in the mind. For Berkeley, though, we have ideas through sense or through the operation of the mind, “there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises divers operations, as willing, imagining, remembering, about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call mind, spirit, soul, or myself. By which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them.” 67 In this case, Berkeley is making a distinction between the knower and the known or between the contents of knower’s mental life and himself, that is, he knows objects to be in his mind and he is distinguishable from the things that he happens to be thinking about. Given this proposition, we can say that the other person’s ideas are his ideas and my ideas are mine and there are personalized ideas. Every idea is in some mind, spirit, or some self. Because something is needed to account the existent of a thing, Berkeley criticizes the materialist view of metaphysics. “It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a world all sensible objects have an existence natural or real, distinct from being perceived” is inconsistent, “a manifest contradiction”68 How can a thing then exist without perceived by the mind. This is impossible for him. It would be unintelligible to think of any existent body independent of any perceiver. Thereby he concludes triumphantly: “Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to be, viz., that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind, that their being (esse) is to be perceived or known; that consequently so long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that
67 6 68
of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some eternal spirit.”69 Against Locke’s division of qualities, we can assume that the distinction is empty. The so called primary qualities of extension, figure, motion, rest, solidity, and number no less than the secondary qualities of color, sound, sound, etc. are just an idea. As an idea, it can be like nothing but a collection of ideas. The distinction seems not to thrive in Berkeley’s thought. Moreover, even if in some way there could be independently existing material objects or entities needing no mind as a condition of their existence, Berkeley asks, “How is it possible for us to know this? Either we must know it by sense or by reason. As for our senses, by them we have the knowledge only of our sensations, ideas, or those things that are immediately perceived by sense….It remains therefore that if we have any knowledge at all of external things, it must be by reason, inferring their existence from what is immediately perceived by sense. But what reason can induce us to believe the existence of bodies without the mind?”70 Berkeley leaves no doubt that once his thesis is accepted; the world remains as it has always been. The existent world is not a fiction or a pigment of imagination but it is filled with all the properties and qualities that are being experienced. The ideas that we have in mind include those of our own manufacture e.g., daydream and imaginations. However, these ideas are weaker and more faint that arises from perception. “The ideas of sense are more strong, lively, and distinct than those of the imagination; they have likewise a steadiness, order, and coherence, and are not excited at random, as those which are the effects of human wills often are.” “There are spiritual substances, minds, or human souls, which will or excite ideas in themselves at pleasure; but these, are faint, weak, and unsteady in respect of others they perceive by sense.”71
69 7 70
Thus, our perceptions of the external world are “not fictions of the mind.” 72 To defend his claim against his critics who argue that his metaphysics is a challenge to Newtonian physics, Berkeley argues that his claim does not “destroy the whole corpuscular philosophy, and undermine those mechanical principles which have been applied with so much success to account for the phenomena.”73 These phenomena remain unchanged. He is arguing that to explain phenomena is being able to give an account of the sequence of perceptual or mental events. The rest is hypothesis. Furthermore he argues: “The connexion of ideas does not imply the relation of cause and effect, but only of a mark or sign with the thing signified. The fire which I see is not the cause of the pain I suffer upon my approaching it, but the mark that forewarns me of it….That a few original ideas may be made to signify a great number of effects and actions, it is necessary they be variously combined together. And, to the end their use be permanent and universal, these combinations must be made by rule, and with wise contrivance.”74 This is now his view as an empiricist that the laws of science are really summaries of experience. The reduction to a set of rules does not make the discovery of some real unperceived cause. But he never said that there is no material world. The world consists of perceived attributes and the absence of perception there could be no attributes. In this case then, nothing is long or short, blue or yellow, sweet or sour except insofar as it is thus sensed. For a thing to be, it has to be the actual or potential object of perception. This is now his most notable maxim: “Esse est percip- to
Ibid., §36. He gives an example like that of a sun. He says: “The sun that I see by day is the real sun, and that which I imagine by night is the idea of the former” (§36).
73 7 74
be is to be perceived.”75 A thing is what one perceived as it is there because there is a mind that perceives them. But what about the dark side of the moon, the top of the highest mountain yet to be climbed, or to the core of the planet that will never be known, do they exist? These are to be understood either as imaginary or as real. As for the latter, they must subsist in experience or as the idea of some mind for the absence of the realm of idea and the mind there can be nothing else. For there to be anything else requires a mind to perceive it. Thus, everything that exists is in some mind as a condition of its existence. Thus everything having real existence must be the subject or the object of some perception. However, human mind is not enough to establish the existence of all things; there must be a mind other than a human mind. In this way, there must an existent ultimate percipient or a divine Mind in which all reality can be eternally perceive. This divine mind that perceives all reality is the mind of God who made it all. The material universe then subsists in the mind of God who made it and also in its parts and particulars (man) in the perception and understanding of those who have experienced the world.
Hume’s Skepticism As an empiricist, Hume was influenced by Bacon, Locke and Berkeley. Of the three, Berkeley offers the most persuasive argument that we cannot find a place external to perception from which we are able to establish our epistemic claims of the world. Hume is not caught in this dilemma whether an object exists or not when it is outside in the realm of what is perceived but rather he develops Locke’s concept of association. He argues that the mind is formed out of sensory experience and this is where everything begins. The object of the world impresses itself
on the sense organs. In this case, knowledge begins on the level of perception which is either impression or ideas. “All the perceptions of the human mind resolve themselves into two distinct kinds, which I shall call impressions and ideas. The difference betwixt these consists in the degrees of force and liveliness, with which they strike upon the mind, and make their way into our thought or consciousness. Those perceptions, which enter with most force and violence, we may name impressions: and under this name I comprehend all our sensations, passions and emotions, as they make their first appearance in the soul. By ideas I mean the faint images of these in thinking and reasoning.”76 The content of the mind is nothing when the organs of sensation are not stimulated by external physical objects. Out of these sensory impressions, the perceiver has either current sensation as he actually perceive in the present or the recollection of the past sensations by the revival of earlier perception being furnish in the past. In this activity, the mind is capable of the act of reflection which is to remember the things that previously happened. Impression is the primary basis which the mind makes representation of the external world. As he was influenced by Locke, Hume also argues that there is some external physical world capable of stimulating man’s sense organs but he added that the minds are just copies or simulacra of what is occurring at the level of sensation. This argument implies his position as a consistent empiricist which is supported by his claim saying: “The most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation.”77 Since the senses are needed to constitute the mind’s act of representation, Hume’s epistemology is always mediate. This means that we never have immediate knowledge of the external world but only the mediated knowledge that comes by way of a mediator or an agent which is our perceptual or sensory capabilities. In other words, Hume’s empiricism is implying that we cannot know the external world as in itself it really is and we can
Hume, David. A Treatise on Human Nature. Volume 1. (Maryland: Wildside Press, 2007), [Part 1, Section 1], 11.
7 77 76
___________. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. (Chicago: Court Publishing Company, 1912), [Section II, Part 1, §1], 14.
know the external world by way of perceptual mediation. This implication may be given its full flesh by Kant. No doubts in Hume that our idea derives from impressions, but how can we explain that we come up with a unified idea in our minds that are not coming from present impressions? Hume uses and develops the very law of association which has been started earlier by Locke in order to go away with the abstraction of Aristotle that received much criticism in the modern time. Hume gives an explanation on how the mind comes to work on the evidence brought together by the senses. “It is evident that there is a principle of connexion between the different thoughts or ideas of the mind, and that, in their appearance to the memory or imagination; they introduce each other with a certain degree of method and regularity… I do not find that any philosopher has attempted to enumerate or class all the principles of association; a subject, however, that seems worthy of curiosity. To me, there appear to be only three principles of connexion among ideas, namely, resemblance, contiguity in time or place, and cause and effect.”78 By resemblance, there is a connection of ideas because we relate or get the likeness of the things we perceive at present to the other idea as the imagination moves effortlessly from one idea to the other. Hume gives an example like this: “A picture naturally leads our thoughts to the original.”79 To illustrate further the example given by him, an artist may draw a book with its full real color and by seeing it or when other people see the drawing they may resemble it to the real book. By contiguity in time and place, anytime two events have been constantly conjoined by experience then, anyone of them in the future will excite the idea of the other. “The mention of one apartment in a building naturally introduces an enquiry or discourse concerning the others,” 80 is Hume’s example of contiguity. Through the principle of resemblance and contiguity in time
Ibid., [Section 3, Part 1, §1], 21.
79 8 80
Ibid., [Section 3, Part 1, §2], 22.
and place, events that share greater resemblance and events that are temporally and physically contiguous are firmly and strongly associated respectively. Even in these principles of resemblance and contiguity, the mind has a certain habitual tendencies to connect ideas. The mind does have certain operating principle and our judgments are going to be shaped by this operating principle of the mind as such. Hume argues that there are two objects of human reason which are relations of ideas and matters of fact. He considers no difficulty in relations of ideas because it deals with the realm of mathematical statements that can be established by “the mere operation of thought, without dependence on what is anywhere existent in the universe.” 81 In the terminology of Kant, this is called the analytical truth for its verification does not depend on experience. However, Hume sees that there is a problem when it concerns on the matters of fact in a sense that the case is not the same as in the first object of human reason. There is no certitude about our judgment because the position of one fact presupposes the possibility of another position opposite to it. Quoting from Hume, “the contrary of every matter of fact is still possible.” 82 As an empiricist, Hume argues that we can still doubt the proposition “the sun will rise tomorrow” because there is no certainty that it is always the case given that the opposite is still possible. Many people may answer that the sun will rise by explaining one fact of the present experience by inferring another fact beyond experience. Hume sees that our judgment on the matters of fact are founded on cause-effect relationship by drawing a connection calling one as a cause and the other as an effect. “All reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the relation of cause and
Ibid., [Section IV, Part 1, §1], 23.
effect.” We usually do this judgment but Hume’s problem is how come we arrive at this principle. For Hume, the concept of cause is coming from experience but not on a priori reasoning for how can we consider one event as a cause if one does not even experience it. Hume cites some examples and one of them is this:83 “Adam, though his rational faculties be supposed, at the very first, entirely perfect, could not have inferred from the fluidity and transparency of water that it would suffocate him, or from the light and warmth of fire that it would consume him.”84 To say that water can drown must have been experienced by someone earlier from us and that realization is not given by just merely looking the water and inferring about its qualities. Applying the two abovementioned principles of association, the concept of causality as a third principle of association will be clearly understood. Now, considering all other things being equal, X becomes associated with Y when the latter have been present frequently in experience. So whenever one thinks of X, then Y necessarily follows. The more X and Y occur together, the more they become strongly associated. In this case, Hume concludes that repetition is the ground for calling a certain event as a cause to the other event which has not been experienced. “All inferences from experience, therefore, are effects of custom, not of reasoning.”85 Causation then is simply what the mind assigns to constantly conjoined experiences. Anytime X and Y are constantly conjoined and X reliably precedes Y, it is by virtue of the habit of thought that Y must follow X. Let us have some other thought experiment. Supposing that I
83 Hume also gives an example of a two magnets. A person without any experience of holding two magnets in each of his hand could not know that they will attract if they become near to each other. The conclusion that a magnet attracts and repels other magnet is done only after the experience. 84 8 85
Ibid., [§5], 25-26.
Ibid., [Section V, Part 1, §5], 44.
watch a soccer ball play, I see some players for a second and I closed my eyes for five seconds. Then I come back for a second and see one player kicking the ball and closed again for five seconds. Lastly, I open my eyes and I see all of them running for the ball. One might conclude that whenever one kicks the ball, the player will run around. Here, the concept of causation is not a recording of something observed in the external world just like what happened in the soccer ball play example where the observer gets different observable event and calls one event as a cause to another. Rather causation is a habitual mental process. The concept is inherent in the mental operation itself. In the billiard ball example, billiard ball A moves and strikes billiard ball B. I see ball A moves, there is an observable period; ball B moves, there is a period. But we don’t see causality therein. So where is it? Causality then is a habit of mind that renders fundamental any reliable anteceding and succeeding events or any constantly conjoined pair of event or multiplicity of events that is being done in experience. As a thorough-going empiricist, Hume’s epistemology leads him to skepticism. The statement of his skepticism in the passage from the Treatise on Human Nature is very clear:
“By all that has been said the reader will easily perceive, that the philosophy contained in this book is very skeptical, and tends to give us a notion of the imperfections and narrow limits of human understanding. Almost all reasoning is there reduced to experience; and the belief, which attends experience, is explained to be nothing but a peculiar sentiment, or lively conception produced by habit. Nor is this all, when we believe anything of external existence, or suppose an object to exist a moment after it is no longer perceived, this belief is nothing but a sentiment of the same kind. Our author insists upon several other skeptical topics; and upon the whole concludes, that we assent to our faculties, and employ our reason only because we cannot help it. Philosophy would render us entirely Pynhonian, were not nature too strong for it.”86 The above passage carries the skepticism of Hume regarding induction, the external world, and most importantly to reason. The method of empiricism is the reduction of all reasoning to
Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. Edited by L.A. Selby- Bigge and P.H. Nidditch. 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 657.
experience. Knowledge of this kind only gives us the knowledge of the immediate experience and not on the empirical claims that go beyond the immediate experience. The claims about the world result to uncertainty for when it concerns on the matters of fact there is no reasoning required and its opposite is still possible as Hume would say. His inductive skepticism is based on the concept of causality. Given that both a priori reasoning and immediate experience cannot establish the necessary connection between the cause and its effect, we arrived at the problem of induction the moment we ask the following matter: How can we be certain of our inference of the experience of multiple events in the past that are constantly conjoined will still continue to be associated in the future? Hume once asked: “But if we still carry on our sifting humour, and ask, What is the foundation of all conclusions from experience! This implies a new question, which may be of more difficult solution and explication.” 87 The problem of induction arises in empiricism because no argument can offer a justification by just connecting the past to the future. All judgments of this kind are only the byproduct of habit or custom. As a result, Hume also doubted reason itself or the faculties of the mind as it is mentioned above that there is an “imperfection and the narrow limits of understanding. To make clear of his skepticism we may ask this necessary question: To what extent was Hume a skeptic? To describe him as a skeptic may mean to a vast interpretations of his thought but to assess his skepticism may vary. Skepticism is closely associated with the suspension of beliefs. Hume did not advocate an absolute skepticism like the Pyrrhonists but what he recommends is mitigated skepticism. “A species of mitigated scepticism which may be of advantage to mankind, and which may be the natural result of the Pyrrhonian doubts and scruples, is the limitation of our enquiries to such subjects as are best adapted to the narrow capacity of human understanding.”88
Hume, Enquiry, [Section IV, Part II, §1], 31.
Ibid., [Section XII, Part 1, §1], 171.
This solution is to take the middle way between naïve acceptance of any truth claims and Pyrrhonism. His skepticism is to be understood as a scrutiny or a critique to the capacities of our intellectual faculty.
THE METHOD OF KANT’S CRITICISM The Problem of Metaphysics There was once a German philosopher named Immanuel Kant whose magnum opus entitled Critique of Pure Reason received much refutation as a first- rated essay in metaphysics. His business was metaphysics.89 This field called metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that deals about the questions concerning the ultimate reality. It is a philosophical quest for what reality is in the last analysis.90 Why did Kant put a matter of importance to metaphysics or why we need to bother metaphysics at all? Animals may play but only man asks. We always discover something new about ourselves by asking who we are. How much more if we are going to raise the question being geared in metaphysics, that is, the question about God, freedom and immortality? This issue becomes the concern of man as a questioner of something. In the words of St. Augustine, “My soul is restless until it rests in You.” 91 In this case, we are always bewildered with something that is always hunkering after us and to take this seriously metaphysics is of utmost importance to life. This activity is the pursuit of philosophy no matter
Blakney, Raymond Bernard. An Immanuel Kant Reader. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1960),
Jaime, An Introduction to Logic, 3. St. Augustine. Confession. Trans. Henry Chadwick. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 3.
how we find ourselves in difficulties and even in some debates. But the activity is worth its time and effort for “the only calm philosophy is dead philosophy.”92 In the first endeavor of every new reader of Kant in knowing the term metaphysics being used in the Critique, he may find himself in deep ambiguity. Kant does not directly define his new kind of metaphysics in the sense that he does not use the term exactly in the same way but in a contrasting sense. In the Preface to the first edition, Kant defines metaphysics as “the battlefield of endless controversies”93 because it raises questions that cannot be rejected and at the same time it cannot be solved. “Human reason has the peculiar fate in one species of its cognitions that it is burdened with questions which it cannot dismiss, since they are given to it as problems by the nature of reason itself, but which it also cannot answer, since they transcend every capacity of human reason.”94 On the other hand, metaphysics is defined in the later part as a new promising fruitful discipline. In the words of Kant, metaphysics is “the only one of all the sciences that may promise that little but unified effort, and that indeed in a short time, will complete it.”95 There are also some writers and commentators that expressed their varied positions about Kant’s metaphysics. Moses Mendelssohn described it in a negative sense as a “destroyer of traditional metaphysics on the one hand and Karl Reinhold consider the Critique positively as the beginning for a new and
Blakney, An Immanuel Kant Reader, 2.
93 Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Translated and Edited by Paul Guyer and Allen Wood. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), A viii. 94
Ibid., A vii.
Ibid., A xx. The effort mentioned it the critical philosophy itself.
completely scientific metaphysics.96 In these two positions, Kant’s metaphysics may be found out as we go on. Kant recognizes the subject matter of which metaphysics deals with and with its peculiarity and importance, it has received a privileged and unquestionable refutation. “There was a time when metaphysics was called the queen of all the sciences, and if the will be taken for the deed, it deserved this title of honor, on account of the preeminent importance of its objects.”97 At this time, metaphysics was despotic. But later on, metaphysics is put into questioned and to a further ill repute by what Kant describe as “a kind of nomads who abhor all permanent
cultivation of the soil, shattered civil unity from time to time.”98 Thus, metaphysics is fallen and no longer considered as queen and its revival needs a great man to rescue it. The sad fate of metaphysics being described above is the history of its rise during the time of the rationalists’ tradition and its fall at the time of the empiricists’ tradition. Kant agreed with the rationalist that there are a priori concepts which the source is not taken from experience but from reason itself. However, the rationalists take this opportunity to make these a priori concepts and principles to know the realities that goes beyond the realm of human experience. They insist that the supersensible realities or the things-in-themselves can be known without any criticism of its tool which is reason itself. Wolff seemed to be the culmination of rationalism because of his technically refined, all-inclusive, and academically
Mendelssohn and Reinhold were Kant’s contemporaries. The former have written On Evidence in Metaphysical Sciences to answer the question of whether metaphysical truths are able to have the same sort of evidence as mathematical truths. The essay garnered first prize in the contest sponsored by the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences whereas Kant got the second prize. At the later part of his life, he was influenced by Kant and he became less confident that metaphysical precepts could be subjected to rational proof. Reinhold, on the other hand, wrote Letters on the Kantian Philosophy that enabled Kant’s philosophy to spread widely and gathered many audiences from different places in Europe. See: Dahlstrom, Daniel. “Moses Mendelssohn.” Available [online]< http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mendelssohn/> 15 August 2010.
Kant, Critique, A viii.
Ibid., A ix.
excellent textbooks that are available in both German and Latin that for a long time dominated the universities of Germany. And so Kant remarks his method in the Preface of the Critique of Pure Reason: “….the regular ascertainment of the principles, clear determination of concepts, and the attempt at strictness in the proofs, and the prevention of audacious leaps in inferences.” 99 The rationalists have started the primary step by asserting reason as the grounds of metaphysics but later on they have failed because of their pretentions that reason can know the realities “independently of all experience.”100 In this case, a consistent rationalist ends up in dogmatism because their use of reason “without an antecedent critique of its own capacity.”101 The dogmatism of the rationalist was first attacked by the empiricism of Locke by arguing that there are no “innate ideas” and there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses. Then this argument is agreed by Berkeley saying: “It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind, or lastly ideas formed by help of memory and imagination, either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways.”102 Hume also said that all our ideas are just derived from impressions. It seems that the empiricists undermine reason and its possibility of thought. In this way, Kant defends against the empiricist because of the reduction of all knowledge to experience. As he agrees with the rationalist that there are a priori cognitions,
Ibid., B xxxvii.
Ibid., A xii.
Ibid., B xxxv.
Berkeley, George. A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues. Translated by Howard Robinson. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), §1.
empiricism may end up in skepticism because of the impossibility of a universal and necessary judgment. Having both tried and dissatisfied the methods of rationalism and empiricism, Kant therefore had to find a way out of these vain hopes. The problem of metaphysics which is considered to be important is not yet resolved. By this, Kant once and for all tries another method hoping to aid the problem. In so doing, he establishes a court of justice and brings metaphysics into this court so that “reason may secure its rightful claims while dismissing all its groundless pretension…this court is none other than the critique of pure reason itself- a critique of the faculty of reason in general.”103 Thus, the question to be answered is: “What and how much can understanding and reason cognize free of all experience? 104 This method is called the method criticism. The method of criticism is neither to be understood negatively as being argumentative or being critical of other people nor an attempt to scrutinize reason thereby making it a perfect tool to know the ideas of reason namely God, freedom and immortality. There is humility in Kant for even how important metaphysics is; it is only a preamble to the sciences as to show the limits and possibility of knowledge. In the equally famous sentences that open the first and the second paragraph of the introduction, Kant writes: “That all our knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt. But although all our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it arises from experience.”105 Kant is never contradicting himself with these two propositional claims because he distinguishes between being grounded in something else and arising necessarily from something else. There is a sharp distinction between the word “begins” and “arises.” Aristotle
Ibid., A xii.
Ibid., A xvii.
Ibid., B 1.
and the empiricists were correct to the extent that “all our knowledge begins with experience” but they were wrong if they mean that knowledge arises from experience. We need experience “for how should the faculty of knowledge be called into activity, if not by objects which affect our senses.”106 It is through experience that our senses are affected by the stimulus outside of us and these impressions are taken as raw materials to stimulate our mind into thinking. We need stimulation and experience is what stimulates us into further inquiry. This claim is the recognition of Kant’s debt to the empiricists particularly to Hume. Indeed, the Critique is a work that comes about because of his awakening in a dogmatic slumber by the skepticism of Hume. So what is the dogma to which in his slumber, Kant was more or less attached to or controlled by? The whole of Europe was educated by Leibniz-Wolffian traditions which produce pedagogical textbooks and manuals that every student including Kant must learn by heart. Kant must have acquired his learning from this school and upon his reading with the works of the British empiricists he found out that their writings were different from his orientation. Instead that the writings of the empiricists would turn him off but Hume woke him up from his dogmatic slumber. “I openly confess my recollection of David Hume was the very thing which many years ago first interrupted my dogmatic slumber and gave my investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a quite new direction.”107 What it is in Hume that awakens him? For Hume, everything we know is the product of our experience and in every matters of fact our judgment is base on cause-effect relationship. Hume rejects the concept of causality or the necessary connection between events as something we get from experience. Experience can never give us the necessity. In this case, the concept of causation only comes from the psychological account of our mind by means of the association of our ideas. Kant agrees with Hume that experience is a
Ibid., B 1.
Kant, Immanuel. Prolegomena: To Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able To Come Forward as Science. Translated by Paul Carus. (USA: Hackket Publishing, Co., 1977), 260.
source of our cognition but it can never provide the necessary connection of events to account the concept of causality. What he does not agree with Hume is his account that some concepts are just the results of the association of ideas. There must be another source which is aside from experience. Kant does not limit the source of knowledge only to experience for he says, “But although all our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it arises from experience.”108 It is argued that we are stimulated to think but then thinking continues even if we are no longer provided by sensuous impressions. The mind is not a receptive container passively receiving those raw materials provided by sensations but rather it actively constitutes knowledge. Experience is not just coming from the outside sources but also something contributed by the faculty of every individual. For example, two people experiencing the same thing have different perceptions. The experience of one person in seeing the same object will differ from the other. How much more if they think of it? Experience is always a human experience and it is not only from there which is external to us but every individual has the contribution in the formation of it. It cannot be possible for an experience to be without human contributions that must be present for there to be experience at all. In this way, even in experience there is already an a priori element of knowledge which is not coming from the empirical objects outside but from the human faculty itself. These elements are also called as the kinds of knowledge according to source or origin. There are two kinds of knowledge according to source namely a posteriori knowledge which the source is from experience and a priori knowledge which is held independently of all experience and the source is from reason itself. Kant writes: “We shall therefore, in what follows, understand by knowledge a priori knowledge which is absolutely independent of all experience, and not of this or that experience only. Opposed to this is empirical knowledge, or such as is possible a posteriori only, that is by experience.”109
Ibid., B 1. Ibid., B 2-3.
Now, how is it possible to have knowledge a priori? Kant provided two conditions that must be considered in knowing whether our judgment is a priori or not. First, our judgment is a priori if it is based on necessity. Like Hume, Kant agrees that experience can never give us the concept of necessity because it can only tell us that a thing is such and such but not necessarily so. For example, one sees a white paper in the table. His experience of seeing the white paper cannot convince him that a paper must be white. In this way, experience is only contingent but not necessary. The concept of necessity therefore is independent of experience but it is coming from the human faculty itself. Second, the moment that our judgment is universal then, it is a priori knowledge. We can only experience some particular cases but we can never experience all cases such as universal. For example, all men are mortal is a universal judgment. In this case, there are a priori judgments that are characterized by necessary and universal judgments. Though these judgments cannot be ascertained empirically, they begin with experience and only later on that it becomes necessary and universal. Since it is possible to have a priori knowledge, Kant provided two examples. “If we want a scientific example, we have only to look to any of the propositions of the mathematics; if we want one from the sphere of the ordinary understanding, such proposition as that each change must have a cause, will answer the purpose.”110 In the case of scientific example, mathematical proposition does not come directly to us without beginning from experience. At first, we learned that 7 pesos plus 5 pesos is equal to twelve pesos or 7 cars when added to 5 cars will result to twelve cars. But our answers such as twelve pesos and twelve cars are still talking of money and of cars which are from experience. The moment we come up to the realization that whenever we add number 7 to number 5 and the result is always twelve, the judgment is already universal because it does not matter what particular material is being
Ibid., B 4-5.
added and necessary because the answer must always be twelve. These necessary and universal conditions are coming only from us. In sphere of common understanding, the proposition “each change must have a cause” is an a priori judgment. The word “every” signifies universality and the word “must” signifies necessity. However, Kant never considers this judgment as pure a priori knowledge (nevertheless they are a priori) because change is “a concept which can only be derived from experience and by pure a priori knowledge it is mixed up with nothing empirical.”111Therefore, a priori judgment is a fact. Kant offers another distinction of knowledge or judgment according to the relation between the subject and the predicate. Judgment in which the predicate is taken from the subject or the “predicate B belongs to the subject A as something contained (though covertly) in the concept A”112 is called analytic or analytical judgment. Kant also calls this as “judgments of clarification”113 because it only illustrates the parts that are confined in the concept of the subject and at the same time there is no need to go out of the concepts for justification. To analyze is to break the parts or concepts found in the subject and study each one by one. In this case, the predicable of the subject is contained in the concept of the subject, then for every subject there is necessarily a complete concept possessing all the predicables of it. For example, a triangle has three angles. The predicable which is three angles is already in the concept of a triangle. Analytical propositions add nothing to the concept of the subject and if we only remain here nothing very remarkable in this kind. However, judgment that affirms or denies the concept of the subject and its predicate is not found in the subject or “B lies outside the sphere of the concept A, though somehow connected with it”114 is called synthetic or synthetical judgment.
Ibid., B 3.
Ibid., A 7=B 10.
Ibid., A 7 =B 11. Ibid., A 7= B 10.
This is also called as “judgments of amplification”115in a sense that the predicate expands or increases the understanding of the subject. By merely looking at the concept of the subject the predicate is not contained or drawn from it. Synthetic judgments add the sphere of our knowledge and offer the possibility of knowing more because the judgments are no longer limited to the identity of the subject. Therefore, there are two kinds of knowledge according to its source which are either a posteriori by which the source is from experience or a priori by which the source is reason. There are two kinds of knowledge according to the relation of the subject and predicate which is either analytic or synthetic judgment. Before Kant or prior to the Critique, both rationalists and empiricists agreed that analytic and synthetic judgments are always a priori and a posteriori respectively by combining the two distinctions. Furthermore, Hume has no problem when he deals with relation of ideas but he has problem when the concern is on the matters of fact. He experienced such problem because he failed to acknowledge that matters of fact are either actual experience or scientific knowledge. With careful combination and analysis on every four terms, Kant abandons the notions accepted by the philosophers before him and comes out to the formulation of another kind of judgment which claims to be necessary and universal. Now, synthetic judgment in the abovementioned is not something that illustrates the subject but it is an addition and has a connection to the concept of the subject. If the connection of the predicate to the subject is characterized by contingency or it could come from experience, the judgment is synthetic a posteriori. Consider the proposition, “A triangle is small.” This is synthetic judgment because we cannot draw the idea of smallness just by mere looking or a simple analysis of the concept triangle and at the same time the judgment is a posteriori because the conclusion is done
Ibid., A 7= B 11.
through an observation. We arrive at the concept of a small triangle when we draw a bigger one and compare them. Let us have another example, “All Filipinos are short,” and let us presume that this is true. It is a synthetic judgment because shortness does not belong to the concept of a Filipino but it is also a posteriori even if we use the word “all” which is universal. This is a posteriori because we can have a concept of shortness only when we experience and compare it with others. The connection between shortness and Filipino will only be known through experience and does not contain a strict universality. Even if we do not observe a tall Filipino today, there might be one in the future but then again this a purely factual but not necessary. Thus, synthetic a posteriori judgment is not yet necessary and universal. But, according to Kant, there is another kind judgment which is very essential for it gives us new knowledge that is necessarily true and scientific. The predicate is not drawn from the concept of the subject and at the same time there is no need of experience to determine its truth for its source could come from reason. This kind of judgment is called synthetic a priori judgment and its judgments are scientific judgments. It is a priori because its judgment is necessary and strictly universal. Take the proposition, “A triangle has 180°.” The idea of 180° is not drawn from the concept triangle but the predicate claims to be universal and necessary in every triangle. Another example of a synthetic a priori judgment by which the rationalists commonly accepted as knowledge but failed to recognize it as synthetic is the proposition: “Everything that happens has its cause.”116 This is also synthetic because the predicate, cause, is not found or contained in the concept of an event and it is a priori because it leaps to the universal judgment by considering every event. The said proposition begins with experience for in the first place we need experience to know the events but later on it becomes necessary that every event has its cause not just by the method of induction but from reason.
Ibid., A 9=B 13.
Now, if we summarize all the kinds of judgments in the Critique, there is three kinds’ namely: analytic a priori judgment, synthetic a posteriori judgment and synthetic a priori judgment. Analytic judgment is always a priori and it can never be a posteriori because we do not need experience to determine the truth of the proposition but only in examining the term itself. Synthetic is either a posteriori judgment which its source could come from experience or a priori judgment which its source could come from reason. But for Kant, both analytic a priori judgment and synthetic a posteriori judgment are not problematical. His main concern is on the third judgment because they are not analytical and at the same time they are scientific judgments claiming a strict universality and necessity. The question arises whether there are synthetic a priori judgments. In other words, are there synthetic a priori judgments? Kant is so convinced that there are synthetic a priori judgments in the field of mathematics, physics and even in metaphysics. In the field of mathematics, Kant says, “It must first be remarked that properly mathematical propositions are always a priori judgments and are never empirical, because they carry necessity with them, which cannot be derived from experience.” 117 The example he gives is the proposition 7+5=12. The proposition seven plus five has five or has seven or has a plus symbol or even the combination of the three as the result would be the answer if one uses analytical judgment. But the proposition 7+5= 12 is synthetic because the concept of twelve is not obtained in the union between seven and five. They are also a priori because 7+5=12 must always be the case. Similarly, there are also a priori judgments in physics. For example, “in all alterations of the corporeal world the quantity of the matter remains unaltered,” or “in all communication of motion effect and counter-effect must always be equal. For Kant, these propositions are necessary and so it must be a priori and it is clear that they are synthetic because
Ibid., B 14.
it “contains within itself synthetic a priori judgments as principles.” 118 Finally, metaphysics is also claiming to have synthetic a priori judgments. It has a priori judgments because it cannot be provided by any empirical evidences and it is synthetic because it tries to expand knowledge of reality. Take, for instance, “the world must have a beginning.” The concept of a beginning is not obtained from the concept of the world and hence, synthetic. At the same time, the beginning of the world is something beyond all experience for no one has ever been born before the world begins and so a priori. Since it is all beyond experience, metaphysics consists of “purely synthetic a priori propositions.”119 Since there are synthetic a priori judgments in the sphere of mathematics, physics and metaphysics, is no longer whether there are such judgments. “The real problem of pure reason is now contained in the question: How are synthetic a priori judgments possible?”120 This problem was long started from Descartes until to Kant himself. The general problem is divided into three sub-problems: How is pure mathematics possible? How is pure natural science possible? How is metaphysics possible as science? Throughout the whole history of philosophy, Kant observes that the common debates and problems in metaphysics have not yet been resolved. Other sciences such as mathematics and physics have already reached the secure course of a science. 121 By secure course of a science, Kant means the exact foundation of a certain method in order for particular field to be established. Mathematics arrived at this secure course of science by a certain revolution of
Ibid., B 17.
Ibid., B 18.
Ibid. ,B 19.
Ibid., B vii.
thought. This revolution was done by the ancient Greeks. The following insight may be helpful to account how the revolution of the way of thinking in mathematics was. “A new light broke upon the first person who demonstrated the isosceles triangle (whether he was called “Thales” or had some other name). For he found out that what he has to so was not to trace what he saw in this figure or even trace its mere concept, and read off, as it were, from the properties of the figure; but rather that he had to produce the latter form what he himself thought into the object and presented (through construction) according to a priori concepts, and that in order to know something securely a priori he had to ascribe to the thing nothing except what followed necessarily from what he himself had put into it in accordance with its concept.122 The above quotation is the story of the revolution in mathematics. Thales would not discover the properties of isosceles triangle just by mere looking at the object and let the object tell him what it is. He must have to do something which has in his mind and demonstrate it. Mathematics became a science only when it became constructional in accordance with a priori concepts.
The same also in physics when, “Galileo rolled balls of a weight chosen by himself down an inclined plane, or when Torricelli made the air bear a weight that he had previously thought to be equal to that of a known column of water, and Stahl changed metal into calx and then changed the latter back into metal by first removing something and then putting it back again, a light dawned on all those who study nature.”123 They did not let the nature reveals herself to them but approach it with a preconceived designs and purpose in a spirit of a man with mature reason and not just do the inquiry simply like a pupil. “They comprehend that reason has insight only into which it itself produces according to its own design.”124 There is already a thought or hypothesis such as the principles in approaching
Ibid., B xi-xii.
Ibid., B xii-xiii.
Ibid., B xiii.
nature which is manifested in designing the experiment before coming into the actual one. It is only after the experiment that those preconceived designs are correct or not.
These two revolutions of the way of thinking lead both mathematics and physics to the secure course of a science. But on the other hand, metaphysics as “a wholly speculative cognition of reason”125 has not found the secure course of a science. Reason is constantly brought to a standstill. If other sciences have its kind of revolution then, this event leads him to a certain revolution for philosophy. If we go back to the general problem of pure reason, how are synthetic a priori judgments possible, and if at the same time we consider his agreement with Hume that we cannot derived necessity and strict universality from experience, it would not be easy for Kant to maintain his theory of knowledge as simply as the conformity of the mind to the objects. If knowledge is just simply the conformity of the mind to the objects, then to know an object the mind must conform itself to it. Problems may arise in this way because the mind cannot find a necessary connection between objects that are empirically given and therefore cannot provide the account of how to make necessary and strictly universal judgments. Kant proposes the reverse position. “Up to now it has been assumed that all our cognition must conform to the objects; but all attempts to find out something about them a priori through concepts that would extend our cognition have, on this presupposition, come to nothing. Hence let us once try whether we do not get farther with the problems of metaphysics by assuming that the object must conform to our cognition, which would agree better with the requested possibility of an a priori cognition, which is to establish something about objects before they are given to us.”126
Ibid., B xiv. Metaphysics is completely isolated because there is no possibility of experience needed. It is beyond all experience.
Ibid., B xvi.
Kant’s Copernican revolution is a reminiscent of the astronomical revolution of Copernicus but now it is a revolution of the way of thinking particularly in philosophy. Before Copernicus, it has commonly accepted that the earth was the center of the solar system and all bodies including the sun revolves around it. This period was geocentric by which the proponent was Ptolemy. The case was not the same when Copernicus tried the other way by postulating that the earth is the one that revolves among other planets around the sun as the center of the whole solar system. Kant’s Copernican revolution as the conformity of the object to our mind is suggesting that the mind is active in imposing its own cognitive forms which can be determined by the structure of human sensibility and understanding. Central to Kant’s epistemology is that for human beings, all intuitions are given to the mind, rather than the mind creates them by thinking. In the Transcendental Aesthetic, Kant mentions the two sources of knowledge namely sensibility and understanding. The capacity (receptivity) to acquire representations through the way in which we are affected by objects is called sensibility.”127 This is needed in order for the mind to be supplied with intuitions. Through sensibility, objects are given to us. Concepts, which are products of the understanding, are the ways in which the objects are thought. Thought can only work on objects when they are given to sense. Sensations are considered to be subjective perceptions. Kant describes sensations as “the effect of an object on the capacity for representation, insofar as we are affected by the object.” 128 So an object may be represented as an intuition through sensation and that intuition is called empirical for they are through sense- experience. Considered simply as that to which an intuition refers through sensation and not with respect to any of its specific features, the object is called “an appearance,” or “the undetermined object of an empirical intuition.” 129 Having defined
Ibid., A 19=B 33.
Ibid., A 20=B 34. Ibid.
appearance, Kant distinguishes between its matter and its form. That in the appearance which corresponds to sensation is called matter. Generally, the matter of appearance consists of what in the object corresponds to a “manifold” consisting of a number of sensations given to sensibility. That which allows the manifold of appearance to be intuited as ordered in certain relations is called the form of appearance.”130The matter of appearance must be distinct from its form for the former is only given to us by sensation or a posteriori while the latter is some kind of thing in which sensations are place into order. If there is to be something in which the sensations are ordered, and it is not found in the sensations themselves, then it must be present in the mind for there to be an experience at all. Kant calls it pure forms of sensibility or pure intuitions.131 In this process, sensibility imposes an a priori form upon the material object sensed – that is, a form supplied by the knower. Since the form of sensibility is a priori, its treatment is “transcendental” rather than empirical. In this way, the Transcendental Aesthetic is the treatment of the two a priori forms which give order to what corresponds to our sensations in empirical intuition namely: space and time. Both space and time are not empirical concepts.132 To argue with this claim, let us take Hume’s theory of causation or causal concepts. According to Hume, we come to regard A as the cause of B when A and B have been constantly conjoined in experience by the principle of repetition, contiguity, and cause and effect. At that point the mind is so constituted that the inevitable conclusion that reaches is that A is the cause of B. This is not the conclusion of the given argument but only the habit of the mind. The same also with the billiard balls when ball 1 hits ball 2, the former moves and as it hits ball 2, ball 2 moves. Hume does not see the third term
Ibid., A 23=B 38; A 30=B 46.
between them. Causation cannot be seen in the billiard table rather it is an idea formed as a result of constant conjunction. However, Kant recognizes in this account a fundamental and necessary condition not addressed by Hume. Billiard ball one moves, then, billiard ball two moves. This is what succession all about. At first, there is one even then another event. At this time, the third term is the word “then” and it is also not on the billiard table. We cannot look at the table and see temporality. We cannot see and feel time. That is to say, there cannot be succession and constant conjunction unless time is present as a categorical framework for all experience. Time then is one of the necessary preconditions for the temporal ordering of events in time itself and it is not given in any empirical experience. It is not a stimulus that works on the sense organs. It is not something out there that stimulates us. “Time is a necessary representation that grounds all intuitions…therefore it is given a priori.133 Going back to Hume’s billiard table, aside from time what else is not given in experience? If Hume refers to something as seen before him or as something presented to the senses, the empirical claim “I see that a billiard ball is “on” the table” is acceptable. The word “on the table” indicates that something is attached or place on a surface. The question that will arise is: What faculty or sense do we come to experience space itself? We can agree that objects are in space and even without those objects it is still possible to have a concept of space. But, it would be impossible to think of objects that are not in space. Space as such is not given in experience and it is not an object that stimulates us. Space is not empirical concept that has been drawn from outer experiences.134 This is a definition is in a negative way or it is way of knowing what space is not. If this is the case, what is it then? The way Kant defines space is something “necessary representation, a priori, which the ground of all intuitions.” 135 Space then is
Ibid., A31=B 46.
Ibid., A 23=B 38.
something to be present for there to be experience at all. All experience presupposes spatialtemporal framework that cannot be experienced except by way of space and time. This is also called as the pure intuitions of space and time which becomes a necessary precondition for something else to come about or a necessary requirement for the possibility of experience. If space and time are the necessary preconditions for there to be any and all possible experience, what about our understanding of the world or to any understanding at all. When there is already a data provided by sense intuition, understanding synthesizes them. Kant defines understanding as “the faculty for thinking of objects of sensible intuition.” 136 If there is a pure form of sensibility by way of pure intuitions of space and time for there to be experience, there is also a form of all understanding by way of pure categories of understanding. In one part of the Analytic Concepts, Kant provides the framework for all understanding. He says, “We can, however, trace all actions of the understanding back to judgments, so that the understanding in general can be represented as a faculty for judging.”137 He asserts that in all instances understanding involves judgments. Further, these judgments are formed within a universal categorical framework. He also added: If we abstract from all content of a judgment in general, and attend only to the mere form of the understanding in it, we find that the function of thinking in that can be brought under four titles, each of which contains under itself three moments. Here, Kant is presenting his table of the four pure categories of the understanding namely: quantity, quality, relation, and modality. 138 In this paper, the researcher would only like to discuss on the category of quantity and modality.
Ibid., A 24=B 38.
Ibid., A 51=B 75.
Ibid., A 69=B 94. Kindly refer to the table found in A70=B95.
All qualitative judgments are based on the concept of unity, plurality, and totality. Our judgment is singular, plural, and universal respectively. Let us take an example in an empirical way. We can never have any trouble with our judgment based on the concept of unity, plurality, and totality if all we have to quantify are only the fingers that we have. We can say that it is up to ten as we count them. But we cannot get infinite series by counting for nothing about the experience that can give us the number infinity and convey totality. Nobody can get infinite series just by counting empirically. The understanding has this category within it which all empirical data are ordered within the category of unity, plurality, and totality. The other category is the modality. Kant provides three moments which are the judgments in which one regards the assertion or denial as merely possible (problematic judgment), the judgments in which it is considered actual (assertoric judgment), and judgments it is seen as necessary (Apodictic judgment).139 In this three, something is either possibly the case, or it is actually the case, or it is necessarily the case respectively. Let us consider the certainty of mathematics and logic as generative necessary truth as what has been implied by the rationalists. In mathematics, if A is greater than B and B is greater than C, it is necessary that A is greater than C. In the sphere of logic, granted that all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, necessarily Socrates is mortal. By this certitude, we can infer that nothing in the world of sensible matter is what it is necessarily for we cannot get the concept of necessity from sense-experience. The concept of a necessity is not empirical but a pure category of the understanding. In this scheme, all judgment requires a categorical framework necessarily. This framework is for all understanding. It would not matter whether one is a Filipino or not. Therefore, quantity, quality, relation, and modality constitute the necessary epistemic framework within which there can be understanding.
Ibid., A74-75=B 100.
We have established how Kant provides us the form of all sensibility by way of pure intuitions of space and time and at the same time the form of all understanding by pure categories of the understanding as the ground for his apodictic certitude in the theory of knowledge. We have noticed of the two most important terminologies above which are sensibility and understanding. Through sensibility, the objects which are the results of the synthesis between what is external to us and the pure intuitions of space and time are given to the mind as sense intuitions. Through understanding, sense intuitions are thought and when thought works on an object it further synthesizes the date of sensation under its four categories of understanding and the products are called concepts. For there to be knowledge at all both sensibility and understanding must go hand in hand and without the other it is impossible to claim that we know of something. Each is necessary in constituting knowledge for “without sensibility objects would not be given to us, without the understanding they would not be thought by us.”140 In this union between sensibility and understanding as a necessary requirement for knowledge to be possible, Kant arrives at his most famous conclusion. “Thoughts without contents are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.” After connecting some of Kant’s theory of knowledge, so now we can begin our treatment with the highest principle of all analytical judgments. The highest principle of all analytical judgments is the principle of non-contradiction. But this is only a conditio sine qua non or it is only a “negative criterion of all truth”141 according to Kant. Analytic judgment is only thinking by mean of concepts only and it is only the logic of validity. If the argument is logically valid it does not follow that it is logically true. There is a distinction between the logic of validity and the logic of truth. No new knowledge. Knowledge is not something analytic but synthetic.
Ibid., A 51=B 75.
Ibid., A 151=B 190.
This is Kant’s attack to rationalism. So if truth is something synthetic or which something expands, then, what is the highest principle of all synthetical judgments? “The highest principle of all synthetical judgment is therefore this, that every object is subject to the necessary conditions of a synthetical unity of the manifold of intuition in a possible experience.”142 By possible experience it could also mean the possibility of experience. Possibility of experience means that there is an a priori condition on which the possibility of experience depends on. Thinking alone by mean of concepts at best is valid but it is empty and therefore intuitions are necessary for the possibility of experience. The pure intuition of space and time in senseexperience has the possibility of experience by imposing a priori form upon the material object sensed, that is, a form supplied by the knower. No matter how lofty our thinking when it is not provided by intuition, it is not possible. Going back to the original question of Kant, how is pure mathematics possible and how is pure natural science possible, and how is metaphysics possible as science, answers have been provided by certain revolutions. But only mathematics and physics are successful because there is a possibility of experience. When we talk of figures such as triangles, rectangles, circles etc, these are the sphere of mathematics. There is the possibility of experience for these figures are in space. Also when we deal with numbers such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, these numbers are in succession and hence we can think of them in the framework categorical framework of time. But metaphysics which is a “certain kind of knowledge leave the field of all possible experience, and seem to enlarge sphere of our judgments beyond the limits of experience by means of concepts to which experience can never supply any corresponding objects.”143 We must take note that in sensibility, the sense only synthesizes the matter or objects of experience and certain forms in the mind. At
Ibid., A 158=B 197. Ibid., A 2-3=B 6.
the same time in understanding as the mind continues to think, the four pure categories of understanding only synthesize the intuitions provided by sensibility. In this case, the pure or a priori categories of understanding cannot be applied to realities that are not given by senseexperience. Thus, reason cannot transcend sense-experienced which in turn means that metaphysics is impossible as a science. Metaphysics transcends space and time and so we cannot have any knowledge of the supersensible reality for its concepts such as God, freedom and immortality do not carry any possibility of experience. Kant therefore is criticizing the very lofty ideas of metaphysics dogmatic rationalists because reason can never provide us any theoretical knowledge of the supersensible reality. To insist that reason can do so will just end up in the antinomy of pure reason. An antinomy arises when each of two contradictory propositions can be proved.144 Since we can only have knowledge in so far as there is cooperation and union between sensibility and understanding, Kant distinguishes between phenomena and noumena. Appearances, in so far as they are thought of as objects according to the unity of the categories, are called phenomena.145 Our knowledge is only limited because our senses do not perceive things-in-selves but only the objects that appear to us. We can know only the phenomena but not in the case of the noumena. So no matter how deeply we tried to know the things in themselves we can only know the things as it appears to us. All knowledge is always the knowledge of the phenomena which are both intuitively and conceptually. But this does not mean that the topics of metaphysics which can be considered as noumena are unthinkable. There can be thought and there is no wrong in thinking them but the point is we cannot have an exact and objective knowledge about them. In this case, Kant elevated the topics of metaphysics such as God,
Copleston, A History of Philosophy. Volume VI, 286.
Ibid., A 248.
freedom and immortality into not just a mere concepts like the rests but they are Ideas which is reserved to the mind not ours. But even the reservation of the noumena to the mind which is not ours is still not a determined conclusion. Thus, for Kant questions of God, freedom, and immortality are left as a matter of faith. He concludes, “Thus I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.”146 What does reason achieves is only the act of critical examination of the very forms of rationality that could not possibly be provided by experience and in so doing it opens the condition of the possibility of scientific knowledge. By the critical examination of reason itself, the researcher concludes that Kant was able to complete the problems of knowledge in modern philosophy which had been started by Descartes and at the same time Kant was able to finish the very original project of Locke which was to know the origin, certitude and extent of human knowledge.
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