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Susan Stuart University of Glasgow, UK
Lectures 1 & 2
Traditional metaphysics purports to give us fundamental truths about the nature of reality, that is, the nature of substance, the existence of God, whether we are free, and so on, using only a priori or pure reasoning, and Kant is unhappy with the state of traditional metaphysics. The problem of justifying metaphysical enquiry is not simply that metaphysicians disagree on the central questions of metaphysics, without having any means of settling such disputes, but that they can produce impeccable arguments for contradictory claims. Perhaps metaphysics could be made legitimate by becoming more like logic, another method of a priori reasoning. But logic doesn’t tell us anything substantial about the way our world or universe is because it holds across all possible worlds. Logic has form or structure, but no content. So if metaphysics is to give us new information its principles cannot be purely logical ones. Another alternative would be to look to empiricism for truths about the world, but empiricism of the Berkeleyan and Humean kind ends in scepticism. Though today we are more inclined to read Hume’s thesis positively as a form of natural realism, that nature takes over where reason fails and doesn’t allow us the luxury of scepticism. Hume makes a distinction between relations of ideas and matters of fact (Hume’s Fork) in an attempt to demonstrate that nowhere is there any room for metaphysics. Metaphysics in Hume’s words is mere ’sophistry and illusion’ ready to be ’committed to the ﬂames’. I have introduced Kant to you as an attempt to counter Berkeleyan dogmatic idealism and Humean sceptical idealism, but Kant thought of his work in the Critique is an attempt to reinstate metaphysics as a science, and he likens his project to a Copernican Revolution – our geocentric understanding of the universe became heliocentric. As long as science adhered to the pre-Copernican view of the world there could be no progress, and Kant saw metaphysics as suffering from the same malaise. Kant felt that if he could perform a ’Copernican Revolution’ on metaphysics – where the passively receptive mind becomes an active participant in what it experiences – then metaphysics too could move forward. We perceive our world but the forms of this perception or intuition actively orders what we perceive. In this way what we perceive is determined by how we perceive it. The critique that Kant embarks upon is all about putting metaphysics back onto a sure footing. [See the Preface of the Critique of Pure Reason.] Kant wants to show that the sceptic’s conclusions are ill-founded, and to do this he tries to demonstrate logically that a particular proposition ‘That there is inner exCopyright 2004, Susan Stuart.
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perience’ / P, for example, is true and that what the sceptic doubts, ‘That there is outer experience’ / Q, follows logically from P. Hume, our sceptic, says that the only propositions we can know are propositions about sense impressions and current memories of past sense impressions. Kant wants to show that it is a condition of our having these sense impressions that there should be facts of the kind that Hume disputes, for example, facts about our experience being of an external world or causation being the cement of the universe. If Kant can show this, then Humes scepticism will be incoherent. The answer Kant argues for in the Critique is that, in general, there can be inner subjective experience, only if there is outer experience, that is, experience of an objective world. And if we examine what in particular is required for experience to be of an objective world, we ﬁnd that it must be experience of a world of objects structured in space and time and uniﬁed by a universal system of causal relations. Experience consisting solely of subjective sense impressions is not a possible experience. In other words, Humes scepticism about the external world could only be intelligible within a conceptual framework of independently existing objects and that is precisely what is being undermined by the conclusions of his sceptical arguments. Humes position must therefore be incoherent. Kant now draws a distinction between the world as experienced, appearances or phenomena, and the world as it is in itself, a world of things-in-themselves or noumena. Speculation about how the world is in itself is futile since all we can know is the experienced world. Traditional metaphysics is dead, but we have a rejuvenated metaphysics in the form of a metaphysics of experience. This does not mean that all knowledge must be empirical knowledge just because all knowledge must be restricted to that which comes within our sense experience. On the contrary, Kant claims that we can know a priori truths about the nature of our experience, truths that do not rest for their conﬁrmation on that experience. Crucially, we can know a priori that the experienced world consists of spatio-temporally ordered items existing independently of anyone’s particular awarenesses of them, and which are interconnected by causal laws. Thus it is a condition of the possibility of any experience that these things are true of it. Kant offers us a transcendental argument to demonstrate that experience is only possible given that certain things are true of it, which we can therefore know to be true a priori of that experience. Kant’s argument: 1. There is human experience. 2. If that experience is to be even possible, then certain things must be true of it. It must be a spatio-temporal experience of objects and events governed by causal laws. 3. Therefore, we may conclude that those things are true a priori of that experience. On Humes picture we have only sense impressions and current memories of past sense impressions. On Kants picture if we can have sense impressions them they must be impressions of something, that is, we can have inner experience only on condition that we can have outer experience. Hume admits that sense experience is possible, and if Kant is right, Humes claim requires the very thing he doubts, outer experience. But Kant goes further still; he says that our experience must have a certain nature it must be spatially and temporally ordered in accordance with universal causal laws. Let’s examine the presuppositions behind Kant’s claim. The problem of metaphysics is presented to us as a question about whether there could be a priori knowledge of reality. The empiricist challenges the metaphysician by asking: can we know, in advance of any experience or empirical investigation of nature, that certain things must be true of it? The empiricist’s answer is ﬁrmly ’No’. But in giving that answer 2
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they are tacitly accepting a certain picture or model of what knowing consists in, that knowledge must conform to objects. Kant’s picture is exactly the opposite, that ”objects must conform to knowledge”. He claims not just that our view of reality is coloured by the sort of beings that we are, but also that the nature of our human faculties themselves actually determines that the experienced world must have certain features. We can know that the experienced world possesses these features quite apart from any empirical investigation of it, and if this is so, we can say a priori what the world must be like in certain respects. Remember that Kant is talking about the experienced world and not the world of things in themselves which is beyond our experience. So, Kant’s claim is, that regardless of what the world is like in itself it must appear to us to have certain features. We know this because the possibility of any human experience depends on its appearing to have those features. These claims are the core of what Kant calls transcendental idealism - the necessary conditions of our having sense impressions.
Fish - the epistemic conditions of their experience
Consider the world of a deep sea ﬁsh. It is a necessary fact about such a ﬁsh, that any object it meets is in water. This is a physical necessity, that is, it conforms with the laws of nature. Does it follow from this that the objects a ﬁsh meets are necessarily aquatic? Obviously not. He might meet deep-sea divers or well-travelled shopping trolleys. The point about ﬁsh is that they can meet non-aquatic things, but only if those things happen to be, for the time being, in water. Most ﬁsh capable of thought, would think that everything that existed was essentially aquatic. But a ﬁshy Kant emerges, and struck by a thought similar to Kants about objects conforming to knowledge, thinks: ‘Ive been confused about the nature of objects. Ive always thought they were essentially aquatic, but now I realise that what is essential or necessary is that for me to experience them they must be in water. Ive confused an epistemic condition of a my experience with a necessary truth about objects. To know what objects were like in themselves, I should have to know what they were like independently of any conditions that were imposed on my experience of them by the sort of being that I am. But I cannot have such knowledge.’ Our ﬁshy Kant has discovered her own version of transcendental idealism. Just as the ﬁsh cannot transcend the conditions of its experience to view the world outside its watery experience, human beings are logically debarred by the nature of their experience from transcending the conditions of that experience to view things as they are in themselves. Human beings can only view things as ﬁltered through their spatial and temporal intuitions and ordered by the causal principle. So Kant is suggesting that metaphysics as traditionally conceived goes wrong because it takes as its objective the discovery, by a priori reasoning, of truths about an independent reality. There cannot be any such a priori truths. What there may be are a priori necessary truths about our experience of that reality. The way to discover such truths is to ask: under what conditions is experience of any kind possible for us? Then we should ask: would human experience be possible if these conditions were not met? If ’No’, then we have established an a priori truth about that experience. These necessary truths about experience, Kant calls synthetic a priori truths.
Lectures 3 & 4
The Synthetic A Priori
Kant makes an epistemological distinction between a priori and a posteriori. A priori knowledge is knowledge gained without recourse to sense experience. A posteriori knowledge is knowledge discovered empirically through sense experience. The two 3
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are distinct in a further way because a priori knowledge can be acquired empirically - Pythagoras’s theorem, for example - but a posteriori knowledge cannot be acquired non-empirically. By a priori truths Kant is thinking primarily of universal truths but he distinguishes absolutely a priori from relatively a priori: First, then, if we have a proposition which in being thought is thought as necessary, it is an a priori judgment; and if, besides, it is not derived from any proposition except one which also has the validity of a necessary judgment, it is an absolutely a priori judgment. Secondly, experience never confers on its judgments true or strict, but only assumed and comparative universality, through induction. We can properly only say, therefore, that, so far as we have hitherto observed, there is no exception to this or that rule. If, then, a judgment is thought with strict universality, that is, in such manner that no exception is allowed as possible, it is not derived from experience, but is valid absolutely a priori. [B4] Man digging at foundations example [B3]. We know what will happen because we’re acquainted with the gravitational laws. We could say a priori that the house will collapse, but this is known only relatively a priori and not a priori in the sense of being absolutely independent of experience. Thus we would say of a man who undermined the foundations of his house, that he might have known a priori that it would fall, that is, that he need not have waited for the experience of its actual falling. But still he could not know this completely a priori. For he had ﬁrst to learn through experience that bodies are heavy, and therefore fall when their supports are withdrawn. But can anything be known absolutely a priori?Let’s look at another distinction between necessary and universal truth. All a priori truths are necessary and all necessary truths are a priori. However, not all a priori truths are universal in form though they hold universally, that is, across all possible worlds. For example, ‘Every event has a cause’ is universal in form, ‘2+2=4’ is not. Kant also distinguishes analytic from synthetic truths, for example, ‘All bodies are extended’ is an analytic truth and ‘All bodies are heavy’ is a synthetic truth. An analytic truth is so-called because an analysis of its constituent parts will reveal all there is to know about it. A synthetic truth, on the other hand, requires a synthesis of experiences; it is contingent on our experience for its truth. Analytic truths have two criteria by which they can be identiﬁed: 1. Concept-containment: predicate B belongs to subjects A as something contained in A necessarily. The connection of B to A is thought through identity, and analysis of A will reveal B. 2. Self-contradiction: A propositions is analytic if it cannot be denied without selfcontradiction. (1) leads to (2). ‘All vixen are female’. A vixen is a female fox, and as a matter of logic, a female fox is female.
How are synthetic a priori truths possible?
For Kant mathematics, geometry and arithmetic were all indubitably synthetic a priori and not analytic as so many before him had thought. [Think here of Descartes, Leibniz and Hume, for example.] Mathematics 4
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Here are two views (of many) held about the truths of mathematics. Empirical (J.S. Mill) - where mathematical truths are experimentally established generalisations. Their propositions are known synthetic a posteriori. Conventionalism (A.J. Ayer) where mathematical truths are true by convention and once set out the truth value of any mathematical statement is completely determined. Their propositions are known analytic a priori. In this case the mathematician can introduce any concept as long as it is logically consistent with the rest of her system. Kant takes the middle-ground, the truths of mathematics are neither simply analytic nor synthetic but rather they are synthetic a priori. Kant liked the idea of conventionalism but thought that what was logically possible was not always a possibility of our experience, so set it aside. Arithmetic: 7 + 5 = 12 First thoughts suggest that this is simply analytic because 7 + 5 = 12 is a contradiction; but Kant thought it wasn’t that easy! The concept of 12 is not thought in the concept of 7+5. This is not a simple psychological criterion as Ayer thought but a conceptual distinction. Tribal society example; no numbers larger than 10; 7 + 5 = lots. There the concept of 12 is deﬁnitely not thought in the concept 7 + 5. There is no identity relation in this sense. Kant might be right about this but the self-contradiction point still stands because of a priori stipulations about the number series and what is meant by addition. So it’s analytic under one criterion but not under the other, and Kant’s case is inconclusive. Geometry: ‘A straight line is the shortest distance between two points.’ This proposition is not analytic for Kant because the concept of straight contains quality but not quantity, and the concept of shortest contains quantity but not quality. The concept of shortest is additional and not derivable through analysis of the concept of straightness. According to Kant we can measure the length of a line, but we don’t measure the straightness of a line. Straightness is known by simple observation. He then argues that it is not logically contradictory to suppose that a line with the perceived quality of straightness does not have the metrical property of being the shortest distance between its end points. This is unconvincing for two reasons: 1. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line might simply be a convention. 2. We do often just look to see if a line is straight, but when it really matters we measure it. Now, can there be two distinct lines between the same two point? It is a logical possibility. Two straight lines can enclose a space and be drawn between the same two points. This is not a geometrical contradiction as long as we move away from Euclidean geometry. Change the base of the problem from a plane to a sphere, and think of the lines of longitude on a globe. This is still not entirely satisfactory because you see the lines as curved because they’re in three dimensional space. On a two-dimensional surface they’re straight because they’re the shortest distance between two points. Space in non-Euclidean geometry can be 1D, 2D, 3D up to an inﬁnite number of dimensions. The notion is thinkable, that is, is a logical possibility, but it is not possible in our spatial experience because that experience is three-dimensional. Our visual perception may simply not allow a non-Euclidean geometry it doesn’t mean a non-Euclidean geometry is not possible. Frege in The Foundations of Arithmetic (p20) expresses what is essentially Kant’s view like this: Empirical propositions hold good of what is physically or psychologically actual, the truths of geometry govern all that is spatially intuitable, whether actual or product of our fancy. The wildest visions of delirium, 5
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the boldest inventions of legend and poetry, where animals speak and stars stand still, where men are turned to stone and trees turn into men, where the drowning haul themselves up out of swamps by their own topknots all these remain, so long as they are intuitable, still subject to the axioms of geometry. [I.e. Frege is claiming that (Euclid’s) geometry would hold of space even if the physical laws of science were different or failed to hold. It isn’t therefore merely an empirical matter that geometry is true of space.] Conceptual thought alone can after a fashion shake off this yoke, when is it assumes, say, a space of four dimensions or positive curvature [I.e. a non-Euclidean geometry]. To study such conceptions is not useless by any means; but it is to leave the ground of intuition entirely behind. If we do make use of intuition even here, as an aid, it is still the same old intuition of Euclidean space, the only space of which we have any picture. Only then the intuition is not taken at its face value, but as symbolic of something else; for example, we call straight or plane what we actually intuit as curved. For purposes of conceptual thought we can always assume the contrary of some one or other of the geometrical axioms, without involving ourselves in any self-contradictions when we proceed to our deductions, despite the conﬂict between our assumptions and our intuition. Kant is saying two things: (i) a proposition like ’two straight lines cannot enclose a space’ is not an analytic truth; and (ii) though logically possible, such a ﬁgure is not possible in the space of our experience. We have to try and imagine a ﬁgure, a spatial intuition, and when we realise that this isn’t possible we realise that this proposition is necessarily true of our experience, that is, that ’two straight lines cannot enclose a space’ in our experience. Thus the proposition is necessarily true of our experience, and Euclidean geometry remains true of the nature of our experience. So the necessary a priori truths of geometry not analytic because we have to resort to intuition to grasp them as necessary truths of the nature of our experience. Kant’s argument for the synthetic a priori nature of geometry: 1. The truths of geometry are necessary. 2. We cannot grasp them except by invoking spatial intuitions of the ﬁgures involved. 3. Therefore, it is something about our spatial experience that makes the propositions of geometrical experience necessary; and as a result they are synthetic a priori. There are difﬁculties with this view. The claim that the veriﬁcation of geometry requires an appeal to spatial experience conﬂicts with the necessity of geometry. What can an appeal to spatial experience mean if not that what propositions are true in geometry will depend on what space is actually like. If this is so it makes it an empirical question, and not one of necessity. Perhaps Kant’s account of geometry is simply confused. Two more points about the coherence of Kant’s position: 1. What criterion do we use to show that certain ﬁgures are possible in our experience and others are not? Imaginability, which is a poor criterion or guide. Consensus in maths and physics shows us that even if non-Euclidean geometry is unimaginable it may nevertheless be true of space, even though it’s not true of our experience of space. 2. An appeal to experience is not necessary for proving the theorems of geometry. Truths of geometry can be deduced from a small number of axioms without any appeal to ﬁgures of the kind common in textbooks of Euclidean geometry. So which abstract system of geometry is true of space is an empirical question. 6
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The Transcendental Aesthetic
Representations are either concepts or intuitions. Concepts are general representations, applying to many objects in virtue of some property or properties that these objects possess. Concepts refer mediately to an object by means of a feature which several things have in common. [A320] So concepts roughly correspond to general terms in language. Intuitions are singular representations that relate to a single object, and the relation is said to be immediate. By this Kant means that when we intuit an object, the object is somehow directly present to the mind, as in perception. So an intuition is a representation that stands for an individual thing in contrast to a concept that can stand for many things, and in representing an individual thing we are somehow also in immediate relation to it, that is, it is present to the mind. We acquire intuitions of objects only by being affected by them. Affection involves for the subject a certain passivity. Our perceptions are not apparently brought about by our own mental activity. Thus, intuition involves sensibility rather than the intellect or the understanding, and relates directly to objects of ordinary perception. The concept /intuition distinction is linked to a contrast between two faculties of mind: sensibility and understanding. Kant says: [T]here are two stems of human knowledge, namely, sensibility and understanding ... Through the former, objects are given to us; through the latter, they are thought. [B29] Sensibility is the purely passive faculty of sense perception through which something is given to the senses. Understanding is the active faculty of mind whose function is to apply concepts to the perceived appearances. At the beginning of the Transcendental Aesthetic Kant repeats this same point: Objects are given to us by means of sensibility, and it alone yields us intuitions; they are thought through the understanding, and from the understanding arise concepts. [B34] How does the division between sensibility and understanding determine the development of Kant’s argument? He is looking for the a priori elements in human experience. Experience arises out of the co-operation of sensibility and understanding, so we might ﬁrst isolate the sensible element in that experience, and ask: is there anything we can say a priori about the way we receive data through our faculty of sensibility? Is there anything that must be true of our experience simply in virtue of the fact that we sense things? Kant investigates this question in the Transcendental Aesthetic and comes to the conclusion that there is. Space and time are a priori elements in our experience that we can isolate simply by considering the conditions of any type of sensory awareness whatsoever. Kant also asks: is there anything that we can say a priori about experience that arises from the fact that we apply concepts to it? Are there any concepts in fact that must apply in that experience? Kants answer to this is given in the Transcendental Analytic. In the small section of this that we’ll discuss, the second Analogy, he argues that the concept of causality applies a priori to experience. The very notion of an objective world depends on the applicability of this concept to our experience. But Kant’s distinction between intuitions and concepts is problematic. Are intuitions a mode of sense awareness that we have before we apply concepts? If they are, the concept/intuition contrast would exclude a conceptual element in intuitions themselves. The main point about intuitions is that they occur ‘only so far as an object is given to us’, and this is possible in humans only in so far as the mind is affected in a certain way through sensibility. That human knowledge requires both concepts and intuitions further reveals Kants empirical underpinnings. Space and time are the a priori elements of our sensible intuitions; the a priori forms of sensible intuitions. This is argued for in two ways, directly and indirectly. 7
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Directly in the Aesthetic as the Metaphysical Exposition of the concepts of space and time where he seeks to establish the a priori nature of space and time by looking at their role in experience. This role is made clear by direct reﬂection on the concepts themselves. Indirectly where he takes the synthetic a priori character of mathematics for granted and argues that, only if space and time have the a priori status in our experience that the metaphysical exposition says they have, can we make sense of the view that mathematics is synthetic a priori . That is, we can’t explain the possibility of synthetic a priori statements in mathematics other than by assuming that space and time are a priori forms of intuition. This argument is presented in the section called the Transcendental Exposition of the concepts of space and time. If we’re anxious about the synthetic a priori status of mathematics we’ll be more interested in the arguments Kant produces in the Metaphysical Exposition.
The Metaphysical Exposition of the Concepts of Space and Time
Time is taken as the form of inner sense, all experience must be temporally ordered, and space is the form of outer sense, by which the world is spatially ordered. The arguments for space and time are separate, but they are almost exactly analogous. Two arguments are given for saying that space and time are a priori , and two for saying that they are intuitions. A clue to their meaning is given at [A23/B37] What then are space and time? Are they real existences? Or are they only determinations or relations of things, yet such as would belong to things even if they were not intuited? These alternatives are just those of the absolutist and relationist conceptions of space and time represented by Newton and Leibniz, respectively. For Newton, space and time were real existences independent of things, they were absolutes. For Leibniz they were merely relations between things, and therefore in some sense ideal. Newton would certainly say that space and time were independent of human intuition, though not of Gods, since he talks about space and time being the sensorium of God. Kant, I think, would say that Leibniz agrees with Newton on this. Whether relational or absolute, space and time are mind-independent. In contrast to these positions Kant agrees with Newton, against Leibniz, that space and time are not relational concepts, but he disagrees with Newton on whether space and time have an absolute existence independent of our intuitions. We’ll look ﬁrst at the arguments for the a priority of space and time.
Lectures 5 & 6
a priori Spatial & Temporal Forms of Intuition
By means of outer sense, a property of our mind, we represent to ourselves objects as outside us, and all without exception in space. [B37 / A23] Kant gives two arguments for space and time as a priori and two for space and time as forms of intuition; in brief they are: Space and time as a priori Argument 1: ‘Space is not an empirical concept which has been derived from outer experience.’ Argument 2: ‘We can never represent to ourselves the absence of space, though we can quite well think of it was empty of objects.’ Space and time as forms of intuition Argument 1: The uniqueness of space and time. Of any two regions of space it must make sense to say that there is a spatial route that could be taken from one to the 8
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other. In the case of time, of any two distinct times, it must be true that one is before or after the other. Argument 2: ‘All the parts of space co-exist ad inﬁnitum.’ Space and time contain an inﬁnite number of parts. With an inﬁnite number of parts they cannot be concepts, they are more like individuals which can have an inﬁnite number of parts within them.
Space and time as a priori
Argument 1: Space is not an empirical concept derived from our experiences because the representation of space has to be presupposed in order to ‘refer’ sensations to something outside me or to represent them as in particular spatial relations to each other. In Kant’s Criticism of Metaphysics Walsh explains this as follows: To say, for example, that we are presented in experience with things which are adjacent to or distant from one another, and get the idea of space by abstraction from such situations, will not do for the simple reason that adjacent to one another means adjacent to one another in space. Only someone who already had the idea of space could say that two things were adjacent to, or distant from, one another. [Walsh 1975, p19] It would be nice not to have to attribute this to Kant, because its an absolutely terrible argument. If it were valid, we could also prove, for example, that the concept of colour was a priori from the simple consideration that only someone who already had the concept of colour could notice that a was a darker shade than b. In fact a whole host of concepts would instantly become a priori for the same reason. The fact that ‘a is adjacent to b means ‘a is adjacent to b in space, and no one could understand the one without understanding the other. This does not show that a person could not get the idea of space from experiencing things adjacent to each other in space. Unfortunately, his parallel argument for time is equally invalid. Time: ‘Time is not an empirical concept that has been derived from any experience.’ Our notions of co-existence and succession are derived from our representation of time as a presupposition in all our experience. So how do we derive our notion of time? We need to distinguish between the 1. history system, which is the set of all things in time that have happened, are happening or will happen; and 2. the time system which is the time at which particular things occur. What is the relation between the two systems? Before Kant we have two positions on the question, the reductionist and the absolutist or Platonist.
All assertions involving reference to time or temporal items can be analysed in terms of assertions involving reference only to things in time and to the temporal relations between things in time. So reductionists think of the time system as a logical construction of the history system. Thus all talk about temporal items can be translated into semantically equivalent talk about things in time. So when we talk about a particular temporal item we identify it by citing some event that occurred at the time of that temporal item. For example, I might single out some moment as the day I was born. We cannot equate the moment with that particular unique event, for we want to say that that moment is the same moment as that in which Kennedy was assassinated. As the same moment may have different identifying events the moment cannot be equated with any one of these events. For the reductionist the moment is the collection of all 9
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simultaneous events. So to say that event A occurred at moment m is just to say that event A is a member of the set of events constituting that particular moment. The reductionist account is attractive because temporal items need not be thought as ethereal, insubstantial or unduly abstract. The reductionist doesn’t but he ought to say that temporal items really do exist and claim to have given a very satisfying account of what these items are. This system also has the advantage of showing us how to investigate the properties of time. For example, to settle the issue as to whether or not there was a ﬁrst moment of time we need only settle the issue as to whether or not there was a ﬁrst event.
Absolutism or Platonism
A leading exponent of this view was Isaac Barrow (1630 – 1677) http://www-gap. dcs.st-and.ac.uk/˜history/Mathematicians/Barrow.html. For the absolutist, time would exist even if there were no history system. That is, time would exist even if there were no events, so no change by which time might be measured. Isaac Barrow writes: ... whether things move on, stand still; whether we sleep or wake, time ﬂows perpetually with an equal tenor. If you suppose all the ﬁxed stars to have stood still from their beginning; not the least portion of time would be lost by this; for so long as that rest continues, so long has this motion ﬂowed. So the existence of temporal items is ontologically independent of the existence of things in time. Temporal relations between things in time hold in virtue of temporal relations holding between the times at which the things in time occur. Parallel claims can be made about space. For example, Leibniz introduces the concept of space by ﬁrst deﬁning a pure location, and then deﬁning space as the sum total of locations. The relational aspect came with the deﬁnition of location in terms of a relation to what he called ﬁxed existents - frames of reference, to us. Location is deﬁned in terms of things, space in terms of locations, thus space is deﬁned in terms of things: Sde f L, Lde f T , so Sde f T . Kant attacks this view. Leibniz seems committed to holding that space consists of certain relations holding between things – for ‘things’ here read ‘monads’ – whose existence is prior to both the existence of space and to the existence of these relations. The relations could not exist without the things, and space could not exist without the relations. But Kant holds that it is the spatial character of objects that enables us to represent them as distinct from ourselves and distinct from each other. So we could not have a distinctive notion of an object without making use of a prior conception of space. So the criteria of identity for objects includes spatial and temporal position, and there can be no object without a criterion of identity. Kant says that Leibniz had things precisely the wrong way round. The intelligibility of our concept of an object rests on our conceptions of space and time, and not that our conceptions of space and time rest on our concept of objects. In his Inaugural Dissertation (1770) Kant says: For I may not conceive of something as placed outside me unless by representing it as in a place which is different from the place in which I myself am, nor may I conceive of things outside one another unless by locating them at different places in space. [Inaugural Dissertation 15A] Our conception of something objective, an object of experience, must be that of a spatial object, because only in that way can objects be individuated. [See http: //www.rep.routledge.com/article/DB047SECT3] Space and time as a priori Argument 2: ‘We can never represent to ourselves the absence of space, though we can quite well think of it was empty of objects.’ 10
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The ﬁrst part repeats the point of argument 1: we cannot represent objects except as being in space (and time). The new element is the claim that we can conceive of empty space, a void. Kant is claiming that the ideas of space and time have a content that is logically independent of, and therefore not reducible to, the ideas of objects in space and time. In Leibniz’s relational view of space and time if space is ’nothing but the order of things co-existing’ a vacuum or empty space would not seem to be possible. In the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, Clarke, a supporter of Newton’s absolute view, thought it was. Leibniz, Clarke says, implies that ’there is no space where there is no matter’. Clarke then takes it that Leibniz believed the impossibility of a vacuum is shown by this thought: a vacuum, if it could exist, would be a case of absolute space, non-relational space, a space that exists quite independently of any means we might have for measuring it. So the relational view of space cannot account for what is an obvious possibility: empty space. Two brief points: 1. Whilst Leibniz is not always clear on this, it seems his objections to a vacuum were quasi-moral or theological rather than logical. He thought a vacuum impossible because God in his wisdom and benevolence wished to ﬁll the universe with matter. (Richest in phenomena, simplest in hypotheses). But on this view Leibniz can have no logical objection to a vacuum. 2. (2) it can be argued that the notion of empty space is compatible with the relational view. The clue lies in Leibniz’s remark that ’space without bodies is nothing but the possibility of placing them’. [L-C Correspondence, III, 5] Thus to speak of an empty region of space is just to speak about the possible relations that some object could come to be in to actually existing bodies. Kant thought that Leibniz’s relational view was incompatible with the idea of space as being completely empty of objects, and from this Kant concludes that the representation of space must be a priori . But here, perhaps, is an even more interesting question: can the reductionist admit the possibility of temporal vacua, empty time? The reductionist position needs to be more extreme, holding that statements about times must be construed as statements about happenings in time. So he must hold that there can be no period of time without change, without something happening. Nothing is occurring during those periods. As Leibniz says, ‘if there were a vacuum in time, a duration without changes, it would be impossible to determine its length’. [New Essays on Human Understanding 1765, Book 2 Chp. 15] In ‘Time without change’ [Journal of Philosophy, 1969, LXVI] Sydney Shoemaker wrote attempted to refute Leibniz’s claim and establish the possibility of temporal vacua. His strategy was to describe a logically possible world and to argue that the best account the inhabitants of such a world could make of their world is one that commits them to positing the occurrence of changeless periods of time. Shoemaker describes a fantasy world divided into three regions, A, B C. It seems to the inhabitants of region A that there is total cessation of all change in the B region for one year every 3 years and a total cessation of all change in the C region for one year every 4 years. The inhabitants of the B and C regions report a total cessation of change in the A region for one year every 5 years. We are to suppose that the inhabitants are justiﬁed in projecting into the future the observed regularities of cessation of change holding for each region. So they are justiﬁed in holding that once every sixty years there is a year in which there is no change at all in any of the three regions. In order to have a causal account of the ending of these periods of total changelessness, the inhabitants will have to suppose that the mere non-occurrence of change for a certain period of time is a causally sufﬁcient condition for the beginning once again of change, for by hypothesis, since there will have been no change for a period, that we know from our calculations, to be a year prior to the commencement of change, there 11
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will have been no events that could explain the resumption of change. This, in itself seems to be an objection to Shoemakers fantasy. For admitting this world as a case of a temporal vacuum will force us to modify certain well entrenched beliefs about causality - we should have to accept the notion that time by itself could be causally relevant to the occurrence of change in things. It may be then that on the question of vacua, there is an asymmetry between space and time. Spatial vacua are conceivable; temporal vacua may not be.
Space and Time as Forms of Intuition
When Kant refers to space and time as forms of intuition he means ordinary empirical perception of objects. Space and time are forms of empirical intuition in the sense that they are the form that our experience of objects must take. And when Kant speaks of space and time as themselves intuitions, he is emphasising two things: 1. space and time as distinct from what occurs or exists in space and time; and 2. that space and time are themselves sorts of particular, given immediately and pre-conceptually in our representations of outer sense. An intuition is of something particular given immediately to the mind. The claim is then that space and time are givens, not ways in which we conceptualise the given, but ways in which we perceive it. Of course, we have concepts of space and time, but what we have a concept of is not an abstract structure of relations between things and events as Leibniz thought, but of something we are immediately aware of in sensibility, an all-pervasive feature of our experience. Argument 1: The uniqueness of space and time. Of any two regions of space it must make sense to say that there is a spatial route that could be taken from one to the other. In the case of time, of any two distinct times, it must be true that one is before or after the other. But we sometimes talk of space and time as though they are plural but when we do this we are thinking of regions or intervals of the one space and the one time, regions and intervals are parts of the whole of space and the whole of time. This part/whole relationship characterises individuals rather than concepts. In the jargon of modern logic, space and time are mereological, that is, space and time are more like things that have parts than they are like conceptual structures that have exemplars and kinds. One concept does not contain another in the way that space contains regions or parts of space. So, Kant concludes that we should think of space and time as peculiar kinds of individual rather than as concepts; and as individuals their representations have to be the form of intuitions. So, is it a factual truth about space and time, that they are unique, or is it, as Kant believes an a priori truth that they are unities? The ﬁrst philosopher to raise this question was F. H. Bradley in Appearance and Reality,  p186. Bradley argued that we have no justiﬁcation for our belief that space and time are unique. Partly his argument was based on considerations which would not have bothered Kant at all; but in the 1960’s Anthony Quinton revived and sharpened Bradley’s argument. [’Spaces and Times’, Philosophy, (1962), vol.37] He concluded that whereas there could be more than one space, there could not be more than one time. His argument has been quite extensively discussed. More recently, in 1980 Newton-Smith in a book entitled The Structure of Time argued that neither space nor time are necessarily unique. Concerning time Bradley says that there is ’no valid objection to the existence of any number of independent time series’. By ‘independent time series’ he means the time series that occur not just in ordinary life, but in dreams, in imaginary histories, in ﬁction and so on. Bradley holds that, for example, it would be meaningless to ask how the events in the story of Sinbad the Sailor are related temporally to those of Hamlet, or to the events in my dream last night. Of course the occasions on which I 12
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dream or imagine or read about these events are dateable occurrences in a temporal succession whose events include what happens to me. But that succession, my temporal succession bears, no relation to the temporal succession of events in the imagined events. We might object that though there are in a sense all these independent time series, only one of them is actually real, the series as he puts it of my arrangements, my personal experience. Do you think there is anything to choose in point of reality between the time series I occupy and those that Sinbad and Hamlet occupy? If there is, then Bradley is simply wrong. Quinton elaborates on Bradley’s thesis in a Cartesian sort of way to try to establish what he calls a multispatial myth and refute the corresponding multitemporal myth. Imagine we inhabit a possible world where it is always sunny, warm, and there is an abundance of the good things of life. We’ll call this Pleasantville. It is a sphere set in an otherwise empty space. When we go to sleep in Pleasantville we immediately begin to dream of waking in a world that is cloudy, cold and has few of the good things of life. This world is a cube set in an otherwise empty space. We’ll call this Harshland. Now we might make arrangements in Pleasantville to meet with friends 12 hours later somewhere in Harshland, and vice versa. The claim is that in principle for someone who lived through these experiences it could be that they would have no reason to consider one world as more, or less, real than the other. But this would be a world in which the space of Pleasantville was not accessible to the space of Harshland. So you could not get from a place in Pleasantville to a place in Harshland by setting out from Pleasantville in any direction. The only way of getting to Harshland is by falling asleep in Pleasantville and vice versa. Quinton’s myth is unconvincing precisely because it exploits the Cartesian dream possibility. He claims that for the people who undergo these experiences there would be nothing to choose in point of reality between Pleasantville and Harshland; but what the multispatial myth turns on is the fact that one set of experiences are just dream experiences, quite unconnected spatially with the other non-dream set, and the dream situation is crucial to the example. On Newton-Smith’s version of the myth if an inhabitant of Pleasantville eats a certain tuberous root, it causes them to disappear. Fortunately, after a time they reappear. And on re-appearing, they tell a story about experiences of the place called Harshland. You can imagine how the story unfolds. Consumption of the root becomes a national pastime; peole who eat the root together return and tell stories that are not only internally coherent but mutually supportive of details about life in Harshland, and so on. Once again, exploration of the ﬁnite world of Pleasantville fails to reveal the location of a place resembling Harshland. Newton-Smith argues that given the assumed high degree of internal coherence and inter-personal agreement in experiences, we ought, ceteris paribus, to accord their stories an objective status. We should avoid any hypothesis to explain what is happening that assumes these people are suffering massive delusions, and instead should select the hypothesis that requires minimal revision of the inhabitants’ system of beliefs. Then it would be reasonable for the inhabitants to adopt the hypothesis of a non-unitary space. But is non-unitary time possible? Quinton doesn’t think so; he asks if the arrangement of my experiences could be in anything other than a single temporal sequence? If I have, or can have, memories of one series of events whilst experiencing the other, there would be good a reason for saying that I was involved in both of them. The only thing required for an experience to be mine is that I should be logically capable of remembering it. And from the fact that, at a given time, I am logically capable of remembering a certain experience, it follows that the experience is temporally antecedent to the time of my current experience, and so is in the same unitary temporal series as that experience. Therefore, it is unintelligible to speak of a collection of events as constituting the experience of one person unless the members of that col13
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lection form a single temporal sequence. So Quinton would agree with Kant, at least, about the unitary nature of time. Argument 2: ”All the parts of space co-exist ad inﬁnitum.” Space and time contain an inﬁnite number of parts. With an inﬁnite number of parts they cannot be concepts, they are more like individuals which can have an inﬁnite number of parts within them. The second argument for space and time as forms of intuition demonstrates how our understanding of space and time in terms of part / whole relationships is reﬂected in the different ways intuitions and concepts involve inﬁnity. This continues the theme of the mereological nature of space and time. Space and time contain an inﬁnite number of parts. ‘All the parts of space coexist ad inﬁnitum’. But a concept cannot contain an inﬁnite number of constituent concepts: for example, Leibniz’s concept of an individual substance, say Caesar, for such a concept could not be grasped by the human mind. Yet we have an idea of space and time as containing an inﬁnite number of parts, so space and time cannot be concepts. But they can be individuals which can have an inﬁnite number of parts within them. There is something to this argument.
Space, Time and Transcendental Idealism
Returning to the Transcendental Aesthetic for a moment, Kant makes one more move which is perhaps the most controversial move in the whole Critique. It is a necessary fact about human beings, that for every object X, a human being can intuit X if, and only if, X is spatial and temporal. Does it follow from this that objects are necessarily in space and time? No, not without further argument. Consider the earlier ﬁsh analogy. It is a necessary fact about ﬁsh, that for every object X, a ﬁsh can meet X, only if X is in water. But it doesn’t follow that the objects a ﬁsh meets are necessarily aquatic. They can meet non-aquatic things, but only if those non-aquatic things happen to be, for the time being, in water. If we transpose this point to space and time we would say: a human being can intuit things which are not essentially in space and time, but only if those things are or happen to be in space and time. So anything we can intuit is necessarily spatio-temporal, but this does not mean that the objects we intuit are in themselves necessarily spatio-temporal. But our analogy is problematic here. Fish can meet non-aquatic things because occasionally things invade their environment, but can we make sense of an object that from time to time invades the spatio-temporal environment of human beings? It would mean that objects from time to time could come into and go out of existence, and this doesn’t make sense. A result of this view would be that objects are essentially spatio-temporal, and not just that we intuit them only if they happen to be in space and time. But this is not Kants view. For Kant, there is a basic ambiguity about the phrase: the objects we intuit. Back to the ﬁsh who has confused an epistemic condition of his experience with a necessary truth about objects. Objects conform to the way in which I can know them, but I cannot know anything about the true nature of such objects. We can transpose this argument to humans and objects in space and time and it might be Kants in the Transcendental Aesthetic. It is only qua intuited by humans that an object is spatio-temporal. Whether what we experience is in its own nature spatiotemporal is unknowable. The ﬁsh cannot empirically transcend the conditions of its experience to view the world beyond its watery experience, and human beings are logically debarred by the nature of their experience from transcending the conditions of that experience to view things as they are in themselves. Some interpreters of Kant go further and say that he is claiming not merely that we cannot know whether things in themselves are spatio-temporal, but that they cannot be spatio-temporal, just because he thinks space and time are conditions on our experience. This would be to make space and time completely subjective conditions 14
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of experience. Space and time are somehow in us, and that would be why we cant experience anything not in space and time. It has to be admitted that Kant sometimes speaks in this way. There is a famous purple passage in the Aesthetic where Kant really lets himself go: What we have meant to say is that all our intuition is nothing but the representation of appearance; that the things which we intuit are not in themselves what we intuit them as being, ... and that if the subject, or even only the subjective constitution of the senses in general, be removed, the whole constitution and all the relations of objects in space and time, nay space and time themselves, would vanish. As appearances, they cannot exist in themselves, but only in us. What objects may be in themselves, and apart from all this receptivity of our sensibility, remains completely unknown to us. We know nothing but our mode of perceiving them. [B59] Not everyone takes Kant seriously here, preferring the agnosticism of the less extreme position. Given Kants view, what becomes of the idea of the Aesthetic that space and time are prior to objects because objects can only be individuated as being in space and time? What are they if not things in themselves? The answer is that the objects we speak of as being in space and time are simply appearances. They are how things in themselves appear to us under the epistemic conditions imposed on our sensibility. So knowledge is conﬁned to appearances, not to things in themselves. This is why I said earlier that the object of intuition is ambiguous in Kant. It could mean the thing in itself as it is independently of ourselves; or it could mean the appearance the thing in itself presents to us under the conditions imposed on our sensibility. If it is spoken of as a spatio-temporal object it has to be the appearance. So are the objects we experience in space and time real? Yes, they are all that can be called real in the world as we experience it. They are empirically real as opposed to being ﬁgments of our imagination. But because they are not, in the form we experience them, things in themselves, we must also say that they are transcendentally ideal.
Lectures 7 & 8
The Second Analogy of Experience
First a brief word on the Analogies of experience. Analogies are rules for ordering and unifying our perceptions by means of what Kant describes as the ’schematised categories of experience’. We haven’t time to worry about what he means by the schematised categories of experience, so it’s best just to remember the analogies as rules for ordering and unifying our perceptual experience. According to Kant the causal principle ’that every event has a cause’ is a necessary truth about experience. But the big problem is that: if, for Kant, the causal principle is a necessary truth about experience, then something’s wrong because causal judgements can be denied without fear of contradiction. Hume sees this as an epistemologically sceptical position, we’re moving from synthetic statements to analytic ones and this is logically and epistemologically impossible. In the Second Analogy Kant seeks to counter Humes sceptical position, and show the causal principle to be synthetic a priori. Hume deals with the problem of causality by attempting to answer two questions: 1. Why do we say that it is necessary that ’everything whose existence has a beginning’ should also have a cause? Causal Principle 2. Why do we say that particular causes necessarily have certain effects? Causal Relation 15
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According to Hume causation is a matter of the constant conjunction of events without any objective necessary relation holding between them. Our idea of necessity arises from an involuntary impulse of our minds to expect b when we perceive a. Thus our subjective impulse leads us to posit an objective necessity - and this cannot be justiﬁed. We have learnt to believe in the causal principle because of our success in formulating causal relations - which are experience based and cannot then be known a priori. Most of Hume’s discussion of causation in Part III of the Treatise on Human Nature is concerned with the second question: whether if a causes b, a necessitates b to occur. After about 100 pages of discussion, Hume returns to question 1 and deals with it in a short paragraph. (p. 172 of the Selby Bigge edition). [Hume’s progress is ﬁrst through a general theory of ideas (Part I), then through the particular ideas of space and time (Part II), and ﬁnally to the notion of causation (Part III).] Hume’s position on question 2 is this. The discussion of the nature of the causal relation has yielded a deﬁnition of causation as a constant conjunction of events without any objective relation of necessity holding between them. The idea of necessity arises from an involuntary impulse of the mind to expect the event we call the effect to occur when the event we call the cause occurs. This impulse exists as a result of past experience of the constant conjunction of those two events. Now, if this subjective impulse is the origin of our idea of necessity in causation, then our reason for attributing necessity to causal relations clearly cannot justify a belief in an objective necessity holding between events in nature. An idea that arises from a mere impulse of the mind cannot sustain a belief in objective causal necessity. Having reached this conclusion, Hume believes that this must also give us the key to question 1. We have faith in the causal principle - every event has a cause - as a consequence of the success we have had in formulating particular causal relations. But since we are not justiﬁed in ascribing an objective necessity to the causal relation, our justiﬁcation for believing in these particular causal relations must lie in experience, if it lies anywhere at all. Experience alone can justify our belief in particular causal relations. But if experience is what justiﬁes our belief in particular causal relations, then it must be experience also that justiﬁes, if anything can, the causal principle itself. However, what is experience-based cannot be known a priori, so it follows that the causal principle cannot be a necessary truth. It also follows, given Hume’s scepticism about reasoning from experience, that our justiﬁcation for belief in the causal principle is very dodgy indeed. Hume agrees. Hume argues that experience has a certain temporal structure that we become aware of through change or changing events. We recognise patterns of constantly recurring events, leading to the formulation of causal chains, and as a result a causal principle. Temporal Sequence −→ Causal Relations −→ Causal Principle For Kant this is exactly the other way round. The recognition of an objective temporal order of events depends on recognition of causal regularity, which depends on recognition of the causal principle. Hume takes recognition of the temporal order of events as primary and Kant takes recognition of the causal principle as primary. For Kant the truth of the causal principle is necessarily presupposed by the recognition of an objective time order. We have a slogan: No principle, no objective time order. Causal Principle −→ Causal Relations −→ Temporal Sequence
In the Transcendental Deduction Kant claims that self-consciousness is possible only if we can distinguish between subjective experience and objective fact, and whatever enables us to make such a distinction must also be true of our experience. Kant’s claim 16
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in the Second Analogy is that the causal principle is required for us to be able to make that distinction, and thus it is necessarily true of our experience. The argument starts by noting that there is a distinction we must be able to draw in our experience between the temporal order of subjective experience and the temporal order of that which we experience. Suppose I have a perception of A followed by a perception of B. That perception A is followed by perception B is compatible with one of two things being objectively the case: 1. what A is a perception of and what B is a perception of may be coexistent, that is, existing at the same time; or 2. what A is a perception of may occur at a different time from what B is a perception of, so that A and B are perceived in temporal succession. Note that in both these cases my perceptions are in a temporal succession, whereas only in the second case is what I perceive actually in a temporal succession. Standard examples used by Kant to illustrate these two possibilities are the perceptual survey of a house and the observation of a ship sailing downstream. In the ﬁrst case my successive perceptions are perceptions of items such as a hall, a drawing room, a kitchen, a bedroom and so on, all of which are coexisting items. My successive perceptions generate the perception of a whole consisting of a number of coexisting parts. In the second case, my successive perceptions are perceptions of successive states of the ship as it moves downstream. In other words, my perceptions are subjectively successive but only in the second case are the things I perceive objectively successive. So, what is the basis on which we can make this distinction between the experienced time order of subjective experience and the objective time order of what is experienced? Kant claims that it is that ... the relation between the two states must be so thought that it is thereby determined as necessary which of them must be placed before, and which of them after, and that they cannot be placed in the reverse relation. [B234] The only relation between temporal events A and B which could establish a necessary order of precedence is the causal relation. To establish an objective time order between items of experience we need to be able to apply the concept of a causal relation. The house example, where the states are coexistent but observed successively, is described as order indifferent, that is, the order of your perceptions, are not dependent on the house being ordered or arranged in a particular way. This is not so in the case of the ship sailing downstream. Suppose that what I see there is, ﬁrst the ship passing the gasworks and then the same ship passing the harbour lighthouse further downstream, then, it could not be true that I could have seen instead ﬁrst the ship passing the lighthouse and then the ship passing the gasworks. In other words, the order of my perceptions is determined not merely by the order in which I actually perceived certain things, but by the order in which I had to perceive them if I was to perceive that particular event. The sequence of perceptions: ship passing gasworks followed by ship passing lighthouse is not order-indifferent, and this a necessary fact about the perception of events. Kant explains this difference: in the case of the ship sailing downstream, the reason why the order of my perceptions is bound down or irreversible, is just that the items which cause these perceptions are themselves causally determined to occur in the order in which they do occur. It is the objective order of things in time which determines what our perceptions must be. Certainly, what perception reveals to us is an objective order of things some of which coexist and some of which succeed each other. But Kant’s point is that perception could only do this if we could make the 17
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distinction he has made between things which determine the order of our perceptions and things which do not determine the order of our perceptions. The order of our perceptions tells us nothing about the objective order or coexistence which might indeed be the case. Its the other way around - the objective order of things in time determines what our perceptions must be. We can be sure about this because we can distinguish things which determine the order of our perceptions from those which do not. Sequences within events are irreversible and irreversibility implies necessity. This is all the proof that Kant needs for the causal principle. So we can distinguish between a perceptual survey and a perceptual event, and a determinate order of events requires that nature is subject to the general law of causality, that is, that every event has a cause. Our deployment of these concepts is necessary, they are then ipso facto, a priori concepts. The idea of a succession necessarily presupposes the idea of a causal sequence and our ability to order our experiences of the sequence in the way we do is made possible by the existence in our understanding of the synthetic a priori concept of causality. The summarised argument is as follows: 1. We must be able to make a distinction in experience between what is subjective and what is objective - the objectivity thesis. 2. We must also be able to make a distinction between a subjective temporal order and an objective one. 3. The success of 2 requires that we can distinguish between a perceptual survey and the perception of an event. 4. These are distinguished by the order of the perceptions being necessitated in the case of the perception of an event in a way that they are not in the case of a perceptual survey. 5. There can be a necessary (irreversible) order of perceptions only if there is something that determines that necessary order. 6. The only thing that could determine that order is causality. Causal laws state that given some event, something else will follow according to a rule. We have here the materials for determining an order of occurrence of event sequences. 7. Hence a determinate order of events requires that nature is subject to the general principle of causality: every event has a cause. 8. The condition of our deploying the notion of an objective time order of events 2 requires the deployment of the general principle of causality. From 7 we can conclude that since it is necessary that we deploy the notion of an objective time order, it is also necessary that we deploy the general law of causality. And those concepts we necessarily deploy are ipso facto, a priori concepts. In making a synthetic a priori judgement we are prescribing that experience will be a certain way. We can’t say what we will experience but we know how it will appear, it will conform to the principle of causation. By the nature of there being precedent time and subsequent time we can say that the events are determined in time by a rule. The judgement ‘Every event has a cause’ is also synthetic, because the notion of causation is not derived by analysis from the notion of an event, but rather from the ability to distinguish a subjective temporal order from an objective one, which presupposes that some events are necessitated and others are not.
Criticism of the Second Analogy
Bennetts criticisms in Kant’s Analytic are largely irrelevant to Kant’s claims. Bennett claims that Kant does not succeed in distinguishing a perceptual survey from a 18
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perceptual event. Bennett claims that it is true of any sequence of perceptions that I could not have had them in any other order. He is right, but this is trivially true. I cannot experience past perceptions again, and I certainly cannot change their order once they’ve been had. But Kant need not disagree with anything Bennett has said. All Kant says of our sequence of perceptions of the ship sailing downstream is that the sequence cannot be arranged in any other order. Its order is determined by its being an objective succession that I am perceiving. Bennett’s second criticism is that in the case of the house, he says: ‘Given that I walked and looked where I did, my visual states as I surveyed the house couldn’t have occurred in any other order’. He considers Kant’s possible reply: ... in the survey I could have re-arranged my visual states, that their order would have been different if I had behaved differently; whereas when I saw the ship leave the harbour no action of mine could have altered the order in which my visual states occurred. This may do for the sailing ship, but for some objective processes it is wrong. Here is a counter example. (a) I saw a long-boat being rowed out of the harbour; which, if Kant’s analysis is right, entails not just that my visual states did occur in a certain order but that (b) I could not have had them in any other order. But since the coxswain of the boat was under orders from me, I could have secured for myself the spectacle of the boat being back-paddled, stern foremost into the harbour. So (a) is true and (b) false, and Kant’s analysis of (a) is therefore wrong. (Kant’s Analytic, p.222) Bennett’s point that I can get a boatman to reverse the sequence of events in such a way as to secure the same perceptions but in a reverse order is still irrelevant to Kant’s point. Kant isn’t interested in whether the boatman could have done something different. That would only mean that Bennett saw a different event. Kant’s point is rather that the sequence of events Bennett actually saw bound down the sequence of his perceptions in a way the assemblage of parts of the house does not bind down a sequence of perceptions. One and the same house can give rise to a different series of perceptions depending on how I conduct the survey. But one and the same event cannot give rise to a different series of perceptions depending on how I view it. Bennett suggests that the boatman could bring about a different sequence of perceptions from the ones he had by causally inﬂuencing the state of affairs observed. Whereas in the case of the house, I could bring about a different sequence of perceptions by causally inﬂuencing myself so to speak. But this point does not affect the validity of Kant’s point. If two people look at the same house, they can, in the relevant sense, have exactly the same perceptions but in a different order. If two people look at the same event they will have the same perceptions in the same order. T.E. Wilkerson in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason criticises Kant’s claim that it is a causal rule or law which accounts for the necessary order in a sequence of events, and so in turn accounts for a necessary order in the perception of this sequence. He says that Kant is confusing objective temporal succession with objective causal succession. What of the case that arises if were at a distance from, as Wilkerson says, the mouse running down the clock. The usual story is that The clock struck one, The mouse ran down, but if youre too far away to hear the clock strike before you see the mouse running down, the order of perceptions will be different. We know for example that sound waves travel much more slowly than light waves and that we may see the mouse run down before we hear the clock strike one ... . Kant’s ignorance of cricket is no excuse. [p.80] Wilkerson is using the fact that time travels more slowly than light to show how the order could be different from different viewpoints, and he has only gained this knowledge through a series of observations of causal sequences. Wilkerson’s point, inadvertently, conﬁrms Kants that our perceptions are determined by causal laws, and 19
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this is just as clearly the case when the state of affairs were in alters what would otherwise be a different causal sequence. Our new state of affairs would simply reverse our nursery rhyme for a view from that distance with a set of powerful binoculars. In The Bounds of Sense, 1966, Strawson accuses Kant of using necessary ambiguously, and as a result conﬂating causal with conceptual necessity. He summarises Kants argument as follows: Brieﬂy, any succession of perceptions is a perception of objective change only if the order of those perceptions is necessary; but the order of the perceptions can be necessary only if the change is necessary, i.e. causally determined. Any objective change which is an object of possible experience for us ... is causally determined. Hence the Law of Universal Causality is valid for all possible experience. For Strawson conceptual necessity refers to the binding down of our perception of an event. The order of perceptions is irreversible if it is bound down or conceptually necessary. Causal necessity, on the other hand, applies to events and not our perceptions of them. In a sense causal necessity is out there and conceptual necessity is in us. Kant claims that we can think of the order of perception A followed by B as necessary, if and only if, the order of A and B is causally necessitated - a claim that every event has a cause, and not about the necessity of a causal relation. Kant is not talking about the causal necessitation of the effect by the cause, which would be a local claim about the necessary connection of cause and effect. Rather he is claiming that all events have a cause, a global claim. The two are very different. Kants argument has been deliberately designed to ground conceptual necessity on the causal necessity amongst events. If we look further on in the Critique [B794-5] we ﬁnd Kant reviewing this disagreement with Hume. He says of an example of hard wax melting, ... I can know a priori that something must have preceded ... upon which the melting has followed according to a ﬁxed law, although a priori, independently of experience, I could not determine in any speciﬁc manner, either the cause from the effect, or the effect from the cause. Hume was therefore in error in inferring from the contingency of our determination in accordance with the law the contingency of the law itself. Kant might say ‘I accept Humes claim that we cannot know the truth of causal laws a priori, and that these laws are therefore contingent. But I disagree with Hume where he concludes from the contingency of particular causal claims that the causal principle is also contingent, and thereby false.’ At B240 -241 Kant clearly states this point; the contingency of causal claims is to be distinguished from the non-contingency of the general causal principle. His grounds: the causal principle is necessarily presupposed by recognition of an objective time order observed in an event. A.C. Ewing, A Short Commentary on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason : states that there are six different proofs for the second analogy, but that ﬁve of them are the same. The one that he separates out, the ﬁfth one (viz B244 - 246) is as follows: 1. Precedent time necessarily determines subsequent time since I can only reach subsequent time by passing through precedent. 2. Only in appearances can we empirically apprehend this continuity in the connection of times. 3. Thus: Precedent phenomena determine subsequent phenomena. Ewing argues that this reasoning is fallacious because Kant uses ’determine’ in premise one to mean something other than causal determination, and this is how he uses ’determine’ in the conclusion. But not too much rides on this because Kant is 20
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well aware that time cannot be experienced by itself, that it needs to have change, and that change implies causation. Ewing maintains that Kant’s claim, that we cannot distinguish objectively coexistent states from objectively successive events ’by mere reference to the order of our perceptions’, is unnecessary for the proof of the Second Analogy. He goes on to say that ... all that is needed is to show that what is objectively not successive is sometimes perceived successively, not that it always is so. That is sufﬁcient to compel us to distinguish between subjective and objective time order. [Ewing 1938, pg.160]
The Second Analogy as a Transcendental Argument
Transcendental arguments can be thought of as having the following form: 1. It is possible that x only if C. (Transcendental Premise) 2. x, / it is possible that x. 3. Therefore, C. If the argument for particular xs and Cs is valid it will have demonstrated that C is a condition of possibility of x. Kant assumes that if this argument is successful it will have shown that C is known to be true a priori and necessarily. This is doubtful since the reasoning may be based on a fallacy, for example, the fallacy that the transcendental premise in this argument is supposed to state a necessary truth, and from that it is inferred that C must also state a necessary truth. For Instance, from the true statement with the form ‘Necessarily (if A then B)’ it does not follow that ‘Necessarily B’. Kant substitutes knowledge or experience of some kind for the variable x. Kants most fundamental transcendental argument is as follows: 1. It is possible that we have self-consciousness only if we have experience of an objective order of things which can be distinguished from the merely subjective order of representations that occur in minds. 2. But it is evident that we do have self-consciousness. 3. Therefore, we do have experience of an objective order. Most of Kants other arguments rely on this one whose basis is the (almost Cartesian) ‘it must be possible for the ‘I think’ to accompany all my representations’ [B132]. When applied to the causality argument (and as a response to the sceptic) Kant gets: 1. If it is possible that we can experience an objective temporal order of events then the principle of causality must apply to that experience. 2. We do experience an objective temporal order of events. 3. Therefore, the principle of causality applies in our experience. Now consider Humes scepticism about the causal principle. We begin with our belief in an objective temporal order of events, we come to believe in causal relations between these events, and thus to believe in the causal principle that all events are caused. These beliefs on causal relations are rationally unjustiﬁed since they are based solely on experience and in particular on the principle of the uniformity of nature which is itself unjustiﬁable either by logic or experience. Thus the belief in the causal principle as a rational belief is undermined. 21
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The application of Kants argument to this sceptical conclusion is now straightforward. If Hume accepts that we experience an objective temporal order of events, he must accept that the principle of causality applies in that experience, for such an experience is only possible if the principle does apply. If Hume wishes to resist this argument then he must either refute the Second Analogy or reject the second premise of Kants transcendental argument. Kants general ploy is to get the sceptic to accept (even tacitly) some proposition and then show them that their position depends on their rejecting that proposition. It would seem, from his speaking of objective change, that Hume accepts that there is an objective time order of events. But simultaneously he is rejecting the principle of causality on which the possibility of our having such a perceived succession depends. A common attack on the use of transcendental arguments to defeat scepticism is to argue that the consequent of the claim in the transcendental premise is too strong. For example, in ‘If it is possible that we can experience an objective temporal order of events then the principle of causality must apply to that experience’, we might argue that the causal principle must be applied by us to experience, not that it must apply a priori to experience. The argument entitles us only to believe in the causal principle, not that it must be true of experience. The Humean sceptic should now point out that there is a big gap between what we must believe and what must be true. It does not even follow that these beliefs are true, let alone must be true. In response we might say that the sceptic questions some aspect of our conceptual scheme, in this case the causal principle, and what Kant tries to show, by his use of transcendental arguments, is that acceptance of that aspect of our conceptual scheme is presupposed by other elements of that scheme that the sceptic accepts - in this case that we have experience of, an objective temporal order of events. The sceptic is now accused of inconsistency - he has accepted one aspect of our ordinary conceptual scheme whilst rejecting one of the conditions of its employment. Kant is triumphant! The End ... until the Senior Honours Kant class next year!
Copyright 2004, Susan Stuart.
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