• Jamal
    9k
    It’s been quite common in interpretations of Kant to identify the thing in itself or the noumenon with the reality that lies behind appearances, that which is hidden from us by the veil of perception, and the ultimate but unattainable goal of scientific investigation. In showing that this is not Kant’s view, Kant scholar Stephen Palmquist disapprovingly quotes the author of a mid-twentieth-century Introduction to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason:

    . . . Nothing could be more damaging to an interpreter’s understanding of Kant’s theory than Weldon’s predication of the thing in itself as ‘the necessarily unattainable goal of empirical investigation’; for Kant not only maintains that the goal of empirical investigation is always and only the phenomenon, but also that this goal is, at least in principle, adequately attainable in experience. — S. R. Palmquist, Six Perspectives on the Object in Kant’s Theory of Knowledge

    The cornerstone of Kant’s philosophy is the concept of the transcendental. To think about objects transcendentally is to think about our thinking about them, to investigate the conditions of our knowledge. But it is not thereby a more profound investigation of reality so much as a shift or turn with the goal of putting knowledge in order—simultaneously criticizing rationalists by rejecting most metaphysics (we cannot know anything except in reference to objects of experience) and defending knowledge against empiricist sceptics by establishing a solid foundation for science (we can know things objectively).

    What this is not trying to do is reveal that the stuff of science and the things of experience are mere shadows, illusions, or pale imitations, or that science cannot reach reality. The transcendental perspective does not mean the true perspective, such that the empirical perspective is false, illusory, defective or distorted, since in science we have no interest in noumena—mere objects of thought—anyway. For science, phenomena are more than enough, and they are by no means inferior to the noumena (on the contrary).
  • Manuel
    3.9k


    Quite true, science investigates phenomena, not noumena (in a negative or positive sense). But this does not at all reduce the value of scientific theories, nor importantly, as you say, render them an less "real", which turns out to be a very problematic term.

    But it is not thereby a more profound investigation of reality so much as a shift or turn with the goal of putting knowledge in order—simultaneously criticizing rationalists by rejecting most metaphysics (we cannot know anything except in reference to objects of experience) and defending knowledge against empiricist sceptics by establishing a solid foundation for science (we can know things objectively).Jamal

    Yes, I agree that it more than anything an emphasis on the shift in perspective, more so that a entirely new mode of investigation. Funnily enough, I am re-reading the CPR for the third time, and although it has many merits, I do have one problem with Kant:

    I do not think the way he presents his thought, as being "Copernican" or so radically new, to be, neither as new as he presents, nor as radical as he claims it to be. One clearly sees very strong anticipations of the noumena in Locke's discussion on "substance".

    Cudworth, virtually entirely unknown explains Kant's philosophy 100 years before Kant published the CPR, when he says (among many other quotes):

    "The essences of light and colours (said Scaliger) are as dark to the understanding, as they themselves are open to the sight.” Nay, undoubtedly so long as we consider these things no otherwise than sense represents them, that is, as really existing in the objects without us, they are and must needs be eternally unintelligible. Now when all men naturally inquire what these things are, what is light, and what are colours, the meaning hereof is nothing else but this, that men would fain know or comprehend them by something of their own which is native and domestic, not foreign to them, some active exertion or anticipation of their own minds…"

    And much else which is richer in ideas, but not in theory, to Kant.

    Plotinus too, is also a massive anticipation, also very rich on his own. (End rant.)

    Regardless, the emphasis on the form of the investigation is very useful and impressive, because we still are unable to get out of our heads, the "common sense" picture of the world, no matter how hard we try.

    Noumena are interesting to explore conceptually, but science won't reveal them, even if must postulate something like them to make sense of the world.
  • Hanover
    11.9k
    (we can know things objectively).Jamal

    To think about objects transcendentally is to think about our thinking about them, to investigate the conditions of our knowledge.Jamal

    What does "objectively" mean as you use it?

    If we concede there are conditions for our knowledge and our knowledge is subject to those conditions and if those conditions are peculiar to the perceiver, how is our knowledge of anything objective?

    The transcendental perspective does not mean the true perspective, such that the empirical perspective is false, illusory, defective or distorted, since in science we have no interest in noumena—mere objects of thought—anyway.Jamal

    If upon transcendental contemplation we determine X,Y, and Z are the conditions for our knowledge, doesn't X,Y and Z become the lens upon which we view the noumenal and what we then actually perceive we refer to as the phenomenal?

    I get that science will only concern itself with the phenomenal, but I don't see how you reject the suggestion that the phenomenal is a distortion of the noumenal. Isn't the phenomenal just the noumenal filtered through X,Y, and Z as you described it?

    Your description of the transcendental was most helpful, but with Kant I'm always stuck with the meaning, purpose, and relevance of the noumenal and the difficulty in saving him from idealism.
  • Olento
    22
    I do not think the way he presents his thought, as being "Copernican" or so radically new, to be, neither as new as he presents, nor as radical as he claims it to be. One clearly sees very strong anticipations of the noumena in Locke's discussion on "substance".Manuel

    I'm slightly and politely disagreeing here. Locke's theory is representational in traditional way: there's an objective world out there, and the contents of consciousness reflect this with its representations. This is pretty much what Aristotle and scholastics would say. Kant, on the other hand, completely cut this connection. The representations we have are the ultimate, objective, concrete world, and there's nothing else we can ever know about. Noumena is the non-sensitive cause of the world, and as such, one just wonders what's the use of it. This is precisely what people like Hegel, Peirce and other people made out of it. For sure we can do science and live our life without ever paying any attention to noumena, or any other sort of "hinterworld".
  • Manuel
    3.9k


    Politeness is almost always a most excellent virtue, for there can be disagreement without animosity, which, in the best case, leads to mutual learning.

    I think the image is somewhat more complex than what you ascribe to Locke. While one can say, in some sense, that he is a "realist", that is, yes, he does think there is an "objective world" out there, he only thinks that some of its properties come about due to sensations, caused by primary qualities, secondary qualities do not belong to "external object", and primary qualities do not render them intelligible.

    But when we examine objects in more depth, and consider what "substance" these objects are made of, Locke says:

    "So that if any one will examine himself concerning his notion of pure substance in general, he will find he has no other idea of it at all, but only a supposition of he knows not what support of such qualities which are capable of producing simple ideas in us; which qualities are commonly called accidents. If any one should be asked, what is the subject wherein colour or weight inheres, he would have nothing to say, but the solid extended parts; and if he were demanded, what is it that solidity and extension adhere in, he would not be in a much better case than the Indian before mentioned who, saying that the world was supported by a great elephant, was asked what the elephant rested on; to which his answer was- a great tortoise: but being again pressed to know what gave support to the broad-backed tortoise, replied- something, he knew not what... [we] pretend to know, and talk of, is what... [we] ... have no distinct idea of at all, and so are perfectly ignorant of it, and in the dark. "

    There is just a pure Gold mine in Locke's discussion On Our Complex Ideas of Substances.

    Apologies for the length of the quote, but brevity is not his strong suite, and cutting these sentences down is difficult, because they are so good.

    I can see very clear connections with the noumenon here, only that this concept encompasses primary qualities to. So, it is a difference of degrees, not of kind.
  • Olento
    22

    I have to confess that I haven't read Locke outside of basic text books, so I always thought the distinction between primary and secondary qualities a bit differently. To my understanding Locke thought that we cannot represent the corpuscular microstructure of objects, but there's at least some sort of correspondence to the perceived secondary qualities. Nothing prevents us in principle to penetrate deeper and deeper to corpuscular microstructures, and thus learn about the reality with scientific method. So yes, in a way the ultimate structure is unreachable and "noumenon", but it is conceptually different kind of noumena from Kant's, in my interpretation. And yes, my knowledge of Locke is thin and based on entry level text books.

    Kant actually acknowledges this feature of Locke's work in CPR, but also maintains that Locke didn't go far enough. So in my interpretation Kant says that also the corpuscular microstructure (if there's such a thing for Kant - this is not clear in CPR) is also part of phenomenal world. We don't know if we ever reach the ultimate atomic structure of substances, and we don't even know if there is such a thing in the first place. Noumena for Kant is something totally outside all of this. (So I'm here following the metaphysical interpretation, I guess). Outside our representations, which include both primary and secondary qualities, there's nothing for us. For God, maybe.
  • Manuel
    3.9k
    To my understanding Locke thought that we cannot represent the corpuscular microstructure of objects, but there's at least some sort of correspondence to the perceived secondary qualities. Nothing prevents us in principle to penetrate deeper and deeper to corpuscular microstructures, and thus learn about the reality with scientific method. So yes, in a way the ultimate structure is unreachable and "noumenon", but it is conceptually different kind of noumena from Kant's, in my interpretation. And yes, my knowledge of Locke is thin and based on entry level text books.Olento

    It was mine too, until I read pre-Kantians, from Descartes to Hume, they are significantly richer than as they are usually presented. Part of the reason I have a slight "push-back" feeling to Kant, despite genuinely admiring him, is that once I did read the classics, I found them to be supremely rich.

    Even though a case can be made that Kant was "superior" to them in overall specific argument structure, such claims are very much exaggerated. I find certain discussions in Descartes, Locke and Hume, more substantial than in Kant, in certain areas, not in others.

    Cudworth, who was pointed out to me by Chomsky, says the same things Kant says, without the sophisticated theoretical construction, and his ideas on innateness, are profound, unsurpassed even, so far as classics go.

    In fact, Locke says that no matter how deep we go into micro-structures, we will never discover how secondary qualities arise, he very explicit on this. I could give some quotes, I have my Essay heavily annotated and highlighted, but alas, it is in paperback, and it would take too long, unless you specifically request it, I'll put it aside.

    So in my interpretation Kant says that also the corpuscular microstructure (if there's such a thing for Kant - this is not clear in CPR) is also part of phenomenal world. We don't know if we ever reach the ultimate atomic structure of substances, and we don't even know if there is such a thing in the first place. Noumena for Kant is something totally outside all of this. (So I'm here following the metaphysical interpretation, I guess). Outside our representations, which include both primary and secondary qualities, there's nothing for us. For God, maybe.Olento

    Yes, I think that interpretation of Kant is correct, and his argument about this is very sound, our scientific knowledge is of phenomena.

    As for us not knowing if we reach these ultimate structures in the phenomenal world, here we have to look at current physics, and I think we discover that we cannot reach this, because our theories on what is (phenomenally) ultimate, is not settled.

    As I understand him, Kant, influenced by Allais' interpretation, says that things in themselves, are the grounds of appearance, but we don't know how this grounding relation works, it will remain incomprehensible for us. In this sense, things in themselves are a step removed from Locke's "substance", because for Kant, even primary qualities are phenomena, and Kant is right to say so.

    We need to take into account how general relativity would modify Kant, because Kant was a Newtonian, and this is not pointed out enough. Sure, he gives very good arguments as to why space and time are the a priori conditions of our sensibilities, but it is no coincidence that he chose these specific notions, because Newton thought space and time were absolute. Kant doesn't mention Newton (or barely mentions him from what I can recall) because by that time, virtually everybody took Newton for granted.

    Now we know that Newton is not exactly right. And this has to modify Kant to a limited extent.

    In any case, the idea of "things in themselves" remains very valuable regardless of our current theory in physics, I think it is a necessary postulate them, to make sense of the world. So, in that respect, his emphasis on the distinction between phenomenon and noumenon is extraordinarily important.
  • Olento
    22
    It was mine too, until I read pre-Kantians, from Descartes to Hume, they are significantly richer than as they are usually presented. Part of the reason I have a slight "push-back" feeling to Kant, despite genuinely admiring him, is that once I did read the classics, I found them to be supremely rich.Manuel

    I also enjoy pre-Kantians very much! At the moment I'm especially interested in Leibniz, who is definitely one of the "bad guys" in CPR and a huge influence. There seems to be some connection between Cudworth (which I haven't read at all) and Leibniz, so it is going to be very interesting to find out something about this as well. These people worked as little in vacuum as we do, but the literary practices were much more liberate, at least compared to academic philosophy of today.
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    If upon transcendental contemplation we determine X,Y, and Z are the conditions for our knowledge, doesn't X,Y and Z become the lens upon which we view the noumenal and what we then actually perceive we refer to as the phenomenal?

    I get that science will only concern itself with the phenomenal, but I don't see how you reject the suggestion that the phenomenal is a distortion of the noumenal. Isn't the phenomenal just the noumenal filtered through X,Y, and Z as you described it?
    Hanover

    This is kind of the problem that I am wrestling with too. Maybe Kant just lacked an awareness of the scope of application of scientific knowledge as it has subsequently ensconced itself in our world.
  • Jamal
    9k


    Good, difficult questions.

    What does "objectively" mean as you use it?

    If we concede there are conditions for our knowledge and our knowledge is subject to those conditions and if those conditions are peculiar to the perceiver, how is our knowledge of anything objective?
    Hanover

    I’m trying to use it as Kant did, to refer to universally valid judgements about the objects of experience. By “universal” he means it holds for all rational creatures, and it's based on a priori structures of knowledge that are independent of experience (though they only produce knowledge when applied to experience).

    The two need not be in conflict: you and I have objective knowledge that cats have whiskers and that fire burns human flesh, even though we know it in our own special human way. This is pretty much the way I use the word myself. You, in contrast, imply that you understand objectivity to require an absolute perspective—a view from nowhere. I think this is a more recent sense of the term. Kant describes such attempted judgements not as objective but as transcendent, and as applying to the unconditioned.

    Something can be known objectively without being known independently of experience, since in fact it is only to the given content of experience that knowledge applies. Knowing is a process that happens in a certain way to specially constituted knowers, but it is not thereby subjective. Objectivity is not transcendent, but immanent. The basic idea is similar to Hegel, of a unity between subject and object, even though the object is an object for us, not in itself.

    I don’t want to pretend there are no difficulties. It might be fair to interpret Kant as establishing objectivity only by downgrading it to a feature of the subjective. What I’m doing is trying to get at what Kant was doing and what he meant; I'm not claiming that his arguments were entirely consistent and valid or that they didn't lead to unforseen conclusions.

    If upon transcendental contemplation we determine X,Y, and Z are the conditions for our knowledge, doesn't X,Y and Z become the lens upon which we view the noumenal and what we then actually perceive we refer to as the phenomenal?

    I get that science will only concern itself with the phenomenal, but I don't see how you reject the suggestion that the phenomenal is a distortion of the noumenal. Isn't the phenomenal just the noumenal filtered through X,Y, and Z as you described it?

    Your description of the transcendental was most helpful, but with Kant I'm always stuck with the meaning, purpose, and relevance of the noumenal and the difficulty in saving him from idealism.
    Hanover

    Maybe we have to get into the differences between the thing in itself, the positive noumenon, the negative noumenon, and the transcendental object. But here is a first attempt...

    The first appearance of noumenon in the first edition is here:

    If . . . I suppose there to be things that are merely objects of the understanding and that, nevertheless, can be given to an intuition, although not to sensible intuition . . . then such things would be called noumena (intelligibilia). — A 249

    From the beginning, Kant uses the term to refer to objects of thought: as unavoidable results of the operation of the understanding, which attempt to refer to something beyond possible experience. Real objects, objects we can know, are objects in space that are given to us in perception; these phenomena are beings of sense, whereas noumena are beings merely of understanding.

    I posted a long response to you on the old forum, attacking your notion of distortion and attempting to show that it was incoherent. Looking back, it might have been badly written--you never did reply--but I'd still want to make the same point. Only a signal can be distorted. That is, only one's perception is subject to distortion. The object perceived cannot itself be distorted by its perception.* The noumenon is the concept of a purported thing beyond possible experience, and as such cannot be distorted.

    That is to say, there is nothing there to be filtered or distorted. Simply to be an object of knowledge is for a thing to be known via the senses and understanding. If there is no possible disembodied, unperspectival way of apprehending a thing, then the idea of distortion has no meaning.

    * I’m not saying the object perceived is the noumenon, by the way.
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    The noumenon is the concept of a purported thing beyond possible experience, and as such cannot be distorted.

    That is to say, there is nothing there to be filtered or distorted. Simply to be an object of knowledge is for a thing to be known via the senses and understanding. If there is no possible disembodied, unperspectival way of apprehending a thing, then the idea of distortion has no meaning.
    Jamal

    Isn't this just a vacuous concept by definition then?
  • Jamal
    9k
    Isn't this just a vacuous concept by definition then?Pantagruel

    The noumenon? It’s a critical concept: philosophers like Leibniz built systems around noumena, and Kant is diagnosing this disease. He also thinks he can’t just ignore it, because he regards it as an unavoidable product of the understanding.
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    The noumenon? It’s a critical concept: philosophers like Leibniz built systems around noumena, and Kant is diagnosing this disease. He also thinks he can’t just ignore it, because he regards it as an unavoidable product of the understanding.Jamal

    I guess my problem is I see this from the perspective of Fichte and self-founding conscious understanding - it looks like a fiat to declare an unknowable objectivity.

    However, if it functions as a demand or a constraint, is this just the constraint of trying to attain a perspective of (per impossibile) pure objectivity? Then it is still a subjective act.
  • bongo fury
    1.6k
    To identify the phenomena as being a perfectly attainable goal of science is hardly to debunk the noumena as being a necessarily unattainable goal of science.
  • Mww
    4.5k


    Correct. But Kant relegates noumena to the human faculty of understanding alone, and for that reason they are necessarily unattainable goals of science. For an intelligence other than discursive, or for which sensible intuition conditioned by space and time is not necessary, it cannot be known as impossible that noumena function in such system.
  • bongo fury
    1.6k
    I guess I'm intrigued. For example?
  • Mww
    4.5k


    That’s the rub, innit? How would we as humans comprehend any intelligence, other than the one by which humans comprehend anything? Which is why it cannot be said noumena are impossible, insofar as some intellect other than ours might actually use them. How could we possibly be justified in saying there is no such thing? But at the same time, how could we say there is, if we could never comprehend an intelligence that fails to meet the functional criteria of our own?
  • Hanover
    11.9k
    By “universal” he means it holds for all rational creatures, and it's based on a priori structures of knowledge that are independent of experience (though they only produce knowledge when applied to experience).Jamal

    What do you take to be the a priori structures of knowledge?

    This paper (https://philarchive.org/archive/MARIKT-2#:~:text=With%20epistemic%20conditions%20of%20understanding,such%2C%20bring%20about%20experiential%20knowledge.) in reference to a paper by Strawson, states it is two things: (1) the receptive faculty and (2) the active faculty. The first references space and time (which is how we receive information) and the second references how we understand the information through concepts.

    So, (1) we must receive all knowledge under the constraints of space and time in order for it to be at all intelligible to us, and (2) we must then do something in our minds to create concepts from the information we receive.

    #1 are the basic intututions and #2 is the transcendental unity of apperception that holds our thoughts together as thoughts.

    Assuming I got all that right, my next question is whether your comment that "By 'universal' he means it holds for all rational creatures," is itself a priori true or a posteriori true, meaning must #1 and #2 logically exist for a creature to be rational or does it just happen to be the case that rational creatures on planet earth have #1 and #2 and that makes them rational, but one could be rational with other a priori structures?

    I ask this because if Kant can say that these faculties we have are the only faculties that can yield rational results, then he could possibly escape idealism because he'd be saying we have that which we must have in order to have true knowledge.

    I don't like that solution. It feels like Descartes' injection of God into the mix by just declaring that there's no way we'd see things in a wrong way and that the way we see things must be right.
    Objectivity is not transcendent, but immanent... It might be fair to interpret Kant as establishing objectivity only by downgrading it to a feature of the subjective.Jamal

    Saying "objectivity is immanent" is tantamount to saying it is subjective isn't it? Doesn't immanent mean to be something that comes from within the perceiver?
    Real objects, objects we can know, are objects in space that are given to us in perception; these phenomena are beings of sense, whereas noumena are beings merely of understanding.Jamal

    I don't follow this. What would be an example of a noumenal being of the understanding? It would not be something we could sense for sure, but what is something just in my understanding? This almost sound like Plato's forms.

    I posted a long response to you on the old forum, attacking your notion of distortion and attempting to show that it was incoherent. Looking back, it might have been badly written--you never did reply--but I'd still want to make the same point.Jamal
    I'd like to think you've been checking back daily for a response for the past decade like a spurned lover only to feel the relief now of a reply.
    Only a signal can be distorted. That is, only one's perception is subject to distortion. The object perceived cannot itself be distorted by its perception.* The noumenon is the concept of a purported thing beyond possible experience, and as such cannot be distorted.

    That is to say, there is nothing there to be filtered or distorted. Simply to be an object of knowledge is for a thing to be known via the senses and understanding. If there is no possible disembodied, unperspectival way of apprehending a thing, then the idea of distortion has no meaning.
    Jamal
    Going back to the article I cited above, where it describes the information (and I don't know a better term for this because I think I'm describing the noumena) brought in through the senses that is then registered as being in space and time and then it is formed into a concept of my understanding and then I have what we call "phenomena."

    Is it not correct to describe the phenomenal state as a modification of whatever that primordial mass was that that preceded the formation of the phenomena? I use modification and distortion interchangably here, unless you think that's not a fair move for some reason.
  • Jack Cummins
    5k

    My understanding of Kant is that he saw epistemological basis of knowledge as being a complex interplay of both the empirical and the nature of reason. Here, he definitely saw the 'noumenon' and the transcendent as being beyond the scope of comprehension. In this respect, he saw the limits of espistemology; with a sense of a possible 'transcendent' beyond comprehension. The idea and scope of reason was a way of approaching this territory of thought.

    The particular dichotomy between the 'known' or 'unknown' according to reason or the empirical is of particular significance in epistemological and empirical understanding. The two dichotomies may be opposed and how they are understood or juxtaposed may be of critical importance. In other words, to what extent is the basis of empirical knowledge important as a foundation of knowledge? To what extent may it be contrasted by a priori reason, or ideas of 'the noumenon'; which go beyond the physical basis of understanding of ideas.
  • LFranc
    7
    How would we as humans comprehend any intelligence, other than the one by which humans comprehend anything?Mww

    he regards it as an unavoidable product of the understandingJamal

    In my view, Hegel has very convincingly criticised Kantian criticism, thereby answering the question posed in this thread.
    In particular, he explains:
    - that we cannot draw a limit between what we can know and what we cannot know because, in order to draw this limit and know where to place it, we would already have to know what there is beyond this limit (a limit must know what it delimits).
    (that answers:
    he saw the limits of espistemologyJack Cummins
    )
    - that, to talk about the thing-in-itself, Kant keeps using (human) categories: the thing-in-itself "is not" a phenomenon (= use of the category of negation), etc.
    - that there is nothing fundamentally new about the idea of the transcendental, because "knowledge of the conditions of knowledge" is... knowledge.
    (Source: Hegel, beginning of The Phenomenology of Spirit and beginning of Science of Logic)

    To sum it up, Kant is a metaphysician without knowing it (and therefore is an incomplete metaphysician).

    As for the existence of an object that would come "only" from human intelligence, "only" from understanding:
    It is true that all knowledge is humanly shaped.
    BUT it doesn't lead to a pure subjectivism or even a transcendental idealism. Here is the condensed proof. If we can not have any knowledge about the external world, then we can't even say that this "external world" exists. So there would only be an "internal" world. But how could there be an "internal world" without an external one? So it means that our so-called "internal world" is not "just internal", "sadly internal"... It is the world itself.

    (Source: Brief Solutions to Philosophical Problems Using a Hegelian Method, Solution 2)
  • Jamal
    9k
    Assuming I got all that right . . .Hanover

    Seems reasonable.

    . . . my next question is whether your comment that "By 'universal' he means it holds for all rational creatures," is itself a priori true or a posteriori true, meaning must #1 and #2 logically exist for a creature to be rational or does it just happen to be the case that rational creatures on planet earth have #1 and #2 and that makes them rational, but one could be rational with other a priori structures?Hanover

    A rational being for Kant is one with that active faculty, your number (2), i.e., the understanding, which is the spontaneity of the mind. And we're the only ones we know about. But Kant does admit that he is not able to rule out the possibility that there are kinds of intuition other than sensible, and (I think) other kinds of understanding, i.e., maybe there's some kind of perception that does not depend on the senses in the way ours does but which also provides knowledge, conditioned by a different kind of understanding.

    I ask this because if Kant can say that these faculties we have are the only faculties that can yield rational results, then he could possibly escape idealism because he'd be saying we have that which we must have in order to have true knowledge.

    I don't like that solution. It feels like Descartes' injection of God into the mix by just declaring that there's no way we'd see things in a wrong way and that the way we see things must be right.
    Hanover

    He does show (or claim to show) that these faculties are the ones that happen to yield results for us, which is the same as to say they are the only ones that work for us. I don't know if you think he thereby escapes idealism or not. Personally I'm discovering that to preserve what is best and most revolutionary in Kant I might have to drop my insistence that he was not idealist, and admit that the second edition of the CPR, in trying to defend against that accusation, just introduced inconsistencies which disappear if you just admit that everything we know is known for us, and that there are no things in themselves. This way lies Hegel, a very worldly kind of idealist.

    Real objects, objects we can know, are objects in space that are given to us in perception; these phenomena are beings of sense, whereas noumena are beings merely of understanding.Jamal

    I don't follow this. What would be an example of a noumenal being of the understanding? It would not be something we could sense for sure, but what is something just in my understanding? This almost sound like Plato's forms.Hanover

    The noumenon is the concept of an unconditioned thing, a correlate of experience that is independent of experience. But the noumenon is not such a thing itself, but is the concept of it, an artifact of the understanding. It has no known correlate, so there is nothing but a detached thought in the head, no Platonic form or anything.

    Is it not correct to describe the phenomenal state as a modification of whatever that primordial mass was that that preceded the formation of the phenomena? I use modification and distortion interchangably here, unless you think that's not a fair move for some reason.Hanover

    I think you can reasonably say that the stuff of perception--light, sound, etc--is physically modified, such as when light is refracted by the cornea. But I don't think it's correct to say that phenomena are modifications of noumena, in Kant's terms. I will have to say more some time.
  • Jamal
    9k


    I'm quite open to the Hegelian criticism/solution, but I just haven't got around to reading him yet. I'm a bit more familiar with Wittgenstein's angle: everything is open to view, and truth or knowledge as "agreement with reality" is an unclear concept except in familiar everyday situations:

    203. . . . What does this agreement consist in, if not in the fact that what is evidence in these language games speaks for our proposition?

    214. What prevents me from supposing that this table either vanishes or alters its shape and colour when on one is observing it, and then when someone looks at it again changes back to its old condition? - "But who is going to suppose such a thing?" - one would feel like saying.

    215. Here we see that the idea of 'agreement with reality' does not have any clear application.
    — Wittgenstein, On Certainty

    The idea of agreement is unclear in this case because nothing could speak for our proposition, and yet by design, nothing could speak against it either, so nothing could agree or disagree with it.

    I take this to be a simpler way of putting Kant's point that asking about agreement with reality for such cases is to reach beyond possible experience for an impossible transcendence.
  • Manuel
    3.9k
    I also enjoy pre-Kantians very much! At the moment I'm especially interested in Leibniz, who is definitely one of the "bad guys" in CPR and a huge influence. There seems to be some connection between Cudworth (which I haven't read at all) and Leibniz, so it is going to be very interesting to find out something about this as well. These people worked as little in vacuum as we do, but the literary practices were much more liberate, at least compared to academic philosophy of today.Olento

    Excellent! :)

    Kant has a very interesting take on Leibniz metaphysics in the Amphiboly appendix in the Critique.

    Yes, Leibniz mentions Cudworth to Locke near the beginning of the latters New Essays, because Cudworth's daughter was very close to Locke - they had a brotherly/sisterly relation.

    Sure, I tend to find - with notable exceptions - that the classics offer just so much more value than contemporary stuff, which has become so academic, abstract and technical that is loses virtually any "popular appeal".

    Most people can read Descartes or Berkley.
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    To sum it up, Kant is a metaphysician without knowing it (and therefore is an incomplete metaphysician).LFranc

    Collingwood concurs with this. In Kant's identification of a reality we can "think but not know" he sees "the very essence of scientific dogmatism" - which is to say, in his terms, an un-self-critical metaphysics.
  • Jamal
    9k
    "The essences of light and colours (said Scaliger) are as dark to the understanding, as they themselves are open to the sight.—Nay, undoubtedly so long as we consider these things no otherwise than sense represents them, that is, as really existing in the objects without us, they are and must needs be eternally unintelligible. Now when all men naturally inquire what these things are, what is light, and what are colours, the meaning hereof is nothing else but this, that men would fain know or comprehend them by something of their own which is native and domestic, not foreign to them, some active exertion or anticipation of their own minds…"Cudworth, quoted by Manuel

    Nice. I had a look at the epistemology section of the SEP page for Cudworth and he does seem remarkably Kantian.
  • Manuel
    3.9k


    Ah, good to see they have added a bit of his epistemology in the SEP. I will continue to propagandize him.

    The notion of things-themselves is particularly interesting. Is it the One (the simplest possible thing, beyond thought), as Plotinus says? Is it mere dust and atoms, as Cudworth intimates? Are we in contact with it through the will, as Schopenhauer insists?

    It's not clear it's even an object, in any traditional reading of that word. I suspect the best we can do here is to find a conception which is the simplest and attempt to proceed from that.

    The idea that science cannot study something elemental or basic, can be counterintuitive or nonsense for some.
  • Mww
    4.5k
    Kant is a metaphysician without knowing it….LFranc

    Good to know. Thanks.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    ... a judgment of taste involves the consciousness that all interest is kept out of it, it must also involve a claim to being valid for everyone, but without having a universality based on concepts. In other words, a judgment of taste must involve a claim to subjective universality.
    (Critique of Judgment 54)

    In the Critique of Judgment Kant uses the term 'objective' to mean 'disinterested'. A valid judgment of taste is subjective, universal, and not based on concepts. To put it somewhat paradoxically, objectivity is universal subjectivity.
  • AmadeusD
    1.3k
    It’s been quite common in interpretations of Kant to identify the thing in itself or the noumenon with the reality that lies behind appearances, that which is hidden from us by the veil of perception, and the ultimate but unattainable goal of scientific investigation.Jamal

    This isn't addressed by the quote that comes after. The quote seems to merely reduce hte benchmark of "empirical investigation" to that of phenomena, which is in some sense, correct and obviously what "scientific investigation" boils down to.

    But Kant maintains the world as it is in itself cannot be investigated. Unsure this is being dealt with through this particular distinction.
  • Paine
    1.9k
    Is it not correct to describe the phenomenal state as a modification of whatever that primordial mass was that that preceded the formation of the phenomena? I use modification and distortion interchangeably here, unless you think that's not a fair move for some reason.Hanover

    I think Kant is saying we would like to answer that question, but we are suffering from a transcendental illusion which will always prevent us from doing so:

    The transcendental dialectic will therefore content itself with uncovering the illusion in transcendental judgments, while at the same time protecting us from being deceived by it; but it can never bring it about that transcendental illusion (like logical illusion) should even disappear and cease to be an illusion. For what we have to do with here is a natural and unavoidable illusion a which itself rests on subjective principles and passes them off as objective, whereas logical dialectic in its dissolution of fallacious inferences has to do only with an error in following principles or with an artificial illusion that imitates them.
    Hence there is a natural and unavoidable dialectic of pure reason, not one in which a bungler might be entangled through lack of acquaintance, or one that some sophist has artfully invented in order to confuse rational people, but one that irremediably attaches to human reason, so that even after we have exposed the mirage it will still not cease to lead our reason on with false hopes, continually propelling it into momentary aberrations that always need to be removed.
    Critique of Pure Reason, Kant, B355, A298

    This "passing off as objective" is related to the Analogies of Experience discussed starting from page A176. Kant establishes that the three modi of time are persistence, succession, and simultaneity (page 177). The mode that permits a causal explanation of phenomena is said to be that of simultaneity. The footnote to that section says:

    * The unity of the world-whole, in which all appearances are to be connected, is obviously a mere conclusion from the tacitly assumed principle of the community of all substances that are simultaneous: for, were they isolated, they would not as parts constitute a whole, and were their connection (interaction of the manifold) not already necessary on account of simultaneity, then one could not infer from the latter, as a merely ideal relation, to the former, as a real one. Nevertheless we have shown, in its proper place, that community is really the ground of the possibility of an empirical cognition of coexistence, and that one therefore really only infers from the latter back to the former, as its condition. — ibid. A215
  • javra
    2.4k
    For science, phenomena are more than enough, and they are by no means inferior to the noumena (on the contrary).Jamal

    Though I’m not sure how to parse this in Kantian terms, awareness per se is in no way phenomenal: it has no look, no smell, no sound, etc. But then nor is it strictly or primarily “an aspect of thought” as noumena are here primarily described. Contingent on metaphysical construct, it could however be deemed a thing-in-itself (here being very liberal with the term “thing”, this by contrast to the notion of “nothing”).

    That mentioned, the OP seems to express the following gist:

    The indirect realism* which the empirical sciences confirm—and of which Kantianism is one version of—in no way undermines the validity of scientific knowledge.

    Yes: true.

    -------

    * For general reference:

    Indirect realism is broadly equivalent to the scientific view of perception that subjects do not experience the external world as it really is, but perceive it through the lens of a conceptual framework.[3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_and_indirect_realism
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