• philosophy
    28
    Kant distinguished between the world as we experience it (phenomena) and the world as thing-in-itself (noumena). According to Kant, knowledge does not conform to objects but objects conform to knowledge, to our a priori structure. Things-in-themselves are the source of our experience; they are what things are like before we apply our a priori structure to them. In other words, things-in-themselves are the world independent of (our) experience. As such, things-in-themselves are unknowable; we can say of them that they exist but we cannot say anything about them, since we cannot conceive of anything outside of our a priori structure. Although we cannot say anything about things-in-themselves, it seems to Kant that they must exist since there must be something to which we apply our a priori structure to (As an aside, I do not think that Kant was right in asserting the existence of things-in-themselves given that they are, by definition, that which is independent of experience; at best, I think one can only assume the existence of things-in-themselves.)

    Hegel rejected Kant's concept of things-in-themselves. How, then, did Hegel account for experience at all? If things-in-themselves are removed then it seems that our experience has no source. The only way I can understand Hegel here is if he asserts that the world as we experience it really is the ''real'' world. But how can the world as we experience it be real given our a priori structure? If we are engaged in making sense of the world by imposing our a priori structure on it (''falsifying'' the world, as Nietzsche puts it), it seems to follow that the world as we experience it and the world as it is cannot be one and the same thing. I don't accept Locke's concept of a tabula rasa because, like Kant, I believe that our minds are imposing structures on the world in order to make experience possible at all.

    I'm struggling with this disagreement between Kant and Hegel regarding things-in-themselves and would really appreciate some help.
  • Gilliatt
    21
    Can we create an "evolutionary" kantism?
  • Jake
    781
    I can't really speak to this other that to suggest that the existence of "things" depends on boundaries. Boundaries clearly exist in our conceptual frameworks. Do boundaries exist in the real world beyond our minds? If boundaries don't exist in the real world, then neither do things, and thus one might be called to question the insight of thinkers who continually refer to them.
  • macrosoft
    511
    I'm struggling with this disagreement between Kant and Hegel regarding things-in-themselves and would really appreciate some help.philosophy

    I'd say maybe look into the ideas of the later Wittgenstein. All kinds of metaphysical ideas break down if we analyze the individual concepts. That's because most metaphysical positions simultaneously rely on a mostly unconscious background of ordinary linguistic knowhow (which is not exact) and some wild flights of imagination and logic that stretch these words in spectacular ways, which try to be exact, ignoring their dependence on an inexact background know-how.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    Is it possible to live a happy, fullfillng life without knowing how to dance the ding an sich schottische? It is. Never mind Hegel. Nevertheless...

    According to Kant, knowledge does not conform to objects but objects conform to knowledge, to our a priori structure.philosophy

    I have problems with this. Granted, "we" are "locked in" within our thick skulls with only sensory information to reveal to us what objects (the world) are supposedly like. We don't have a pipeline to some sort of absolute truth. Roses are red, violets are blue; our a priori says this is true. Whether roses in themselves are actually colored, shaped, scented, and thorned the way we think they are, some think, is knowledge out of reach.

    If boundaries don't exist in the real world, then neither do thingsJake

    Seems like a plan to me. Even fluids have boundary layers (sometimes, anyway).

    Can we say that our senses must be more or less accurate reflections of the real world? It seems like we are pretty much obligated to think so, because empirical evidence consistently points to irresistible forces and immovable objects that can not be explained away. To think otherwise is to go down Alice's rabbit hole where things and forces can be whatever we want them to be. Alice's Wonderland would be fine if we could get away with it, but I have found that immovable objects and irresistible forces just will not put up with such nonsense.

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that's all.”
  • Terrapin Station
    4.4k
    I'm no expert on Kant or especially on Hegel, but a common view of Hegel's rejection of the phenomena/noumena distinction is that Hegel points out that insofar as we can conceive or say anything whatsoever about noumena, we're doing the exact same thing we're doing with phenomena, so there really is no distinction.

    It's worth being aware, by the way, that not everyone agrees that "noumenon" in Kant is the same thing as "ding an sich." Noumena on this alternate view are rather a sort of (non-apparent) conceptual framework or background, a sort of underlying conceptual-possibility structure that is broader than any sensible experience that it then shapes.
  • macrosoft
    511
    If we are engaged in making sense of the world by imposing our a priori structure on it (''falsifying'' the world, as Nietzsche puts it), it seems to follow that the world as we experience it and the world as it is cannot be one and the same thing.philosophy

    Part of the complexity comes from thinking the distinction between the world and our image of it is itself 'within' the image of the world, threatening the very distinction of world versus image-of-world. Nietzsche's philosophy is one more piece of the endless processing or mediation. That there 'really is' something 'behind' all of this endless processing is probably most grounded on our inherently social nature. Through language we live mostly as 'we' and always with 'them' in the background. If we think maybe there is no 'world-in-itself' behind our impositions of structure, then we are already wondering who we might tell.

    We might even ask what truth could even mean in the absence of the sense of other human beings, which requires also of course the sense of a shared world. It seems arguable that the search for truth is inherently social and presupposes a community of some kind, just as it starts already with knowing a language. And to start with a language is to drag centuries of history from the word go, so that a 'clean' start seems highly suspect, along with getting behind all of this inheritance (language and unconscious, unquestioned assumptions about method) that we would have to use in the first place in our attempt to get behind it.
  • macrosoft
    511
    .
    How, then, did Hegel account for experience at all?philosophy

    Has anyone ever accounted for experience in the final analysis? Or do they just link one thing to another with equations, arguments, myths? We trace Z back to Y back to X. At some point we get to A, which is just there. (Maybe someone can argue for going back from 0 to -1 to -2 and so on infinitely, but I can't exactly call this a satisfying account.)
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    I think you’re a mistake in regarding the noumenal and the phenomenal as radically distinct or utterly other. My view of Kant’s claim about things in themselves is that it is not the portentous claim that many of his critics want to make of it. He is simply pointing out the fact that our knowledge of phenomena must be knowledge of appearances - indeed ‘phenomena’ means ‘what appears’. It is a kind of place-holder which indicates something fundamental about the nature of knowledge. But it seems to me that a lot of commentators, Hegel included, have then speculated at huge length about ‘the mysterious thing in itself’. If they fully considered. Kant’s demonstration of the antinomies of reason it would indicate that Kant is not really talking about a ‘mysterious unknown’ so much as making an observation about the conditional nature of knowledge of phenomena.

    In case if you google Hegel and noumenon, you will find further discussions.
  • Valentinus
    70
    The chapter on The Critical Philosophy in Hegel's Logic shows Hegel going in the opposite direction from an isolation from experience as suggested in the statement: "engaged in making sense of the world by imposing our a priori structure on it." It needs to be read in the context of the whole chapter to be properly understood but Section 52 gives a sense of the direction Hegel is headed:

    "in this way thought, at its highest pitch, has to go outside for any determinateness; and although it is continually termed Reason, is out-and-out abstract reasoning. And the result of all is that Reason supplies nothing beyond the formal unity required to simplify and systematize experiences; it is a canon, not an organon, of truth, and can furnish only a criticism of knowledge, not a doctrine of the infinite. In its final analysis this criticism is summed up in the assertion that in strictness thought is only the indeterminate unity and the action of this indeterminate unity.

    Kant undoubtedly held reason to be the faculty of the unconditioned; but if reason be reduced to abstract unity only, it by implication renounces its unconditionality and is in reality no better than empty understanding. For reason is unconditioned only in so far as its character and quality are not due to an extraneous and foreign content, only in so far as it is self-characterizing, and thus, in point of context, is its own master. Kant, however, expressly explains that the action of reason consists solely in applying the categories to systematize the matter given by perception, i.e. to place it in an outside order, under the guidance of the principle of non-contradiction."
    Translated by William Wallace
  • Terrapin Station
    4.4k
    "in this way thought, at its highest pitch, has to go outside for any determinateness; and although it is continually termed Reason, is out-and-out abstract reasoning. And the result of all is that Reason supplies nothing beyond the formal unity required to simplify and systematize experiences; it is a canon, not an organon, of truth, and can furnish only a criticism of knowledge, not a doctrine of the infinite. In its final analysis this criticism is summed up in the assertion that in strictness thought is only the indeterminate unity and the action of this indeterminate unity.

    Kant undoubtedly held reason to be the faculty of the unconditioned; but if reason be reduced to abstract unity only, it by implication renounces its unconditionality and is in reality no better than empty understanding. For reason is unconditioned only in so far as its character and quality are not due to an extraneous and foreign content, only in so far as it is self-characterizing, and thus, in point of context, is its own master. Kant, however, expressly explains that the action of reason consists solely in applying the categories to systematize the matter given by perception, i.e. to place it in an outside order, under the guidance of the principle of non-contradiction."
    Valentinus

    Whenever I read Hegel it very quickly just starts to seem like a list of words to me. By that second paragraph it might as well just be "blah blah 'faculty of the unconditioned' blah blah 'abstract unity' blah blah 'renounces unconditionality'" for all I can get out of it.

    Part of it is probably my fault for being too persnickety, but I can't help but be that way--it's what comes natural to me. So when I read what you quoted, I already start having a problem at "highest pitch" ("What the hell is 'pitch' for thought, and how are we quantifying or leveling it?" I say to myself), and then I wonder what the heck "go outside" is supposed to amount to in context, and "determinateness" in context, and then I'm lost re what is "continually termed 'Reason'" because of the previous questions, and then I get annoyed at the weird grammatical structure in that part of the sentence, and so on. So it doesn't take long for it to just start to read like endless blah blah blahing with a string of terms where I haven't the faintest idea what the terms are supposed to refer to.

    The same thing happens to me when I read most continental writers, including (and kind of starting with) Kant.
  • philosophy
    28
    Thanks for this. I found the following section, from Hegel's Science of Logic, also helpful:

    Things are called “in themselves” in so far as abstraction is made from all being-for-other, which means simply, in so far as they are thought devoid of all determination, as nothings. In this sense, it is of course impossible to know what the thing in itself is. For the question: what? demands that determinations be assigned; but since the things of which they are to be assigned are at the same time supposed to be things in themselves, which means, in effect, to be without any determination, the question is made thoughtlessly impossible to answer, or else only an absurd answer is given. (SL, 121)

    From what I understand, Hegel is saying that:

    (i) A thing-in-itself would have to lack all determination.
    (ii) But if it lacked all determination it would be nothing.
    (iii) But if the thing-in-itself is nothing then it is not possible to know anything about it at all.

    In other words, in the very act of conceiving of a ''thing-in-itself'' Kant is conceiving of that which cannot be conceived, a contradiction.

    This brings to mind the maxim of the early Wittgenstein: ''whereof one cannot speak thereof one must remain silent'' (Tractatus).
  • Valentinus
    70

    Strictly speaking, Hegel is not agreeing with your first point: "A thing-in-itself would have to lack all determination." (emphasis mine). The "would have" implies a conclusion where as Hegel is not finding the result out but reminding the thinker how it got to the thought in the first place.
    In that sense, he is agreeing with Wittgenstein.
  • Valentinus
    70

    I don't have the chops to defend or dismiss the arc of philosophical systems since the appearance of Kant. But your comment does remind me of two teachers I had in college. One was very dedicated to Kant and he said the following about Hegel:

    "The man invites us all to play musical chairs, gets the band to start the music, and then refuses to let anybody ever sit down."

    The other teacher was a scholar devoted to Plotinus who wondered:

    "it is possible that the entirety of German philosophy since the Reformation is merely a byproduct of growing up Lutheran?"

    I was blessed to be surrounded by trouble makers in my youth.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.4k


    Nice post. I got a kick out of the musical chairs comment.
  • macrosoft
    511
    Whenever I read Hegel it very quickly just starts to seem like a list of words to me.Terrapin Station

    If you ever get in the mood, his actual lectures are much more comprehensible. So is his philosophy of history. I find it exhausting to read his more abstract works, though there are some killer passages here and there in the phenomenology.
  • macrosoft
    511
    The same thing happens to me when I read most continental writers, including (and kind of starting with) Kant.Terrapin Station

    What about the preface to the CPR? I feel like the preface really sketches his motivations and even his conclusions, though without the detailed justifications. (It's amusing too that Hegel's preface to the phenomenology is partially about the impossibility of prefaces and yet is often considered to contain the essence of his philosophy.)
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    Do boundaries exist in the real world beyond our minds? If boundaries don't exist in the real world, then neither do things, and thus one might be called to question the insight of thinkers who continually refer to them.Jake

    How would we perceive boundaries if there are none, and how would we even exist if there were no boundaries? I'm walking along and there's a huge drop off ahead of me. I keep walking and I die. But if there isn't actually a boundary between the ground I walk on and the air I'm about to step foot on, then why would I die?
  • Jake
    781
    How would we perceive boundaries if there are noneMarchesk

    An illusion created by the limitations of the observer? As example, the Earth appears to be at the center of the universe from our limited perspective on the surface of the Earth, but that's not actually true.
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    I tend to think that it's best to just treat each thinker separately -- I know that Hegel is responding to Kant, but then there is a multiplicity of interpretations of both Hegel and Kant. And then there's Hegel's Kant on top of that. Plus if you look at the publishing dates of Hegel you'll see they occurred after Kant's death so it's not exactly right to say they had a disagreement since they didn't really have much of a conversation. It's better to say, I think, that Hegel is responding to Kant, or that he is bouncing off of Kant -- but in that way that philosophers tend to do, where they get to interpret their interlocutor, and tend to have some other project in mind aside from interpretation when doing so.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.4k
    An illusion created by the limitations of the observer? As example, the Earth appears to be at the center of the universe from our limited perspective on the surface of the Earth, but that's not actually true.Jake

    So it's an illusion that the cliff has a boundary and if he walks past it he'll fall and be injured?
  • Jake
    781
    So it's an illusion that the cliff has a boundary and if he walks past it he'll fall and be injured?Terrapin Station

    Things require boundaries.

    Here's a little experiment to illustrate. Drink a glass of water. When does the water become you? The boundary can be reasonably drawn in a number of places, revealing that whatever boundary you wish to choose is arbitrary.

    Here's another little experiment to explore the boundary between you and reality. Hold your breath for one minute.

    Physics is experiencing increasing difficulty in finding hard boundaries. No boundaries = no things.

    Food for thought, that's all.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.4k
    Here's a little experiment to illustrate. Drink a glass of water. When does the water become you? The boundary can be reasonably drawn in a number of places, revealing that whatever boundary you wish to choose is arbitrary.Jake

    That's confusing that boundaries can be drawn in different ways and can change with the idea that there are no real boundaries at all. Boundaries are dynamic, they can be complex, sometimes they're fuzzy, etc. but that doesn't mean that there are no real boundaries. No one said they have to be simple/simplistic, not at all perspectival and unchanging.
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