Kant – Very Short Introduction – notes

Status: In progress

 

While a ‘picture’ of the Kantian system is common to all who have commented on it, there is no agreement whatsoever as to the strength, or even as to the content, of his arguments. A commentator who presents clear premises and clear conclusions will be invariable be accused of missing Kant’s argument, …(to escape academic censure) is to fall into the verbal mannerism of the original.

      •  What are the questions that it hopes to answer?
        • “In this enquiry … my aim … that there is not a single metaphysical problem which has not been solved, or for the solution of which the key at least has not been supplied. “
        • Kant was in fact motivated by more specific interests.
          • Historical antecedents and philosophical controversies that influenced  … certain major subjects of dispute
          • The problem of objective knowledge, posed by Descartes
            • Cogito ergo sum

         

        Cogito ergo sum

        • Kant … dissatisfied with Descartes’s … doctrine of the soul … flowed from it.
        • The certainty of self-knowledge had been wrongly described?
        • I cannot extend my scepticism into the subjective sphere (the sphere of consciousness): so I can be immediately certain of my present mental states. But I cannot be immediately certain of what I am, or of whether, indeed, there is an I to whom these states belong. These further propositions must be established by argument, and that argument had yet to be found.
        • Present mental states
          • Seem to me and seem as they are.
          • In the subjective sphere being and seeming collapse into each other. (xxx: what does that mean exactly). In the objective sphere they diverge.
        • How can I know the world as it is?
          • While I can have knowledge of the world as it seems
          • Can I have knowledge of the world that is not just knowledge of how it seems?
          • Can I have knowledge of the world that is not just knowledge of my own point of view?
        • The possibility of objective knowledge is assumed in
          • Science, common sense, theology, every day life, etc.
          • What if this supposition is unwarranted?

         

        Objectivity

        • Can be other than it seems to me.
        • Two major view
          • Rationalist – Leibniz
            • We could have objective knowledge of the world uncontaminated by the point of view of any observer
            • The understanding contains within itself innate principles, which it knows intuitively to be true, and which from the axioms from which a complete description of the world can be derived.
              • Necessarily true
              • Do not depend upon experience for their confirmation.
              • “as it is”
            • Become the orthodox metaphysics of the German Enlightment.
          • Empiricist – Hume
            • We could have objective knowledge of nothing.
        • Hume’s scepticism … introduced new problems that he felt(kant) could be answered only by overthrowing the Leibnizian system.
          • Concerning causality & a priori knowledge
        • Kant … attempted to give an account of philosophical method that incorporated the truths, and avoided the errors, of both.

         

         

        Summary

        • Leibnizian Rationalism
          • The ‘point of view’ that are characteristic of individuals can be fitted into the rational picture of the world … the  division between subject and predicate corresponds to distinction in reality between substance and property
          • (substances as fundamental objects in the world) must be self-dependent, unlike the properties that inhere in them. Thus make substance indestructible. ‘monads’
          • Individual soul as the thinking substance, the example of monad
        • Perspectiveless picture of the world,
          • relying on 2 fundamental laws of reason:
            • Contradiction
            • Sufficient Reason: nothing is true that has no sufficient explanation.
          • World consists of infinitely many individual monads, which exist neither in space nor in time, but eternally.
          • (Leibnizian Monads)
          • ‘identity of indiscernible’, … without which assumption objects cannot be individuated in terms of their intrinsic properties, a point of view then become necessary from which to tell things apart.
          • Point of view of each monad is simply a way of representing its internal constitution, and does not represent the world as it is in itself… each monad mirrors the universe from its own point of view.
          • See also SEP:leibniz
          • (SEP)… monads are the only true substances and that material things are only phenomena.
          • No monad can enter into real relation, causal or otherwise, with any other. Even space and time are intellectual constructs, through which we make our experience intelligible, but which do not belong to the world as such.
          • The successive properties of every monad corresponds to the successive properties of every other. So we can describe our successive states of mind as ‘perceptions’, and the world will ‘appear’ to each monad in a way that corresponds to its appearance to every other.
          • There is a system among appearances, and within this system it makes senses to speak of spatial, temporal, and causal relations; of destructible individuals and dynamic principles; of perception, activity, and influence.
          • These ideas, and the physical laws that we derive from them, depend for their validity on the underlying harmony among points of view that they describe. They do not yield knowledge of the real world of monads except indirectly, on account of our assurance that the way things appear bears the metaphysical imprint of the way things are.
          • An example of merely apparent relation: when two watches keep exact time together I might be tempted to think that the one causes the other to move.
          • In some such way Leibniz argued that the whole world of common-sense belief and perception is no more than an appearance or ‘phenomenon’.
          • But it is a ‘well-founded phenomenon’. It’s no illusion, but a necessary and systematic offshoot of the operation of those rational principles that determine how things really are.
          • The real substances, because they are described and identified from no point of view, are without phenomenal characteristics.
          • Reality itself is accessible to reason alone, since only reason can rise above the individual point of view and participate in the vision of the ultimate necessities(which is also gods)
          • Hence reason must operate through ‘innate’ ideas. These are ideas that have been acquired through no experience and that belong to all thinking beings. They owe their content not to experience but to the intuitive capacities of reason.
          • TL;DR: pending
        • Hume
          • Denies the possibility of knowledge through reason, since reason can not operate without ideas, and ideas are acquired only through the senses.
          • (General assumption of empiricism)The content of every thought must be given, in terms of the experiences that warrant it, and no belief can be established as true except by reference to the sensory ‘impressions’ that provide its guarantee.
          • The only experiences that can confirm anything for me is my experience. … the appeal to memory and induction all depend for their authority on the experiences that guarantee them.
          • My experiences are as they seem, and seem as they are, for here ‘seeming’ is all that there is. There is no problem as to how I can know them. But in basing all knowledge on experience.
          • All claims to objectivity become spurious and illusory… when I refer to causal necessities, all I am entitled to mean is the regular succession among experiences, together with the subjective sense of anticipation that arise from that.
          • Reason can tell us of the ‘relation of ideas’, but can neither generate ideas of its own, nor decide whether an idea has application. It’s the source only of trivial knowledge derived from the meanings of words; it can never lead to knowledge of matters of fact.
          • Cast doubt upon the existence of the self (vs leibnizian monad), saying that neither is there a perceivable object that goes by this name, nor is there any experience that would give rise to the idea of it.
          • (such scepticism is intolerable)
        • Humean concept of causality
          • There is no foundation for the belief in necessities in nature.
          • Necessities belongs to thought alone and merely reflects the ‘relation of ideas’. It was this that led Kant to perceive that natural science rests on the belief that there are real necessities so that Hume’s scepticism threatened to undermine the foundation of scientific thought.
        • It was the sense that the problems of objectivity and of causal necessity are ultimately connected that led him towards the outlook of the Critique of Pure Reason.
        • It was only then that he perceived what was really wrong with Leibniz, through his attempt to show what was really wrong with Hume. He came to think as follows.
          • Neither experience nor reason is alone able to provide knowledge. The first provides content without form, the second form without content.
          • Only in their synthesis is knowledge possible. Hence there is no knowledge that does not bear the marks of reason and of experience together.
          • Such knowledge is genuine and objective. It transcends the point of view of the person who possess it, and makes legitimate claims about an independent world.
          • Nevertheless, it is impossible to know the world ‘as it is in itself’, independent of all perspective. Such an absolute conception of the object is senseless since it can be given only by employing concepts from which every element of meaning has been refined away.
          • While I can know the world independently of my point of view on it, what I know bears the indelible marks of that point of view.
          • Objects do not depend for their existence upon my perceiving them; but their nature is determined by the fact that they can be perceived. Their character is given by the point of view through which they can be known. This is the point of ‘possible experience’
          • Objects are not Leibnizian monads, knowable only to the perspectiveless stance of ‘pure reason’; nor are they Humean ‘impressions’, features of my own experience.
          • Kant tries to show that, properly understood, the idea of ‘experience’ already carries the objective reference that Hume denied. Experience contains within itself the features of space, time, and causality. Hence in describing my experience I an referring to an ordered perspective on an independent world.
        • Kant’s conception of objectivity ‘Transcendental Idealism’
          • Began from an exploration of a priori knowledge
            • True propositions independently of experience. (vs posteriori truths)
            • A priori truth are of two kinds
              • An analytic truth is guaranteed by the meaning, and discovered through the analysis of the terms used to express it.
              • A synthetic truth is one whose truth is not so derived but that affirms something in the predicate that is not already contained in the subject.
            • Kant insist that the two distinctions are of a wholly different nature.
          • By argue that all a priori truths are analytic, empiricism denies the possibility of metaphysics. And yet metaphysics is necessary if foundations are to be provided for objective knowledge
            • So the first question of all philosophy becomes ‘How is synthetic a priori knowledge possible?’
            • Kant felt that there could be no explanation of a priori knowledge that divorces the object known from the perspective of the knower. Hence he was sceptical of all attempts to claim that we can have a priori knowledge of some timeless, spaceless world of the ‘thing-in-itself'(defined without reference to the ‘possible experience’ of an observer)
            • A priori knowledge provides support for, but it also derives its content from empirical discovery
            • Kant’s Critique is directed in part against the assumption that ‘pure reason’ can give content to knowledge without making reference to experience.
          • All a priori truths are both necessary and absolutely universal.
          • Kant gave mathematics as the example of synthetic a priori.
          • And other examples? Whose truth is presupposed in the interpretation of experience.
            • Every event has a cause
            • The world consists of enduring objects which exists independently of me
            • All discoverable objects are in space and time.
          • Such truths are required for the proof of objectivity, hence the problem of objectivity and the problem of synthetic a priori knowledge are ultimately connected.

         

        Kant’s aims in the first Critique

        • In opposition to Hume
          • Show that synthetic a priori knowledge is possible
        • In opposition to Leibniz
          • To demonstrate that ‘pure reason’ alone, operating outside the constraints placed on it by experience, leads only to illusion.
          • There’s no a priori knowledge of ‘things-in-themselves’
        • Two part of the Critique
          • Analytic
          • Dialetic

         

2 comments

    1. I’ve always think i’ll never interested in philosophy too, until once upon a time i encountered a huge existential crisis on my own life and values, that’s the reason i start digging at philosophy… start chronologically up from Plato and backward from Phenomenology, Heidegger, Nietzsche,Schopenhauer, etc etc . But the result is never fruitful(and i realized how messed up is philosophy but i’m already intoxicated by it so whatever lol) before i found out the crux is my negligence(or, dread) of Kant. So i spent my spare time of a couple months reading about Kant. Now philosophy is already a integrated part of my general interest in (artificial) (general) intelligence, and i’ve moved my scope from moral/value to metaphysics, epistemology and aesthetics, etc.

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