Experience and its Systematization: Studies in Kant

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The problem of the transcendental esthetic can be seen in the term "a priori intuition. Kant argues that if one eliminates the content of any possible intuition, space and time remain as the a priori forms, or ways, in which the mind can perceive. As a priori forms of any possible experience, space and time are subjective conditions or limitations of human sensibility.

But as the universal and necessary conditions without which there will be no experience, these forms are empirical conditions of appearances, or phenomena. Thus, for Kant, space and time are "transcendentally ideal" and "empirically real" as subjective conditions and objective, constitutive principles of intuition.

An Introduction to the Work of Kant

In brief, this is Kant's resolution of the scientific debate between the adherents of Newton's concept of absolute space and time and Leibniz's relational view. Kant is saying that space and time are absolute conditions for human experience even though there may be nonspatial and nontemporal entities that are unknown. This argument provides an answer to how synthetic a priori judgments in mathematics are possible. These judgments are universal and necessary, and yet they apply to and yield new knowledge about experience.

The principle of Kant's explanation may be expressed as follows: whatever is true of a condition is a priori true of the conditioned. Space and time are the conditions for all possible perceptions. And Euclidean geometry and arithmetic are true of space and time. Therefore, arithmetic and geometry are a priori valid for all possible appearances. A weak analogy with eyeglasses will explain the drift of Kant's thinking. If I cannot see anything without the glasses, they are my subjective limitation since there may be things which are not perceivable.

But the glasses are also objective conditions for the possibility of anything appearing to me. And whatevers true of this condition—such as their being tinted—will be true a priori of whatever can be seen but not necessarily of whatever can be. The point of Kant's radical proposal is that human experience may be just that— exclusively human—but that it is valid of appearances since space and time are the a priori and empirical conditions of every possible perception.

A similar explanation of the working of human understanding presented a great difficulty occasioned by the seeming impossibility of specifying the forms of thinking in other than an arbitrary and chance manner. Eventually Kant discovered a "transcendental clue" in the traditional forms of logical judgment enumerated by Aristotle.

Biology and ontology: Kant, Fichte, and the uses of natural history

The question raised is why are there only 12 forms of judgment? Kant argued that each form of possible judgment was related to a thought form that he called an a priori category of the understanding.

Kant & Categorical Imperatives: Crash Course Philosophy #35

Thus, again, there is a form and content division such that, if one thinks, there are only certain ways in which one can make judgments about the quantity, quality, relation, and modality of objects. In human understanding, as the name implies, experience is made to stand underneath and be organized by the categories. Experience is given as conditioned by space and time, a category is superimposed by the mind, and the resulting synthesis produces human knowing.

This complicated process of synthesis is unified by the ego and aided by the imagination, which associates particular percepts with appropriate universal concepts. As in the case of perception, Kant's efforts are directed toward reconciling the claims of both rationalism and empiricism.

Concepts of themselves are empty logical forms, and percepts, alone, are blind; it is only in their synthesis that understanding, or knowing, takes place. This development commits Kant to the position that science is knowing and metaphysics is false, speculative thinking. Knowing is confirmed by experience as above, but the categories can be extended beyond space and time, and they, then, function as ideas of pure reason.

Since metaphysics claims to speak about things as they are rather than as they appear, such pure thinking must justify itself without appeal to experience. But that is just the difficulty when one asks questions about the unconditioned reality of the self, world, or God! It is not that reason is incapable of producing arguments, but rather that there are equally valid arguments that contradict one another, and experience is unable to resolve these "antinomies," or seeming contradictions.

For example, we know that the universe is either created or eternal, and we can think both of these alternatives through; but the spatiotemporal world of experience would be the same in either instance; and so while the mind can think about these problems, it can never know the answers to the questions that it raises. The only exception to this rule occurs in what Kant calls the "dynamical antinomies" concerning the dilemmas of necessity or freedom and atheism or theism.

Here Kant suggests that in the realms of morality and religion one can entertain the possibility that while necessity and determinism are true of phenomena, freedom and God are true of noumena. Thus, one could live in a universe that is physically determined and still believe in human freedom. In Kant restated the main outlines of his first critique in a brief, analytic form in the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics.

In he presented an early view of the practical aspects of reason in Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals. In he published the Critique of Practical Reason. While theoretical reason is concerned with cognition, practical reason is concerned with will, or self-determination. There is only one human reason, but after it decides what it can know, it must determine how it shall act. In the analytic of practical reason Kant attempts to isolate the a priori element in morality. The notion that happiness is the end of life is purely subjective, and every empirical morality is arbitrary.

Thus the freedom of the will, which is only a speculative possibility for pure reason, becomes the practical necessity of determining how one shall lead his life. And the fundamental, rational principle of a free morality is some universal and necessary law to which a man commits himself. This principle is called by Kant the "Categorical Imperative," which states that a man should obligate himself to act so that any one of his actions could be made into a universal law binding all mankind.

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The dignity of man consists in the freedom to overcome inclination and private interest in order to obligate oneself to the duty of performing the good for its own sake. In examining the consequences of man's freedom, Kant insists that practical reason postulates the immortality of the soul and the existence of God as the conditions for true freedom.

In Kant completed his third critique, which attempts to draw these conflicting tensions together. In pure reason the mind produces constitutive principles of phenomena, and in practical reason the mind produces regulative principles of noumenal reality. The Critique of Judgment attempts to connect the concepts of nature with the concepts of freedom. The reflective or teleological judgment of finality, which is derived from our esthetic feelings about the fittingness of things, mediates between our cognition and our will. This judgment neither constitutes nature like the understanding nor legislates action like practical reason, but it does enable us to think of the "purposiveness" of nature as a realm of ends that are in harmony with universal laws.

Although Kant continued writing until shortly before his death, the "critical works" are the source of his influence. Only a life of extraordinary self-discipline enabled him to accomplish his task. He was barely 5 feet tall and extremely thin, and his health was never robust. He attributed his longevity to an invariable routine. Rising at five, he drank tea and smoked his daily pipe and meditated for an hour.

From six to seven he prepared his lectures and taught from seven to nine in his own home. He worked in his study until one. He invited friends for long dinners, which lasted often until four. After his one daily meal he walked between four and five so punctually that people were said to set their watches on his passing. He continued to write or read until he retired at ten. Toward the end of his life he became increasingly antisocial and bitter over the growing loss of his memory and capacity for work.

Kant became totally blind and finally died on Feb. There is no standard edition in English, but virtually all of Kant's major works are available in various paperback editions. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, Professor Rotenstreich admirably fulfills his intention to bring the whole of Kant's philosophy to focus through an analysis of some of its pivotal issues.


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Each of the six chapters takes up such an issue: the "two logics" and the question of primacy between them, the meaning and place of the schematism, the concept of metaphysics, that of dialectics, the question of Kant's "scepticism," especially in the Critique o] Judgment, and Kant's argument for the primacy of Practical over Theoretical Reason. A sensitive analysis of certain major German interpretations of Kant's Critique o] Pure Reason is appended to the volume, and there are thoroughly competent discussions of such philosophers as Reinhold, Maimon, and Hegel throughout the book.

One of the more impressive achievements of the volume is Rotenstreich's perceptive analysis of Kant's fundamental assumption of heterogeneity not only of the elements of knowledge , but of the two logics, of Verstand and Vernun , and the two thrusts of Reason, practical and theoretical and his consequent struggle with the questions of primacy and mediating "thirds. On the one hand, it is only in view of his assumption of the heterogeneity of the elements of knowledge that it is necessary for Kant to establish the possibility of a synthesis between concepts and percepts.

On the other, Kant's total effort to demonstrate a fundamental system of all the "critiques," primarily the spheres of knowledge and morals, arises from the same sort of assumption: not only the duality of Verstand and Vernun]t, but more importantly, between the two "interests" of Reason practical and theoretical.


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At the same time, Rotenstreich's study of Kantian "dialectics" both systematic and historical and "scepticism" as contrasted with that of Maimon demonstrates that, although Kant was quite aware of the considerable difficulties in attempting to bridge the hiatus in the dualities, his efforts have serious limitations.

For instance, Kant's insistence on the primacy of Practical Reason not only equivocates on the meaning of "practical" as regards its epistemic , moral, and actional meanings , but, it is shown, obscures a principal part of his own conception of Reason which in the end vitiates the very emphasis on primacy. The thesis of primacy, in fact, is either unnecessary or superfluous. Since freedom is identical with selfsponsored activity, i.

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Kant overhastily identifies freedom and the domain of the practical ; his own doctrine argues for the identity of freedom and the spontaneity of reason as such, and therefore the primacy thesis is not essential. In fact, Rotenstreich argues with considerable force, since it is man's freedom in the context of his empirical Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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