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    Thread: Kantian

    1. #1
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      Kantian

      Has anyone here successfully read Immanuel Kant's The Critique of Pure Reason and adequately understood it? I looked into some of his works, but unfortunately couldn't comprehend, like many, much of what it is that he was trying to explain. Also, soon after getting a guide to read the book (lol), I moved on to read some of C.S. Pierce's works, avoiding Kant until recent. I'm going back into it - anyone care to share what some of his "more complex" central points were and how you were affected by them?
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      I stomp on your ideas.

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      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      I'm actually working on a 3 part video series on Kant's epistemology. I'm not trying to cop out but Kant's metaphysical system cannot be explained in a paragraph but I will try my best. Also I have attempted several times to get through the Critique but it gets too dense towards the middle-end. I would recommend his later work "Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics" which is a shorter (around 150 pages) condensed version of the contentions in the Critique. It is not however a replacement for the Critique which is something to keep in mind if you plan on seriously studying Kant.

      First to understand what Kant was trying to say, we have to understand who he was reacting against. Kant was deeply troubled by Hume's critique of causality, which he saw as a threat to metaphysics (namely the Cosmological argument put forth by Aquinas). I cannot get too deep into that here for space/time reasons but there is a good discussion on it in the Sci/Math topic.

      Kant essentially wants to save the possibility of metaphysics (Kant is christian) from the radical skepticism of Hume. He wanted to make metaphysics a respectable science like physics and create a dialectical synthesis between the rationalism of Descartes and Leibniz and the empiricism of Locke and Hume.

      Kant thinks Hume is half right (that causality is mentally imposed onto events and is not a objective necessity of the natural world) but wants to take it a step further. Kant wants to say that space and time (along with causality) are a priori (independent of experience) and are the very structures of our experience but more on that later.

      Kant thinks metaphysics has failed in the past because the foundations of the metaphysical systems in question (Descartes/Leibniz) by relying on analytical a priori judgments which are judgments that are true by definition (analytical) and independent of experience (a priori).
      Analytical propositions cannot tell us anything useful about the world because they have to contain the subject in the predicate. For example “all bachelors are unmarried” really just means “all unmarried men are unmarried” which does not convey any useful information about the world. All black things are black falls into the same tautological category.

      Kant thinks if metaphysics is possible at all it must lie in the synthetic a priori judgments. A synthetic proposition is basically one that does not follow by definition and must be empirically verified to ascertain its validity. For example: All roses are red. This proposition is not true by virtue of its definition but must be verified (when it is the proposition is false because roses come in a variety of colors).

      I will finish the rest a bit later. I haven’t even gotten to his epistemology yet.

      Also I deeply enjoy the work of Peirce but I would recommend reading Kant and Hegel before Peirce. He was deeply influenced by both, but I would speculate that he is more Hegelian influenced. And of course I would be happy to discuss Peirce's work as well.
      Last edited by stormcrow; 12-29-2011 at 04:42 AM.

    3. #3
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      So what does a synthetic a prori judgment (conveys useful information that is independent of experience) look like? Kant uses an example arguing that arithmetic and geometry are synthetic not analytic (as all math back then was considered). I will use the example of geometry for time purposes.

      First of all, geometry is not a posteriori because geometric postulates like “a straight line can be drawn between two points” are not grounded in experience because a “straight line” is an abstraction from experience; we never experience a straight line or a perfect circle or triangle in nature. Therefore geometry is a priori. But are geometric propositions derived from analytical definitions? Does the concept of “the shortest distance between two points” contain the idea of a line?

      Kant would say no. Geometry is constructive not analytical. Geometric properties like the sum of the interior angles of a triangle do not logically follow from the definition of a triangle. So geometric propositions are independent of experience but are also not analytic so how do we come to have knowledge of these said propositions. Our intuition of course….

      Kant concludes that we have an innate spatial intuition that underlies our experience. Space is not an object of experience but is the necessarily condition of our experience of objects. In other words space is how we experience the world; it is the a priori structure of experience. It is really important to understand what he means by this so if I did not explain that thoroughly then ask me about it more.

      Time and causality fall into the same categories (in fact these are all called categories or a priori forms or faculties…Ill just say categories from now on) as well. We do not experience time or causality but they are the structures which underlie our experience.

      Kant doesn’t agree with the traditional empiricist claim that our minds are passive blank slates. He asserts that our minds actively organize our experiences into coherent, meaningful wholes, which make up or sense of self, our memory and how we perceive the world. These aspects of our minds which organize our experiences are the faculties (space, time, causality).

      These categories impose themselves onto our experience of the world; in fact we could not imagine experiencing anything without them. Try to imagine an object without space for instance. Our minds presuppose the existence of space in the first place. This is the synthetic a priori.

      Kant is not completely an idealist; he does believe there is a world beyond our minds (the noumenal world) but that we can never know it (through experience). This is called the thing-in-itself, meaning that we can never know if the world beyond our perceptions is identical to the world we perceive through the categories (the phenomenal world). Hegel famously went on to reject this epistemological gap in the Phenomenology of the Spirit (read that after the Critique for a different insight).

      Kant does not believe that space/time only exist in the mind but (this is my interpretation) believes that the universe is structured in the mind of god. Our minds do govern our experiences within space and time but the ultimate mind (god) ultimately structures the noumenal world. This is where the Critique becomes extremely complicated and I usually put it down in frustration.

      Unfortunately since I have not finished the Critique in its entirety I can’t go any further but I hope this helped. And I hope you realize that Kant is waaaay to intricate to be summarized in a page but I tried.

      It is also worth mentioning that Kant was wrong about some of this particularly his speculations in mathematics. Space is not Euclidean like he asserted but due to the presence of matter space becomes curved resulting in angles whose sum is more than 180 degrees (elliptical geometry). This is because Euclidean space is flat and due to observational evidence stemming from the general theory of relativity, space is curved.

      The discovery of Non-Euclidean geometry came about 50 or so years after Kant’s death. Kant is a very interesting philosopher, he essentially steered western thought in directions resulting in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, etc. He just about influenced every philosopher who came after him. Many of Peirce’s main ideas about pragmatism stem directly from Kant (and Hegel), which is why I recommended reading Kant first. Anyway I hope this helped.

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      Here is a lecture on the political theories behind Immanuel Kant. Hopefully they can give you some insight into his general mindset about the world. The lecture also includes Hegel so its a win-win for difficult philosophers
      'What is war?...In a short sentence it may be summed up to be the combination and concentration of all the horrors, atrocities, crimes, and sufferings of which human nature on this globe is capable' - John Bright

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      Many of what you guys shared, I've already known, but still got some new info out of it I shall look into some of the material for his thought of epistemology more in-depth. It's cool to know that there are some Kant fans in heya!
      Stormcrow, seems you persisted longer than I have in Kant's reading lol.

      I'd recommend Kant's lecture notes on logic. I've read some of it, but it proposes several of his concepts that are argued in his Critique, and are presented more elucidly.
      I stomp on your ideas.

    6. #6
      Xei
      UnitedKingdom Xei is offline
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      Kant was a notoriously poor writer, though perhaps this can be historically excused, as the condition of clarity for philosophy wasn't seen as necessary back then.

      Kant was also very wrong. Again maybe this can be excused on the basis of what seemed to be the historical context of the time. But the main reason to study him nowadays is as an example of how philosophy evolves... and in particular how erroneous strains emerge and disappear.

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      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Somii View Post
      Many of what you guys shared, I've already known, but still got some new info out of it I shall look into some of the material for his thought of epistemology more in-depth. It's cool to know that there are some Kant fans in heya!
      Stormcrow, seems you persisted longer than I have in Kant's reading lol.

      I'd recommend Kant's lecture notes on logic. I've read some of it, but it proposes several of his concepts that are argued in his Critique, and are presented more elucidly.
      Well I tried. I'm not an expert on Kant nor would I consider myself a Kantian but I do enjoy his philosophical work a good bit. Ive been thinking about picking the critique up again but my interests shift like sand in the desert, I'm working on Wittgenstein right now. I do not think I am familiar with Kant's logic (other than the views in the critique) is that found in the Critique of Judgement?

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Kant was a notoriously poor writer, though perhaps this can be historically excused, as the condition of clarity for philosophy wasn't seen as necessary back then.
      That clarity is apparently not necessary today either; see continental philosophy. But yes he was a terrible writer, his ideas can certainly be expressed in a clearer way.

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Kant was also very wrong. Again maybe this can be excused on the basis of what seemed to be the historical context of the time. But the main reason to study him nowadays is as an example of how philosophy evolves... and in particular how erroneous strains emerge and disappear.
      Well I do think it is apparent that the majority of his assertions are erroneous but I'm sympathetic towards the view that we have innate spatial concepts. The parietal lobe processes sensory data giving us spatial awareness and the hippocamus integrates this into our short/long term memory. Obviously Kant was ignorant of neurology but I think it is clear that we do have innate concepts, which is what Kant was essentially saying (despite being wrong about the details).

    8. #8
      Xei
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      What you are saying is true and probably very important, but I think Kant's position, namely that we could deduce this a priori, was wrong and counter productive. I mean, those innate concepts are in a sense just as empirical, it's just that the mechanism is inter- rather than intra-generational... what Kant was really trying to do, which was to defeat Hume and put the great and seemingly pure success of science on rational foundations, was very much a dead end. So, the big picture of his ideas was wrong, and where he was right in the specifics he was basically right by chance, so there's very little to learn from him.

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