Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Gavagai

Critics of Pure Reason - any systematic criticism?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

I think it belongs here, though I'm not sure.

A sudden question came to my mind today: were there any critical studies of Kant's Critic of Pure Reason? I don't mean books which develope some of its points or even argue with them. I mean a book specifically devoted to following Kant's logic and checking it.

As far as I know, no such book was ever written even immediately after the Critics was published. A shocking fact - given the book's influence. All our contemporary mode of thinking stands on the system of ideas which nobody ever actually checked. And the arguments in the Critics are weak - I was shocked when, for example, I learned on how shaky and unserious foundation analythic/synthetic dichotomy is based. And this is the idea which for the most of my life I thought to be a self-evident truth - as millions of other people still do.

So, if anyone knows of such a book or even something remotely close - I would be interested to learn. If it is true that no such book exists - it would be interesting to learn what made it possible. Kant wasn't an all-important primary cause for the decline of philosophy but only the final link in the long chain of events. For example, why Kant got away with his light arguments for analythic/synthetic dichotomy? I think, because everyone was ready to accept it without any argument. Kant only gave a clear and definite form to the things which all others already implicitly accepted.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, it's called "The Cant of Kant, Decanted", by Prof....

Sorry, just being silly.

Seriously though, I agree: for the damage he's done to philosophy, politics and thinking, a total refutation is long overdue if there already isn't one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A sudden question came to my mind today: were there any critical studies of Kant's Critic of Pure Reason? I don't mean books which develop some of its points or even argue with them. I mean a book specifically devoted to following Kant's logic and checking it.

Kant was really sneaky or really evil in that he never made references to facts in his entire corpus, so checking what he says against the facts is rather pointless. It is better to have a rational philosophy than to give dissertations on why Kant is wrong in his entire approach -- which is a type of utterly disconnected rationalism made into skepticism. For example, Kant mentions "the sensory manifold" but never explains what he means by that, hence those who follow him try to fill in the blanks, so to speak. And once they start thinking like he does, they no longer refer to facts, so refuting them becomes a moot point as well. And he presents no evidence whatsoever for his noumenal world, that he claims is more real than the one we observe -- so how do you refute something like that other than what I just said? He presents no evidence, no reference to facts, just floating abstractions that people and philosophers get caught up into without realizing it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think it belongs here, though I'm not sure.

A sudden question came to my mind today: were there any critical studies of Kant's Critic of Pure Reason? I don't mean books which develope some of its points or even argue with them. I mean a book specifically devoted to following Kant's logic and checking it.

As far as I know, no such book was ever written even immediately after the Critics was published. A shocking fact - given the book's influence. All our contemporary mode of thinking stands on the system of ideas which nobody ever actually checked. And the arguments in the Critics are weak - I was shocked when, for example, I learned on how shaky and unserious foundation analythic/synthetic dichotomy is based. And this is the idea which for the most of my life I thought to be a self-evident truth - as millions of other people still do.

So, if anyone knows of such a book or even something remotely close - I would be interested to learn. If it is true that no such book exists - it would be interesting to learn what made it possible. Kant wasn't an all-important primary cause for the decline of philosophy but only the final link in the long chain of events. For example, why Kant got away with his light arguments for analythic/synthetic dichotomy? I think, because everyone was ready to accept it without any argument. Kant only gave a clear and definite form to the things which all others already implicitly accepted.

First, let's not forget that Kant was largely over-looked when he published the Critique. It only gained steam when, in a debate between two other philosophers, one of them referenced Kant's work. That debate became embroiled and drew the people involved to read Kant, which then became a sensation. So naturally, there would not be refutations of the whole corpus immediately after its publication--not to mention the fact that it's a massive book, that cuts deep into philosophy, and so requires a very careful study to understand let alone methodically refute. Schopenhauer largely attacked Kant, but you're probably looking for a refutation in the anglophone tradition. I can't think of anything off the top of my head, though Problems from Kant by van Cleeve is famous and might be critical.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kant was really sneaky or really evil in that he never made references to facts in his entire corpus, so checking what he says against the facts is rather pointless. It is better to have a rational philosophy than to give dissertations on why Kant is wrong in his entire approach -- which is a type of utterly disconnected rationalism made into skepticism. For example, Kant mentions "the sensory manifold" but never explains what he means by that, hence those who follow him try to fill in the blanks, so to speak. And once they start thinking like he does, they no longer refer to facts, so refuting them becomes a moot point as well. And he presents no evidence whatsoever for his noumenal world, that he claims is more real than the one we observe -- so how do you refute something like that other than what I just said? He presents no evidence, no reference to facts, just floating abstractions that people and philosophers get caught up into without realizing it.

But if one points out all the places where and in what way Kant's claims actually depend on experience but none is given - this by itself will be a refutation. I do think that it will be usefull.

First, let's not forget that Kant was largely over-looked when he published the Critique. It only gained steam when, in a debate between two other philosophers, one of them referenced Kant's work. That debate became embroiled and drew the people involved to read Kant, which then became a sensation.

I'm unfamiliar with this story. Can you please elaborate on it or give a link to such elaboration?

I can't think of anything off the top of my head, though Problems from Kant by van Cleeve is famous and might be critical.

Thank you. I will check it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I skimmed through van Cleeve's book, mentioned here, and immediately ran into the wonderfull:

The point of the previous paragraph may be made by invoking the familiar tripartite analysis of knowledge. Someone knows a proposition only if (i) he believes it, (ii) it is true and (iii) he is adequately justified in believing it… Experience may be necessary in either of the two ways I have mentioned – in many cases or even in all – for the obtaining of condition (i), the belief condition of knowledge. But if experience is not necessary in a given case for the obtaining of condition (iii), the justification condition, the knowledge will still qualify as a priory.

And now he divorces belief in a truth of a statement from logical proof of it. Really, these philosophers never stop surprising me.

EDIT: And the very next section is even better. I will not qoute it, sorry, as it is impossible to copy/paste from Googlebooks and reprinting it is rather boring. There the author discusses the necessary/contigent dichotomy. He explains it using this well-known vague metaphor that necessary truths are those which have to be true and contigent are those which need not to be true ("have to" and "need not" in what way? - blank out). This ALL explanation we are given. And after that he writes that he "will not try to eludicate these notions further" as "they are among the most familiar in philosophy" and he doubts that "anything much can be done to explain them to anyone who doesn't already has a grasp of them anyway".

And this is considered to be a serious work of philosophy?

Edited by Gavagai

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Really, contending with Kant means contending with Hume's positions, since Kant accepted Hume's arguments as valid and went from there. Are the senses valid? Can we know things "as they really are"? Why does an effect have to necessarily follow a cause?

Andrew Bernstein gave a course on the big four philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Kant and Rand. However, that appears not to be available at the Ayn Rand bookstore any longer. Nonetheless, if you go to http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com and do a key word search for "Kant" you will find several lectures and some books.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But if one points out all the places where and in what way Kant's claims actually depend on experience but none is given - this by itself will be a refutation. I do think that it will be usefull.

My math texts do not depend on experience in the same way, but I don't consider that a refutation of the text.

I'm unfamiliar with this story. Can you please elaborate on it or give a link to such elaboration?

At the end of "The silent decade" in the wiki article on Kant, it gives some details about this, as well as citations. I've also found other, slightly more embellished articles on the internet about this, but I can't remember where. A Google search using the information from the wiki article would probably turn some up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My math texts do not depend on experience in the same way, but I don't consider that a refutation of the text.

But mathematics can be traced back to the perceptually self evident, as in: 1 +1 +1 +1 = 4 (1's). There isn't anything in Kant that is ever treated that way and cannot be treated that way. He provides no discussion of facts, and makes no references to facts leading logically to his conclusions. His whole methodology is invalid, as is any "process of reasoning" divorced from the facts that gave rise to those concepts and propositions. His "pure reason" is mental processing divorced from observation; by intention it is not about reality, and he states that openly. Rationalism, especially of the Kantian type, ought to be rejected out of hand since it isn't saying anything about the facts of reality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't trace 100,000,000 x 5 to the perceptually self-evident because I've never seen (and known that I've seen) 100,000,000 of anything. You have to work purely from the concept of addition (and recursion), which you may come to understand by means of learning the language, but we've had this conversation a million times over and there's no point it flaring it back up because I find the whole thing pretty threadbare.

Philip Kitcher argues that math is an empirical science, he might have a good argument, but I know he's often just ego-bloated and stubborn so I'm not sure if I would find it worth-while looking into it. But his is the only argument to that effect that I've ever suspected of being well-formed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I can't trace 100,000,000 x 5 to the perceptually self-evident because I've never seen (and known that I've seen) 100,000,000 of anything. You have to work purely from the concept of addition (and recursion)

Really, if the math in our heads didn't work in practice, would that count as points against our heads, or against reality? In other words, if we all kept doing 3*5 and getting 17, but every time we count out 3 sets of 5 apples, we get 15, where's the problem? Should there be 17 apples, or should our mental calculation be 15? How do you decide which is wrong and what do you do to correct it?

How have we come to consider mathematical theory trustworthy?

Edited by brian0918

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's an extremely good, sophisticated question. My first thought in response is that there is probably a problem with the question. Is the hypothetical situation even meaningful? What would it be for mathematics in our heads to not work in practice? For instance, human beings are notoriously bad at calculating probabilities. There's a paradigm example of a person who witnesses a hit-and-run and identifies the car as green. 80% of the cars in that town are blue and 20% are green, but eye witnesses are 90% accurate at identifying the color of cars. What are the odds that the car was green? Most people who have not had a class in probability choose 90%, because that's how reliable witnesses are, and of those who don't pick 90% they usually pick some other percentage based on notably poor probability reasoning. It seems evolution decided we didn't have a particularly strong need to calculate probabilities, and yet our ability to do algebra (high school as well as abstract algebra) is--I think--remarkably strong. It takes some training and practice, but humans largely seem able to absorb and use it naturally. So does that mean that our heads have something wrong with them, that we calculate probabilities wrongly? Only in a superficial way, because obviously, some very intelligent people were able to find out the correct probability analysis.

The apples example is better. But then, what would our actions amount to? We do 3*5 and get 17, then get three sets of five apples and find 15. So we know something's wrong. We may re-count the apples or re-do the arithmetic, depending on which we are least confident about. So we go back to 3*5, but then how do we calculate this? Well it's 5+5+5, but then how do we calculate this? Well it's (1+1+1+1+1)+(1+1+1+1+1)+(1+1+1+1+1). So how do we calculate this? By thinking out the numbers in order, 1+1 = 2, 2+1 = 3 ... = 15. But then we have 15, unless we lose our place, but then that's not really the math going wrong but just our clumsiness. We could have made the same mistake with the apples. We could have had in our heads that 3*5 = 15 and yet count out three sets of five apples and get 17.

Perhaps a more bone-cutting example would be 1+1 = 2. Could we imagine getting this wrong, or it actually being true? I don't think so. I think it is just meaningless to talk about mathematics being wrong, or even to think outside of the terms of mathematics. To even engage in a conversation about mathematics you must assume some mathematical knowledge, so you get caught in a kind of circularity when you try to then use that language to talk about it being false or unworkable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would be interested in a reply to my last question.

As for the math in our heads being wrong - I was imaging people with mental defects that caused them to do basic math wrong. A whole society of such people would collapse rather quickly.

Edited by brian0918

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I took my response to at least give a first step in answering your second question as well--we find it trustworthy because it is the very method by which we think. To try to doubt it, or think of cases in which it is wrong or to think in terms that violate mathematics, is meaningless.

Based on that, I would propose that people with mental defects of that sort just don't have the tools necessary to talk about their being wrong. I mean, this would involve something other than carelessness, right? So we couldn't just say that when they compute 3*5 they just lose track of the numbers. It would have to be that they somehow can't understand 1+1 = 2, that they don't have the concept of quantity. It also wouldn't be enough if they have something systematic. If their addition always gave 1+1 = 2, 2+1 = 2, 2+2 = 3, 3+1 = 3, 3+2 = 4, 3+3 = 5, 3+4 = 6, ... This would actually be a working, if cumbersome, system of mathematics (of course, you wouldn't necessarily have all the same additive properties, and this operation would not be addition). But it might still be used for counting and performing some algebraic operations which are as useful as addition. What we are interested in this case must be that they really cannot understand mathematics in principle, so when they go to compute 3*5 and get 17, they cannot then go to the apples and consistently get 15, because that would require that they know how to count the apples, which is the same principle of mathematics which is involved in computing 3*5.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But the argument is not about some individual's "innate" ability to do higher mathematics in their head while others cannot even do simple arithmetic; this issue is where does mathematics come from, and it comes from observation and integration. While it is true that multiplication is reiterative addition and division is reiterative subtraction, without having either addition or subtraction firmly grounded in reality one isn't doing mathematics, but rather symbol manipulations. In Kant, one cannot even say the basics are grounded in reality because he outright rejects that the senses tell us anything about real reality -- which is why he proposes his noumenal world without any factual evidence for its existence. For Kant to have provided evidence would have conceded the argument to the Aristotelians, whom he abhorred with all his pseudo-mentality.

In the final analysis, Kant didn't say anything. All he did was to formalize a "philosophy" around the skeptic's arguments, but he added nothing to the debate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But the argument is not about some individual's "innate" ability to do higher mathematics in their head while others cannot even do simple arithmetic;

I believe Brian was using that topic to gain information about what mathematics is.

While it is true that multiplication is reiterative addition and division is reiterative subtraction, without having either addition or subtraction firmly grounded in reality one isn't doing mathematics, but rather symbol manipulations.

Those aren't the only two options, and very few philosophers and mathematicians have ever thought that mathematics is mere symbol manipulation (only Hobbes, and arguably some of the 19th and 20th century philosophers have, to my knowledge). Only slightly more philosophers have ever thought that mathematics was grounded in observation, so there is a vast and varied field of philosophy of mathematics which you are not even aware of.

In Kant, one cannot even say the basics are grounded in reality because he outright rejects that the senses tell us anything about real reality -- which is why he proposes his noumenal world without any factual evidence for its existence.

I don't understand your interpretation of Kant. Is the noumenal world a world--is it any part of reality? If so, then the senses tell us about reality, just not the thing-in-itself directly.

For Kant to have provided evidence would have conceded the argument to the Aristotelians, whom he abhorred with all his pseudo-mentality.

I don't recall Kant having a particular abhorrence for Aristotelianism. Greenberg even interprets Kant as a post-Hume Aristotelian.

In the final analysis, Kant didn't say anything. All he did was to formalize a "philosophy" around the skeptic's arguments, but he added nothing to the debate.

Kant added that human means of understanding are part of the description of any known facts. That was entirely original.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Only slightly more philosophers have ever thought that mathematics was grounded in observation, so there is a vast and varied field of philosophy of mathematics which you are not even aware of.

If mathematics is not grounded in the integration of perceptual level data, then what is it grounded in?

I don't understand your interpretation of Kant. Is the noumenal world a world--is it any part of reality? If so, then the senses tell us about reality, just not the thing-in-itself directly.

That is an invalid distinction. What do you mean by "a thing in itself" as opposed to what we observe something to be. Kant never explains this, so maybe you can.

I don't recall Kant having a particular abhorrence for Aristotelianism. Greenberg even interprets Kant as a post-Hume Aristotelian.

Kant abhorred going by the evidence in a logical (non-contradictory) manner; he makes no references to facts and evidence, which is completely anti-Aristotelian.

Kant added that human means of understanding are part of the description of any known facts. That was entirely original.

And that is incorrect. Our means of understanding are not part of what something is. We observe something for what it is, by means of our senses and perception. It is not our understanding that makes it what it is.

I think you'll have to explain your interpretation of Kant a little better by referencing it to the perceptually self-evident to make your position more clear. What evidence do you have that Kant was right about anything?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Number is the abstraction of the process of abstraction. It stands for the relationship of an entity to other entities, all of which have to be absolute and immutable in their defining characteristic, in that which permits them to be regarded as units subsumed under a single concept. Number is the concept that identifies the transition from "entity" to "unit," the mental transformation of a concrete, perceptual entity into the material to be integrated by a concept. Mathematics is the pattern (the blue print) of the conceptual level of man's consciousness—the abstract pattern of the process of concept-formation, in the sense that it isolates and identifies the process which man's mind has to perform in regard to every abstraction, every concept it reaches, regardless of the concretes involved—that is: the abstraction of "number" stands for any concrete entities regarded as "units" to be integrated into a concept which then becomes a new, single unit. (The concept "ten" is a single unit denoting a certain number of "ones"; the abstraction "man" is a single unit denoting "n number" of concrete men, that is: denoting a mathematical series to be extended into infinity, to subsume any number of men.)

The Journals of Ayn Rand

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tom, we've been over too much of that to rehash--I'll refer to the previous conversation.

As for Kant, the thing-in-itself is that which causes the events we experience, but which is not themselves those events. It is what our perception is about. I don't claim to agree with Kant, but so goes the thesis.

And whether right or wrong, the fact is that he did contribute to the conversation. I believe, on this account, he was right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The thing we observe is the entity that gives rise to our experience of it. There is no "thing-in-itself" as Kant used that terminology. There are entities, and we observe them with our senses. He gave no facts to back up his claim that there was something else there, and he wasn't referring to, say, wider frequencies that we cannot observe directly. If you believe Kant was right about this, then you are illogical and irrational because you have no evidence for something other than the way we perceive or observe it. There is no noumenal world and there is no noumenal self -- all that exists are entities, and we either observe them directly, or infer other things about them via observational facts. Kant is really a mystic, expecting you to follow him without any evidence whatsoever.

In other words, that rock you observe is the entity that gives rise to your observation of that rock; that cat is the entity that gives rise to your observation of a cat; that coke can is the entity that gives rise to that observation of a coke can. There is no rock-in-itself, no cat-in-itself, and not coke can in-itself. Entities are what they are and we observe them directly with our senses.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The thing we observe is the entity that gives rise to our experience of it. There is no "thing-in-itself" as Kant used that terminology. There are entities, and we observe them with our senses. He gave no facts to back up his claim that there was something else there, and he wasn't referring to, say, wider frequencies that we cannot observe directly. If you believe Kant was right about this, then you are illogical and irrational because you have no evidence for something other than the way we perceive or observe it.

I'm not going to argue that Kant was right, but you're being overly hasty in assuming that Kant assigns an ontological status to things in themselves. It's not like he's pointing to some set of purportedly noumenal entities and then telling us a fantastic story about them. Kant's point is that our perceptions and lived experience are pre-structured by a priori intuitions. To say that we never perceive a thing in itself is merely to say that we can't perceive things except in relation to our intuitions about space and time etc, the pre-structure of our consciousness. It's an entirely plausible reading of the Critique to say that when talk about things in themselves, we are employing a methodological abstraction of the object away from the epistemological conditions through which we come to know them (the pre-structure). This doesn't commit Kant to thinking that there are magical, unobservable entities hiding behind appearances. Henry Allison pursues this reading of Kant in "Kant's Transcendental Idealism" - which, to speak to the OP's topic, is a very comprehensive analysis of the first critique, albeit from a sympathetic perspective.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kant's point is that our perceptions and lived experience are pre-structured by a priori intuitions. To say that we never perceive a thing in itself is merely to say that we can't perceive things except in relation to our intuitions about space and time etc, the pre-structure of our consciousness. It's an entirely plausible reading of the Critique to say that when talk about things in themselves, we are employing a methodological abstraction of the object away from the epistemological conditions through which we come to know them (the pre-structure).

But there are no a priori intuitions. We have no knowledge or structures of existence before perception, and perception does not make space or time. It is not as if we have space and time pre-configured in our minds before observation. We are born tabula rasa and we learn concepts such as space and time by a process of measurement omission, just as we do with every other concept.

In a sense, what Kant was saying is that we can only observe existence by means of our means of awareness, and that because this is true then our perceptions are automatically distorted to the human form. But it is not a distortion is the Objectivist answer. We observe things as they are by means of our senses; and we are not born with a priori intuitions. We observe existence they way it really is and we form concepts. Also, space and time are not fundamental concepts -- they are wider abstractions. The fundamental concepts are first-level concepts such as dog, rock, and tree; or you can say the fundamental concepts are the Objectivist axioms (we are implicit at the beginning) -- existence, identity, and consciousness. In Objectivism, space and time are not a priori mental structures; and the axioms are also not a priori mental structures; because there are no a priori mental structures. We observe existence and we form concepts by a process of measurement omission.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We are born tabula rasa and we learn concepts such as space and time by a process of measurement omission, just as we do with every other concept.

This can't be true. Since there is no difference between the mind and the body, the brain is our mind and we are not born with an empty brain.

There has to be a preset starting point, like every system has.

How can meaningful thought emerge out of nothingness? There must be some ground rules that enable a baby to make sense out of what it's senses send to his mind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How can meaningful thought emerge out of nothingness? There must be some ground rules that enable a baby to make sense out of what it's senses send to his mind.

It's not emerging out of nothingness -- it is emerging out of observation and the ability to organize observations by an act of free will. A baby is born with perceptual abilities -- it is not something he needs to learn to do, except maybe how to focus his eyes, and I'm not even sure about that. They have no thoughts in their heads. They have a brain and the ability to perceive; that is what is given. The rest -- the conceptual side -- is created by each individual based upon what he observes and how he learns to use his own mind. We are not born with a mind full of concepts -- basic or otherwise; each concept has to be learned by each individual. And we are not born with a ready-made conceptual structure, but rather born with the ability to organize our own minds, though this doesn't become fully self-awareness until much later.

In other words, we are not born with a conceptual programming -- the programming of how to operate your mind was made by you, the individual who is conscious. Every concept in your head and every thought you have ever had was made by you -- you weren't born with it. I think you might be confusing the ability to perceive with the ability to conceive. Perception is automatic; conception is not, it is self-directed by an act of will.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...