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If I am not mistaken, Kant postulated that inherent in the human mind are several categories which shape the way we experience reality. I was just wondering, what is the Objectivist stance on this subject? I am certain that Objectivists repudiate such a theory, but I want to know why they do.

Thanks in advance.

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With regard to Kant's philosophy, I think intrinsic (belonging to a thing by its very nature) would be a better word than inherent (existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute). I don't think there's anything in Objectivist philosophy that refutes the idea of a mind having inherent qualities, but Ayn Rand did argue quite a bit against intrinsic knowledge, which is the same as causeless. For instance, my primary means of approaching problems is inherently analytical, but that is because of, not prior to, my experiences and education. Most peoples' minds do indeed share a great many inherent similarities in the manner in which knowledge about the universe is organized; communication would be very nearly impossible, or at least much less efficient, were that not so. It does not follow, however, that those patterns are present from birth. Rather, the similarities in our understanding reflect the fact that we are all attempting to understand the same reality based on inputs from the same five basic senses.

I just cracked open Critique of Pure Reason again for the purpose of answering this question, and the most coherent example of Kant's that I can find after a quick perusal is mathematics. He claims that understanding of basic mathematical truths is necessarily a priori, since we cannot define which experiences led to those truths. I would respond that those truths are inherent in reality, not intrinsic to the mind. Any healthy human mind would of course readily accept the proposition that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other, not because we are born with the knowledge, but because every experience we have of reality reinforces that proposition. Furthermore, once one gains a certain degree of philosophical clarity, it becomes evident that existence itself would not be possible were it not true.

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With regard to Kant's philosophy, I think intrinsic (belonging to a thing by its very nature) would be a better word than inherent (existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute). I don't think there's anything in Objectivist philosophy that refutes the idea of a mind having inherent qualities, but Ayn Rand did argue quite a bit against intrinsic knowledge, which is the same as causeless. For instance, my primary means of approaching problems is inherently analytical, but that is because of, not prior to, my experiences and education. Most peoples' minds do indeed share a great many inherent similarities in the manner in which knowledge about the universe is organized; communication would be very nearly impossible, or at least much less efficient, were that not so. It does not follow, however, that those patterns are present from birth. Rather, the similarities in our understanding reflect the fact that we are all attempting to understand the same reality based on inputs from the same five basic senses.

I just cracked open Critique of Pure Reason again for the purpose of answering this question, and the most coherent example of Kant's that I can find after a quick perusal is mathematics. He claims that understanding of basic mathematical truths is necessarily a priori, since we cannot define which experiences led to those truths. I would respond that those truths are inherent in reality, not intrinsic to the mind. Any healthy human mind would of course readily accept the proposition that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other, not because we are born with the knowledge, but because every experience we have of reality reinforces that proposition. Furthermore, once one gains a certain degree of philosophical clarity, it becomes evident that existence itself would not be possible were it not true.

Thank you a for the extensive reply. However, I still have some questions, so let me be more specific. In Kant's view--if I am not mistaken--things like space, time and causality are in the mind, as opposed to immanent features of reality. If he is correct, wouldn't reality be much, much different to the way which we perceive it to be?

Edited by Nicko0301
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That was precisely the point of my last sentence. As we're growing up, I think most of us really do believe in space, time, and causality, to the extent that we think of them at all, from a purely empirical standpoint, which is not sufficient as proof of anything beyond the fact that specific observations were made, and have not yet been contradicted. This could lead one to surmise that, as you said, the universe that exists is quite different from the one we perceive. I don't think Kant ever clarified in exactly what manner it would be different, but that's understandable, since he claimed it's unknowable anyway.

Logically, however, to exist is to possess an identity, and to possess identity is to have attributes. The attributes of an existent are expressed by the manner in which that existent interacts with other things that exist, which possess their own identities. This leads to the Objectivist law of causality, that entities behave according to their identities. As conscious entities existing in reality, it is impossible and contradictory to state that we can perceive anything except reality, however unique may be our manner of perception with respect to some other conscious entity. Anything that affects our perceptions is necessarily, and by definition, part of reality. Therefore we are indeed perceiving reality as it really is.

I hope I explained that clearly enough; it's been a minute since I last read Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology. If you're still uncertain, I recommend you read it for yourself, though I would be happy to continue this conversation as well; I need the practice.

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That was precisely the point of my last sentence. As we're growing up, I think most of us really do believe in space, time, and causality, to the extent that we think of them at all, from a purely empirical standpoint, which is not sufficient as proof of anything beyond the fact that specific observations were made, and have not yet been contradicted. This could lead one to surmise that, as you said, the universe that exists is quite different from the one we perceive. I don't think Kant ever clarified in exactly what manner it would be different, but that's understandable, since he claimed it's unknowable anyway.

Logically, however, to exist is to possess an identity, and to possess identity is to have attributes. The attributes of an existent are expressed by the manner in which that existent interacts with other things that exist, which possess their own identities. This leads to the Objectivist law of causality, that entities behave according to their identities. As conscious entities existing in reality, it is impossible and contradictory to state that we can perceive anything except reality, however unique may be our manner of perception with respect to some other conscious entity. Anything that affects our perceptions is necessarily, and by definition, part of reality. Therefore we are indeed perceiving reality as it really is.

I hope I explained that clearly enough; it's been a minute since I last read Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology. If you're still uncertain, I recommend you read it for yourself, though I would be happy to continue this conversation as well; I need the practice.

Thank you! You actually just clarified the matter perfectly for me! I had forgotten about the Law of Identity and what that meant in regard to Causality.

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Therefore we are indeed perceiving reality as it really is.

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We are perceiving the part of reality our senses respond to. But our senses are bandwidth limited, and have limited precision. Which is why we don't perceive atoms. They are too small for our eyes to see. And it is why we don't perceive ultra-violet light. That is radiation at a frequency our eyes cannot respond to. For the part of reality we don't perceive we are compelled to resort to inference from the part of reality we do perceive.

All in all we do pretty well at it. With our best instruments we are within fifteen orders of magnitude of Planck Length which is where all our physics blows up. If our senses err, they are errors of omission, not errors of comission.

Bob Kolker

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