KyaryPamyu Posted October 25, 2022 Report Share Posted October 25, 2022 (edited) Confused? I'll summarize one of the main texts of the Kantian tradition. How compatible is the Kantian framework with Objectivism? You be the judge. The book is F.W.J. Schelling's System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), a famous work that enjoys the same status in the philosophical tradition as, let's say, Beethoven's Eroica symphony does in music. (Also check out Boydstun's thread on the same book, and some of his other explorations of Kantianism. ---------------- What causes the changes that occur in consciousness? Two possibilities: 1. Consciousness arises out of physical objects impinging upon physical organs or 2. The experience of being a spatio-temporal being is a thought, produced by the act of thinking. -------- According to Schelling (and his predecesors Kant and Fichte), neither possibility can be proved. Knowledge is contextual. If physicalism is the basic premise, then I have to explain consciousness in a way consistent with physicalism. Conversely, if thinking is the more fundamental premise, then I have to explain why I can't control some parts of my conscious experience, even though my premise says that I think all of my reality. Since we check the validity of a claim by verifying if it contradicts other stuff we know, we need something to start off with, some axioms. ---------------- Pros and cons of each starting principle To know is to identify something, e.g. I identify that I have five fingers on each hand. There has to be some things to identify out there, otherwise the identification faculty (consciousness) will get bored. Whatever you identify, you cannot deny the identification (consciousness) of that which you identify (identity/existence). Objectivism puts consciousness in a secondary role, on quite sensible grounds: - Consciousness is one of many things that may exist - Consciousness is, well, consciousness. There has to be something to identify, otherwise no identification occurs. This does miss an important detail though. Consciousness can study its own doing. This is what Rand did when developing her epistemology - she did things with her mind, then looked back at what she did and neatly documented it in ITOE. The possibility that Rand and Peikoff doesn't explore is this: the activity of producing thoughts, if it exists to begin with, can be conscious of its own self. Just as you, the reader, have a self-image (positive or negative). This other posibility will be the starting point of Schelling's system. As Fichte did, he treats philosophy like Geometry: you start with a theorem, which you then prove by actually constructing the figure. Here, the theorem is that self-consciousnss can only occur in the form of a spatio-temporal individual. Only through proceeding with the construction will the hypothesis be proven or disproven. ---------------- The transcendental deduction Don't confuse a transcendental deduction with a logical deduction. A transcendental deduction asks 'what allows this action to occur?' Let's say you teach a kid about apples. You place two apples in front of him, and point to both in succesion saying 'apple...apple'. The child points at them and repeats 'apple'. He's formed the concept 'apple' from experience, and now he can expand the concept to include other details, such as 'apples are a fruit', 'sweet', and so on. But, says Kant, that child wouldn't have been able to do that without the ability to distinguish one point in space from another. Despite the apples looking similar, the kid could tell they're not the same thing because one's there and the other's over there. Space is the condition for the ability to pick apples. If regular philosophers comment on the footbal game from the audience, the transcendental philosopher gets down-and-dirty by playing in the field. His method goes something like this: 1. He thinks something he wants to find the conditions for 2. While thinking it, his mind necessarily performs an additional act that enables the first act to be succesfully performed 3. He takes note of that additional act and freely recapitulates it. This causes yet another involuntary act to occur alongside it. 4. Rinse and repeat until the limit is reached. Kant was the first to perform such a deduction. He asked what the mind has to do in order to distinguish between two kinds of mental content: sensations from outside and sensations authored by the self. This is because both of them are united in the same self: I think both P and Q and therefore a differentiation is necessary. Rand says that Kant equivocates between content and form. This is certainly true under her framework, where the same content can be detected in many different forms. For instance, the same content - location - can be detected in forms such as sight (humans), echolocation (whales), and magnetoreception (pigeons). However, for Kant, the content is already taken care of by whatever detection mecahnism you have in place. That's the level of sensation. His concern is, in fact, with the form in which the difference between 'inner' and 'outer' sensations is grasped. To find out the answer, Kant does the only thing he can do, which is to study his own mind in the act of distinguishing the two. He concludes that categories such as quality, quantity and causality are needed for this. Note that he doesn't rule out the actual existence of quality and quantity, out there in the world. His argument is actually much more simple (paraphrasing his Critique) 'About my own mind, I know certain things for sure. I know that I must actually see Bob to know whether he's tall or not. Consciousness is my turf, hence I can do that kind of study. The external world is, well, not my turf. Only it could study itself like that'. Contra Peikoff, Kant's skepticism has nothing to do with the fact that consciousness grasps in a specific form, and thus all consciousness is disqualified from perceiving reality as it really is (even a godly consciousness). Amusingly enough, Peikoff himself takes a somewhat Kantian route in OPAR, on page 45 where he asks you to imagine that Quote scientists have discovered that the material world of three-dimensional objects possesing color, texture, size and shape is not a primary, but merely an effect, an effect of various combinations of puffs acting on men's means of perception. What would this sort of discovery prove philosophically? Ayn Rand holds that it would prove nothing. So the mental effect of shape and size corresponds to something out there. In this same way, Kant's theory of perceptual form doesn't pose any problem for this mind-reality correspondence. Regardless, Kant is concerned with studying the character of human knowledge. Metaphysics is for another discussion. ---------------- We now turn back to Schelling - which, I remind you, does not ground his proof on physicalism, but on the act of producing thoughts. He dispenses with the external world, which might or not exist - it's not his business anyway. If the act of producing thoughts tries to sense itself, here's what happens: - I think - I think that I think - I think that I think that I think Ad infintum. The activity of producing thoughts can only, well... produce thoughts. Sensing the production is not possible, except by representing it with yet another thought. The cycle goes on forever and ever. John Galt notes, in his speech, that consciousness has to already be there in order for you to identify it as consciousness. This is also true on an idealistic account. The sequence goes like this: 1. You produce the thought (obviously, you're aware of that thought) 2. You distinguish yourself as the thinker of that thought (self-consciousness) Now let's perform that transcendental deduction thingy. By studying my mind while performing that act of differentiation, I discover that I was able to distinguish myself as the thinker with the help of this criteria: - The thinking act is felt as being in my control. I can analyze, count, think about celebrity gossip etc. - The other side is felt as being outside of my control, i.e. indifferent to my wish. And, in turn, what are the conditions of this? The side that is recalcitrant to my will is represented as the limit to my 'jurisdiction' - extensity/space. And, just as Nature limits my turf, I in turn limit how far it can go by imposing my will upon it ('Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed'). Although my bondage to Nature is permanent, it's actually valid to say that progress can be made. In fact: - I cannot make progress unless there's something to make progress in (the boundary). - The 21st century is better than the Middle Ages, so there's progress even though the list of things I could improve goes on forever. The tracking of your progress, in turn, is going to be made possible by the Kantian categories (causality, quality, quantity etc.) You can look these up, because for now we'll move to the next crucial thing. ---------------- Selfhood (self-image) depends on two related 'shocks' to the self: 1. Distinguishing 'Self' from, well, non-self. We've already covered that. 2. Affirming oneself as oneself, not some other wannabe self. Expanding a bit on that, to recognize yourself you need Nature to serve as the foil, the 'not-self', which threatens your survival by not listening to your wishes, thus forcing you into a self-assertive, 'lord-over-nature' mode of operation. The natural companion (no pun intended) is the clash with other Selves. This makes you realize that whatever you think, see and feel applies to your consciousness only - this is the crucial condition for sensing yourself as an individual self. Fichte and Schelling stress that a 'self-as-such' is a mere abatraction. It can, in fact, only exist as an individual, embodied self. This has important political implications. If your will does not belong to you, then it will be part of somebody outside of your own self (slavery). To be free from others forcefully imposing on you, the Randian principle of physical force is a selfish necessity. ---------------- As stated before, any attempt to sense the production of thoughts simply ends up creating yet another drasted thought, forever and ever. The development of the universe, from its basic elements all the way to organic matter and the biosphere, represents the dialectic by which the Self continually 'improves' its mental representation of itself, but never quite makes it (as is to be expected). The philosophy of nature is yet another fascinating aspect of the system we'll have to skip for now. These abortive and self-refining attempts eventually lead, through an evolutiomary chain, to the human being, whose reasoning faculties allow it to trace back the history of self-consciousness by philosophizing. In other words, what we did just now. Turns out, this strategy doesn't work either. Recapitulating the history of self-consciousness is fine and all, but we started by wanting to sense thinking as a productivity. Philosophy responds 'sure, all you have to do is perform this roundabout feat of mental gymnastics, step after step after step, and you'll get to it for sure!'. ---------------- Riddle: can you be unconscious of having produced some part of your experience? Because this is the number one thing L. Peikoff will bring up when arguing for physicalism. He'll say that you can't control the features of your own consciousness. Then he'll conflate 'consciousness has identity' with physicalism. A possible alternative has been provided by the previous deduction, but we want something more concrete. Solution: Consciously produce something you don't recognize as your own. This solution turns to Kant's aesthetic theory, specifically his treatment of artistic genius. There's plenty of artists with baffling craftsmanship, but no poetry. And just as many artists with splendid sense but no skill. The genius is one for whom nature was so generous as to provide him/her with both. During the creation of a painting, a play, or even a whole mythology (as civilizations do), things go haywire and the artwork is infused with a kind of wisdom that the artist clealry doesn't possess. The kind of wisdom that applies universally to all epochs. The artist is not the author, and yet he is. Sounds familiar? Nature doesn't care whether its channel of expression - the artist - even knows what the hell his painting means. That painting is an instance of Nature being driven by its frustration to properly represent itself as a productivity, and not as a product - the same frustration that caused all of its other attempts. It finally succeeds within the world of art, because in an artwork, the unconscious wisdom that makes a clandestine appearance alongside the consciously executed parts is a document that attests for a Nature that produces on and on and on, without conscious awareness of doing so. This is the conclusion of the system. Since consciousness, through man, is finally able to grasp its nature as an unceasing productivity, the dialectic tensions come to a halt and 'infinite satisfaction' is achieved. It's no coincidence that Beauty is defined as a sense of harmony. Ayn Rand seems to agree. Edited October 25, 2022 by KyaryPamyu Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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