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Rand and Kant Being Friends

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On 10/25/2022 at 4:50 PM, KyaryPamyu said:

The 'main thesis' is that Kantianism and Objectivism share some points of affinity, despite being grounded in quite incompatible premises. This affinity is not restricted to any topic in particular.

And if you want to make a very general point that there are some points of affinity, then your main thesis really is centered around the way that you think Oists get Kant wrong, and fixing that. This seems partially motivated by interest in German philosophers, in the sense that you want to share the value and insight you have found from reading them. All of these things are fine. 

If you really want to dive into philosophical thought here, and really mine the value from these philosophers, you should consider more about the technical terms that you use to explain your thoughts to yourself and others. Otherwise, just don't use the technical terms - if you need the technical terms, then you aren't presenting in language that a layperson can understand. I'm saying this because what you write is interesting, but I was disappointed because you didn't engage 2046 on what you called academic technicalities. 

 

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21 minutes ago, necrovore said:

What I'm describing is a specific way of reading Kant and other philosophers, and it is itself a product of the Objectivist epistemology.

Nothing wrong with that. In fact, this is one of the most valuable things one could learn from Objectivism. 

However, if a method is good, it doesn't follow that its application is free from error. Humans are fallible, after all. In The Art of Thinking, Peikoff gives a lecture about how to extract the essentials of a philosophy, movie, book and such. As a demonstration, he uses the method on Kant's philosophy - and gets it wrong. Although the essential premise he identifies is indeed bogus ('consciousness has identity = consciousness is invalid), he's wrong in attributing it to Kant. If you're curious why, check out this resource.

28 minutes ago, necrovore said:

That's one reason why students of other philosophies might find it surprising; they might not be thinking in that way (in terms of essentials, or "essentials as defined by Objectivism" as they might put it).

Students aside, (most) professionals do indeed think in terms of essentials. This is why their papers have such a 'premium' feel to them - that quality and clarity is the result of many years of trial and error.

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2 minutes ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Nothing wrong with that. In fact, this is one of the most valuable things one could learn from Objectivism. 

However, if a method is good, it doesn't follow that its application is free from error.

Yes, that is true in general.

However, this sounds like a possible case of Kant not realizing the full implications of his own ideas, and leaving that to his successors to work out...

I also wanted to add something else: sometimes a philosopher with some large-scale mistakes nevertheless has a good idea.

The philosopher may justify it incorrectly but that doesn't mean no correct justification exists.

The philosopher may also justify it correctly but "undermine" that justification in another piece of writing, like correctly proving that something is true in one paper, and in another, disputing the idea that anything can be proved.

It can be interesting and worthwhile to find good ideas and then, if necessary, work out the proper justification. However, sometimes doing so is a lot of work...

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19 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

if you need the technical terms, then you aren't presenting in language that a layperson can understand

I agree, which is why I exclude 98% of all such terms, including: apperception, real activity, limiting activity, ideal-realism, criticism and the like. Simply explaining those is fine for a layman-style presentation. A notable exception is the part about starting points: dogmatism vs. idealism, and you saw where that went.

21 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

I'm saying this because what you write is interesting, but I was disappointed because you didn't engage 2046 on what you called academic technicalities. 

Thanks, and I'm glad you find it interesting. If you find some things to be lacking, then this is Schelling's most covered book in the english-language literature.

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28 minutes ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Students aside, (most) professionals do indeed think in terms of essentials. This is why their papers have such a 'premium' feel to them - that quality and clarity is the result of many years of trial and error.

It is possible for some professionals to integrate things "only up to a certain point," which is still integration and can still be valuable as far as it goes. Such professionals make genuinely impressive identifications while simultaneously "missing the big picture."

One of the big things about Rand was that she insisted in going all-in on integration. Essentials can form a hierarchy and she thought the broadest possible ones were the most important.

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1 hour ago, Doug Morris said:

What is the definition of "ontology" here?

 

Hey hey no technical jargon here you elitist!

By the way, since this was a point under contention in this thread, I'd like to post ARs comments on this, from a letter to John Hospers:

Quote

You write: “sometimes they (the teachers) seem to be concerned with minor or trivial points, especially when they employ technical language, as they must do to make progress in their particular field of knowledge.” You imply that this is what I would oppose. Far from it: I hold that no point is minor or trivial, in any field of knowledge—I hold that philosophers, above all, must be as meticulously precise as it is possible to be, and I am in favor of the most rigorous “hairsplitting,” where necessary—I hold that philosophy should be more precise than the strictest legal document, because much more is at stake—and I am in favor of the most technical language, to achieve such precision. But: I hold that minor or trivial points cannot be studied ahead of their major or basic antecedents—I hold that precision in the discussion of consequences is worthless, if it starts in midstream and leaves in a state of undefined, unidentified fogginess those matters which are known to be the causes of such consequences—and I hold that technical language is subject to the same rule as layman language, or slang, or anything that is to be defined as language, namely: that it must refer to reality and must denote something specific; if it does not, it is not language, but inarticulate sounds.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

On Walsh on Rand on Kant – Between Metaphysics and Science

That 2010 paper of mine can be read at the site linked above. 

I have completed the new intense paper on the paper of George Walsh and the comments on Walsh by Fred Miller at the 1992 session of the Ayn Rand Society. My 2010 paper was not bad and is one slice through the Walsh presentation of Kant's philosophy and Walsh's criticisms of Rand's understanding and representation of Kant in metaphysics and epistemology. My new paper is entirely different from the 2010 one in the new one's treatment of Walsh's paper, Rand's misunderstandings, and the real clashes between Kant and Rand. Plus the new paper treats Miller's comments on Walsh, which the old paper did not. I expect my new paper to be accepted for publication, and if that is so, I'll link to it here when that issue of the journal comes out.

Walsh & Miller copy.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

 

Dipert & Seddon on Kant v. Kelley/Rand

Let KrV stand for Kritik der reinen Vernunft = Critique of Pure Reason. In citations A designates the first edition (1781), and B designates the second edition (1787).

 

~Kelley and Rand on Kant

In his excellent book The Evidence of the Senses (ES), David Kelley included some remarks on Immanuel Kant’s mature theoretical philosophy by way of contrast with the realist theory of perception which Kelley had developed within the metaphysical and epistemological framework of Ayn Rand. Dr. Kelley’s book assimilates pertinent modern cognitive science up to the year of its publication 1988. It engages contemporary philosophers and classic modern ones Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.

"The theories of perception of John Locke and Immanuel Kant, of A. J. Ayer and Wilfred Sellars, derive as much from general assumptions about the nature of cognition as from any facts about perception in particular. . . . /  The fundamental question in this respect is whether consciousness is metaphysically active or passive by nature. Is consciousness creative, constituting its own objects, so that the world known depends on ourselves as knowers; or is it a faculty of response to objects, one whose function is to identify things as they are independently of it? In Ayn Rand’s terms, it is a question of the primacy of consciousness versus the primacy of existence: do the contents of consciousness depend on the subject for their existence or identity, or do the contents of consciousness depend on external objects?" (ES 8 )

I’ll take it that by “contents of consciousness” it would be a poor analogy to think of the contents of my coffee mug. Surely that would be lame. The woods outside my window that I can see are out there, not inside my consciousness ticking along and located here with me at the computer; whereas, the coffee in my mug is simply in that mug. “Contents of consciousness” would be more sensibly analogized with an electronic, compact-disc recording of a song, where said song is analogue of the object of an object-tracking episode of consciousness. The song is gotten into the recording from outside the recorder and put again outside when the CD recording is played. Actions vis-a-vis the song are required to get a recording of it. Actions of ours and the CD player are required for the song to reappear.

Kelley erred badly in the following representation of Kant:

“Kant begins by distinguishing appearance from reality. We are directly aware, he says, only of appearances—or phenomena, as he calls them. These exist only as the representational content of experience and are thus to be contrasted with noumena, or things as they are in themselves, things as they are apart from our experience.” (ES 21)

Appearance, experience, phenomena, and noumena are technical terms in Kant’s idealism, which can be variously called Critical, Formal, or Transcendental Idealism. Kant’s use of appearance in his mature philosophy (KrV and beyond) is not in contrast to reality, but to things as they are in themselves. Appearances, in Kant’s sense, are  presented to us as they are in us. They are nothing unreal. They are real, though not what Kant would call objectively real in themselves or what we should call real as existents external to consciousness. Combined with consciousness of them, appearances are perceptions. There is an active power in us that synthesizes an order for appearances and makes them coherent and apprehensible for us, that is, makes them empirical experience (A120, A124).

By Kant’s lights, we have also an enduring ‘I’ of pure apperception that is correlate of all presentations to us insofar as we become conscious of them. This attendant pure apperception makes apprehended appearances intellectual (A124). These contain concepts, and this pure apperception “makes possible the formal unity of experience and with it all objective validity (truth) of empirical cognition” (A125). This pure apperception bringing sensible presentations under one consciousness “precedes all cognition of the object, as the intellectual form of that cognition, and itself amounts to a formal a priori cognition of all objects as such insofar as they are thought (the categories)” (A129).

Phenomena in Kant’s sense, are appearances insofar as these are thought as objects according to the unity of the categories (A249). Phenomena are nothing unreal.

Contrary the implication of Kelley’s brief sketch above, things as they are in themselves are not necessarily identically noumena, though it should be stressed that, in Kant’s system, neither is knowable by us. Things in themselves and noumena can be thought, but not known. Noumena was a technical term of philosophy not original with Kant. Noumenal objects in metaphysics had been such things as God, monads, and the immortal human soul. Their access had been by intellect, and a crucial part of that process of access had been taken to be a human power of intellectual intuition. Kant denied we have that power. We have sensible intuitions alone. These are the immediately grasped singular presentations of the senses, and all our knowledge of the world is ultimately from these. Things in themselves in Kant’s meaning are the things that appearances are the appearances of. But according to Kant, we should not be looking to appearances and the phenomenal to the end of learning what are things in themselves. That is not the prize we should seek in our sound inquiries.

Rand and we should agree with that last point of Kant’s, but for a radically different reason. Things in themselves did not mean for Kant and his predecessors only things as they are independently of our discernment of them. It meant more generally things as they are devoid of any relations to other things. As has been noted earlier on this forum, in Galt’s Speech, Rand booted the general notion of things in themselves and replaced it with simply things as they are. In her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, she articulated some additional metaphysics, and among these additions was the thesis that no existent is without relation to other things. A thing purported to stand in no such relations would be nothing (ITOE 39). The correct and easy inference we ought draw is that things in themselves are not things as they are. We know some of the things as they are, we aim to discover more of them, and any contention that there are any things as they are unknowable to us bears the burden of proof. That is a heavy burden, considering that there are no things as they are which do not stand in some external relations. Things “are not such that nothing that pertains to one kind is related to another, but there is some relation” (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1075a16–17).

I should say: Things in themselves are not things as they are independently of our discernments of them nor things as they are when we discern them. There are no things in themselves. Then too: Kant affirmed there are things in themselves, and this puts him in an untenable position of supposing that things in themselves are as in no relations to things not themselves, yet saying things in themselves stand in an undergirding-relation to appearances.

Kelley makes an understandable error concerning Kant, which is partly due to the Kemp Smith translation of KrV. Of things as they are in themselves, apart from all the receptivity of our senses, we know nothing. “We know nothing but our mode of perceiving them” (A42 B59). The translation of Pluhar reads “All we know* is the way in which we perceive them. (*–More literally, ‘are acquainted with’: kennen.).” The translation of Guyer reads “We are acquainted with nothing except our way of perceiving them.” The Kemp Smith translation, now overrun by the later ones, had made Kant out to be more subject-sided than he was. To be sure, Kant flirts with the empirical idealism of Berkeley by that statement, under any of these translations, when we take the statement from its full context. Kelley quotes the text preceding the statement and italicizes the statement to emphasize it. Kelley takes the passage as supporting his view, coinciding with Rand’s, that for Kant it is because our faculties of awareness have a specific identity, we cannot know things as they are in themselves.

Like Rand, having supposed that appearance is in contrast to things as they are, having slipped from things as they are in themselves to things as they are, Kelley concluded that the view of Kant implies we cannot know the real (leaving aside mathematics) because all our knowing is by specific means (ES 22). I say that in the context of Rand’s philosophy, as we have shown, one should never make the slip of taking things in themselves as things as they are. Rand, Branden, Kelley, and Peikoff all made that slip and wrongly concluded that Kant’s system entails our inability to know reality, systematically so.

Kant’s statement highlighted by Kelley shifts focus from things as they are perceived by us to the mode or way of our perception. That the statement was exactly right for Kant to say, within his own treatment of perception, is belied by the text following the statement:

“We are acquainted with nothing except our way of perceiving them, which is peculiar to us, and which therefore does not necessarily pertain to every being, though to be sure it pertains to every human being. We are concerned solely with this. Space and time are its pure forms, sensation in general its matter. We can cognize only the former a priori, i.e., prior to all perception, and they are therefore called pure intuition; the latter, however, is that in our cognition that is responsible for it being called a posteriori cognition, i.e., empirical intuition. The former adheres to our sensibility absolutely necessarily, whatever sort of sensations we may have; the latter can be very different. Even if we could bring this intuition of ours to the highest degree of distinctness we would not thereby come any closer to the constitution of objects in themselves. For in any case we would still completely cognize only our way of intuiting, i.e., our sensibility, and this always only under the conditions originally depending on the subject, space and time; what the objects may be in themselves would still never be known through the most enlightened cognition of their appearance, which alone is given to us.” (KrV A42–43 B59–60 [Guyer])

Kant, then, was not claiming that the “matter” of percepts, which varies with what is perceived in our different episodes of perception, are from the side of the subject; only spatial and temporal form in such percepts originates from the constitution of the subject. Yet that is not the impression one gets if one attends only to “We are acquainted with nothing except our way of perceiving them” or “We know nothing but our mode of perceiving them.” Our perceptions have a matter to them, in Kant’s full view, and this does not come from the subject. Of course, it is bad enough that Kant tried to pose space and time as orders purely from the constitution of the perceiving subject, and Rand and Kelley were surely right to challenge that doctrine.

Kelley understood that Kant had not taken objects in our perceptions to be sourced in the mind. But Kelley supposed this to hold only for the phenomenal mind. Kelley took Kant to be sourcing objects of perception in the mind as it is in itself, not the mind knowable to us (ES 24). Kelley took that to be the way in which Kant’s idealism differed from Berkeley’s. I don’t think that is such a really great difference considering that that would merely displace Berkeley’s mind of God with the unknowable human mind as it is in itself. Kant argued in Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783) that in his Critique he had not argued skepticism of the objects of experience; he had argued that and how we have some a priori cognition of the objects of experience. This Kant had done by arguing that space and time are not empirical presentations, but a priori forms necessary for any experience of objects. Space and time for Kant are ideal, but not because the material world is ideal. By the time of writing the Prolegomena, Kant called his type of idealism not simply transcendental. He called his idealism additionally formal, in contrast to Berkeley’s dogmatic or material idealism.

Kelley wrongly represented Kant as holding that “the criterion of objectivity is universal agreement among subjects, or intersubjectivity” (ES 26). In Prolegomena Kant had observed “there would be no reason why other judgments necessarily would have to agree with mine, if there were not the unity of the object—an object to which they all refer, with which they all agree, and, for that reason, also must harmonize among themselves” (1783, 298; see also A820–23 B848–51; 1786, 144–46). In Critique of Practical Reason, Kant reiterates that “universality of assent does not prove the objective validity of a judgment (i.e. its validity as cognition) but only that, even if universal assent should happen to be correct, it could still not yield a proof of agreement with the object; on the contrary, only objective validity constitutes the ground of a necessary universal agreement” (1788, 13).

Prof. Randall R. Dipert (1951–2019) criticized Dr. Kelley’s representations of Kant in ES in a Review Essay in Reason Papers (1987). In the sequel, I shall examine Dipert’s criticisms as well as the later criticisms of Kelley’s Kant by Prof. Fred Seddon, who bannered quite a bit of distinctive common ground between Kant and Rand, quite more than should win assent by her or Kelley or by me (or Hill 2005).

(To be continued.)

References

Aristotle, c. 348–322 B.C.E. Metaphysics. Joe Sachs, translator. 1999. Santa Fe: Green Lion Press.

Hill, K. 2005. Seddon on Rand. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. 7(1):203–7.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. Werner Pluhar, translator. 1996. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.

——. Paul Guyer, translator. 1998. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

——. 1783. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics that Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science. Gary Hatfield, translator. 2001. In Immanuel Kant – Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

——. 1788. Critique of Practical Reason. Mary Gregor, translator. In Immanuel Kant – Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kelley, D. 1986. The Evidence of the Senses – A Realist Theory of Perception. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

Edited by Boydstun
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On 12/15/2022 at 4:47 AM, Boydstun said:

Things in themselves did not mean for Kant and his predecessors only things as they are independently of our discernment of them. It meant more generally things as they are devoid of any relations to other things.

Stephen, do you know if Kant's argument about a 'universal grammar' has been adressed in O'ist literature? I'm curious how this could be tied to Rand's argument about axiomatic foundations. I mean this argument:

1. Human experience is comprised of two kinds of appearances: sense perception and concepts
2. Sensations are passively received.
3. Concepts are actively formed. Essences (distinguishing characteristics) are epistemological, not metaphysical.
4. 'Experience' is a freely formed concept; sensations do not exhibit an essence of 'experience', much like chairs do not exhibit 'chairness'.
5. Just as adding 'chairness' to observed phenomena makes it look as if 'chairness' actually exists out there, adding 'experience' (along with the implied notion of experincer) to raw sense data does the same thing.
6. All conceptual thought follows the universal grammar of quality, quantity, relation and modality. E.g. the sentence 'if lightning strikes, thunder will sound' exhibits:

  • The quantity of universality: the statement applies to every possible instance of lightning.
  • The quality of affirmation: it affirms (rather than denies) that property of lightning.
  • A hypothetical relation ('If-then'), as opposed to the simple declarative or disjunctive ('either-or') relation.
  • The modality of necessity: a certain event (thunder) will follow upon another, based on a rule.

7. All perception is colored by this universal grammar. The table of categories is simply the table of judgements applied to sense data.

--------------
The above argument rests on the notion that thought has an innate, fixed structure - as long as you're a human being, no thinkable thought is exempt from a universal grammar. Putting this in Randian terms, you must use this grammar to deny it. I've been wondering lately whether Rand's metaphysics, in a similar vein, starts by identifying the limits of thinkability (for example axiomatic concepts and innate faculties like measurement) and simply runs with it.

(I wonder how the history of western philosophy would have turned out if eastern philosophy entered the discussion much earlier than it did).

Edited by KyaryPamyu
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On 4/18/2020 at 4:58 PM, Boydstun said:

 

PNC Ground Shifts to the Side of the Subject – Kant I

. . .

“Hence, also, it follows that the universal and necessary laws of thought can only be concerned with its form, not in anywise with its matter. The science, therefore, which contains these universal and necessary laws is simply a science of the form of thought. And we can form a conception of the possibility of such a science, just as a universal grammar which contains nothing beyond the mere form of language, without words, which belong to the matter of language.”

That last sentence gives us some idea of what Kant means by saying that reflection on the exercise of the understanding enables us to discern absolutely necessary rules of our thought such as the constraint against contradictions. This reflection, then, is Kant’s replacement for Aristotle’s ‘intuitive induction’. Before school age, we follow elementary grammar in speaking our native language. We conform to that language’s grammar a good deal, and it has become habitual. We learn expressly what grammatical forms we are following and should be following from grammar school (after we have learned to write). Some earlier humans had to have reflected on the language, such as Latin or German, to have discovered its grammar. Kant’s analogy on the use, express statement, and normativity of grammar with the use, express statement, and normativity of logic that Jäsche and Abbott here publicize is corroborated as standard in Kant’s lectures on logic by student notes, the Bloomberg (early 1770’s), the Dohna-Wundlacken (1792), and the Vienna. The D-W notes indicate that because logic must contain a priori principles, “logic is a science and grammar is not, because its rules are contingent” (page 432 in Young 1992). I should mention that in Kant’s various remarks on logic, talk of the necessary v. the contingent is shorthand for (what is earlier stated as) the absolutely necessary v. the contingently necessary.

Kant penned an incomplete monograph (published after his death in 1804) What Real Progress Has Metaphysics Made in Germany Since the Time of Leibniz and Wolff? Therein he writes: “As grammar is the resolution of a speech-form into it’s elementary rules, and logic a resolution of the form of thought, so ontology is a resolution of knowledge into the concepts that lie a priori in the understanding, and have their use in experience . . . .” (page 354 of Henry Allison translation in Cambridge’s Kant Theoretical Philosophy after 1781). In Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics that Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science (1783), Kant writes of how he discerned those fundamental a priori concepts of the understanding that are used in human intelligibility in experience:

“To pick from ordinary cognition the concepts that are not based on any particular experience and yet are present in all cognition from experience (for which they constitute as it were the mere form of connection) required no greater reflection or more insight than to cull from a language rules for the actual use of words in general, and so to compile the elements for a grammar (and in fact both investigations are very closely related to one another) without, for all that, being able to give a reason why any given language should have precisely this and no other formal constitution, and still less why precisely so many, neither more nor fewer, of such formal determinations of the language can be found at all.” (ibid. 115, translator Gary Hatfield)

Hobbes had it that wit is ‘quick discernment of similitude in things otherwise much unlike, or of disimilitude in things that otherwise appear the same.” Locke followed up with this: “Wit lying most in the assemblage of ideas, and putting those together with quickness and variety, wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity, thereby to make up pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the fancy. Judgment, on the contrary, lies quite on the other side, in separating carefully, one from another, ideas wherein can be found the least difference, thereby to avoid being misled by similitude, and by affinity to take one thing for another.” Rand, Peikoff, and Gotthelf express views on judgments concerning concptual-level similarities in an exchange with Nicholas Bykovetz (Prof. C) in the transcripts of her epistemology seminar (ITOE Appendix, 220–22).

I want to spend some time digging into texts, KyaryPamyu, to reply to your picture in the preceding post. I had written you a quick complete reply shortly after your post, but I had composed it right here directly, and after a couple of maneuvers, I lost what I had composed. But then I realized it was just as well, because it would be more useful to be exact and dig into texts, rather than relying on memory and inexact expression of positions. So it will be a while yet before I reply, but that is underway in happy harmony with composing the next installment (Dipert v. Kelley) in the paper begun above, which will include (3rd installment) the treatment by Prof. Seddon on similarities of Kant and Rand.

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Dipert & Seddon on Kant v. Kelley/Rand (cont.)

~Dipert on Kelley’s Kant~A

(To be followed by Dipert~B, then installment on Seddon on Kelley's Kant.)

Prof. Dipert’s paper is not only a criticism of Kelley’s Kant in ES, it is an examination of the theory of perception that is the objective of Kelley’s book.[1] I want to examine both (a) the direct criticisms that Dipert makes on Kelley’s representation and analysis of Kant and (b) the issues Dipert takes up in Kelley’s theory of perception, their fate in subsequent scientifically informed philosophy of perception and how Kant’s philosophy and Kelley’s philosophy fair in light of those developments.

Kelley had written that Kant’s doctrines that space and time are forms of the perceptual faculty, subjective things imposed on the manifold of sensations, are applications of Kant’s doctrine that because consciousness has a specific constitution and has specific functional operations, consciousness cannot passively mirror the world outside. I observe that that is not among the arguments Kant gives for the ideality of space and time in the outset of KrV in his Transcendental Aesthetic. Kelley does not deal with those arguments, which is understandable since his book is about philosophy of perception.

I should mention, however, that for Objectivism, Leonard Peikoff had argued against a doctrine of Kant’s which Kant had set out within his the prelude to the Transcendental Aesthetic. That is the division of judgments into either synthetic ones or analytic ones. Rand and Peikoff had also argued a point with which Objectivists could sensibly approach Kant’s arguments on space and his proposed source of necessity in geometry. That point is that there is no such thing as strictly a priori knowledge, and those  arguments against a priori knowledge would go not only to alleged examples of analytic a priori knowledge (viz., logic), but to the synthetic a priori sort of knowledge devised by Kant specifically to  characterize geometrical knowledge, and subsequently to characterize an allegedly “pure” part of physics and any right metaphysics.[2]

In order to supersede Kant’s philosophy of mathematics, together with his ideality of space, an Objectivist philosophy of mathematical knowledge must be adduced. No such adequate theory has been forthcoming, and Kelley, like Rand, omitted direct counters to Kant’s arguments in the Transcendental Aesthetic, though he had the tools for setting aside Kant’s own epistemology of geometry. Dipert stresses this neglect in Kelley’s engagement with Kant’s arguments (1987, 60–61, 68–69).

It should not be thought, I say, contrary Kelley’s contention, that Kant’s doctrines that space and time are forms of the perceptual faculty, subjective things imposed on the manifold of sensations, are applications of Kant’s doctrine that because consciousness has a specific constitution and specific functional operations, consciousness cannot passively mirror the world outside. Firstly, that is not doctrine correctly ascribed to Kant at all. Kant’s reason for thinking we cannot access things as they are in themselves and the things that are noumena was because he denied we a have a power of pure intellectual intuitions, on which his predecessors had rested our ability to access such things. Unlike the divine understanding, “our kind of intuition is dependent on the object, and hence is possible only by the object affecting the subject’s capacity to present.”[3] Our power of intuition is only sensory intuition.

Secondly, Kant has given in the Transcendental Aesthetic his reasons for concluding that space and time are forms of the perceptual faculty, subjective things imposed on the manifold of sensations. Those reasons, as I said, do not include consciousness having a specific constitution and specific functional operations.

Dipert disdained Kelley’s and Rand’s fundamental metaphysical constraint of the primacy of existence, taken for manifest in everyday direct perception of the world (Dipert 1987, 61). Just because we do not experience the perceptual scene as being of our own creation is, according to Dipert, no showing that it is not. This attitude strikes me as rationally inverted. Driving along the roadway we can see the objects nearer the road are whizzing by faster than the ones farther away, and we can readily account for this by considering the entire spatial configuration and our movement in it. That is, we can intellectually discern that the perceptual phenomenon, just as we directly perceived, is due in part to our own motion.

We can perceive also directly that we are sitting stationary in the seat of the vehicle and not creating that apprehension either. We need not get silly and start with the differential whizzing-speed phenomena and try to demonstrate that configurations in space are independent of the participation of our persons in them nor independent of our conscious registrations of spatial configurations. Nor prove that our apprehension of being stationarily seated in the vehicle is not something constructed and projected from our own heads.

We have ways of teasing out particular elements in our perceptions that depend upon our own location, state of motion, or perceptual system. Such would be the enlargement we have of the moon near the horizon in our perception of it. We take a photograph of the witnessed scene, and it shows no such enlargement. Similarly, with the Mach-band illusion we experience when we carefully cut out a particular chit of gray from a number of those color strips you can get at the paint store. Placing the chits of the same grey we have cut out side-touching-side snugly on a table before us, it will appear that the grey darkens near the abutting edges. And we know perfectly well that each of those chits was uniform in its grayness all over its surface. Unlike the moon illusion, science has identified how the Mach-band effect comes about: through the pattern of circuitry (lateral inhibition) of the receptor neurons of the retina. But when it comes to idealism, there has to be a general argument given for it, as Kant provided, aiming to show that all percepts or fundamental facets of all percepts are in some systematic way contributed by the conscious subject.

Kant sensibly did not dispute that we experience space as given to us, not created by us and put about us by our minds. The challenge he took upon himself was to argue this impression is not durable under careful examination. The challenge he leaves for us (which he thought impossible to accomplish) is to find a way in which the character of what we do in geometry and the character of the results could be accounted for by some method empirical (e.g. Locke/Feder) or rational (e.g. Aristotle/Wolff), rather than by his own subject-heavy account. Dipert rightly noted that that is a challenge Kant leaves for realists and that Objectivists have not risen to this challenge.[5]

I have mentioned two tools an Objectivist should bring to an analysis and critique of Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic: non-existence of a priori knowledge and Peikoff’s way of toppling the mutually exclusive division of knowledge between the analytic and the synthetic, in “The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy,” coupled with Peikoff’s remarks therein on necessity in knowledge. Bring along also Kelley’s account of perception, perceptual form, and his account of how percepts are made from sensations. These Kelley accounts are possible replacements and improvements for Kant’s notion of and use of sensory intuition.

(To be continued)

Notes

[1] Dipert, R. R. 1987. David Kelley’s Evidence of the Senses: A Realist Theory of Perception. Reason Papers 12:57–70. Since the time of Kelley’s book, philosophy of perception has been a very active area. A distinguished book defending realism is A. D. Smith’s The Problem of Perception (2002). Other eminent works in philosophy of perception since ES: The Contents of Visual Experience (2010) by Susanna Siegel; Does Perception Have Content? (2014) edited by Berit Brogaard; The Unity of Perception (2018) by Susanna Schellenberg; and Perception: First Form of the Mind (2022) by Tyler Burge. (It would be ridiculous to call Burge's book a milestone work; it is a light-year marker.) Also pertinent to Kelley and to Dipert on Kelley: Hallucination – Philosophy and Psychology (2013) edited by Macpherson and Platchias; Dreaming (2015) by Jennifer Windt; Skepticism and the Veil of Perception (2001) by Michael Huemer; The Case for Qualia (2008) edited by Edmond Wright; The Innocent Eye (2014) by Nico Orlandi; and Explaining the Computational Mind (2013) by Marcin Milkowski.

[2] For a thorough refutation of Kant’s (or anyone’s) casting mathematical knowledge as a priori, see Kitcher 1995.

[3] Kant, KrV, B71. Further, B139, B153. Lucy Allais, Manifest Reality – Kant’s Idealism & His Realism (2017), pp. 154, 157–58, 167, argues that the singularity and immediacy that Kant takes as essential to sensory intuition guarantees existence of their objects.

[4] That innovation of Kant’s had set the stage for the coherence theory of truth bannered by later idealists.

[5] From the empiricist side, Philip Kitcher’s The Nature of Mathematical Knowledge (1995) delivers a sophisticated pragmatist replacement for Kant’s account of space and geometry.

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Stephen, do you know if Kant's argument about a 'universal grammar' has been adressed in O'ist literature? I'm curious how this could be tied to Rand's argument about axiomatic foundations. I mean this argument:

1. Human experience is comprised of two kinds of appearances: sense perception and concepts
2. Sensations are passively received.
3. Concepts are actively formed. Essences (distinguishing characteristics) are epistemological, not metaphysical.
4. 'Experience' is a freely formed concept; sensations do not exhibit an essence of 'experience', much like chairs do not exhibit 'chairness'.
5. Just as adding 'chairness' to observed phenomena makes it look as if 'chairness' actually exists out there, adding 'experience' (along with the implied notion of experincer) to raw sense data does the same thing.
6. All conceptual thought follows the universal grammar of quality, quantity, relation and modality. E.g. the sentence 'if lightning strikes, thunder will sound' exhibits:

  • The quantity of universality: the statement applies to every possible instance of lightning.
  • The quality of affirmation: it affirms (rather than denies) that property of lightning.
  • A hypothetical relation ('If-then'), as opposed to the simple declarative or disjunctive ('either-or') relation.
  • The modality of necessity: a certain event (thunder) will follow upon another, based on a rule.

7. All perception is colored by this universal grammar. The table of categories is simply the table of judgements applied to sense data.

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The above argument rests on the notion that thought has an innate, fixed structure - as long as you're a human being, no thinkable thought is exempt from a universal grammar. Putting this in Randian terms, you must use this grammar to deny it. I've been wondering lately whether Rand's metaphysics, in a similar vein, starts by identifying the limits of thinkability (for example axiomatic concepts and innate faculties like measurement) and simply runs with it.

 

 

KyaryPamyu,

So far as I recall, Kant did not write of his categories of the understanding as a universal grammar. He did write of general logic being analogous to a universal grammar. 

From the Jäsche Logic: 

“[We] set aside all knowledge that we can only borrow from objects, and reflect simply on the exercise of the understanding in general, [and] then we discover those rules which are absolutelay necessary, and independently of any particular objects of thought, because without them we cannot think at all. These rules, accordingly, can be discerned a priori, that is, independently of all experience, because they contain merely the conditions of the use of the understanding in general, whether pure or empirical, without distinction of its objects. . . . The science, therefore, which contains these universal and necessary laws is simply a science of the form of thought.” (Cf. KrV A52–55 B76–79)

“Hence, also, it follows that the universal and necessary laws of thought can only be concerned with its form, not in anywise with its matter. The science, therefore, which contains these universal and necessary laws is simply a science of the form of thought. And we can form a conception of the possibility of such a science, just as a universal grammar which contains nothing beyond the mere form of language, without words, which belong to the matter of language.”

That last sentence gives us some idea of what Kant means by saying that reflection on the exercise of the understanding enables us to discern absolutely necessary rules of our thought such as the constraint against contradictions. This reflection, then, is Kant’s replacement for Aristotle’s ‘intuitive induction’. Before school age, we follow elementary grammar in speaking our native language. We conform to that language’s grammar a good deal, and it has become habitual. We learn expressly what grammatical forms we are following and should be following from grammar school (after we have learned to write). Some earlier humans had to have reflected on the language, such as Latin or German, to have discovered its grammar. Kant’s analogy on the use, express statement, and normativity of grammar with the use, express statement, and normativity of logic that Jäsche and Abbott here publicize is corroborated as standard in Kant’s lectures on logic by student notes, the Bloomberg (early 1770’s), the Dohna-Wundlacken (1792), and the Vienna. The D-W notes indicate that because logic must contain a priori principles, “logic is a science and grammar is not, because its rules are contingent” (page 432 in Young 1992). I should mention that in Kant’s various remarks on logic, talk of the necessary v. the contingent is shorthand for (what is earlier stated as) the absolutely necessary v. the contingently necessary.

Kant’s own logic lecture notes compiled by Jäsche were always available to German readers from 1800. Kant therein, in his Introduction to the discipline of logic, made an analogy between logic and grammar. (I see now that Capozzi and Roncaglia have also drawn attention to this analogy in the third chapter, p. 143, of The Development of Modern Logic [2009, L. Haaparanta, editor].) Logic is the form of thought, with contents of thought its matter; as grammar is the form of language, with particular words its matter. A book of Kant’s in 1798 includes his view on the relation between thought and language. That book is Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, which was always available in German, but did not come into English translations (two) until the 1970’s. From the Anthropology in a third translation, the Cambridge translation (2007) by Robert Louden:

“All language is a signification of thought and, on the other hand, the best way of signifying thought is through language, the greatest instrument for understanding ourselves and others. Thinking is speaking with oneself . . . consequently it is also listening to oneself inwardly (by means of the reproductive power of the imagination). . . . Those who can speak and hear do not always understand themselves or others, and it is due to the lack of the faculty of signification, or its faculty use (when signs are taken for things, and vice versa), that, especially in matters of reason, human beings who are united in language are as distant as heaven from earth in concepts.” (300)

Kants drew an analogy also between how logic is discovered and how grammar is discovered. This analogy is mentioned Jäsche Logic. The parallel of grammar-logic discovery is set in further parallel, in Kant’s Prolegomena, to how fundamental categories of the understanding (necessary factors in making percepts [“appearances”] in experience into that experience) are discovered. Kants proffers a notion of the reflective act by which one could (mainly Aristotle, who did) originally discover the rules of logic together with their character of absolute necessity and normativity.

We are able to violate logical rules. Can Kant account for that under his conception of the nature of logic? One cannot succeed in holding onto the absolutism of logical rules while saying also that we can violate them and that they are due only to the constitution of the mind.

One kind of error Kant mentioned in the Anthropology was the error of mistaking linguistic signs for things they signify and vice versa. Such signs, Kant calls artificial, in contrast to natural indicators such as smoke for fire. Kant observed that people having common language can yet signify in their vocabulary concepts quite different one person to the next. He implies that this variance is due to infirmities in the faculty of signification, which rather suggests that if we were all working correctly in our linguistic significations, we should have no variance among persons in concepts signified by a word. I seriously doubt that, given the variance in individual backgrounds of experience and education and given the creativity in thought, especially in more abstract thought. Were Kant’s rigid connection between vocabulary and right concept correct, infirmity of word-concept powers would yet not explain how errors of logic or grammar are possible. The same goes under my denial of the word-concept complete rigidity of right signification, for then there is utter incommensurability between the would-be explanation and the thing to be explained, since the rules of logic and grammar are fixed, in Kant’s view, in all the heads talking and thinking to themselves and with others. Error of signification and its source (source pretty vague in Kant) does not help to explain error in logic or grammar.

The Objectivist conception of logic is contrary that of Kant. Rand’s conception of logic was as a tool of identification. All existents possess identity. That is a full-bodied identity, including both (i) which among existents is this particular one and (ii) what sort of thing is this existent. The identities of existents are what they are in the world whether or not a mind discerns them. What are the proper ways of forming concepts, forming their definitions, and making inferences are ways tuned to identities in the world and getting and holding fast to those identities. Rand rests logic on an axiom “existence exists.” Logical maneuvers are maneuvers of consciousness, and consciousness is identification of existents, all of which have identities.

Rand’s axioms are not established as true because they cannot be denied without falling into contradiction. No, that is a necessary condition for adopting a truth as an axiom, but the truth has to be established by observation and dealings with empirical reality. The wrongness of contradiction also has to be established in that empirical way. Not by enumerative induction in the case of PNC. Not by abstractive induction in the case of PNC. Rather, I say, in the way one picks up necessary form from empirical engagements. I’m thinking of necessary forms in the world, which forms can be grasped as necessary when they are grasped. Such would be apprehension that anything shaped like my left hand will have one less space between its appendages than there are appendages. Or that turning a left-hand glove inside-out makes a right-hand glove. Or that any object having the shape of an apple can be quartered with only three cuts of the knife. One knows those truths by experience, and one knows they are necessarily so of the world, so that empirically testing them for possible falsification would be stupid.

I call such formalities in the world waiting to be discerned belonging-formalities of my metaphysical category situation. Rand did not take note of such forms in the world, and doing so might make one nervous of regression to Aristotle’s ideas on form. There is no such regression to Aristotle in this idea of forms in the world belonging to concretes. And the idea can boost Rand’s idea that identities in the natural world are not put there by the mind and that necessities in the formalities for right logical thought get their ultimate necessity from the world and get their normativity from aiming to identify correctly. (My working conjecture so far is that the belonging-formalities of the world underlying the tooling-formalities of logic are simple likenesses, differences, sameness, and repetitions in the world.) On the Objectivist view of logic, errors in logic are simply because one can run afoul of rules for success in the purpose of logic. The necessity of logic is not the incapability to think otherwise than logically, but the necessity of following the rules to get the prize insofar as that aim is facilitated by logical rules. In another sense of necessity, logic has its necessities from some of the belonging-formalities in the world (in my metaphysical categories passage and character, I expect).

Objectivism agrees with your 2 in that sensations are not constructed by or made into percepts by activity of mind such as conscious or unconscious inference (see Kelley 1986, 61–62, 75–78, for example), but need not deny the established science showing receptors to be active sensors, nervous tissue, which is living (an activity) and excitable. Under your 4, Objectivism holding that essences are epistemological rather than metaphysical means only that what truths of the world should be taken for essentials in one’s definitions of things depends on one’s present context of knowledge of the world and in particular one’s present context of knowledge of what depends on what in the world among classes of things in the world. That is in contrast to the Ancient and Medieval essences, which were not a function of one’s context of knowledge at all, and which possessed causal powers (formal causes) in the world.

In your 7, I think offhand it would be better to say "applied to the schematized categories" and to say "sensory experience" or "sensible intuitions" rather than "sense data."

Rand thought of cognition in terms of measurements both in perception (e.g. perceptual similarities) and in conception. But she thought of measurements as mind discerning magnitude relations actually in the world. Because magnitude relations (she called "quantity") are in the world, discernment of them is useful to us (and the other high animals) for successful life and exactitude of fit of the human mind to the world.

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More precisely, that should be: ". . . logic has its necessities from some of the belonging-formalities in the world (belonging-formalities of, in my metaphysical categories, passage and character, I expect). So: logic having it roots in belonging-formalities within those categories of existence, in parallel with mathematics having its roots in belonging-formalities in the category situation.

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