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David Kelley's Kant

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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. 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.)


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.


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~Dipert on Kelley’s Kant~A

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 aim 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 fare 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 is due in part to our own motion, just as we directly perceived it to be.

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 something constructed and projected from our own heads.

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.)



[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; Perception: First Form of the Mind (2022) by Tyler Burge; Perceptual Experience (2022) by Christopher Hill; The Border between Seeing and Thinking (2023) by Ned Block. 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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~Dipert on Kelley’s Kant~Bα

In the next two installments (Bα, Bβ), I shall argue that the Objectivist view of illusions and David Kelley’s diagnosis of a fundamental error in philosophy of perception, are incorrect. I shall assess Kelley’s resistance to representational and computational accounts of perception. I’ll assess further Dipert’s criticisms of Kelley on philosophy of perception and Kelley on Kant. I’ll compare the concept of a percept with Kant’s concept of a sensory intuition.

Physically Processed, yet Direct

David Kelley observes:

 “As a form of awareness, perception may naturally be approached from various different perspectives. From the outside it is a physical response to the environment, and one may examine the way sense organs are stimulated by physical energy, and the way this stimulation is transmitted and transformed by the nervous system as it ascends the sensory pathways to the brain. Or one may view it from the inside, as we experience it, describing the features of objects we discriminate, the structures and relationships of which we are directly aware.” (1986, 8 )

That distinction is important to keep in mind when thinking about the alternatives Realism v. any Representationalism that is not realist in perception. If I understand him correctly, Kelley’s “external” sort examination includes investigations in cognitive psychology, including neuropsychology. Responses of the subject, including varieties of awareness, are essential components of such research (e.g. Anne Treisman).

If neuronal activities are the required support of all episodes of consciousness and if the stream of neuronal processing from sensory receptors in a perceptual process resulting in some unitary activity-formation in cortical regions of the brain which are then experienced as an immediate, direct awareness of something in the  environment; why are not the need for sequences of neuronal processing itself enough to show that perception, realist or not, is indirect, not direct? Indeed, even where neuronal receptors do not need a follow-on sequence of processing for activating a conscious, perceptual episode, isn’t the difference of the awareness from its pattern of neuron firings and inhibitions enough to show that conscious perceptions are indirect?

No. That conclusion would be a failure to keep track of when one is describing the perceptual process from the external view with the internal acts of perceiving the world, including perceiving that part of the world that is brain processing supporting any conscious awareness. 


Nathaniel Branden: “Percepts constitute the actual starting-point of human knowledge, in the sense that percepts are man’s first fully aware cognitive contact with the world” (c.1968, 38). The concept and term percept was evidently introduced in the era of  Charles Sanders Peirce in the nineteenth century. It was taken up by Rand when she wrote ITOE. 

In Rand’s view, as with Peirce, the conscious uptake from the senses for the makings of reason is sensory information already automatically integrated into percepts. (See further, Kelley 1986, 31,  44–51, 141–74.) “A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain. It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. . . . Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident” (1966–67, 5). Animals capable of percepts, perceive entities, in Rand’s categoreal sense of that term. Percepts and their objects are susceptible to retention in memory (Rand 1961, 18–19; Aristotle APo 99b35–40; Metaph. 980a28–30). 

Peirce had stressed that sense impressions are not first in our knowledge. We are not shut out from the external world,


informed only by sense impressions. Not at all! Few things are more completely hidden from observation than those hypothetical elements of thought which the psychologist finds reason to pronounce "immediate," in his sense. But the starting point of all our reasoning is not in those sense impressions, but in our percepts. When we first wake up to the fact that we are thinking beings and can exercise some control over our reasonings, we have to set out upon our intellectual travels from home where we already find ourselves. Now, this home is the parish of percepts. (1901a, 62)


With Rand, and in contrast to Dretske 1978, the term and concept percept is like perception in having as its first and most basic sense: successful consciousness of realities. Percept indicates a relationship to reality, a consciousness in Rand’s fundamental sense, not a detached internal state. She does not use percept as in contrast to perception in the way that fright is in contrast to the occasion of being frightened by some existent such as a bear, with fright being occasioned also by non-existents such as ghosts.

Dipert not only criticized Kelley for not meeting Kant’s arguments of the Aesthetic head-on (Dipert 1987, 60–61; see previous installment). He objected to Kelley’s emphasis on the metaphysical passivity of consciousness per se, Kelley’s contention that consciousness is not metaphysically creative (1987, 58–59, 69–70). 

Rand and Kelley have it, according to Dipert, that “of the bidirectional interaction between an individual human being and the ‘external’ world, knowledge and perception is the hopelessly passive direction. In fact it is Kelley’s main aim to demonstrate just how passive and non-creative perception and knowledge are” (58). 

Kelley had written:

“When I open my eyes and see a chair, I do not choose the content of my awareness–I do not choose to see a chair with four legs and crimson upholstery instead of a Mack truck with sixteen wheels and steel-gray sides. It is given and can therefore serve as the basis for the judgment that this is a chair.” (1986, 202)

Kelley countered Kant’s synthetic view of awareness in which perceptual and conceptual organizing activities of faculties of the subject give the presentations of the senses their intentionality towards an objective world (1986, 25, 204–5; further, Jankowiak 2012). (That innovation of Kant’s set the stage for the coherence theory of truth bannered by later idealists.) Kelley counterposed to Kant’s synthetic view of awareness, a “spectator view” (a view named and opposed by John Dewey), though of a sort allowing for physical processing yielding direct perceptual awareness without thereby scuttling its possible objectivity and cognitive bona fidi

Dipert took this passive picture of perception as a failure to take into account that insofar as perception is cognitive or a major support of reasoning and knowledge, it is action-directed and essentially so (1987, 69–70). Kelley and other elaborators of Rand’s philosophy follow her in the idea that percepts are both metaphysically passive and cognitive. I think the Objectivists are correct in maintaining both of those positions, and although they have not given enough weight to the action-directing of perception, it is perfectly harmonious to acknowledge the affordances for action given in perception (not mentioned by Dipert or Kelley), as in J. J. Gibson and researchers in the ecological school of psychology, and the metaphysical passivity, the givenness, the sense of one not having made it up, in the nature of perception.

One may also acknowledge that neuronal systems in lowest innervated animals are instrumentation and control systems (control of actions), having value-ordering, without possessing consciousness, and rightly receive as spectator some among our instrumentation and control systems in which consciousness is put in gear.

Kant took the content (or “material”) of sensory intuition as given and given as from things independent of our occasions of awareness. He erred, I say, in concluding that elements of form in perceptual experience could not be received passively along with the material element in sensory intuition. Fact is, ten fingers with eight spaces are part of my two hands and are spatial situation given right along with any stress—active by exertion or passive by being worked on by the manicurist—and are reality received passively, all simply given and given as being given in perception. Similarly, some affordances for action can be simply part of what is immediately given in experience, supposing one has developed so far as to have had pertinent past experience of actions on, with, and from things.


Let me elaborate a view of illusion and veridicality in percepts, at odds with the Objectivist analysis. Let me elaborate a different frame of perceptual direct realism, one still according with metaphysical passivity of and direct realism in perception. It incorporates affordances for actions at a fundamental level.

Instruments we design for detections and measurements have a dedicated object (which I shall designate by all-caps TARGET). We can manipulate and adjust the instrument to capture just that object for presentation to our senses. We could design a camera with the purpose of imaging a straight stick partially in water such that the camera system compensates for difference in the indices of refraction of air and water. A sensor in the air and a sensor in the water feeding information ultimately to the camera would likely be required, and this information processed in an automatic way in the camera recorder. The camera would show a straight stick because we had made the instrument system an indicator of our information purpose, our TARGET: straightness in objects it detects. Design of the instrumentation systems that are our natural sensory systems are the result of natural processes of evolution and individual development employing living processes in an environment having whatever material resources are locally available at the time. Mere typical success in detecting or measuring the target (lower case) of the sensory system regularly associated with objects, motions, or media pertinent to life of the animal gives enough probability for preservation and reproduction of the animal.

We are able to learn that the enlargement of the moon or the sun when near the horizon is, in some unknown way, a contribution of our visual system. If we take a photo of the moon in that position, the enlargement-effect is not registered and reported by the camera. With thought and empirical investigation, we can tease out elements in our perceptions that are contributions of our perceptual systems. By modern scientific investigation, the Mach-band effect—which is a visual illusion in the degree of darkness of the grayness of surfaces and which may have had the adaptive advantage of accentuating edges—has been explained by the pattern of neural connections (lateral inhibition) in the circuitry of the retina.

I mentioned the TARGET of an instrument we design. There is another sort of target of an artificial instrument, which is also at work in our natural, perceptual instruments. Advantage in animal species evolution or in survival of the individual animal is not the TARGET of a natural perceptual instrument. Nature is not a designer, though it yields designs, and there are no TARGETS for natural perceptual systems. There is a  target (lower-case) of an instrument which is in the detailed constitution and operation of the instrument. Our modern motion-detecting devices have as their target: alterations in level of light being received by their sensors, which has some fair correlation with objects moving in the field. Our purpose, our TARGET—detection of moving objects—is not the target we put into the design of the instrument. I maintain that this is the way to view natural sensory systems, from thermal contact systems to visual systems having a distal stimulus.

Veridical perception, I say, is neuronal system indicating in consciousness things as they are. Illusions are neuronal system indicating in consciousness things in some ways as they are not.

I say percepts are leaders to reality, due to our constitution. Percepts not only present. They indicate due to our constitution. Their character of automatically indicating in consciousness is what makes percepts components in empirical cognition.  The proverbial straight stick partially in air and partially in water indicates a bent stick. Understanding how it comes to look bent does nothing to change the circumstance that the perceptual presentation is misleading (contra Branden c. 1968, 47–48; Kelley 1986, 88, 93; Peikoff 1991, 40).

Kelley and other Objectivist philosophers ignore the leading I attribute to perceptual presentations prior to any perceptual judgement. That is a mistake. The quality in perceptual presentations that I have called leading, and the importance of that quality, should be recognized and put to work in a realist philosophy of perception.

(Continued to ~Dipert on Kelley’s Kant~Bβ.)



Aristotle, c. 348–322 B.C.E. The Collected Works of Aristotle. 1984. Edited by Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Branden, N. c.1968. The Basic Principles of Objectivism. In The Vision of Ayn Rand. 2009. Gilbert, AZ: Cobden Press.

Buchler, J., editor. 1955. Philosophical Writings of Peirce. New York: Dover.

Dipert, R. R. 1987. David Kelley’s The Evidence of the Senses. Reason Papers, 12:57–70.

Dretske, F. 1978. The Role of the Percept in Visual Cognition. In Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 9:107–27.

Houser, N., editor. 1998. The Essential Peirce. Vol. 2. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Jankowiak, T. P. 2012. Sensation and Intentionality in Kant’s Theory of Empirical Cognition. Ph.D. dissertation. Ann Arbor: ProQuest.

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

Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton.

Peirce, C. S. 1901. Pearson's Grammar of Science. In Houser 1998. Also in Buchler 1955.

Rand, A. 1961. The Objectivist Ethics. In Rand 1964.

——. 1964. The Virtue of Selfishness – A New Concept of Egoism. Signet.

——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. In Rand 1990.

——. 1990. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Expanded 2nd edition. H. Binswanger and L. Peikoff, editors. Meridian.

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In my initial Part titled “Kelley and Rand on Kant,” I said that Kelley had erred in taking Kant’s appearance to be as in contrast to reality, and that the proper contrast for understanding Kant correctly was to take appearance as in contrast to things in themselves. I observed that Kant’s conception of things in themselves included that such things are not in any relation to things not itself. On Rand’s metaphysics, such a thing does not exist, I concluded (see ITOE 39). Kant’s thing in itself is not any thing as it is.

I want to add: The power of reason that Kant was trying to curtail was the power of reason as conceived by his Leibnizian, rationalist predecessors and contemporaries. Such reason had the power to recognize logical truths and other necessary truths such as that a triangle is trilateral. Such reason had also the power to discern and characterize things in themselves and noumena such as monads, which were conceived as beyond sensory perceptual powers. Reason as conceived by Rand has no need of a power to discern things in themselves or monads, for there are no such beings to be discerned. So Rand and Kant share an aim to bind reason, rightly reformed in their two different ways, to being only a tool for discovery in the empirical world (and in mathematics).

But there is a grave difference in Kant’s notion of reason and Rand’s, perhaps partly an artifact of him thinking there were things in themselves; whereas she did not, or anyway should not when one incorporates ITOE 39 into her metaphysics. Leibnizians took the noumena that are monads as integrally part of the world we perceive sensorily, poorly as we do, in going about ordinary life and in experimental scientific investigations. Theirs was a unitary faculty of reason able to range over all that wide unitary world, monads and all. Kant was insistent against them that a faculty of reason able to know of such things as monads had to be radically distinct from the faculty of perception (KrV A270–79 B326–35; “What Real Progress has Metaphysics Made in Germany since the Time of Leibniz and Wolff?" 20:278).

Kant failed to jettison the idea that there are any such things as things in themselves or such things as noumena; he failed to jettison the faculty of reason as he thought it would have to be were it, counterfactually, to be up to the task of knowing such objects. He held on to there being a faculty of reason not born of perception. He finds other work for said faculty of reason, pure reason. It manages our faculty of understanding, which is our faculty of concepts, and the power of logical inference is among its powers. Rand had all that work of Kant’s reason as well as the work of the understanding under the single faculty she termed reason, the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. And for Rand, the rules of logic do not come down from some sort of faculty of reason that passes out rules entirely independently of sensory experience.

Edited by Boydstun
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