Boydstun Posted March 30 Report Share Posted March 30 (edited) 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.) 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 March 30 by Boydstun Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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