Archive for February, 2010

Aquinas on how the soul ‘contains’ the natural world

February 2, 2010

Some students in this class (though it is not a class on Aquinas) have expressed an interest in my passing reference to the claim (from Aquinas) that the intellectual soul, in a way, contains the natural world, and is not contained by the natural world.  Here are some relevant passages from Aquinas:
De Pot., q. 5, a. 10, c.: “In man there is something — namely, the rational soul — not contained in the power of the elements or of the heavenly bodies….”
In De Causis, lec. 9, n. 221: “The soul contains nature because, according to the opinion of those who maintain that the heavenly bodies are animated, which the author of this book supposes, soul is the principle of the movement of the first body and consequently of all natural movements….”
Summa Contra Gentiles, I, c. 44, n. 377: “Among the perfections of things, the greatest perfection is that something be intellectual, for thereby it is, in a way, all things, having within itself the perfection of all things….”

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Kant Resources on the Web

February 1, 2010

Here are just a couple of useful web-resources on Kant:

1) An online version of the Critique of Pure Reason (Kemp Smith translation):
First half of the Critique: http://www.hkbu.edu.hk/~ppp/cpr/CPR1.html
Second half of the Critique: http://www.hkbu.edu.hk/~ppp/cpr/CPR2.html

2) A clearing house for ‘Kant on the web’:
http://www.hkbu.edu.hk/~ppp/Kant.html

Why is 7+5=12 a synthetic proposition?

February 1, 2010

I imagine that we are going to talk about the apriori-aposteriori and synthetic-analytic distinctions in due course, but since we didn’t get to them in our last class, I thought I would put in an early request.  I was also hoping you could touch on an objection to the distinction from logical positivists (in particular A.J. Ayer whom I believe is not exactly known as a “careful” Kant scholar), who claim that 7+5=12 is apriori, but not synthetic, and the idea that mathematics in general is nothing more than an array of analytic truths or tautologies.  I’m not sure I agree with the objection, but I am rather uncertain what exactly it is that makes 7+5=12 synthetic.

Question about the relation of phenomenal and noumenal, etc.

February 1, 2010

Just a quick question for clarification; you said that to explain the proper relation of the phenomenal and noumenal “realms”, one must think of the noumenal as a placeholder posited by the mind “because we know we’re not God.”  Now, I just want to make sure that I am following this. I get that Kant explicitly distinguishes between “cognizing” and “thinking” the noumenal, and that we can only (and must) do the latter, and this because our asking questions we cannot readily answer demonstrates our own limits to some kind of omnipotence, creating things simply by thinking them. In this way, vacillating or wondering whether we are or aren’t God, say, demonstrates some limitations to our mental powers.  This, of course, can’t hang upon some idea from special metaphysics of God, right?  I worried about this in class, thinking that “knowing that we aren’t God” is more a turn of phrase expressing self-knowledge of limitations, rather than actually hanging upon some prior conception of the traditional powers and attributes of God, which Kant would not condone as a starting-point (nor am I claiming he is illicitly smuggling it in as a premise here). Could I accurately formulate Kant’s position here by saying that we can recognize the necessity of positing the noumenon without appealing to the concept or role of God (which of course as an entity of dogmatic metaphysics would be subject to all the contradictions of the antinomies), but instead merely appeal to the mind’s recognition that its inquiry is incomplete?  My lingering fear is that residue of the perfections of the divine are playing a role in this formulation, though I am having a hard time getting all my relevant Kantian ducks in a row. I wonder whether you think this is due more to habit of thought or to a poor formulation of Kant’s position.