Assignment in place of class, Thursday, Feb. 9; do this by noon Sunday, Feb. 12

Please note that we will have class on Monday, Feb.13. In the meantime, since we will not have class on Feb. 9, ALL students are required to do the following:
1) by using the ‘comments’ function under this post, raise a serious question (a question of interpretation, or question about the substance of Kant’s philosophy) which you think gets to the heart of Kant’s claims, based on what you have thus far read in the Critique of Pure Reason. Be sure to provide your name at the end of your question.
2) read and re-read the questions posted on this blog by other students, and respond to *at least* one of the questions posted by another student. If you wish, you may also respond to a response given to one of your own questions; in turn, others may respond to your response to the response. In any case, always be sure to provide your name at the end of your response, or response to a response, or response to a response to a response….
3) be sure to keep up with the reading assignments, as outlined on our course syllabus.


32 Responses to “Assignment in place of class, Thursday, Feb. 9; do this by noon Sunday, Feb. 12”

  1. Allison Cassandra Fitzmorris Says:

    Kant gives an example of a synthetic a priori proposition in the equation “7 + 5 = 12”; he states that “we could never find the sum by means of the mere analysis of our concepts” (B16) and therefore require the aid of our intuition to understand mathematics. This doesn’t make sense to me. Isn’t it possible that the way we understand numbers is based around empirically observed operations? Numbers would be essentially meaningless if they did not relate to each other in ways like the above equation. This wouldn’t necessarily refute Kant’s claims, but I do think that there should be an acknowledgement of a secondary level, something between the empirical and the intuitive, and this seems clearest to me in the mathematical examples.

    • Stephen Federowicz Says:

      In my modern philosophy class, we talked about this question. Are numbers meaningful only because we gave them meaning? I’ve given this some thought, and it seems that there is something logical about mathematics that requires intuition. I would say the names of the numbers are arbitrary. Still, very basically, the idea of adding or subtracting something–regardless of the values we are using–certainly appears to require some intuition. I think you’re right though- it does seem that numbers do relate to eachother more than Kant seems to give them credit for. After all, even in Science there is so much careful mathematics that it seems silly to think we were able to come up with only through intuition.

    • Harry Prieto Says:

      The nature of mathematical objects is an intensely contested topic, but I think most mathematicians nowadays would agree to say that they’re not dealing with objects derived from experience. Mathematicians would say that the object of their science is formal and non-empirical. In the case of “7 + 5 = 12″ it is possible to consider particular examples (say “seven pencils” and “five pencils, and so on) but ultimately the truth of this statement doesn’t depend on them. The same observation goes for less factual mathematical statements, such as those pertaining complex numbers (numbers of the form a+bi, where i^2 = −1) which are clearly not “empirically observed”. Kant’s contention on B16 seems to be that the proposition “7+5=12” is a priori because it has universality and necessity to it (B4). Put it another way, the proposition “7+5=12” is absolute, unconditional and without exception. Such a proposition, as Hume showed, cannot be derived from experience, so it must be a priori.

      • Bruno Cassara Says:

        What you say about necessity and universality presupposes that mathematical objects are not abstractions following empirical perceptions. This becomes a very psychological question, because it would be necessary to see, somehow, whether a developing human learns numbers from experience (as you said, “seven pencils” or “eight handkerchiefs”) and eventually abstracts a concept from the experience. If that is the case, then the necessity and universality of mathematical statements depend on experience in the same way gravity does. Physics can make all the laws it wants on gravity, but it still remains to be seen whether tomorrow mass will attract mass, and, in the same way, if mathematical objects are nothing more than abstractions from experience, then it remains to be seen whether tomorrow pushing seven pencils toward another five will make twelve pencils. In other words, have we just trained ourselves to think of mathematical certainty as the most certain type of certainty without looking for the source of knowledge of mathematics?

      • Shane Mulligan Says:

        I think Kant’s example through math is more an argument for various languages. The mathematical language is one in which we have agreed upon certain definitions, whose outcomes will be certain (to an extent, or repeating). I have trouble understanding that his mathematical proposition is like things which are observed (ex: color). We have agreed that “7 + 5 = 12”, but have not agreed upon a certain “red.” “Red” has variations depending on how light hits the object, how bright the surroundings are, can be lighter or darker. The universality of the concept is necessarily limited in its scope because of interpretation, yet we use the term as though it is as clear as the math equation. Yet, unlike the math equation, one can observe redness by its near uniformity, identifying red things as all having that similar characteristic. It seems to me that one could know a color apriori while other concepts, like math, have to be defined and explained with many definitions before one can observe the similarities, making it a sort of aposteriori concept.

  2. Patrick Streckert Says:

    Personally I find Kant quite confusing. Somehow I feel that the things he says could be said more clearly in less words. One aspect of his approach to and style of philosophy that I find hard to grasp is this: his Critique as I currently understand it seeks to show the reader how to cognitively engage the world in noncontradictory ways. However, Kant’s position, as have discussed in class, is that his theories are not “true” because it somehow corresponds to the true nature of things as they really are. Perhaps I simply misunderstand his “Copernican move,” but how exactly could his theory be true without somehow representing things as they really are, however that may be?

    • Tyler Says:

      I think what Kant means is that he is not trying to explain the true nature of things at all: he is instead trying to explain the way we perceive things, which may or may not actually correspond to the way things are in themselves. As I understand it, one of the tenets to Kant’s transcendental theory is actually that we CANNOT know things-in-themselves. His “transcendental” theory is not about objects of experience at all, but about our ability to know objects of experience. His “Copernican move,” then, is referring to the activity of the observer (the way in which we perceive/know the empirical world), rather than the activity of the objects operating on the observer (the way the empirical world actually is). This avoids the contradictions found in pre-transcendental theories that claim that our knowledge of objects conforms to what is actually in the objects, by declaring that objects must instead conform to our knowledge (space, time, categories of the understanding). So, his theory explains how WE perceive objects while stripping away our ability to ACTUALLY know things-in-themselves. His theory is “true” in that it avoids contradictory conclusions about the universe by claiming that objects must conform to our knowledge (rather than the other way around), but it does not correspond to the nature of things as they really are, because his argument dictates that we cannot truly know things as they really are.

      • Michael Baur Says:

        What Tyler says here is accurate, and it touches upon a crucial dimension to Kant’s thought. Kant leads us to dispense with the traditional, naive correspondence theory of truth. For Kant, that which is “objective” is not that which is somehow “true” apart from our acts of knowing it. After all, we are simply unable to know whether or not something is the case, apart from our very own acts of knowing — everything that we claim to know, is known only through the mediation of our own acts of knowing. For Kant, we can never step outside of our acts of knowing, in order to see what things might be “in themselves.” In place of a naive correspondence theory of truth, Kant suggests that that which is “objective” is not that which is simply “outside” of us (we have no direct access to that which is “outside” of us); instead, that which is “objective” is that which is rule-governed (e.g., governed by the universal law of causality *within* our experience).

  3. Allyson Kelley Says:

    I find Kant’s move to include synthetic a priori a very interesting point that had needed to be addressed for quite some time, but I don’t understand how there can be both empirical and pure concepts and both empirical and pure intuitions. At least as far I could understand, concepts could only be a priori and intuitions could be a posteriori. Doesn’t Kant’s claim completely change their definitions, and is this a reasonable change?

    • John Maldonado Says:

      Concepts are things that we come to know because of our minds’ active participation in or with a cognition or a thing. Intuitions are things that we participate in/with passively. In both definitions, it is possible to have apriori and aposteriori types of each.

      As far as I understand it, we can only have intuitions in terms of concepts. For example, take the empirical intuition of “redness”. One cannot simply comprehend “redness” as such; we do not experience “redness” actively, but rather in terms of other things, e.g., a red ball, a red string, etc. What we are actively experiencing are the ball and the string. “Redness” is something that we know through experience (aposteriori), but we never interact with “redness” itself; we only interact with it passively, through our interactions with other things. Therefore we do not know “red” in itself; rather, we know what a red hat or a red crayon look like.

      Similarly, we do not know “space” in itself. The way I was able to understand this lack of knowing is by trying to define what “space” is – certainly we have a cognition of what space is, but trying to define it on its own is very difficult (I find it impossible) to do, because we do not actually interact with space itself, and are therefore passively participating in space. If we try to define space in terms of an apriori concept, however, it is relatively easy – it could look something like this: “Space is an infinite area in which substances exist.” For example, take Kant’s assertion that all bodies are extended. Extension is a necessary part of a body, and we know this apriori (according to Kant). Therefore we do not need to rely on anything else but our apriori concept of bodies in order to apprehend “bodies.” We cannot, however, apprehend space in itself; rather we apprehend space in terms of its ability to contain substances. We do not know space exists on its own, but we can know it exists, without experiencing it, through apriori cognitions – the cognition that “bodies are extended” (an apriori concept) contains in itself the idea of extension. Therefore through this cognition we know that space exists because though we have not experienced it, extension can only take place in space.

    • Nick Pereslugoff Says:

      For the most part, concepts and intuitions do appear to be apriori and aposteriori respectively. However, Kant is not changing the definitions of either by introducing pure intuitions, synthetic apriori claims, and other arguments.

      Claims of intuition can be apriori and pure if and only if they apply necessarily and universally to all experiences through sensibility. Two examples of this are space and time; regardless of the observer, they are necessary and fundamental components of the way one perceives the world. Thus, they are apriori since their existence is demanded universally and necessarily for all experiences of intuition.

      As for concepts, they do not necessarily have to be apriori. Concepts contain all thought within themselves. There is nothing inside of a concept that can breach its boarders, such as the concepts of “Dog.” The concept of Dog applies universally and necessarily to Dogs but doesnt tell us anything about the nature of status of things other than “All Dogs are Dogs.” Although all Dogs are Dogs, this is a fallacous claim since it is inherently circular; it provides us no new information. It is merely exemplifying the limits of concepts, in that they cannot go beyond themselves.

      Also, if all concepts were apriori then every product of thought would be considered objectively true since it would apply necessarily. Obviously this is not the case since not everything that one thinks is true. If this were the case there wouldnt be a need for the Critique in the first place; everything everyone else already thought would be objectively true.

    • Sean Bandfield Says:

      One of the things I find frustrating in different philosophical systems is the varying use of common terms; given the extent to which different philosophers use the same words in different and therefore confusing ways, I don’t think I’d present this as a particular criticism of Kant, even though I think we agree that it can be frustrating. However, I think Kant’s use of the word “intuition” isn’t too much of a stretch, provided that I’m properly understanding his use of it: that which is given to us, that which is immediately present to reason. Since we usually think of an intuition as something that we JUST KNOW, or something that just seems to be the case to us, or (especially) something that just pops into our mind (and maybe seems impossible for us to question or ignore), I understand why he would defend the existence of a priori “intuitions.” It’s because these intuitions are the forms by which reason, independent of empirical experience, governs its own cognition (these forms therefore being immediately present to reason and impossible for reason to dispose of) that Kant calls them both a priori and “intuitions.” By my understanding, though, this doesn’t exclude intuition a posteriori, since we can, for example, see the image of something, that image being immediately present to reason through our sensibility, and thus also being a type of intuition.

      • Yuraima Says:

        I also had trouble detaching myself from how I previously defined and understood intuitions and concepts. I agree, intuitions are generally thought of something that just “pops into your head,” it’s almost instinctive. This is how I finally (somewhat) started understanding Kant’s making it a passive representation – we don’t have to consciously reason our way to understanding our intuitions, we just get it. On the other hand, i still don’t understand how intuitions can be BOTH a priori and a posterior. If intuitions are truly passive, then how is it possible to categorize them as gained through experience or through empirical knowledge? Shouldn’t it be purely a priori for the reason that intuitions are not derived by experience, they just simply are what we instinctively understand them to be?

  4. Malcolm Morano Says:

    Kant claims that since we must have the pure intuitions of space and time before we can apprehend any object, we cannot actually know the true nature of objects in of themselves. He then concludes that “[space] is nothing as soon as we leave aside the condition of the possibility of all experience” (B44/A28). However, it seems that according to his own theory this conclusion would be false. For to know that space and time were merely subjective, we would have to know that things in of themselves were not in space and time. Since we cannot know things in of themselves, we cannot know whether they are or are not in space and time. Therefore, according to Kant’s theory it is possible that space and time apply to objects in of themselves, we just cannot know.

  5. Harry Prieto Says:

    One of the main results of the Transcendental Aesthetic seems to be that we don’t know-things-in themselves but rather as they are given to us (B33) through the pure forms of sensibility, namely, space and time (B56, B59). Now, that things-in-themselves are unknown to us can easily lead to some form of skepticism. So how does Kant escape this skepticism originated by our being unable to know “things-in-themselves”?

    • Brittany Salas Says:

      Along with this question I would like too add why Kant thinks we cannot even know ourselves and a thing-in-itself. Isn’t our own mind the one and only thing we can truly know? Even if we dont understand that which gives us intuitions such as time and space, why would we need too in order to know ourselves.

  6. Robert Nayden Says:

    If space and time were to have objective reality, wouldn’t they only be applicable to physical things, things extended in space and progressing in time? At B71 Kant seems to say that we would have to make them conditions of all existence in general. Why would we have to apply them to all existence and not just physical existence?

  7. Margaret Palazzolo Says:

    I’m not sure if I understand Kant’s explanation of pure synthesis – especially his comment that pure synthesis is that which “yields the pure concept of the understanding.” It makes sense that the manifold can be given either empirically or a priori, but doesn’t the very act of synthesis imply an empirical (or a posteriori) “output,” or a “non-pure” concept as the result? This is probably a pretty basic question, but I just want to be sure to make sense of it…

  8. John Maldonado Says:

    My biggest trouble in understanding Kant has come at B101 in his distinction between assertoric and apodictic judgments. For some reason I am having trouble understanding what exactly is different about these two modes. As far as I can tell, both judgments are in fact true and not merely hypothetical. Beyond this I believe I have a basic understanding of the distinction, but I cannot be sure, I think due to the lack of clarity in Kant’s language more than anything else. Is the difference that assertoric judgments are true in actuality but are not universally true in every case of a thing, while apodictic judgments are true in every case of a thing because the judgment is part of the concept of that thing? And, if I do understand this correctly, is there any further part of the distinction that I did not mention?

  9. Stephen Federowicz Says:

    I would be interested to read a critique by Kant on music as it relates to the a priori and a posteriori and synthetic and analytic.My intitial thought deals with how music is composed. A composer sits down to write a piece. It seems that his influences are a result of synthetic, a posteriori experience. He has listened to the music before him, and learned from it. Still, there seems to be certain ideals–concepts and rules–that he abides by as he begins his composition. Although he might of learned these rules (that a V chord should go to a I chord, etc) through studying composers before him, I have an inclination to say that there is something a priori to the nature of music, though I can’t quite put my finger on it…

    • Allison Cassandra Fitzmorris Says:

      I agree. Of course people influence each other, and of course people adopt ideas from one another; but does this necessarily mean that there is no such thing as pure creativity? All people desire to uniquely capture a certain perspective or argument about the world–this is all art is–and it would seem rather pointless if we were confined to one message and could only repeat it in bits that were appropriate to our time. (Interestingly this sounds like the discussion of Ultimate Truth.) I think that this discussion has more to do with analytic/synthetic than a priori/a posteriori.

      • Michael Baur Says:

        No, it seems that there is no such thing as “pure creativity” for human beings — at least as far as Kant is concerned. All of our acts of creativity are at the same time acts of borrowing or copying something; this is another way of saying that all of our acts of creativity depend on the fact that something is *given* to us. But this is just to say that all of our activity is finite, and dependent on the *givenness* of something (i.e., intuitions). If we were fully creative, we would not depend on anything being *given* to us, in which case we would be God (or at least that’s the way Kant seems to understand things).

      • Allison Cassandra Fitzmorris Says:

        So what is the point of art? Does Kant address this?

  10. Nick Pereslugoff Says:

    Is space really only a human pure intuition? Since space is an intuition, it is merely a given property realized through our senses. There is no thought required in the process; space is part of our intuition of objects before we form any thoughts or judgements about them. If this is true then couldn’t animals also utilize space as a pure intuition? They appear to be moving in space, using space, and receiving the pure intuition of space in the same way that humans are. Why not then extend the ability to have the pure intuition of space to other biological entities?

  11. Brittany Salas Says:

    At the end of Section II on Time (pp.191-192) . Kant states that “it is not necessary for us to limit the kind of intuition in space and time to the sensibility of human beings; it may well be that all finite thinking things must necessarily agree with human beings.” To me this claim allows me to deduce that time exists outside of humans because all finite thinking things also have a concept of age. A cow on a meat farm, for example, might not understand that it is being breed only to be killed for meat but can physically notice the difference in age as it gets older. Just as the cow will not be able to understand when or why its death is going to come humans can also accidental perish without any greater understanding as to when and how. Based on this I would say that it is safe to assume all thinking things have a concept of death and therefore time. Kant states that this assumption is has no grounds for proof. Why does he believe this and what does he mean by saying “the ground already adduced seems to pertain only to the original being, never to one that is dependent as regards to both its existence and its intuition…

  12. Sean Bandfield Says:

    Combining our reading from the Critique of Pure Reason and the accompanying hand-out, here is my question: how does Kant justify the real difference between negative and infinite judgments when classical logic tells us that there is no difference? According to the hand-out, negative judgments are of the form “No S is P,” and infinite judgments are of the form “All S is not-P” – however, this is merely an example of obversion, which, in Aristotelian logic, is a valid form of inference for any proposition of the type that Kant examines here. Obversion flips the quality of a given proposition (“all” becomes “none,” and vice versa) and flips the predicate term to its compliment (“mortal” becomes “non-mortal,” and vice versa); for example, I can take the proposition “No fish are mammals,” which Kant would call negative, and obvert it to “All fish are non-mammals,” which Kant would call infinite AND defend as logically distinct from the former negative proposition (unless my interpretation of Kant’s position is mistaken). Classical logic, however, tells us that there is NO difference between these two propositions, one being simply a reformulation of the other, and any analysis of an obverted proposition, in my opinion, shows that the equivalence is immediately apparent to common sense; and, what’s more, obversion can be validly applied to any categorical proposition, unlike other types of immediate inference like conversion and contraposition, which aren’t reliable operations for every type of categorical proposition. Since Kant’s project makes a conscious break from much of Aristotelian logic, perhaps he can demonstrate some flaw in obversion, and/or some way in which the infinite proposition is more than just a different way of stating the negative proposition; or maybe I’ve misread Kant’s argument altogether. In any case, I wonder how Kant affirms that the logical content of negative and infinite judgments is different (assuming this is what he’s saying), when classical logic and common sense tell us otherwise.

    • Malcolm Morano Says:

      I think you’re right in that the content of the two judgements, negative and infinite, are the same. The only thing I can think Kant would say is that the function of the two judgements differ. The negative judgement functions as a denial of the predicate, whereas the infinite judgement functions as an affirmation of the not-predicate. So when you claim “No fish are mammals,” you’re calling attention to how ‘mammal’ cannot be predicated onto ‘fish’, but when you claim “all fish are non-mammals” you’re calling attention to how ‘fish’ is somewhere in the infinite amount of predicates beyond ‘mammal’. It’s a subtle distinction, with little practical value, but it is the only way I can make sense of it.

  13. Bruno Cassara Says:

    I understand what Kant means when he calls his philosophical gambit a “Copernican turn”, but I can’t help but look at his philosophy as a Platonic turn. Very simply, I see Kant as taking Plato’s forms (the things that allow things to be what they are) and putting them in the mind of the perceiver. Of course, Kant treads carefully the line between what is empirical and what is a priori, and does a good job in distinguishing between the concepts/intuitions that we gather from experience (e.g., the concept of dog), and those that belong to the mind a priori. In essence, Kant is correcting the empiricism of Hume and others by saying that the structure of the mind precedes empirical reality (not temporally, but logically). I wonder, then, whether human reason, which can’t help but ask questions about the nature of reality, will always be frustrated, since the truth of the matter is that empirical truth does not necessarily have anything to do with metaphysical truth. Does Kant’s philosophy liberate reason, or does it confirm without a doubt its frustrations in wanting to know the thing-in-itself?

  14. amastroianni Says:

    As Tyler mentions, Kant’s transcendental theory is not meant to explain the true nature of things, but the way in which we perceive things. He claims we cannot know things-in-themselves because we can never step outside our acts of knowing. He explains our mind’s act of knowing in terms of activity (concepts) and passivity (intuitions). On one hand, our mind is active in that it ‘picks out’ the things it apprehends within our experience. But there are things that are not produced by conceptual activity— intuitions. Intuitions, he says, are the means by which we apprehend something that is ‘given’. BUT, he says, we are not to think of that which is ‘given’ as something from the outside that causes a sensation or impression within us. Consider time and space— time and space are a priori (not based on experience) but not produced by our own conceptual activity. He says that it is not right to think we exist in space and time, but rather space and time exist within us. Why? Anything within a spacial, temporal horizon can be ordered, but space and time cannot be ‘ordered’ within themselves.

    So on one hand, our mind picks out the things it apprehends within our experience (concepts) but the things we experience are not given to us from the outside (objects conform to our knowledge). Our receptivity, then, depends on our activity. The things we know are not brought about through our conceptual activity, but pertain to that which is ‘given’— but that which is ‘given’ is not to be considered in terms of causality; from the outside.

    But hold on! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves: We are not God.

    Our activity, he says, is not FULLY responsible for the things we know because we are not God. And that’s that? He seems to assert that all we know exists because of our minds activity and receptivity, but then weakens his argument by introducing the notion of God. As Tyler puts it, Kant’s transcendental theory is about the activity of the observer —our ability to know objects of experience. Thing is, Kant’s argument asserts that objects conform to our knowledge, which challenges the role of ‘God’— which he seems reluctant to commit to. If we cannot truly know things as they are, and objects conform to our knowledge, then where does God fit into all this?

  15. Shane Mulligan Says:

    When speaking of necessary and universal judgements, how can they go beyond our own concepts? Why is a synthetic, apriori different than an analytic apriori? It seems that since both deal with that which is necessary and universal, that both could be contained in that category, without making the distinction between analytic and synthetic. Meanwhile, then, synthetic aposteriori judgements would remain as they are – the distinction would be between that which is apriori and aposteriori instead of analytic or synthetic. It seems to me that the distinction between what is necessary and universal and what is not, is most important because it addresses the reality of the world as we intuit it or observe it.

    • Robert Nayden Says:

      If I’m understanding Kant correctly, the distinction between analytic and synthetic is crucial. You can’t just throw together analytic and synthetic a priori judgments into one group. The claim is that, while some a priori judgments (analytic ones) do not add anything to the concept of the subject, there are other a priori judgments (synthetic ones) that do in fact go “beyond our own concepts” as you put it.
      In order to make judgments of this sort, Kant needs to find a priori intuitions because synthesis is based on intuitions. This is where he turns to Space and Time. If these intuitions are necessary and universal, then he can make synthetic judgments (judgments which go beyond our concepts) that are necessary and universal.

  16. Tyler Mann Says:

    I am highly interested by Kant’s assertion that a distinction between “mind” and “world” is a flawed understanding of these two concepts and the way they function. It is true that we cannot separate our “minds” from the “world,” since we cannot perceive the world without involving our minds — all of our perceptions are, to some extent, subjective. With this in mind, I find it difficult to understand how we can be certain of ANY of our knowledge, knowing that it is influenced by our subjectivity to such a great extent. Kant’s theory of space and time as purely subjective intuitions, as well as all of our empirical and mathematical knowledge, then, are all victims of this same potential subjective “warping.” I do understand how synthetic knowledge is possible in theory, but how can it be considered objective to any extent, if it is always a victim of subjective intuitions? Is this, then, exactly what Kant means when he says one cannot ever know a thing-in-itself? It seems that he is asserting that objective knowledge is possible, but I’m not sure if he means “knowledge objective from a limited human standpoint” rather than “objective knowledge” as such. I just don’t understand how anything that has to go through our subjective concepts/intuitions to reach our basis of knowledge (as Kant himself states) could possibly be considered “objective” to any extent.

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