The second of Jay M. Bernstein’s series of lectures on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason in HTML format. The source material can be found at bernsteintapes.com.
Lecture Two: Vocabulary
Part 1 of 2
00:00: The claim last week was that Kant’s fundamental breakthrough between rationalism and empiricism is that each of these believe that knowledge could come from one faculty: rationalism from reason; empricism from sense.
Kant’s first claim is the breakthrough claim of modern philosophy all knowledge (notice here we are not saying all thinking, just all knowledge) requires both thinking and sense. Both concepts and intuitions. And these have to be joined with one another.
And they are joined with one another in what Kant calls a “judgment”.
02:00: Kant wants to make use of the two-sidedness of thought: concepts without intuitions are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind.
03:00: The concept side is going to talk about form and what has form and informs.
It speaks to what is universal in knowledge—concepts are those things that take hold of more than one object. That is what it means to be a concept—to take hold of more than one object.
Also on the concept side we have the idea of knowing as an activity—we are agents. As knowers we are agents. That is what Hume didn’t understand.
Even when we are knowing we are acting, shaping and forming the world.
But this is a heavy thesis. Unlike the rationalists for whom the ideas just build up—clear and distinct ideas—we really are going to say that knowing is a form of doing. This is one of Kant’s revolutionary thoughts. Knowing is a form of world-making.
04:30: On the other side we talk about the contents of thoughts, or the “matter” of thought, which is sense.
Intuitions are particulars. And this is our passive or receptive relationship to the world—how the world imprints itself on us, how the world constrains us and plays a role.
05:30: The concept side is what allows for the a priori and the intuition side what allows for a posteriori.
So schematically we have the following dichotomy:
- concepts – intuitions;
- form – matter;
- more than one object – particulars;
- activity – passivity or receptivity;
- a priori – a posteriori.
06:00: Kant’s second thought was that not only does knowledge require thinking and sensing—concepts and intuitions—but the work of judgment, which is not a form of seeing.
For Descartes—for whom you should have clear and distinct ideas—you should get the idea so clear that you can hold it in one simple mental glance, whatever that means.
At least with empiricists, they have some idea that we receive sensory impressions, but that again is a seeing, a having of a sense impression.
Kant thinks that this idea of knowing as seeing is a mistake.
And the notion of judgment is going to claim that bring intuitions under concepts is what judgments do, which we will get to later.
08:00: The notion is that we have to put these together in a judgment and thus knowledge is always for Kant discursive. It is an activity of thought, an activity of putting things together and, therefore, to use Brandom’s language, to know something is to know relations.
That something is true is to know something else is true. Meaning that to know something is true means we are able to make inferences from it. If you believe X then you must believe Y and Z.
So this talk of judgment and discursivity is going to be about how knowledge forms logical and inferential and deductive chains of propositions and sentences that relate to one another.
So schematically then, a judgment brings together:
- concepts – intuitions;
- form – matter;
- more than one object – particulars;
- activity – passivity or receptivity;
- a priori – a posteriori.
09:30: In order to start getting this in motion we decided we needed a technical vocabulary having to do with the types and status of propositions and our capacity to evaluate them.
Our first thought was that thoughts can be either necessary or contingent.
A proposition can be necessarily true. When we talk about necessity and contingency and the like, philosophers call these “modalities”.
Necessary, actual, or possible are three “modalities of judgment”.
This is what gives you “modal logic”—the analysis of the relationship between necessity, actuality, and possibility.
11:00: So what is “necessary”?
The step from possible to actual is one move—but how do we take the step from actual to possible?
One way of talking about necessity is that it could not have been false.
We have a gap here between two types of necessity we will have to clear up later.
There is causal necessity and logical/propositional necessity.
Right now we are limiting ourselves to logical necessity.
Of course there is the question of whether there is any causal necessity—this is what Hume denies. Kant is terrified about is.
14:00: Another possible definition is that the converse or opposite is impossible.
Leibniz would say something is necessarily true in something which would hold in all possible worlds.
15:00: We will see that Kant has a problem with logical necessity. He wants a notion of necessity that… he wants to find a space between logical necessity and causal necessity.
For the time being we will label this as transcendental or epistemic necessity.
The first thing Kant has is a modal vocabulary of necessity and contingency.
We also discovered last week he makes a distinction between a priori and a posteriori.
Something is a priori true if we can determine it to be true independently of experience. Soemthing is a priori if and only if we can determine it without looking in the world, or searching out. We can do it by reflection or thought.
So a priori refers to the mechanism of how we evaluate it, so something is a priori if we can evaluate it independent of experience.
Conversely, if evaluation is dependent on experience, then it is a posteriori.
18:00: And last time we ended up with the distinction between analytic and synthetic.
Analytic and synthetic describe not the way we know propositions, not how they are validated, but what type of propositions or judgments.
So schematically it seems to me we have made the following distinctions:
|Evaluation||A priori||vs.||A posteriori|
18:30: Kant will say that analytic propositions are explicative while synthetic propositions are amplitive.
Something is analytic if we construe the judgment in such a way that the predicate of the judgment adds nothing to the concept of the subject. It is merely taking the subject proposition and breaking it up, analyzing it, so that the predicate is contained in the subject, and that we come to this by merely examining the subject concept.
20:00: Since we don’t have to look at the world in order to do this, if we are just analyzing a concept, then it will follow that analytic judgments can be known a priori.
Last time we said that concepts were mediate “marks” for a determination of an object. So to say that a judgment is analytic is to say that the predicate is a mark contained in the subject proposition.
21:30: To make it a bit more formal, we can say that a concept is nothing but a set of marks. So the concept apple has certain marks: fruit, round, red-green.
The concept apple is marked out by the further marks of fruit colored in a certain way, roundish, grows, etc. All of that is contained in the subject proposition.
So in technical jargon, predicates are marks of marks.
23:00: Kant’s other way of talking about analytic propositions is to say that a proposition is analytic if its denial ends up in a self-contradition.
So if we say this thing here is an apple and it is not a fruit, we will get involved in a contradiction, but without even looking at the object—we don’t have to examine it because fruit is built in to the idea of apple.
24:00: So the point here is that we have to different concepts of analyticity, both of which Kant likes:
- containment; and
- contradictory denial.
A synthetic judgment is one which adds to the concept of the subject a predicate that has not been “in any ways thought in it and which no analysis could possibly extract from it”.
So the idea is a synthetic judgment…
No examination of the concept apple will tell us whether an apple is ripe or not. This is because the claim we are trying to make here is not a claim about a concept but about an object in the world, and therefore we are making a claim about a “third thing”.
Third things come up a lot in Kant. And this is the beginning of Kant’s concept of judgment because what he is claiming here is that a judgment is more than an association of two impressions or ideas.
26:00: If you are an empiricist you would simply have an apple impression and a ripeness impression and they would be associated with one another. But without any question about how they are connected.
For Kant, for a claim to be synthetic is to claim that the object picked out by the subject term has the property—that is what the “is” of predication is—picked out by the predicate term.
X = S is P, or “apple is ripe”.
X = some third thing, or some actualy object in the world about which we are saying both “apple” and “ripe” inhere.
27:00: So “Xs”—third things—tend to be in intuitions.
So synthetic knowledge is knowledge in which concepts determine an intuition.
28:00: Mitch asks whether it would be an analytic judgment whether or not an apple is “walking” or “happy”. This will end up, after more leg work, being determinable analytically because these are the kinds of predicate that cannot be said of that subject.
Lots of analytic judgments are not obviously analytic because you don’t see the contradiction immediately, the contradiction requires a lot of propositions.
Which is why the notion of containment can be tricky. Containment makes it look like analyticity is just a matter of investigating rather than complex inferential analysis.
29:30: Another question:
We can say that we can’t transform a synthetic into an analytic judgment because synthetic judgments require a material extension. It has to refer to the third thing.
This is why Kantian synthetic judgments cannot be rerouted into analytic judgments.
We will come back to the original question here when we get to the Quine problem.
30:30: The point here is that synthetic judgments are material extensions of the subject concept. By material extension we mean everything that was on the right hand side of our earlier schema (intuitions, matter, particulars, passicity or receptivity, a posteriori).
So synthetic judgments really add to what we have, so we have to check out the world.
31:00: So the basic definition of a judgment is a relation between a subject and predicate which is not merely an association of their ideas but an assertion—and those who do Frege can understand why he thought he needed an assertion sign—Frege saw that there was something more involved in a judgment and he wanted to get it through an assertion sign.
A judgment is that an assertion of a connection between the subject and predicate terms holds in the object denoted by the subject terms.
Therefore there must be some third things between the subject and predicate, which Kant calls “X”, into which S and P of a synthetic judgment are related and through which they are related to one other.
They are related to one another through their being related to the third thing.
33:00: Remember that intuitions are immediate representations of things.
This said we might suppose, as do all the rationalists and all the empiricists, it would seem rational to suppose that all synethetic propositions must be known a posteriori and all analytic judgments must be known a priori—and the only propositions that we can know a priori are analytic propositions.
That just follows from the definitions we have been examining.
But Kant wants to say there is another possibility. The claim is that there can be synthetic propositions that we can know a priori. There can be propositions that have a material extension that we can know a priori. There is a third thing, yet we can know it a priori.
Which is to say there are contentful propositions—propositions about intuitions—which can be necessarily and universally true and cannot be falsified.
We might have knowledge of the world—real material extension, not just moving around in concepts—and it be universal and necessarily true, a priori.
On the containment analysis, anything that is analytic is a priori. Because if I can know some truth just by closing my eyes and thinking of it, so anything I can know about apples simply by lying in bed on a Sunday morning, we are going to call that a priori.
Kant says famously that all knowledge derives from experience. Trivially, there is going to be no knowledge that we haven’t got through our interactions with the world, but not all knowledge depends on experience for its truth.
And it is the notion of depending that is crucial.
38:00: Let’s begin getting into synthetic a priori by asking: do we think there are any propositions that might qualify as synthetic a priori?
In the introduction, Kant says that 7 + 5 = 12 is synthetic a priori.
He thinks that 12 is a material extension, but why?
On the containment theory…
But what if we say 7 + 5 = m – n, we can imagine an infinite number of numbers that would satisfy m – n as placeholders. At the very least, it is the case that 7 + 5 = x is not contained in these two concepts m and n.
41:00: We all agree that 7 + 5 = 12 is necessarily true, but we are trying to see why Kant says it is synthetic.
What we have been trying to show is that on the containment theory, we cannot analyze 7 + 5 to get 12. So at least on the containment theory it is synthetic.
But what about the contradiction view?
You might think that the denial of 7 + 5 = 12 will lead to a contradiction. That is what Frege, Russell, and Whitehead thought. The thought that—and if it is false, it gives at least some legs to what Kant is trying to get at—of all arithmetic.
Poor Whitehead in all of the hard work of writing out the Principia Mathematica, the thought was that arithmetic could be cashed out purely in logical terms, using just the terms of formal logic, 108 axioms of symbolic logic, plus some extras.
The objection to that—which would take a whole course in itself—there are two standard objections to the Russellian-Leibnizian program.
- At least some of the axioms are questionable. Like the axiom of infinity which is meant to guarantee an infinity of possible mathematical objects. But some wonder how you are going to get that thought out of pure logic. That looks like a hefty extra thought. So it is not clear that all the axioms are purely logical.
- Gödels theorem, the incompleteness theorem, states that there cannot be any finite and consistent set of axioms from which every mathematical truth can be derived.
That would at least help us get going on the notion that 7 + 5 = 12 is synthetic.
But the point is, to short-cut through a lot of logical work, that it turns out that if you want to base 7 + 5 = 12 in logical analysis, you end up needing a lot more logical baggage then you might expect.
Indeed, it does look in retrospect—and this is what gives rise to the Quine problem—that 12 is just what we mean by 7 + 5, but it turns out that at least formally it can’t be cashed out in terms of either containment or contradiction.
So that something is or is not analytic may not be obvious.
46:30: Another proposition that Kant doesn’t discuss: we probably think that ‘nothing can be red and green all over’ is necessarily true, but Jay wants to argue that it has got to be synthetic.
Why would someone argue otherwise?
First of all it is necessarily true—we can’t imagine a possible world in which something is both red and green all over.
The reason that it must be synthetic is that the way to make it analytic is that red by definition is not green, yellow, purple… you just do it by negation, so you can say that it is contradictory.
But that doesn’t end up working. This is because at some point in this dictionary definition, I look up red which says ‘whatever is not green, yellow, purple…’
But when we look up yellow we get ‘whatever is not purple, red…’
This would be the analytic account of why nothing can be red and green all over, but is this still unsatisfactory?
At some point you have got to have some version of an ostensive definition, you have to go outside the series of concepts and bring in an individual.
50:00: Gabe asks: what if you leave actual colors out of it altogether and simply say ‘something cannot be covered by both color X and color Y’?
Jay wants to say that this will involve us in a definition of color and to go Aristotelian, you can’t have a notion of ‘color’ without ‘colors’.
51:00: But in any event, all we are trying to do is problematize what seem to be obvious analytic a prioris to make synthetic a prioris at least seem less crazy.
Let’s look at the case that really worried Kant, and that is Hume’s argument, of which there are two propositions that are connected.
A: The first is the proposition of the causal maxim: everything that has a beginning has a cause.
B: The second is that particular causes must necessarily have certain effects. That is, there is a bond of necessity linking cause and effect.
The claim of classical causal theory: if the causal event happens, then necessarily the effect event is going to happen.
Hume discovered that at least the second one—and Kant interestingly never actually denies this claim—that this second one is false.
Hume does this by counter-examples. When I perceive the cause and I perceive the effect, I do not perceive a necessary bond between them. All that happens is that first I see one, then I see the other, but all that happens is that usually or regularly when I see A I see B—this isn’t called the “regularity theory of causality” for nothing—and there is nothing more to it.
There is no magical necessity—no glue of the universe holding causes and effects together.
55:30: Kant says in the Prolegomena that it was that demonstration that awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumber.
And what Hume further thinks is that if B is false, if not B, then he thinks not A. If I can show that there is no ontological necessity in the world, then it follows that the causal maxim is not necessary.
56:30: So near the end of the book, at A766:
“That sunlight should melt wax and yet also harden clay, no understanding, he [Hume] pointed out, can discover from the concepts which we previously possessed of these things, much less infer them according to a law. Our experience is able to teach us such a law [… But, as we have discovered in the Transcendental Logic, although we can never pass immediately beyond the content of the concept which is given us, we are nevertheless able, in relation to a third thing, namely, possible experience, to know that the law of its connection with other things, and to do so in an a priori manner…]. If, therefore, wax, which was formerly hard, melts, I can know a priori that something must have preceded, ([that something being] for instance [in the case] the heat of the sun), upon which the melting has followed according to a fixed law, although a priori, independently of experience, I could not determine, in any specific manner, either the cause from the effect, or the effect from the cause. Hume was therefore in error in inferring from the contingency of our determination in accordance with the law the contingency of the law itself.”
By the way, this is pretty much the argument of the entire Critique of Pure Reason.
59:00: Hume’s argument in the Treatise was something like… we’ll break here and start with this in the next section.
Part 2 of 2
A handout was passed around between sections whose contents were as follows:
Transcendental realism: Space and its contents are real but never directly known, a position you can attribute to Descartes, Newton, Locke and many others.
This has as its corollary:
Empirical idealism: Experience consists of ideas and some tour de force is needed to show that ‘knowledge’ of bodies isn’t a mere illusion, e.g., God’s veracity, occasionalism, causal theory of perception.
These moves, however, don’t work and one is landed in skeptical idealism or dogmatic idealism, where our experience may be or must be illusory.
Kant’s Solution to the Problem
Transcendental idealism: Things-in-themselves can’t be known — we can make no judgements of the form “things-in-themselves are really x“.
This Kant believed had the corollary of:
Empirical realism: Experience consists of ideas and appearances that are real. No doubt some are illusory, but we discover this by incoherence. The distinction veridical/illusory is between appearances and not a distinction between appearances and reality.
0:00: We begin with the argument that Hume puts forward in this Treatise, 133, saying that if something is a priori, its denial involves a contradiction.
This tells us that, on Hume’s thinking, the a priori must be a matter of analysis. Therefore, if x implies a contradiction, then x is inconceivable—and Kant is going to have great worries about this notion of conceivability, because this notion turns out to be psychological and not logical.
If x implies a contradiction then it is inconceivable for Hume.
The denial of the causal maxim is conceivable and Hume thought it was conceivable because he thought that the denial of the particular causal bond entailed the denial of the causal maxim.
Hume’s thought was that if a cause occurs, not only is there not a particular effect, but from this cause you could have this, that, or the other effect or perhaps no effect. That is conceivable too.
2:30: So we can conceive or imagine that when I punch you in the face, a rose would bloom out of your nose or nothing would happen at all.
Hume thought that all of these were just regularities, which we could conceive or imagine to be otherwise.
Therefore, the denial of the causal maxim is conceivable. Therefore, the denial of the casual maxim does not imply a contradiction, hence the causal maxim is not analytically true, therefore the causal maxim is not a priori.
3:30: That is what motivated Kant, because if you think in this way, then it will turn out that not even mathematics is a priori.
That would be because we can do conceivability games in which 7 + 5 = 17 or 7 + 5 = a tomato.
About this issue, Kant said that Hume’s good sense saved him from going down this route. Hume realized that math is better than this, but still he can’t give an account of how.
Kant’s strong claim is that mathematics must be synthetic a priori, and, therefore, there must be other things that are synthetic a priori as well—among these he wants to include the causal maxim itself.
5:00: The question now becomes: if we are going to save knowledge from both rationalism and empiricism, then Kant wants to say that it will be a body of synthetic a priori propositions, and such a body of propositions will provide us with a “metaphysics of experience”, those features of our experience that we are going to hold with necessity and universality.
6:00: So if metaphysics concerns what is invariant and unchanging, then Kant wants to say that there is something about experience itself that is invariant or unchanging, namely its form or structure.
We’ve been arguing that Kant claims that there are two sources of knowledge—concepts and intuitions or reason and sense.
Therefore, if there are going to be synthetic a priori truths, then there must be two things:
- pure non empirical concepts, or concepts not derived from experience, but which we bring to experience in order to form or shape it; and
- these pure or formal or non-empirical concepts must yield knowledge, which is to say that the knowledge must apply to something.
8:00: Kant wants to hold to the thesis that concepts without intuitions are empty. So if these pure concepts are not empty, then they must refer. And if they refer, if they are material then they must relate to, some x:
apple (s – subject) is (x – the object being referred to) ripe (p – predicate)
But that x cannot be from empirical intuition, because if that was the case, the concept could only be validated a posteriori and would not be pure. Hence, if there are pure concepts at all, if there are any, they themselves have to refer to something that is itself pure.
And Kant is going to call these “pure intuitions”, or non-empirical intuitions.
9:30: So in Allison (page unknown) from Kant’s text On the Progress of Metaphysics, we have the key to the Critique of Pure Reason (CPR):
“Knowledge is a judgment from which a concept arises which has objective validity (and now we know what objective validity means for Kant — it means that there is some corresponding object in experience that can be given) if and only if there is some object in experience corresponding to it which can be given. Otherwise the object is a mere thought thing. (the object has got to refer)”
You might say that this is Kant’s own—this is why some of the empiricists actually like him—empiricist, positivistic, verificationist moment.
We can’t get it from thought alone; we have got to refer to some object.
“All experience, however, consists of the intuition of the object. An immediate and singular representation through which the object is given to knowledge and of a concept in need of representation to a mark that is common to several objects through which it is thought. One of these two modes of representation alone cannot constitute knowledge and it is therefore to be synthetic a priori there must also be also be a priori intuitions as well as concepts.”
11:30: There must be intuitions, singular immediate representations of particular objects that we can know independently of experience.
There are two fundamental pure intuitions—space and time.
The thought here which then gives us the structure of the entire book is that if there are to be synthetic a priori intuitions, then like any judgment…
Judgments are composed of concepts and intuitions and it is a matter of bringing intuitions under concepts, and Kant is going to call the pure concepts “categories” and the pure intuitions, the x we have been looking for, are going to be space and time.
Thus, for an empirical intuition, apple (s) is (x) ripe (p), and for a pure intuition, x refers to space and time — not objects of experience, but objects of the possibility of experience.
Synthetic a priori intuitions are going to be bringing the pure intuitions of space and time under the categories of thought.
13:30: If you look at the Table of Contents, that gives you the structure of the book. After the Preface and Introduction—these are the parts we have been going through— you get the first part which is called the “Transcendental Aesthetic”.
The “Transcendental Aesthetic” is an inquiry into what we can know about our capacity for receptivity a priori, that is the Transcendental Aesthetic is the attempt to elucidate the fact that above all that space and time are a priori intuitions.
Next week we still try to see how space is an a priori intuition. Time as well, but for Jay (the lecturer) space is more fun.
15:00: The next bit of the text, the Transcendental Analytic, is the analysis of the Pure Concepts, the Categories, and the claim that they are necessarily applicable to space and time, or that we cannot have experience with out them.
The categories that are the most fun are the categories of substance and causality.
The claim of the text is going to be that we can know through transcendental reflection. By ‘transcendental’ we mean ‘whatever is a necessary condition for the possibility of experience.’ A transcendental inquiry is an inquiry into the necessary conditions for the possibility of experience.
16:30: If Kant can show that certain things are necessary for the very possibility of experience, namely that there be a unified spatial world in a unified temporal continuum and we can only have knowledge of that unified spatio-temporal world if and only if we employ the categories of substance, causality, and the like, then he will have shown that we have synthetic a priori knowledge—that is, truths that are true—but not in all possible world.
His critique of Leibniz is that he does not know what is possible in all possible worlds, and, furthermore, we shouldn’t care. Why care about other possible worlds?
18:00: So modal logic—like Saul Kripke—is just fiction.
Modal logic concerns, according to Kripkean semantics, which is a Leibnizian project, what is true in all possible worlds. Kant says that that notion of necessity is of complete disinterest to us. We are transcendental philosophers—we are inquiring not into what is true in all possible worlds, but we are ratcheting down to ask what is necessarily true to us if we are to have experience of this world.
How must the world be if someone like me can have experience of it? We underline ‘if someone like me…’ because that is the Copernican Turn.
19:00: Preface, B xvi-xvii:
“Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects…”
This is the correspondence theory of truth—how do I know that my representations, my propositions, how do I know they correspond to the object?
And Kant thinks that this very question, this is his most radical move, is the wrong question. All metaphysics has presumed the question ‘how do I know my knowledge conforms to the world’, and the simple reason why he thinks that this is a bad question is because—it assumes that our access to things out there…
For Kant, our access to things in the worlds like cups is through our judgment. But when we ask ‘how do I know that my judgment that the cup is white corresponds to the cup’, that looks to Kant like an impossible question because it is only through my representation or experience of the cup that I have access to the cup.
So the question how do I know that my representation corresponds to the cup is trying to get me to get out of my skin, out of my propositions, over to the other side, to the object. That is what the Cartesian circle is all about, jumping out of your skin, only you can’t, so you say something else jumps out of your skin—call it God—then you have this silly story about having a thought in me bigger than me, that is God, therefore…
In order to do what? To bring me in touch with what I am already in touch with. So the very question ‘how do I know that my knowledge corresponds to the object’ denatures me, it is a denial of my relationship to the object, because it is a denial of the things that make the object available to me.
23:00: So Kant thinks that if metaphysics is always that, then metaphysics is an attempt to know the world by a denial of the means by which we know the world.
And of course he gives that a dirty name: intellectual intuition, the God’s eye point of view.
23:30: “Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects. But all attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regard to them a priori, by means of concepts, have, on this assumption, ended in failure.”
And this is because it looks like if philosophy is the game of a priori thinking, how much by means of mere thought can I figure out about the nature and structure of the world and experience? It looks like that is simply an absurd question.
How can I by just sitting in my arm chair figure out what the world independently of anything I might think, reason, or believe be like?
So the very question looks like it is self-defeating. It is not just that it did end in failure, it had to.
“Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects. But all attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regard to them a priori, by means of concepts, have, on this assumption, ended in failure. We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success in the tasks of metaphysics, if we suppose that the objects must conform to our knowledge.”
Jay takes this “trial” language very seriously.
The Copernican turn is an event. It is something we undergo. It is not as if we know exactly how to do it, but we have to try it in order to achieve a different, new standpoint.
26:00: And the word “must” is doing all the work in the passage above. Because if we drop the notion of must—that all objects must conform to our knowledge—then we have nothing but nominalism and constructivism.
The world wouldn’t then have any say. We can just say anything we want to say.
27:00: Kant wants to ask if there is any way we can demonstrate that there is a necessity to objects appearing in a certain way?
Is there any grounds for it to be the case that if I have an experience, then it must be of an object in space and in time that is causally connected to other objects, by necessity?
Because he wants to say if that isn’t true—this is the argument of the book—then there is no experience, there is no knowledge…
The Copernican Turn is the turning around of this and that entails Transcendental Idealism.
28:00: So far we have said that there are two sources of knowledge. Knowledge is either discursive, and Kant’s final achievement is his notion of Transcendental Idealism in which you can say there are two ineliminable ways of viewing the world.
You might even want to call this a “two worlds” thesis. But in any event this is all opposed to realism.
What do we mean by Transcendental Idealism? What is Kant’s “two world’s” hypothesis? What is it to undergo this Copernican Turn? What do we have to eliminate in order to do it?
30:00: The first statement is that our knowledge must conform to objects. We are going to give this object a new name: “thing-in-itself”.
We will define the thing-in-itself as the object that is independent of our knowledge and our means of knowledge of it.
That is, the thing-in-itself is the object conceived of as external to any human knowing.
In other words, it is the object “as God might see it”.
31:00: So Kant’s thought is trying to figure out of our representations of the object conform to the object is a hopeless endeavor.
Hopeless because if our relationship to the object is via our representations of the object, then we are not going to be able to find a way of matching our representation with something that is in principle something that is wholly independent of that representation.
Kant’s way of thinking about this is to say let’s just drop it and draw a boundary against the world of things-in-themselves.
Transcendental idealism is the thesis that we know appearances only. We know things in relation to our representations of them. Therefore, we are going to say that our means of representation are our body of synethtic a priori judgments.
The structure of experience—what gives us a representation—is treating things in terms of space, time, categories.
So what we know now is an internal correlate of our judgment, so that what the synthetic a priori propositions gives us is our concept of an object.
So there can be no object for us independent of the concept of an object for us.
And the idea of the concept of an object for us is what emerges in the light of our acts of judging and representing and the like, in terms of using the categories.
34:30: To call this idealism is simply to say that everything that appears does so under a description. And the description it appears under minimally is given, or specified by, the body of synthetic a priori judgments.
Therefore, for something to be an object, it is already embraced within these categories and intuitions.
We can think about this new object, we know appearances only and not things in themselves, that statement is true only as a transcendental statement.
37:00: Looking at the handout, of course Kant is an idealist, but the fact that he is an idealist doesn’t mean that he lived in a world any different than that which you and I live in, with chairs and tables and hard things. Therefore, the purpose of our claim here, the statement that we know appearances only and not things-in-themselves is transcendental and not empirical.
We have to get the right perspectival relationship of philosophical understanding to ordinary experience.
38:00: Something about appearance talk is offensive.
Here we start by looking at the world through Kantian lenses with transcendental realism. This is Kant’s way of thinking about both empiricism and rationalism. For Kant, both empiricists and rationalists, including Berkeley, were realists. What makes a realist a realist is that they believe that there is a world that exists independently of my thoughts and beliefs about it. And the question is: how do I get connected up to it? That is what realism is.
39:00: This transcendental realism is what Husserlians call “the natural attitude”. This whole movement can also be done in terms of Husserl and the question of transcendental bracketing.
This can be done in terms of the natural attitude, but Jay thinks the Kantian route is much more thorough, although Husserlians disagree.
Here space and its content are real. They have always existed, there was a big bang, there is a world out there, it is real.
What empiricists and rationalist all agree is that it is never directly known—we can only know the thing by thinking if you are a rationalist or by having experiences if you are an empricist. But one way or another, I am tied to my representations of the world.
40:00: So what I know of the world is not what it is in itself, but I know it indirectly through my representations. Therefore, if you are a transcendental realist, you are inevitably going to become an empirical idealist.
You are going to believe as an empirical idealist, since you believe there are things out there but you can’t touch them, all you have is representations, then you will ask: what do I know? What is it I have experience of?
The empirical idealist says: I experience ideas in my mind. So experience consists of ideas, whether they are impressions of the empiricist sort or ideas of a rationalist sort, and then we are going to somehow hook up my ideas with the world.
To do that we are either going to need something like God’s veracity… that would be to know the world by faith?
That is the claim of all these characters, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Leibniz.
42:00: So empirical idealism ends up in one of two places: you either end up a skeptic like Hume; or you become a crazy dogmatist like Leibniz and you go towards theodicy.
The Kantian claim is that the remedy to this impasse is empirical realism, which is the claim that experience consists of ideas and appearances, but these are real. The appearance of the chair is just the chair—it is not an idea in my head but an object in space and time that causally interacts with other things. Of course, sometimes I am mistaken and sometimes I get cut off from experience, which is why bad dreams are so bad because it is as if they were real.
43:30: But that just tells us how committed we are to empirical realism.
But empirical realism can be the case only if you are a transcendental idealist.
You can have a world of concrete things in the sense that you are not cut off from them, only if you agree that these things must conform to our knowledge.
44:00: There is a Wittgensteinian version of this same argument. There is a beautiful essay by Jonathan Lear called The Disappearing We.
There is a version of Wittgenstein that says that he is a transcendental idealist because he thinks that the necessary conditions for the possibility of knowledge are forms of life, language games, practices, etc.
An object is only an object in the context of all that stuff. Those are the necessary conditions for the possibility of experience, to use Kantian talk. That is what the Wittgensteinian ‘meaning as use’ means, which ties meaning to agency and practice.
45:00: What follows from that is that for any proposition we must put before it a kind of bracketing. Kant says ‘the ‘I think’ must accompany all of my representations’. That is Kant’s way of doing the Copernican Turn.
The “I think” means this whole apparatus.
Wittgenstein is going to give us something different. He is going to give us the “We think”.
So 2 + 2 = 4, if we want to be accurate about why that is compelling, why we are convinced that 2+2=4, it depends on our form of life, that we are counting creatures, etc. All that goes into 2+2=4, then we are going to say “we think 2+2=4”.
That is to treat the proposition 2+2=4 as a consequence of its being bounded by the transcendental conditions of possibility.
46:30: So we can now understand from a transcendental perspective that the proposition 2+2=4 as “we think 2+2=4”, but now if we think about it, the “we think” is opposed here to what?
The “we think” doesn’t contrast with anything, and once we realize that, we can drop it altogether and say “2+2=4” and now we are back to being empirical realists.
47:00: In the next twelve weeks, we want to be able to show that transcendental idealism, exactly by saying that we know appearances and not things-in-themselves, is the only thing that gives back to us the concreteness of experience—that is, allows for thick empirical realism and, therefore, there isn’t going to be a “veil of perception”—the problem of classical epistemology—standing between us and the world.
Our claim is that our judgments put us in touch with the world. All the world I’ll ever know…