0 - Kant - Summary and Analysis

Karina De-Bourne
Flashcards by Karina De-Bourne, updated more than 1 year ago
Karina De-Bourne
Created by Karina De-Bourne almost 7 years ago


HMP Flashcards on 0 - Kant - Summary and Analysis, created by Karina De-Bourne on 06/03/2014.

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Generally credited with effecting a synthesis between the empiricist philosophy of GB and rationalist philosophy of Europe. Although trained within rationalist tradition, he was greatly influenced by Hume which shows in his empirical aspects of thought. His primary aim is to determine the limits and scope of pure reason; he wants to know what reason alone can determine without the help of the senses or any other faculties. He is prompted by Hume's scepticism to doubt the very possibility of metaphysics.
Two Important Distinctions - between a priori and a posteriori knowledge and - between analytic and synthetic judgements. A posteriori knowledge is the particular knowledge we gain from experience. A priori knowledge is the necessary and universal knowledge we have independent of experience, such as mathematical knowledge.
In an analytic judgement, the concept in the predicate is contained in the subject; 'a bachelor is an unmarried man'. In a synthetic judgement, the predicate concept contains information not contained in the subject concept thus it is informative rather than just definitional.
Typically we associate a posteriori knowledge with synthetic judgements and a priori knowledge with analytic judgements. Kant argues that maths and principles of science contain synthetic a priori knowledge; 7+5=12 is a priori because it is a necessary and universal truth we know independent of experience and synthetic because the concept of 12 is not contained in the concept of 7+5.
Kant argues that the same is true of scientific principles such as for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, because it is universally applicable, it must be a priori knowledge. The fact that we are capable of synthetic a priori knowledge suggests that pure reason is capable of knowing important truths and suggests that much of what we consider to be reality is shaped by the perceiving mind.
The mind, according to Kant, does not passively receive information provided by the sense but it actively shapes and makes sense of that information. Such as in virtue of happening in time. If all events in our experience take place in time, this is because our mind arranges sensory experience in a temporal progression. If we perceive that some events cause other events, this is because our mind makes sense of events in terms of cause and effect.
There is the idea that Kant's argument is similar to the idea of wearing rose-tinted glasses; the mind wears unremovable time and causation tinted glasses thus all our experience necessarily takes place in time and obeys the laws of causation. This is in virtue of it actively taking experience and shaping it and making sense of it. Time and space are pure intuitions of our faculty of sensibility; concepts of physics such as causation are pure intuitions of our faculty of understanding.
Sensory experience only makes sense because our faculty of sensibility processes it, organising it according to our intuitions of time and space. These intuitions are the source of maths; our number sense comes from our intuition of successive moments in time and geometry comes from our intuition of space.
Events that take place in space and time would still be a meaningless jumble if it were not for our faculty of understanding which organises experiences according to the concepts, such as causation, which form the principles of nature. If time and space (and other things) are constructs of the mind, we might wonder what is actually 'out there'/in reality independent of our minds. Kant answers that we cannot know for certain (thus a priority focus).
Our senses react to stimuli that come from outside the mind, but we only have knowledge of how they appear to us once they have been processed by our faculties of sensibility and understanding (active). Kant calls this stimuli 'things-in-themselves' and says that we can have no certain knowledge about their nature. He distinguishes sharply between the world of noumena, which is the world of things-in-themselves and the world of phenomena which is the world as it appears to our minds. (He allows for their co-existence.)
Kant has a focus upon metaphysics. This relies on the faculty of reason, which does not shape our experience in the way that our faculties of sensibility and understanding do, but rather it helps us reason independent of experience. Metaphysicians are mistaken in their application of reason to things in themselves and their attempts to understand matters beyond reason's grasp. This results in contradiction and confusion.
Kant redefines the role of metaphysics as a critique of pure reason; that the role of reason is to understand itself, to explore the powers and limits of reason. We are incapable of knowing anything certain about things-in-themselves, but we can develop a clearer sense of how and what we can know by examining intensively the various faculties and activities of the mind.
In CPR, Kant achieves a synthesis between the competing traditions of rationalism and empiricism. From rationalism, he draws the idea that pure reason is capable of significant knowledge but rejects the idea that pure reason can tell us anything about things in themselves.
From empiricism, he draws the idea that knowledge is essentially knowledge from experience but rejects the idea that we can infer no necessary and universal truths from experience. Thus he avoids the metaphysical speculations of the rationalists. Kant achieves what he calls a Copernican revolution in philosophy by turning the focus from metaphysical speculation about the nature of reality to a critical examination of the nature of the thinking and perceiving mind.
Kant tells us that reality is a joint creation of external reality and the human mind and that it is only regarding the latter that we can acquire any certain knowledge. He challenges the assumption that the mind is a blank slate or neutral receptor of stimuli from the surrounding world.
The mind does not simply receive information, it also gives said information shape. Knowledge then is not something that exists in the outside world and then poured into the mind like water into a jug. Rather it is something created by the mind by filtering sensations through various mental faculties. Because these faculties determine the shape that all knowledge takes, we can only grasp what knowledge and hence truth, is in its most general form if we grasp how these faculties inform our experience.
The lynchpin of Kant's critical philosophy is his category of the synthetic a priori. Although similar distinctions to Kant's a priori- a posteriori and synthetic-analytic have been made, he is the first generate this third category for knowledge. His coup comes in determining that synthetic judgements can also be a priori. He shows that maths and scientific principles are neither analytic nor a posteriori and provides an explanation for the category of the synthetic a priori by arguing that our mental faculties shape our experience.
Kant differs from his rational predecessors by claiming that pure reason can discern the form, but not the content of reality. He turns previous assumptions on their head by suggesting... ... that time, space and causation are not found in experience but are instead the form the mind gives to experience (tinted glasses). We can grasp the nature of these not because pure reason has some insight into the nature of reality but because pure reason has some insight into the nature of our own mental faculties.
Kant's conception of things in themselves comes under a lot of attack as many people, mainly Idealists, believe that there are more mysterious entities out there;Kant claims these are the sources of our sensations whilst also claiming that we can have no direct knowledge of them. Idealism jettisons things-in-themselves and the whole noumenal realm, arguing instead that reality consists primarily of mental phenomena.
Analytic philosophy (leading school of C20th phil) also attacks Kant. Frege criticises Kant for basing the analytic-synthetic distinction on the subject-predicate form of grammar, which is not a necessary feature of the logical structure of language/reality. Kant is only able to argue that geometry relies on synthetic a priori knowledge because he fails to distinguish between pure geometry (mathematical axioms and proofs) and empirical geometry (application of geometrical principles to science).
Pure geometry is a priori but it is also analytic since it is justified according to logical principles alone. Empirical geometry is synthetic, but it is also a posteriori since we only learn from experience what sort of geometry applies to the real world.
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