Systems of categories
that give form to the data
Context in which to place
Hearing a foreign language for
the first time, this is like being
without a conceptual scheme
Hot & Red tomatoes: connecting
different experiences of the same
Condillac's Statue (no
CRIT: Why does experience appear in an
orderly fashion? Without a conceptual scheme
we would perceive the world as a buss of
confusion (WIlliam James)
CRIT: How is the statue able to recognise and
store raw data without having some system of
classification already in place
Concepts, and thus conceptual
schemes, are acquired through
CRIT: Concepts are said (Hume & Locke) to
require experience, but it can also be said
that experience requires concepts
Condillac went on to define
conceptual schemes through
language (later developed by
Wittgenstein), a language through
which we organise experience
Grammatical structures and vocabulary of the language we speak determines how we structure experience.
Hopi Indians example
Hopi Indians have no words for time, past or future-Whorf speculated from this that they must have radically different conceptions and experience of time from English speakers.
In George Orwell's 1984 there is a made-up language called newspeak which eliminates words which might enable people to think subversive thoughts-if there are no words for 'oppression' or 'rebellion' then people won't know they are being oppressed or think of rebelling.
There must be an innate conceptual
scheme in order for us to distinguish
between different experiences
The world as we experience it
necessarily involves an act of
The human mind must
have a sort of conceptual
scheme already in place in
order to have experience
There is no such thing
as experience that is
raw or uncategorised
We are born with a priori categories
which we apply to raw data to allow for
sense experience (a precondition of
having any experience in the first place)
Hume has already defined causation as a concept , and argues that our knowledge of this concept arises from our experience of objects causing each other to move.
Kant agrees that we must have a concept of causation, but disagrees with Hume in that he finds causation to be known a priori. It is required to process the raw data we receive into intelligible experience in the mind. The concept of cause is necessary prior to experience and so must be known a priori.
As Hume said earlier we do not directly perceive matter but infer it from our experience
Brain in Vat
Our experiences may not be caused by real objects as we may simply be a brain in a vat controlled by a computer. The claim that we can never perceive matter through direct sense experience has drove many Philosophers to Idealism-to give up the concept of matter completely.
Kant agrees that we cannot have a direct perception of matter but holds that we undeniably see the world as material object. We must have an a priori concept of substance in order to process the raw data we receive and turn it into intelligible experience.
We perceive an ordered world with objects made of matter that cause events, however the modern scientific view is of a huge mass of energy constantly shifting and changing.
Computers are very good are doing certain tasks such as playing chess-however they find it very difficult to perceive objects in the world. For example, computers cannot make out the letters in hidden word locks on websites.
Humans can perceive the letters much more clearly because they have a conceptual scheme to perceive distinct objects in the world. The concept of 'letter' is of course empirical but Kant finds that the concept of letter can only be formed when we already have the a priori category of unity.
Time is a concept which binds inner (non-spatial experience in the mind such as happiness) and outer (everything we experience in space) experience together.
Kant defined two different 'worlds', one which is as itself and the other as we perceive it through our conceptual scheme. According to him, we cannot hope to know the noumenal world , but can only describe the structural conditions under which it appears.
Noumenal World (as it is
(which we experience)
Argument for Substance
I am aware of myself existing in time. A precondition of this is that I have changing impressions (inner and outer). An idea of enduring substance is required so that I can distinguish myself in time (otherwise I would not be able to distinguish myself from thoughts).
Raft on River
Our mind is a raft moving on the river of time, we need a bank (substance) to know that we are moving with the river.
Concept of endurance is a
precondition of being aware of the
self in time
Synthetic a priori
Whilst analytic propositions such as 'all bachelors are unmarried' can be established a priori, synthetic propositions cannot be known to be true through analysis alone. This is the empirical view of Hume.
Kant however wanted to prove the coherence of synthetic a priori knowledge ie useful knowledge about the world known through analysis alone. He used the example of causation, which Hume argued was known through our experience of objects causing movement in each other. Kant found causation to be an a priori category for experience, but this is not an analytic truth because it is not part of the word 'event' that it is something which must be caused.
Kant claimed that reality reflects our understanding about the world. We can know a priori that every event has a cause because we know we must experience the world causally. This is because Kant's theory is based in transcendental conditions which can be unearthed through analysis-this is his synthetic a priori.
Possible to have meaningful a priori
knowledge about the world e.g. causality,
known through analysis
Kant does assume that every event has a cause and we could possibly imagine an event with no cause-however this is not how we experience the world.
CRIT: Does Kant really prove his theory?
Kant's argument is hard to follow and it is not clear that he succeeds in establishing the categories of experience.
As Kant does not have access to other minds apart from his own, he cannot really be certain that he is articulating the preconditions for everyone's intelligible experience.
CRIT: Kant's a priori knowledge
does not apply to the real world
Kant cannot claim that we have a priori knowledge of the real world, only of the world we perceive since we do not perceive raw data.
Objects in the noumenal world cannot be said to cause our sensations because cause is a concept which applies to the world of sense experience. It is only within our experience that we perceive one object causing another. In the same way we cannot imagine a world without space or time, but this is only because we only understand and imagine things in our experience. The real world is beyond our comprehension.
Yet, Kant seems to define the phenomenal world as what we see the real world as, in this way he can only claim to have synthetic a priori knowledge about the real world by redefining what the real world is. Human enquiry is limited to our conceptual scheme and we cannot think outside of this conceptual scheme, hence we can have no knowledge of the real world.
People in Room example
Kant said that if there are 5 different people in the room, while it may be tempting to say they are all looking through their eyes they are actually each having a different experience. The basic structures in each mind will be the same, as Kant claimed these are the preconditions of all conscious experience.