Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kant (For My Western Philosophy Students)

(For my MCCC Western Philosophy Students)



1.   Explain how Hume Gave Kant a wake-up call.
a.   Cause and effect do not exist in the empirical world.
b.   Cause and effect are things in the mind.
2.   Explain Kant’s “Copernican Revolution.”
a.   Instead of the mind conforming to sense impressions, Kant sees sense impressions conforming to the mind.
3.   Explain Kant’s distinction between matter and form.
a.   The “form” of space and time is there prior to sense experience.

Hume’s attack on metaphysics woke Kant up.
Hume placed cause and effect as merely an idea, and not as a reality of the external world.
Hume said that ideas that have their origin in experience (e.g., green, warm, solid) can go no further than experience.
And ideas that don’t (e.g., cause) are mere illusions.
This makes sense if:
1)   We are acquainted only with the ideas in our experience.
2)   Objects are thought to exist independently of our experience.
3)   Knowledge requires that we find a correspondence between ideas and objects.
BUT…  what if this has it exactly backwards? That’s what Kant discovered.

Kant’s Copernican Revolution
Copernicus placed the sun, rather than the earth, at the center of the universe.
“Copernicus showed that when we think we are observing the motion of the sun around the earth, what we see is in fact the consequence of the rotation of our own earth.” (276)
Kant makes a revolutionary suggestion.
          It has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects.
That is, it is assumed that objects are simply there, completely independent of our apprehension of them.
To know them our beliefs must be brought to correspond to these independently existing things.
Kant’s Copernican revolution does for the mind what Copernicus did for the sense of vision.
“Instead of asking how our knowledge can conform to its objects, we must start from the supposition that objects must conform to our knowledge.” (276)
AGAIN: Instead of the mind conforming to objects outside the mind, Kant said that objects conform to the mind.

This means that there is a priori knowledge.
There is knowledge prior to sense experience. This means metaphysics is possible. E.g., cause and effect.
 “All our knowledge begins with experience, but Kant insists that it does not follow that all of it arises from experience.” (276)
There is knowledge that we have independently of experience. This is a priori knowledge.
“The marks of a priori knowledge are necessity and universality.” (276)
Unlike Hume, Kant maintains that the statement ‘every change has a cause’ expresses a judgment which is strictly necessary and strictly universal.
1.   It’s necessary – we necessarily view experience in terms of cause and effect.
2.   It’s universal – cause and effect applies to everything, and not just certain individual sense impressions.        
Therefore causality does not arise from experience.

Kant’s Distinction Between Matter and Form
Kant “makes a distinction between the matter and the form of our experience:
          The matter is what derives directly from sensation.
The form given by our understanding is what permits the chaos of appearance to take on order.” (Kenny, 279)
Kant is only interested in the “form.”
The “form” is there prior to or before sense experience.

Summary: “Human knowledge arises from the combined operation of the senses and the understanding. Through the senses, objects are given to us; through understanding, they are made thinkable. The structure of our senses determines the content of our experience; the constitution of our understanding determines its structure. The philosopher has to study both sense and understanding. Kant calls the former study ‘the transcendental aesthetic’ and the latter ‘the transcendental logic’.” (278)

Space and Time

Kant says: “In the course of this investigation it will be found that there are two pure forms of sensory awareness, serving as principles of a priori knowledge, namely, space and time.” (278)
Space and time are not derived from empirical experience, but are transcendental (lying at the base of experience).
Therefore space and time are a priori.
In other words, Kant asserts that space (and time) are not objective, self-subsisting realities, but subjective requirements of our human sensory-cognitive faculties to which all things must conform.
Space and time serve as indispensable tools that arrange and systemize the images of the objects imported by our sensory organs. The raw data supplied by our eyes and ears would be useless if our minds didn't have space and time to make sense of it all.