My Final Essay on Kant’s Critique (159554)

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My Final Essay on Kant’s Critique


(By Alexander Koudlai)


1) What is meant by Kant’s “Copernican Revolution”?


While the natural philosophers used to think of space, time, and objects of perception as of reality existing “out there”, Kant claims that those exist but in us. Space and time are forms of pure intuition, and objects are mere appearances (phenomena) of transcendental things (noumena). So Kant made human psyche the center of phenomenal world, when the a priori categories were the rules for all empirical knowledge, pre-determined by those categories and pure (not empirical) intuitions of space and time.


2) What is the “Transcendental Aesthetic”” about?


In B36 Kant gives his own definition of the term:


I call a science of all principles of a priori sensibility the transcendental aesthetic. There must therefore be such a science, which constitutes the first part of the transcendental doctrine of elements, in contrast to that which contains the principles of pure thinking and is named transcendental logic.


Transcendental Aesthetic is that part of Kant’s transcendental Philosophy, which deals with an explanation “how are synthetic a priori propositions possible? – namely pure a priori intuitions, space and time, in which, if we want to go beyond the given concept in a priori judgment, we encounter that which is to be discovered a priori and synthetically connected with it, not in the concept but in the intuition that corresponds to it; but on this ground such a judgment never extends beyond the objects of the senses and can hold only for objects of possible experience”(B73).


3. Explain what Kant means by (l) intuition, pure intuition, empirical intuition; (2) concept, pure concept, empirical concept; (3) transcendent; (4) transcendental; (5) a dogmatic procedure of reason; (6) critical.

(1) “ In whatever way and through whatever means a cognition may relate to objects, that through which it relates immediately to them, and at which all thought as a means is directed as an end, is intuition”. (A19/B33)

The intuition is pure if it is not grounded in experience, but exists a priori. Kant claims that there are only two pure intuitions of space and time. Those are necessary preconditions for all kinds of experience. They are general ways of experiencing all kinds of sensual objects. There are also particular intuitions. “That intuition which is related to the object through sensation is called empirical” (A20).

(2)Objects are given through intuitions but “thought through understanding, and from it arise concepts” (A19/B33). This is about empirical concepts. But there are also pure concepts of understanding, the categories, the a priori forms for all kinds of possible empirical knowledge without which we could not have any understanding of nature at all.

(3) transcendent and (4)transcendental

Look first at A296/B352-3, for the meaning of "transcendent" and how it's different from "transcendental". Transcendent principles, or a transcendent employment of principles, go beyond possible experience. Look at A309, A326-327. B427,B448, B487.

In the Transcendental Logic Kant speaks of transcendent principles of pure understanding as those which “would fly beyond the boundaries of immanent” ones which belong to possible experience. Kant’s concern is about “illusions” of dialectic (“a logic of illusion” A293/B249) He tries to clarify the principles of thinking and to establish the boundaries of different kinds of those.

In A296 he writes: “We call the principles whose application stays wholly and completely within the limits of possible experience immanent, but those that would fly beyond these boundaries transcendent principles (“that actually incite us to tear down all those boundary posts and to lay claim to a wholly new territory, that recognizes no demarcations anywhere). But by the latter I do not understand the transcendental use or misuse of categories, which is a mere mistake of the faculty of judgment, when it is not properly checked by criticism, and thus does not attend enough to the boundaries of the territory in which alone the pure understanding is allowed its play”.

So, if I understand it correctly, Kant says that there is a possibility of a transcendental use-misuse of immanent as well as transcendent principles . He wants us to be careful (critical) in our thinking.

(5) a dogmatic procedure of reason is transcendental thinking of transcendent or immanent without proper verification: that which may create an illusion of knowledge, based on a misuse of abstract logic in the sphere of possible experience, and categories in the sphere of pure ideas. Sophistry without a content.

(6) critical thinking or dialectical rigorous investigation is opposed to mere sophistry and can be compared to the skeptical method in A424. “This method of watching or even occasioning a contest between assertions, not in order to decide it to the advantage of one party or the other, but to investigate whether the object of the dispute is not perhaps a mere mirage… It is entirely different from skepticism, a principle of artful and scientific ignorance…”


4. Kant sometimes formulated the central problem of the first Critique this way:  “How are synthetic a priori judgments possible?”
Explain what he means by this question.  Give examples of the kinds of judgments Kant thinks in need of defense?  Explain why he thinks that these examples are neither (i) a posteriori (empirical), nor (ii) analytic.

John Locke and many others thought that our knowledge of the real world starts with sense impressions, which are followed by simple ideas and then complex ideas; the analytical knowledge for those was just the matter of words. Hence, any synthetic a priori knowledge would not be possible on that account.

Kant offered another theory of Transcendental Aesthetic where there were two pure intuitions of space and time, necessary for any experience even to begin, because all possible experiences occur in space and in certain sequences (time). There were also empirical intuitions, “but all our intuition (of the kind) is nothing but the representation of appearance; … the things that we intuit are not in themselves what we intuit them to be, nor are their relations so constituted in themselves as they appear to us: and if we remove our own subject or even only the subjective constitution of the senses in general, then all constitution, all relation of objects in space and time, indeed space and time themselves would disappear, and as appearances they cannot exist in themselves, but only in us” (A42).

From Kant’s point of view there were problems also with the Leibnizian-Wolffian philosophy which “directed all investigations of the nature and origins of our cognitions to an entirely unjust point of view in considering the distinction between sensibility and the intellectual as merely logical, since it is obviously transcendental, and does not concern merely the form of distinctness or indistinctness, but the origin and content, so that through sensibility we do not cognize the constitution of things in themselves merely indistinctly, but rather not at all…” (B62).

For all empirical cognitions we need immediate intuitions in space and concepts which are built in the frame of time. And still, all those are about mere appearances, the nature of the latter being objective.

Now, Kant felt that it was necessary to defend his foundational judgments about space:

  1. Space is not an empirical concept. For in order certain sensations to be related to something outside me (… in another place in space from that in which I find myself)… not merely as different but as in different places, the representation of space must already be their ground. Thus, the representation of space cannot be obtained from the relations of outer appearances through experience, but this outer experience is itself possible only through this representation. (B38)

  2. Space is a necessary representation, a priori, that is the ground of all outer intuitions. One can never represent that there is no space, though one can very well think that there are no objects to be encountered in it…(A24/B39)

  3. Space is not a discursive or as is said, general concept of relations of things in general, but a pure intuition. For first one can only represent a single space, and if one speaks of many spaces, one understands by that only parts of one and the same unique space… the manifold in it, thus… rests merely on limitations… Thus also all geometrical principles, e. g., that in a triangle two sides together are always greater than a third, are never derived from general concepts of line and triangle, but rather are derived from intuition and indeed derived a priori with apodictic certainty (A25).

  4. Space is represented as an infinite given magnitude.


And he concluded: ”Therefore the original representation of space is an a priori intuition, not a concept” (B40).


He also defended his judgments about time:


  1. Time is not an empirical concept (B46)

  2. Time is a necessary representation that grounds all intuitions (A31)

  3. This a priori necessity also grounds the possibility of apodictic principles of relations of time, or axioms of time in general. It has only one dimension: different times are not simultaneous, but successive (just as different spaces are not successive, but simultaneous). (B47)

  4. Time is not discursive or, as one calls it, general concept, but a pure form of sensible intuition.(A32)

  5. The infinitude of time signifies nothing more that that every determinate magnitude of time is only possible through limitations of a single time grounding it. (B48)


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