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PHIL111 13/14 WEEK 18.docx

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PHIL 111
Jon Miller

February 11, 2014 Recalling - Descartes argued that knowledge of the external world is ultimately rational knowledge - By contrast, Locke held that all knowledge ultimately derives from experience - Berkeley agreed with Locke but concluded that the external world is ideational in character - Now we will encounter Kant, who wants to show that rationalists and empiricists are both right and wrong Kant’s Antinomies - An antinomy is when opposing arguments are placed side-by-side. The effect is to show that one argument is better than the rest, or that all arguments are equally compelling - Kant thought there were antinomies in philosophy. These antinomies resulted because philosophers (both rationalists and empiricists) had failed to understand the limitations of pure reason - We’ve seen a kind of antinomy in our study of Descartes, Locke, and Berkeley o On the one side, rationalists insist that true knowledge- even knowledge of the external world- depends on reason alone o On the other side, empiricists hold that all real knowledge- including that of the external world- comes from experience o Both have good arguments: how to deal with the impasse? Thesis Antithesis The world has a beginning in time and The world doesn’t have a beginning in boundary in space time and boundary in space Everything is made of simple parts, and Things are made of complex parts nothing exists where it is not composed of the simple We have free will We don’t have free will God exists God doesn’t exist - Kant calls these the “antinomies of pure reason”. Although they belong to the same broad family, there are important differences among them o For example, Kant argues that each of the first pair of antinomies- about whether the world has a beginning in time and boundary in space- is false. Why? Because each side seeks the unconditioned when it is impossible for us to achieve the unconditioned. As one author has explained,  “While it might seem true that every series must have an unconditioned beginning or a boundary, we simply cannot perceive unconditioned beginnings or boundaries in time or space; but that does not in turn mean we can perceive an infinite world in time or space either, because we cannot in fact ever complete an infinite synthesis of moments in time or places or objects in space” o By contrast, the second antinomy (about God) presents opposing propositions that, Kant argues, can each be true if they are properly restricted  If we conceive of a necessary cause of contingent beings as outside of time, then we can conceive of an absolutely necessary being as the cause of the world but not part of it  Likewise, if we conceive of the cause of contingent beings in time, then we cannot conceive of any absolutely necessary being as existing anywhere in the world - Though there are important differences among the antinomies, Kant believes they share a common element. In all cases, the antinomies arise from a failure to recognize the distinction between the realm of appearances and the realm of things in themselves The Limits of Pure Reason - The antinomies of pure reason point to something important. They show that pure reason itself will inevitably produce contradictory findings o The thesis always takes the unconditioned- the realm beyond all space/time- to be the intelligible ground of things o By contrast, antithesis always supposes that the realm of appearances- the spatio/temporal realm- is all that there is - The way forward is to recognize the distinction between the realm of appearances versus thing-in-themselves - The noumenal realm is the world of things-in-themselves. It is strictly unknowable by us - By contrast, the phenomenal realm is the world of our experience - When we ask about the nature of things in themselves, we ask about how they are independent of our experience o For example, we want to know whether God exists - These are meaningful questions, but we can
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