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Dr. Burch - Immanuel Kant Notes 2

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University of Alberta
Robert Burch

PHILOSOPHY 343 IMMANUEL KANT THE POSSIBILITY OF METAPHYSICS AS A SCIENCE - past metaphysics had no objective verification - a metaphysical hypothesis needs to be verified in some way. but how can it be empirically and objectively verified? he proposes his hypothesis, and then asks how he can verify it. there is another sense of method than protocols and rules etc, another sense that kant has in mind. the first method is circular: protocols procedures etc applying to subject matter to get the truth, but how do you know if the method you are using is the appropriate method, because the legitimation of the method is your knowledge of the subject matter, and when descartes proposes this idea of method he uses the sun as example: the method is universal and applies to all objects (meaning nature as well as human beings / society). the sun shines on all things and does not change given differences of what shines upon. it is a universal concept of method. the issue: the suitability of the method itself depends upon its suitability with respect to the subject matter you're dealing with. so in order for the method to be legitimate, you already have to know the essential nature of the subject matter you are investigating. Kant says that the method for natural sciences is not the protocols and procedures, but rather that the method consists in a prior interpretation of nature itself! It is not that modern natural science sets up rules for experimentation, they have a different conception of nature. on the ancient model, nature was investigated as if it was made up of things with different intrinsic essences, but modern science looks at nature as matter in motion under universal laws. Kant sees that interpretation of knowledge underlying the new method, and that interpretation justifies their particular techniques and procedures followed in scientific method. for Kant, nature is causa▯y determined, thus if i desire scotch it is an innocent desire because it is my body desiring it. for kant, the very existence of nature is under general laws, without laws there is no nature. the problem with human beings is that they find themselves not just participating in this nature under general laws, but also in a moral world. and his problem is how to put those two together. the upshot is that he ends up having two conceptions of human nature: one is human natures as physically constituted and understood by empirical science, and their inclinations and desires are part of their physical make-up. but he also thinks, fundamentally, that we have a nature a finite rational beings. the key is he makes this point not on the basis of some presumed metaphysical insight into nature, but on the basis of nature. both our natural experience and moral experience (distinction between what i want and what i ought to do, inclination vs duty). i know from that experience that i am a finite rational being. but how do these two aspects of nature fit together? the natural side is not distinctively human. his concept of morality depends on us understanding ourselves as finite rational beings, but that does not depend on peculiarities of human nature. some alien could also be a finite rational being, etc. our nature as physical beings subject to causal laws, on the one hand, and our rational self determination (freedom) on the other hand, are what we must reconcile. in Kant's view you do have both of these. you can't deny causality or freedom because they are both fundamental to our experience. but how can determination and self-determination be reconciled. the issue with kant is whether he succeeds. fichte, schelling, and hegel think Kant fails to bring these together. returning to method: the essence of sciences' method posits the nature of the world in advance. what counts as knowledge is determined by what is set up as the nature of the world in the first place. so there is a metaphysical assumption. so the essence of scientific method is not the procedures and rules but the assumptions, the framework, within which all questioning and legitimate investigation takes place and that determines what in principle can count as an answer. THAT IS THE CLUE HE TAKES, HE APPLIES THAT CLUE TO THE PROBLEM OF METAPHYSICS ITSELF! THE APPLICATION: WHAT IS IT, AS ITWERE, THATWE PUT INTO REALITY, OR OUR EXPERIENCE OF REALITY IN THE FIRST PLACE IN ORDERTHATTHINGS CAN BE FOR US? "Reason only finds in nature what it puts into nature according to a plan of its own." the verb he uses in german when he is talking about artistic production and again here - that natural science investigates nature in a method of production: it actually creates in advance for itself the framework with which it will look at nature, that framework is the production of our reason as it is realized in natural science. that's the clue he has to look at metaphysics instead of natural science. he uses this copernican simile: the earth is not at the center, the earth revolves. hitherto we have always assumed that our cognition must conform to the object the project of metaphysics was to get your intellect/soul to conform to what the things were in themselves. trad definition of truth: the correspondence of intellect and thing. but the real sense of that correspondence was that of the intellect to the thing. truth lay in getting it right... it is more complicated: in medieval philosophy there was a theological dimension: the thing too had to conform to the divine intellect. so the thigns to which our intellect conforms were the really real insofar as those thigns conformed creatively to the divine intellect. things are what they are, and the cognitive task was to have our minds conform to things, that came to be related to an ontotheological model where the things that were real are god's product. so the project is tantamount to getting our mind to conform to God's mind. KANT REVERSES THAT if we assume that this is what truth is—the conformity of our intellect to the thing—we can't make any progress in metaphysics, because it assumes we know something prior to the thing be given to us, prior to experience, prior to intuition. if there was a priori knowledge, the objects you seek to know must be given to your intellect in the first place. so there are two problems: 1. if the object is the real in itself, and knowledge lays in the subject's conformity to the real in itself, then the real in itself has to be given to our intellect in order for our intellect to conform to it. but if metaphysics is a priori knowledge, prior to us given anything else, then it rules out the possibility of metaphysics, since the object has to be given in order for us to conform to them. on that model metaphysics is impossible, since the current model is knowing objects before they are given to us. 2. if knowledge consists in the conformity of the intellect to the real in itself, how do we know that we are actua▯y conforming to the real in itself? how do i verify it? to be assured of our knowledge of it, we need some criteria in advance that we can apply to what is given us to help us discriminate between the real in itself and what is an illusion. that is where God arrives what is required in this model is you need a third perspective: God. God knows both the object and subject, as producer of both. but the paradox here is: if it is the conformity of our intellect to the thing, and the thing is only ever given to our intellect, how do we make sure what is given is really real, we somehow need a perspective that stands outside this relation and can assure us we got it right. in all metaphysics prior to kant, at some point, they need t
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