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Dr. Burch - Immanuel Kant Notes 3

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Robert Burch

PHILOSOPHY 343 IMMANUEL KANT the first sentence of the critique of pure reason: the peculiar fate of human reason. Reason is not a form of calculation simply applied to different subject matters. Establishing general inferences is an issue of logic, but Reason is far more encompassing than issues of logic. REASON HAS ITS OWN INNER DYNAMIC, REASON IS A CAPACITYTHATTHEORETICALLY SEEKS ATOTAL COMPREHENSIVE VIEW OF THINGS, IT SEEKS WHAT IS UNCONDITIONED. we will soon see how these are conflicting practically, reason seeks the highest good. reason is not a matter of pragmatic calculation - it has its own inner dynamic, hence it has its own limit and end. kant's claim is that human reason understood in this way has a peculiar fate: not some kind of remediable mistake we make in reasoning, something that could be corrected by being more rational or more careful in our thinking. rather, for kant, this fate is a fundamental dimension of the human condition. BEING BURDENED BYTHIS FATE IS A CONDITION WE CANNOT ESCAPE in platonic terms: our reason operated initially in a cave like existence, no certainty, but by means of thinking we could escape that condition. - so the finitude of the human condition was a fault, a lack that could be overcome by philosophical thought. kant is suggesting that this fate is in fact the fundamental dimension of the human condition, it cannot be escaped. there is no answering these metaphysical questions in knowledge. the issue then is HOWIS IT, RATIONALLY,THATWE LIVE OUTTHIS FATE? second comparison that might be made: ORIGINAL SIN - in our very way of being there is a fundamental fault, and this fault is essential and intrinsic to us. theologically interpreted: we understand the good, appreciate that realizing the good is our task/duty, but we also recognize that we are incapable of realizing the good. what Kant is doing, overall, is providing us with a remedy to this fault, a remedy that doesn't simply appeal to theological doctrine (remedied by life death resurrection of christ), he wants to show philosophically how this fault can be rationa▯y lived out in such a way that in some sense it can be remedied. In the face of this fault, Kant considers the two alternatives that he takes to be the existing alternatives, neither of which suffices. he sets up these two general categories: DOGMATISM - in kant's view, dogmatists make claims to metaphysical truth on the basis of reason alone. they make claims that are before and beyond our worldly experience. one of the meanings of the critique of pure reason is to show that when the dogmatists base their metaphysics on reason alone, independent of experience, you can have a coherent system that does not correspond to reality at all. he is critiquing the possibility of establishing metaphysical truths on the strength of reason alone. That way of proceeding has only a negative criterion of its truth, if its based on reason alone, is logical coherence. it is a negative criterion in the sense that if you contradict yourself, if your system is internally incoherent, then presumably you got it wrong. but simply presenting a coherent system that is internally coherent but unrelated to actual experience does not guarantee that you got it right. all you have is this negative criterion. the consequence: competing metaphysical systems that are each internally coherent but also mutually exclusive, making competing opposing claims about the way things are. this notion of reason being sufficient is the ideal that truth is necessarily true apart from the changing and untrustworthy external world of experience. i.e. 2+2=4 is that kind of truth, it is necessary and holds in all places at all times. but! it can't be verified empirically. the claim of universality and necessity means it cannot be verified by reference to individual cases and matters of fact. another problem wiht the dogmatist approach: if you base metaphaphysics on pure reason, kant discovers that reason, unchecked by itself (for reason must examine its own scope and limits, self critique), ends up in 'antimonian conflicts': in other words, it leads to metaphysical claims that are contradictory and mutually exclusive of its own nature, these antinomies belong to the very nature of reason. that is why we must subject our reason to an inner critique. a critique of its proper scope and limits. SKEPTICISM - the alternative: skepticist empiricist alternative. David Hume is closest to what Kant has in mind as opposed to traditional skeptics. empiricist limits knowledge to experiential claims, and if they affirm universal, necessary claims, those claims are analytic claims (tautologies basically). so the example of two plus two, for the skeptic, can be asserted as necessarily true not by relation to fact, but rather they are verified simply by analysis of the terms involved: if you analyse what is meant by two, by addition, but equals, and by four, you will see that it is universally true. but thats the only kind of knowledge the skepticist will allow for. hume says 'if we proceed in this way, and take in hand any volume of divinity or [dogmatic] metaphysics, and ask ourselves 'does it contain any experimental reasoning of matters of fact?', 'does it contain any abstract reasoning and analysis of the terms?', then you can throw it in the flames ... sophistry." This gives rise to a four-fold problem (one of the fold's kant does not give). 1. hume leaves himself no room because his philosophizing is neither mathematical (analytic) nor empirical. this is the one kant leaves out 2. the empiricist view does not satisfy the need of reason. the skeptic is not concerned with that issue because they don't think reason has a need. calculating about things, this is reason. no inner dynamic. no goal. so for hume you can just give up the metaphysical questions because you don't have to consider those questions, there is something wrong about the questions themselves. but for kant, asking those questions and seeking to answer them is inexorable and inevitable and fundamentally human. for the skeptic, our reason has no need, it is a slave of the passions, put in the service of having our desires satisfied. as hume's own life attests, you can give up metaphysical inquiry and spend your time drinking port playing backgammon, so just satisfy your passion. implicit to that problem is a fundamental issue about human being and human nature: sees humans as a bundle of desires, the good life being the having those desires satisfied, and so to make that work for everyone we need rules of the game to calculate how we govern eveyrone's means to their ends maximally, but then there is no limit to our desiring. a petitive desiring animal that is in some sense possessed of reason then has no proper limit to their desires. THE GOOD LIFE IS THUS UNATTAINABLE CAUSE YOU ALWAYS WANT MORE. it will never be enough. for kant, in practical (means moral in kant) terms, there is a goal to our existence: the realization of the highest good here on earth. 3. it undermines the epistemological foundations of natural science. does this by calling into question the validity of the fundamental principle in terms of which natural science works, or at least how it worked for kant: the principle of causality. science works on the assumption that every event has a cause. no regularity serves to establish the causal connection. cause&effect cannot be empirically established, nor is it analytically true. it is analytically true that every effect has a cause, because the very meaning of effect is to be caused. but the principle of causality says that every event in the world of nature has a cause. and what the skeptical empiricist (SE) do is call into question the epistemology of that principle. we have no epistemic grounds to claim that is universally and necessarily true. so in Kant's view, the SE is caught in a situation where most of the knowledge worth having is provided by natural science, and yet, at the same time, they call into question the validity of the principle with which we negotiate the world and for which empiricism can exist. you can't exist by refusing the principle of causality! Hume is making the ø point that there is no secure ground for claiming universally that every event has a cause. 4. the SE view reduces to matters of feeling the kind of knowledge that would serve as the basis for morality and moral life. kant critiques all moral views based on happiness where happiness is having your contingent desires satisfied. as we'll see, for
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