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Dr. Burch - Immanuel Kant Notes 6

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University of Alberta
Robert Burch

PHILOSOPHY 343 IMMANUEL KANT How does the question of human utility and our command over nature fit together with our idea of human dignity (which includes the question of morality)? Also, we must address the issue of finitude. Finitude was once regarded as something to be overcome, that one may begin to see things as God would see them. Of all the things Kant does, his presenting of the conception of philosophy that is not simply skeptical for the reason of our limitations in our capacity to know but rather reformulating the very meaning of philosophy and the ø project such that finitude is not just a lack but the very limit within which all philosophical questions are asked and properly answered, this is arguably his biggest contribution to the tradition. Kant draws a fundamental distinction between GRENZE & SCHRANKEN schranken - limitation in the sense of a restriction or impediment against what is appropriate to something. it negates a positive aspect of a thing. - our embodiment in the physical world was seen as an impediment that kept us from realizing ourselves as God, as spirit unencumbered, etc. grenze - limit or boundary, but in a positive sense (for Kant). it has the meaning of 'this is the limit, the horizon, the context, within which something properly is what it is.' - for the human being, our existence in the temporal historical world is the proper limit of our philosophical being. our questions arise from and return to our existence in this finite temporal world. the problem, philosophically, has not rea▯y been that we are schranken from obtaining the god's eye view. rather, the very impulse, the desire to obtain the god's eye view, is a trick that our reason plays upon itself. having that ideal is itself the problem that we have to disabuse ourselves of. he formulates this problem between two extremes: DOGMATISM, holding that simply by reason, by philosophical thought, alone we can transcend the limitations of our finite worldly embodied existence (cf cave allegory). - issue with this model: leaving behind all relation to your finite experience, you can construct a logically coherent system of thought, but the relation between that story / system and your actual experience in the world is torn assunder. - you can construct mutually exclusive philosophical systems that internally coherent and yet obtain to opposite conclusions. SKEPTICISM, our limitations (schranken) make godlike knowledge unobtainable. skeptics and dogmatists still hold to the ideal of a god's eye view knowledge, they just differ as to its obtainability. KANT'S THIRD WAY: it is not offering a clever way of reconciling the two views, of providing the knowledge we were missing, he rather CHANGESTHE SENSE OFTHEWHOLE PROJECT: THE TASK OF PHILOSOPHY IS TO MAKE SENSE OF OUR FINITE WORLDLY EXPERIENCE. THE QUESTIONS WE ASK ARISE FROM THAT EXPERIENCE AND COME BACK TO IT. we don't have any transcendant knowledge, beyond the grenze of experience, ANDTHAT'S NOTAPROBLEM. becuase there is no human being we can make sense of that is beyond the limit and boundary of our ordinary experience. It is the very condition of our human being. The attempt to transcend this boundary would be in fact a denial of our humanity. It is a trick our reason plays upon itself in holding up this transcendant ideal of an absolute knowledge. one of the things Hegel will be concerned with is the attempt by Kant to give a positive account of our finitude. hegel holds to a traditional phil and theological view: our human being is not defined by the limits of our temporal historical embodied existence, but by God! In Hegel's view, human being is fulfilled when it fulfills the image of God within ourselves. As long as we are limited to this deceptive finite temporal changing world, we are not humanly fulfilled: in phil terms, our human being as rational being is fulfilled in wisdom, in having knowledge tantamount to God's knowledge. For Kant, he believes he is establishing the view that finitude is what is essential to human being. it makes no sense to talk about human being as somehow in the image of God that we fulfill in ourselves. he sees that as confused and self-deceived. Hegel reaffirms that traditional project. yes we are finite, but we must transcend. For Kant, human reason is not an abstract form that our thinking must conform to, it is a self activity that has an inner dynamic. He things this on the basis of what is evident from our experience as rational beings in the world. our reason inherently seeks totality, unity, it seeks what is ultimately unconditioned. he thinks this is intrinsic to human reason itself. This is why our human reason is burdened by questions. Kant does not then, like Hume, think we can just set aside metaphysical questions because of their innaccessibility. We cannot stop asking these questions and focus on the empirical question; these questions are the essence of our humanity—our reason, which seeks to unify what is disparate, seeks the totality of thing, going from every conditioned thing we encounter in experience to the idea of the unconditioned. The ultimate question of our reason is WHY IS THERE SOMETHING ATALL RATHERTHAN NOTHING. In Kant's view, that question is implicit and intrinsic to our very reason, and to not ask it is to deny our humanity. BUT if it is the case that reason has this inner dynamic, seeking the totality of things, seeks to unify things, seeking what is unconditioned amid and beyond all of the conditioned aspects of our experience, what that suggests is that our reasoning itself asks questions. The tendency is for reasoning to be seen as a how to for finding answers to the question you are posing. you assess the reasons in terms of the validity or unvalidity of the arguments offered to questions. What Kant is implying is that reasoning is inherently QUESTIONING. its very self-activity is questioning (as compared to answering). the really difficult thing, philosophically, is understanding which questions to ask and why. once you have the question, finding the answers is much easier. the question itself predetermines what can count as an answer. the way you ask the question already encrypts your decision about the way the world is. the true philosophical question: Which questions should I ask? Kant is not just offering the rules of inference or the rules of logic, he is saying that reasoning, as a self-activity, inherently questions. so philosophy, in Kant's view, answers questions, ultimately answering the ultimate questions (about God, freedom, and mortality). Those questions are not incidental.. they arise from reason itself. If it is the case that the question determines the possible answers, then the logic of philosophy is the question itself. any philosophical system's truth depends upon the way in which it answers the questions that are being asked. what questions are worth asking and why now... if philosophy is a matter of asking questions, and if its the case that according to this traditional model, the goal of philosophy is the god's eye view... what is wrong with that? IF GOD IS ALL KNOWING, HE WOULDN'T BE ASKING QUESTIONS. that means this goal of philosophy is anti-human. God as all knowing doesn't question. plato's symposium: the god's don't philosophize, because they simply know. the tension: WE ASK QUESTIONS INVIRTUE OF OUR FINITUDE HUMAN REASON SEEKS THE TOTAL AND UNCONDITIONED PRECISELY BECAUSE IT DOESN'T POSSESS IT. plato says: philosophy is a love of wisdom. for plato, love is a lack. you love what it is that you recognize as lacking. you recognize your own ignorance. philosophy begins as ignorance recognizing it is ignorant. we love wisdom because we realize we lack it. whatever you take up as the truth itself, wisdom itself, is thus defined by our questions... our lack. our finite existence in the world. yet for Plato, and Hegel, wisdom itself will consist in the answer to those questions. and that will be taken to be God's knowledge. what's the problem?: if God is omniscient, all knowing, God doesn't, in any way we can understand, reason! because reason is the seeking of unity and totality, which suggests some kind of lack. there is somethign to be attained. whereas God would be completely full in him/her/itself, so whatever God's wisdom is, it would be utterly innaccessible to us, because God doesn't question. our only understandign of truth and meaning is in terms of the questioning self activity that is our reason. the skeptic might say, yeah we can never obtain wisdome that is really god's wisdom, so we are left with this inn
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