KANT'S THEORETICAL PHILOSOPHY: what it achieves. what it doesn't. what it points the way to.
Kant does think we have ontological knowledge, but it is knowledge of our own universal a priori subjectivity (the
conditions of the possibilities of experience). We do not have knowledge of beings as beings in themselves, but we
do have ontological knowledge prior to and independent of experience of objects as objects (as we posit them and
make them objects).
FOR KANT: to be is to be an object.
this shift, this turn, is what actually opens up the possibility for PHENOMENOLOGY, an account of how things
come meaningfully to be for us. How things can come to be objects for us in the ﬁrst place.
The question of ontology really becomes the question of the objectivity of objects. And that question he answers
by reference to our mode of cognition—to our being as subjects structured in a certain way so that we may have an
experience of objects in the ﬁrst place.
Our very mode of cognition requires a priori forms of intuition: SPACE and TIME. space and time are the
framework within which any possible object of experience can be given to us. but space and time are not intrinsic
properties of things, but is the framework through which we perceive.
SO THIS IS ONTOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE, but it does not suﬃce just to account for how objects are given
to us. it must also be THOUGHT by means of judgements/concepts.
He then lays out what he takes to be the complete set of a priori concepts that we bring to bare on objects to make
Every possible object of knowledge is structured by / subsumed under this set of categories.
On p.190 of kant selectiosn he says: these categories and the principles of their application constitute a
doesn't mean the body, he is talking about the very system (logos) of physis - nature. these principles constitute
nature itself as it comes to be for us.
we now have an ONTOLOGY but it deals with the objectivity of objects but the basis of which is in the subject,
the transcendental subject, the subject whose structure as a knower is structured in such a way that things can
come to be for the knower.
this argument addresses the problem that hume poses: how do we know that the principle of causality holds
universally and necessarily for all the objects of knowledge? kant's answer is that causality belongs to the structure
of our cognition. no objects can be given that don't conform to the principle of causality. posited in our
subjectivity, causality becomes a universal necessary condition under which all possible objects of knowledge would
another implication: the condition of the possibility of objects of experience, the objectivity of objects, includes
things like the principle of causality, but it doesn't include any kind of teleology. it doesn't include any kind of
concept of essence that holds for the objects themselves.
traditionally essence was whatness. in kant's view, essence shifts from what is the thing intrinsically in itself to the
question of how does the thing come to be for the knowing subject? essence has to do with a priori principles of
the possibility of objects coming to be for us. it determines objects as objects but not as any particular kind of
in giving this 'physiological system', the furniture of that system are simply objects as such diﬀerentiated in space
and time. but among these fundamental categories, there is no whatness/quidity/essence-in-the-traditional-sense.
that implies that the world of nature is indiﬀerently made up of objects, and what we can know is limited to
objects as objects. the idea here is that nature is not made up of things as what they are according to their essence, our
understandign of nature is not geared toward understandign the essence of things, appreciating how they change
and relate in terms of their essence, it is simply a matter of hwo it is we can objectively set up the world of nature
in order to measure it objectively—objectify it. things don't have essences that push them to fulﬁll a certain thing a particular way, that teleology of essence drops
out. it is not necessary that the world be divided up in to kinds but it is necessary to divide it up according to
transcendental subjective conditions.
then the problem is how do you actually distinguish one object from another under these categories without
further conceptualization. you can't have pure object present to you. they must be present discreetly in relation to
other objects. how do we ﬁne tune this? how do we get from categories to individual concepts?
another implication: If what is real is what can be eﬀectively real, and that comes under this table of categories,
and there is no notion of essence/ﬁnal cause/teleology, things are just objects as such and thats it, then there is no
approach to nature that can ascribe ﬁnal causes/teleology to nature.
if physics treats things as matter in motion under a general law, then kant has a problem: can you actually
investigate nature without importing some conception of teleology? on the one hand he will say 'nothing you say
about the causality of the egg developing into the chicken or acorn into oak tree can involve teleology. you can only
give an account in terms of the categories.'
he deals with it by saying scientists of nature can use the concept of teleology only heuristically, but you do not
have nor will you ever have teleological knowledge. the only knowledge you can have is knowledge predetermined
by these categories.
in the introduction the critique of judgement he lays this out: we make determinate judgements about nature
according to the table of categories, and that's genuine knowledge. but we are required to proceed heuristically by
employing teleology. and it is as if by lucky chance that nature does cooperate with this positing of a teleology
because we get results.
what is at issue here is not just kant thinking nature is made up of objective causal relations determined by our
mode of cognition a priori and any reference to teleology is somehow illicit and if we make reference to teleology
we do it only heuristically without ascribing it to nature. but what is really going on is that THE PURSUIT OF
TELEOLOGY SEEMS TO BE INTRINSICTO OUR NATURE.
we desire the transcendent. we desire to go beyond the world of experience, to see some kind of
order (ﬁnal cause, teleology) in the things we experience. so the conﬂict here is not just between
aristotelian and newtonian approaches to nature, it is the conﬂict in our reason: our reason seeks the
unconditioned, seeks a system with an order and purpose and end goal. and the limitation of our genuine
knowledge of nature to what is knowable is not going to satisfy us. Then the question will be:
can we have something more that is knowledge? and if it is not knowledge, what is it and what
will justify it?
We have real knowledge, ontological knowledge, of our own a priori conditions of knowing anything.
Transcendental philosophy does not consider a particular object but any object insofar as it is possible for it to be
given: the a priori conditions of the possibility of any object being given to us.
so transcendental philosophy is an ontology but an ontology of objects as such, the objectivity of objects.
WHAT IS LEFT OUT?
that part of physics that delt with the highest things. of those things, kant says, we have no
The idea of GOD is not, for Kant, one of the categories. You don't need that idea to have an experience of objects
as objects. But our reason transcends the range of possible experience, it looks for the unconditioned: what is
highest, what is ultimate. it seeks knowledge of God, asks questions about God, but these are questions, Kant is
saying, that we cannot answer in knowledge.
REFUTATIONS OF PROOFS FORTHE EXISTENCE OF GOD
We cannot obtain by reason/arguments any genuine proof of God.
He is saying that our knowledge, ontologically, is limited to the ﬁnite world: the world of our experience.
***when we get to hegel there will be tension over this issue***
Inherent in our project of knowing things is the distinction between things in themselves and things as we know
them. The thing in itself is a meaning necessary for the genuine project of our knowing. Kant is not claiming a kind
of skepticism saying all we can know are appearances and not things in themselves, because that brings back the two world dichotomy. He is saying that appearances is all their is for us. In kant's view, his ontology is genuinely a
ﬁnite ontology, there is no unconditioned beyond that is a genuine object of our knowledge. the pursuit of that
knowledge is a trick our reason plays on itself.
***hegel will say insofar as thinking the thing in itself is a meaning necessary to the project of knowledge, but we
can't know the thing in itself, then the project of knowledge fails. he suggests that kant's position really is
skepticism. he thinks kant actually places the thing in itself beyond, leaves us with only appearances, and leaves us
to 'feed on husks and chaﬀ.'***
so kant's philosophy is a genuinely ﬁnite philosophy. there is no outside or beyond we can properly aspire to realize
in knowledge. so the negative side of it comes up in terms of these proofs for the existence of God. it is an example
of the kind of knowledge dogmatics thought we had, and kant thinks we don't have.
Kant's treatment of the COSMOLOGICAL PROOF FORTHE EXISTENCE OF GOD
- argues from the contingency of the things in the world and things in thems