Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ways of Thinking Objects in Judgments

   It would seem strange to say that we treat non-objects as objects in propositions, but there are abundant cases where this is certainly true.  There is the case of impossible objects, such as God, souls, and other hyper-physical concepts of things, as well as the case of non-objects that we talk about, but do not attempt physical or hyper-physical employment; propositions themselves provide such an example: 'proposition' refers either to something written or to the content of a thought; the content of a thought is not an object but a way of speaking about our understanding of an object.
   Three modes of understanding objects are important in propositions: as phenomenal, as noumenal and as formal.  These three modes of understanding objects are as possible objects, non-objects and impossible objects respectively.  Understanding the differences between these helps one detect when an object is being treated incorrectly in a judgment so these errors can be critiqued.  The importance of Kantian critique involves itself in exposing these potential misjudgments.  I will give a brief description of each of these modes and then show some of the many implications of these distinctions.

Phenomenal Objects:
   These objects are fairly easy to understand because they are objects found in the world that we deal with every day.  These objects are treated as existing, or as possibly existing, which is where some discussion is important.
   There is a difference between an object that we see and one that we do not. If we treat an object we do not see as still existing this is perfectly legitimate, but it should be recognized that the object is gone and the thought of it alone has continued.  If an object leaves our field of view we treat the object like it still exists, but in only the start does the object appear to us.  Because we can and do treat objects that don't appear to us as still existing (object permanence) prediction is possible.  A problem can arise, however, when an object that has not appeared, and cannot appear (is impossible) is treated as possibly existing, or as an object that actually exists.

Noumenal Objects:
   To talk about impossible objects doesn't mean that they are contradictory or false, but that their concept makes them understood in such a way that they could not be given in any experience without a contradiction.  When one considers a concept of God that thinks of him as an unlimited being, it is easy to see that he could not be contained in any limited cognition through concepts, so when we treat of the object God (in this conception) we treat of him noumenally or else, as thought of as being contained in a possible finite experience, we would contradict the concept we were trying to employ.
   I find much criticism leveled against the noumenal.  This criticism suggests that it is a sort of slipping in judgment or dogmatism, and that it does not make sense for us to assume that there is this noumenal realm.  The Kantian rejoinder to this criticism is agreement: it is absurd to assume that there is a noumenal realm that exists, but it would also be absurd to think it impossible - and all that is important about the noumenal is that we can think it.  Nothing that suggests itself in the noumenal realm can be said to exist, since it does not fall into the category of existence, but by the very fact that we do think objects that would contradict themselves if understood as phenomenal demands a way of accounting for this type of object: we are accounting for a way we actually do think of objects.  We should be extremely critical of the employment of noumenal objects outside of the mere possibility of thinking them, as they represent a class of unknowable (yet thinkable) objects.

Formal Objects:
   These objects are logical in nature, they are ideal ways of thinking that do not attempt to describe actual objects.  I will examine these objects in two ways, first how they are important for logic generally considered, then also as considered for transcendental logic.

Formal Objects in Logic:
   Formal objects in logic allow us to create formal falsehoods and contradictions.  Examine this contradiction for a moment:

 'A is not A'

'A' is not a determined object but a placeholder for an object.  However, no matter what concepts fall under 'A', we know that they are incompatible with 'not A'.

Formal Objects in Transcendental Logic:
   General logic abstracts from the objects in general, giving us knowledge of objects in general, but of no particular object.  Transcendental logic abstracts from the form of thought and constitutes a knowledge of knowing.
   Formal objects are troublesome because they are ideal descriptions derived from abstractions of immanent thoughts about the world.  There are thoughts we have that involve objects that must be taken either noumenally and phenomenally, and it is in the formal that these two things can be confused, leading to the derivation of principles that are valid in form, but impossible of any object.  It is formal objects that we must be critical of, because our sense and understanding themselves cannot be in error themselves, but our formal evaluations can fall into confusion.
   In general logic we can be sure that any object considered in 'A is not A' will produce a contradiction, but this is only so long as we treat of the object employed as phenomenal.  If we employ a noumenal object for A, such as an Unlimited Being, we aren't even sure if non-contradiction is in affect, since we do not understand how such an unlimited Being can exist, given our finite view of existence.  If we take this noumenal object to not be distinct from the phenomenal realm, all sorts of properties and principles may be derived from it that, while valid in form, can be employed to account for no possible object that can be given.  Absurdities tend to ensue.
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