Monday, January 9, 2012

Considerations of "the body" in relation to Kant

      The status of the body in Kant’s work can hopefully provide some insight into how we think the difference between the theoretical and the practical: for theoretical reason a body is not required, while for practical a body is. I will only present this as an introduction to a problem, and hope to work through this problem in the future.


      I am not completely aware of all the places Kant may discuss the human body, so there is some opportunity to add more insight to this as I continue my study. As far as I know, however, Kant never mentions that the body is a necessary thing to understand in order to have duties. In fact, this would totally seem to contradict him, since the Categorical Imperative is known a priori, and bodies are certainly known a posteriori. To make clear why there is no contradiction I should first do an exposition of a few concepts. By the concept of ‘body’ I understand the matter through which we understand the possibility of first bringing effects into existence. Some interesting, related expositions of concepts from the Metaphysics of Morals (6:211), are first, “the faculty of desire is the faculty to be, by means of one’s representations, the cause of the objects of these representations”, and second, “the faculty of a being to act in accordance with its representations is called life.”
      The reason I understand a body to be a necessary component of practical thought is that practical philosophy is about actions, and duties require an action to be conceived as a possible product of our will. Without a comprehension of where effects we may be able to produce first begin from, it is impossible to generate even a single action as possible for us. That is, if I am to produce this blog post through the process of typing, I need to know through what mechanism this is to take place, and what part of this mechanism I can first call into action. I identify my hands, very naturally, as that which I can call to my aid. If I did not understand myself as possessing some mechanism for activity I may have desires, but I would have no means of thinking my actions in relation to them.
      The experience of a duty to act or restrain myself from action reveals that I already understand myself as having mechanisms available for bringing about certain effects. Now, just because my duty supposes an understanding of how such actions are possible for me it does not imply that the principle itself for the judgment must include this information about a body. A maxim is a plan for action, and these maxims will require an understanding of what is possible for us. It is these maxims that are tested by the Categorical Imperative. Understanding how maxims arise, specifically with concern for our understanding of our bodies, provides an opportunity to get some insight into the relationship between the second and third Critiques.

Reflective Judgments and the Body:
      A reflective judgment is a judgment that seeks a rule to place a particular under. Different sorts of reflective judgments initiate certain heuristics. The heuristic may be objective if it provides a mode of arranging things, or it can be subjective if it provides a mode of arranging our own faculties. An example of a subjective heuristic is found in the judgment of taste; the reflective judgment involved does not provide a heuristic for learning what objects are beautiful, but rather for a heuristic that guides the faculty of understanding, recommending an object to it for thought. Heuristics of an objective sort are characterized best by teleological judgments where a purpose is attributed to an object, or an object is understood as organized such that it has a particular purpose that it seeks, or is determined to seek.
      Now, the case of our body is interesting since it seems to be involved in all of these sorts of heuristics. The body considered on its own is an organized and self-generating being that seems suitable for all sorts of ends – it is the tool required for the use of all other tools. It is also a clue to the discovery of another sort of judgment that uncovers a subjective heuristic.
     We must be able to know a priori that we can have an effect on representations, and should expect to determine a certain sort of experience that first includes our understanding of our effectiveness mechanically. This experience is the origin of our capacity for practical reason, and the origin of our interest in representations for ends as well. (That ends are recognized differentiates this from judgments of taste.) There are far too many implications of this that occur to me presently, and so putting any of them into this blog post before considering them further seems to be a mistake. One thing is clear, that this judgment will potentially show a clearer hinge between our theoretical and practical cognitions.
     For other rationalists, such as Leibniz and Spinoza, there is no difference between the body and soul. This could cast some of the light of Kant’s critical philosophy back onto these thinkers as well to reveal what was being considered by them more clearly.
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