Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Brief On Transcendental Apperception

   Here I would like to briefly address Transcendental Apperception. This is by no means an exhaustive treatment, but potentially helpful for matters of interpretation.
(This post is adapted from some of my comments in reply to a discussion concerning a criticism Whitehead had of Kant.)

Transcendental Apperception and Transcendental Subject:
   A criticism of Kant is that the human subject still remains privileged even after the Critical Turn. This would leave Kant firmly in the tradition of the reading of other Modern period thinkers (Descartes, Hume, &c) who maintain the radical dualistic subject-object relationship so frequently criticized by contemporaries (I think that these Modern thinkers are accused of a mistake they do not make entirely, but I will leave that for another time and place). I do not find that this is an accurate account of Kant, and hopefully I can clarify this by clarifying the distinction between 'Transcendental Subject' and the 'Transcendental (Unity of) Apperception' which is first developed in the Transcendental Deduction of the Critique of Pure Reason. 
   It is important to see what is at stake when the Transcendental Apperception is developed - this is what the concern is: 
"If we were not conscious that what we think is the same as what we thought a moment before, all reproduction in the series of representations would be useless." (CPR A103)
Here is an example of what Kant means: If a ball is thrown and I am to catch it, I must be able to track the ball, and the ball must remain a unity (unitary ball) over different representations (of balls). While the representations must be distinct, it is due to a different power that the representations (of the ball) are thought as a unitary ball. This unitary ball is distinct from the separate representations, but because it is not a representation it is not known in any distinct way save for as an object in general. (An object in general is an object free from all empirical conditions.)
   Given any number of consciousnesses which feature a representation of the ball we are conscious of a distinct ball, but these will not yet allow for the sort of interaction with the ball wherein we can track the ball as one thing and catch it over the course of a duration of experience; for this we need more than the separate representations, but their ordered relation as a unitary ball. This unitary ball we experience is an object in general thought in conjunction with the representations of balls in consciousness. This is the Transcendental (Unity of) Apperception at work.
   To get a bit more precise: if any representations are to be able to be thought as exhibiting any rule in experience (even a false rule), then these representations need to be conformable to rule giving, which means that the representations must be able to be thought in a unity, or as relating to one thing (an object in general).
In important distinction from this, the Transcendental Subject is the object in general thought as the unity of all experience generally. That is, it is an obvious rule that all we experience is experienced. This rule is only able to be exhibited in experience, and the possibility of exhibiting this rule rests on Transcendental Apperception.
   This Transcendental Subject itself is only possible through Transcendental Apperception, and so is not privileged any more than the objects of our experience (balls, etc) as concerns rules. What makes the Transcendental Subject different from empirical objects is that we do not necessarily think any particular empirical object, let alone any rules for them, but insofar as we are experiencing we think the Transcendental Subject. 

The Importance of Transcendental Apperception in the Transcendental Deduction: 
   The Transcendental Deduction is renowned (unfortunately) for being very difficult. Transcendental Apperception is a step in the deduction that is very important, and since the subject is broached and explained above, it may help to give the importance of this step to the Deduction generally.
   The concern that leads us to require Transcendental Apperception is the question concerning putting objects to rules generally. If we did not relate all representations to each other there would be no law giving in relation to those representations. The Transcendental Apperception serves the role, and only the role, of unifying experience in this most fundamental way such that thoughts of objects can occur in the form of rules. The Transcendental Apperception must take an object to stand for the otherwise disparate representations, and this unitary object is an 'object in general' because this object is never given itself in any of the representations.
   When we recognize that an 'object in general' is necessary for the connection of our representations into experiences that obey any sort of rule, then we find that we must account for this object in general through a priori means, and cannot derive it from experience, since experience is incoherent (without the possibility of rule) without it. The possibility of thinking an object in general in the various ways we do is given by the categories. It is the objective of the Transcendental Deduction to give the necessity of the Categories.
   Hopefully this demystifies the Transcendental Deduction a bit.

Additional Matters of Consideration:
   In the Norman Kemp Smith translation of the Critique, it may be important to clarify the terms 'mind', 'consciousness' and 'representation'. I will try to give a brief account of how I am thinking of these right now.

Mind seems to be the 'place' where thoughts 'happen'. This place and happening are thought but cannot be given within any experience, and so are transcendental.

Consciousness is the totality of representations at any time.

A Representation is something that we are conscious of which can be thought in relation to an object in general.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Philosophical Problems II

   This post continues an older post on the same topic here.
   (In the interest of finishing this post I am not putting in as much detail as is possible, but I intend to address questions, or assist in finding relevant passages, on the basis that it is demanded.)

PART I: Essentials for the Questionable
   We always know something completely as an object in general: if we did not then we would fail to even think of an object at all.  However, in addition to the categories used to determine this object for thought, we also employ a concept which places a particular under a universal.  Depending upon the concept being employed there are certain questions which are supported.  For example, if our concept of ‘apple’ requires that apples be either red or green, then if I were to hear someone say that they have an apple, the color of the apple would be understood as a questionable property concerning it.  Apples, however, are not usually understood as having wheels, so asking how many wheels were on the apple would be a confusing question to ask.
   From this we can form a concept in metaphysics.  When there is a question, there is something that is determined positively as unknown.  This positive determination is of a negative placeholder for a property.  Most objects are determined to have negative placeholders.  For example, I see a box, but I only see one side of it.  I understand the box to have six sides, and that each side I do not see has a color, but I do not usually consider the unknown in experience.
   Next we must consider if there are any problems which are essential.

PART II: the Essentially Questionable
   When I say that there are questions that are essential, it is not implied that these are questions we verbalize necessarily, but questions that are always possible for us to ask.  If there is a problem that we do in fact ask necessarily, it is not going to be addressed here.  There is reason to believe that elucidating such problems is at the very core of the critique, for the first edition preface opens:
“Human reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer.”
In the last section we worked out that in order to have a question about something it needs to present itself with a positively determined negative [this terminology may be due to recent study of Hegel as I write this].  This positively determined negative was something that was missing from the experience of an object under a concept (if we do not know the color of an apple).  If we are to have essential questions, then these questions will need to be about an object that is essential, and since there is no particular object that is necessary, any questions about these particulars would be inessential.  Furthermore, whatever this object is, the part of its concept which is questionable cannot be empirically derived, since the property would then be unessential.  This specification for our positively determined negative is quite steep; yet, there still may be a concept that provides something which can have a positively determined negative of this sort.  An immediate consideration for one familiar with Kant would be to consider an object in general, so we can briefly explore this route here.
   Concerning an object in general, the only things thought in determining it are the categories – the pure concepts which are common to thought of all objects.  However, to have a question about an object we first need to be able to think about an object, and so if anything is thought without being determined in respect to any of the categories it would be an incomplete and empty thought.  Because we are dealing with something that is always taken as questionable, it must always be thinkable, and we must assume the categories are already in play.  If we wish to consider what an object is considered as missing determination under one of the categories, we would have one of the concepts of nothing before us as given in “The Amphiboly of concepts of Reflection” on A292/B348.  Since this is a dead end we need to consider objects for which there is some kind of knowledge that can be had, but particularly with a mind to objects known purely a priori.
   We extend our knowledge about objects through the use of inference, and Kant recognizes three types of inference which are modeled by three types of classical syllogisms: categorical, hypothetical and disjunctive (taken as employing an exclusive or, as it appears on A74/B99).  Categorical judgments deal with something being a member of a class (Socrates is a man), hypothetical judgments deal with a series of events in relation(if a then b), and disjunctives provide a basis for understanding what is true in relation to the sum total of possibilities(a or b or c).  Kant describes the three types of judgments that relate to these syllogisms as follows:
“All relations of thought in judgments are (a) of the predicate to the subject, (b) of the ground to its consequence, (c) of the divided knowledge and of the members of the division, taken together, to each other.  In the first kind of judgments we consider only two concepts, in the second two judgments, in the third several judgments in their relation to each other.” (CPR A73/B98)
It may also be worth noting that these syllogisms hold the position in the table of judgments concerning relation, and that in the table of categories the corresponding concepts are substance (categorical), cause (hypothetical) and reciprocity (disjunctive).
   For everything that is known, it is known through a judgment that can be described by one of the types of inferences.  Because we are interested in what can be known about all objects, it is relevant to point this out, and to take careful note of the inferences.  If we consider any particular instance of these syllogisms, we find that the major premise is posited, and we can demand a prosyllogism to account for it if we disagree.  In “The Transcendental Ideas” (A321/B377), Kant develops a concept of the unconditioned in a series of judgments.  This is confusing without context, so we can get directly to an example that Kant provides on A330/B387.
   “All bodies are alterable” is a categorical judgment, but we can ask what it is in bodies that make them alterable, so, “all composites are alterable”, is found to be a judgment which our prior judgment depends upon.  Kant notes that we can go another step back, asking why composites are alterable, and again ad infinitum, much like a child incessantly asking “why?”  Now, Kant does not say this denies our knowledge that all bodies are alterable, for this presents itself to us in experience quite readily, but he does recognize that reason assumes an unconditioned step (a first prosyllogism) which all the rest of the episyllogisms depend on, and which depends on no other prosyllogism.  This unconditioned judgment is not required to be known to us to make intermediate judgments, however, if we consider the conditions that our knowledge if founded on, we find that we must accept the truth of those conditions as assumed by reason itself as the ground of the judgments we do make.
   Our example has considered these syllogisms only insofar as they lead us back from empirical conditions, and so not as they would relate to any essential problem.  However, as we noted above, these syllogisms are employed in the relation of knowledge.  The three basic syllogisms are the three fundamental ways in which judgments relate to objects, and we find that in any representation three necessary relationships of knowing: relation to the knowing subject, relation to objects and relation to everything generally.  Each of these relations is according to a syllogism, so we have the idea of a series of judgments leading back to some unconditioned.  By examining what the total knowledge possible in all of these relationships is, and what would be considered the object of that knowledge, we have some objects that are essentially questionable since they must exist as unconditioned objects supporting our conditioned knowledge.  Kant discusses this in the “System of the Transcendental Ideas” (A222/B390).
   The three objects which are known only problematically to be the unconditioned in the series of the three types of relation are: soul (categorical), world (hypothetical), and God (disjunctive).  What do each of these objects mean and why are they important?

Transcendental Illusions: Soul, World, God:
   Out of these three terms, only one of these does not sound bizarre to many contemporaries – world.  But before assuming that the concepts of soul and God as speciously employed, we need to be clear on why these words have been selected, and just what they imply.  The ideas of soul, world and God are problematic; what this means is that they are not known, but it is known that reason must employ them.  The Critique of Pure Reason shows us how these objects are employed in an intelligible way, and how they are employed in a confused way.  But, before looking at the use of the concepts, let us see how to understand them.
   In all representations something is known, and there is an implied conscious knower.  The thing that all knowledge is known by is the soul.  All representations contain something happening (appearance), and for something to happen (appear) it depends upon something before it that is different.  This chain of happenings (the summation of appearances) continues until some starting point that conditions everything after it; the totality of the happenings (appearances) is world.  The third object, God, is the combination of the first two – everything known and everything that happens (appears) in one object which stands for the being of beings.
   All three of these objects are problematic.  That is, they are concepts of objects that by definition can never be given in any representation, but without the concepts of these objects, any probing into the conditions of our knowledge would be unintelligible – there would be nothing questionable; therefore, we have knowledge that there is a problematic concept, but we have no means of knowing the concept, since knowing it would mean to find it given in a representation.  That there is no way to give these objects in representations is treated as the book goes forward in the following sections: concerning soul, “The Paralogisms of Pure Reason” (A341/B399); concerning world, “The Antinomy of Pure Reason” (A405/B432); God, “The Ideal of Pure Reason” (A567/B596).

PART III: Why do we ask?
   We continuously experience objects which we do not know completely, and even our dependence on concepts which are essentially problematic, and frequently ignore them.  How do the questionable become the questioned?  Let us take what is here recognized as questionable — our frequent non-questioning in the face of the questionable — and ask.  You may find that it is actually difficult to really ask this question instead of merely finding it questionable.  We can repeat the question if we wish, rephrasing it: why, when we experience the incomplete, as we experience right now in this question, do we not always ask?  Maybe we can even add this question: why when we formulate this question might we fail at asking?  If we are failing to ask this question, then, in light of the question we are questionable ourselves.  Maybe Plato can help us by reminding us that as asking is an act, we must be selecting it or not due to its contribution to a good life, which seems to involve asking is to answer for something that is good, but here posing the question to Kant, it does not present itself so cleanly in the confines of pure philosophy.  However, the point I mention this is that while pure philosophy does not easily answer this question, the reasons for this relate to the nature and purpose of pure philosophy itself.  This is a topic which can be addressed in another post.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Philosophical Problems I

   In an earlier post on interpretation I wrote about the essential problems uncovered by philosophical interpretation.  The nature of these problems was left unclear and there was some wonder as to what these essential problems might be.  I hope to address some of that here. 
   (I have found in trying to work this question into a single post that it would be either too glib in its presentation, or would employ far too much dense terminology without explanation; this being the case I have decided to break it up into a number of parts.)

The Word 'Problem': 
   A critical distance should be assumed in my selection of ‘problem’.  I was not very particular about my word choice in ‘problem’ when I wrote it in my first post here on interpretation; the word simply presented itself as ready for use. There is nothing essential about this word to what I mean by it here, I could have easily chosen among anxiety, concern, matter and many others.  However, to remain consistent I will continue with 'problem' since it is no less essential than any other term I may select.  At any rate, ‘problem’ does have a certain ring to it.
   ‘Problem’ may evoke the sense of something being wrong, but we can have the problem of deciding what cake we want to eat, or the problem of what shirt to wear, so it is not that problems all must have a negative connotation, but it is handy to have a word that at least brings some weight with it.

Problems in General:
   We have problems, yet when we seek to resolve them we are unable to share them; the problem here is treated not as a thing but a mood or a state of our mind.  What we share anent problems are formulations of them – typically questions.  In the end, a problem is whatever leads us into thought.  The solution of the problem is a determination of some sort that puts an end to that need to think, or possibly brings a new issue to be thought about.  Problems can beget problems.
   If we treat philosophy as seeking to parse what is essential, our dealing with ‘problems’ philosophically has two paths of inquiry open to it.  First is the possibility of any problem – what concepts are thought in common, or essentially, in all problems; second are problems that are possible for all beings considered as possessing the same faculties.  By this later essential determination of problems we will be saying something about our own constitution that produces something that is problematic (thought provoking).
   In my next installment I will address the essential in any problem.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Concerning Kantian Accounting

What is Kantian Accounting?:
   Kantian accounting refers to a general method of developing formal conditions with which one can think about the necessary in experience, or account for experience, or hold experience accountable for what it provides rather than what it already demanded to be given as it is (these all be taken to be equivalent in this case).  These conditions aren't an addition to our a priori knowledge, but the result of an examination of experience to determine which concepts must be assumed in discussion about experience, as well as faculties that render the synthesis between these ways we must think our a priori concepts with our learned a posteriori concepts.

Employment of the Method:
   The primary goal of the first half of the first critique (Transcendental Doctrine of Elements) is to provide a grasp of the elementary components in transcendental philosophy, and a consistent language to employ when talking about them.  To do this a process of abstraction is employed; this is seen most clearly in the Transcendental Aesthetic with space and time. 
   In the Transcendental logic Kant still uses abstraction, but employs a structure to help him get an image of how he wants to tackle the division of pure concepts.  That he already divided experience up into intuition and concept was important, because the focal point of the Transcendental logic was to account for the connection of concepts to experience, as well as the results of our employment of pure concepts alone to acquire new knowledge (Transcendental Dialectic).  Judgments are what Kant calls what we employ to place objects under concepts, and so it was natural for him to base his division off a table of all judgments, which he provides on A70, B95.
   If the table of judgments is a model that is successful or not is tested by seeing if the categories Kant develops off of it are sufficient for providing all of the pure modes in which we judge an objects, or objects under concepts.  Further, the pure employments in combination of the categories, and the interesting limits that they set to our knowledge, provide fertile ground for additional development and work about a priori concepts. 
   The test of the completeness of the categories is beyond the scope of this blog post, but at least we can go one step further and notice an interesting addition to this that applies to Kant's entire architectonic.

Formal Accounts Are One and All Mutable:
   In providing a formal account Kant does not also need to provide the sole or even normative way that something is talked about; as long as what is provided in an account is complete, then it is at least sufficient.  The addition of more distinction and organization, which is available in abundance in Kant's architectonic, is not an addition from necessity to the demand of accounting, but a potential benefit for adoption of his architectonic.  It is possible to find a clearer way of dividing up the roles of the a priori; this is not necessary, but certainly helpful, particularly in certain problem domains where the sheer quantity of distinctions Kant makes are unnecessary and even cumbersome.
   The use of Kant's accounting is found in criticism of attempts to employ the concepts in the account outside of their proper realm.  If a better system for such criticism is available, or better fits a mode of thought or discussion, it would seem a practical demand to adopt the account that better suits the purposes of the critique at hand.  It does make sense to have a well developed set of concepts and terms that are well understood by many people so that much of our work will be the translation of one system to another, but I can only recommend Kant's system from my own familiarity with it, and am open to the idea that there may be a more subtle system possible either preexisting Kant's, entirely original or simply built on top of Kant's architectonic.

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.