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.