Monday, October 29, 2012

Understanding 'Worthiness to be Happy' in Kant

   When reading Kant's practical philosophy I have struggled how best to understand how 'self-worth', and 'virtue', are understood also as 'worthiness to be happy'. Kant seems to think that it is clear, but I do not think I am alone in my difficulties. I hope that sharing my own reflections on the topic can help continued progress in understanding Kant's practical philosophy.
   My overarching concern with 'worthiness' relates to what Kant calls the Highest Good, which is the the idea of possessing happiness in proportion to virtue (this is basically theodicy). Kant understands virtue as worthiness to be happy, and so the Highest Good could also be formulated as happiness in accordance with worthiness to be happy. If we do not correctly understand what worthiness to be happy means, or fail to understand how merely being good renders us worthy of happiness in our own eyes, then we are not completely clear on what Kant means by virtue, and therefore, we also do not understand the Highest Good, either.
   This problem may also be valuable opportunity for examining a style of reading, since I will need to employ some kind of technique to understand worthiness to be happy. Therefore, to begin I am going to discuss my approach to this hermeneutical problem.

Interpretive Method
   Because Kant does not provide a lot of detailed interpretation of worthiness, or a derivation of it, it is probably safe to assume (ex hypothesis) that its meaning should be fairly straight forward. I generally think we all have a sense of justice in punishment and reward. However, giving metaphysical accounts gets more and more difficult as the object being accounted for becomes more 'straight forward'. Personally, I think that Kant may not have recognized the limits of his discussion of worthiness to be happy (or I have not found the passage he makes its necessity precise enough); I also think that Kant did not have a method for working out this question until the third critique, and in light of that I plan to approach this question in light of the third critique. I will explain this briefly.
   The third critique examines principles which concern reflective judgments. In short, reflective judgments tell us about the subject, as opposed to objects. The third critique does not examine all cases of determination of the subject, but only the necessary connection between our faculties as revealed in certain experiences (beauty, usefulness). The procedure is generally as follows: if there is an experience which constrains us to think the subject to be some way, then we have found a necessary determination of the subject. Any necessary judgment requires a transcendental principle. We will examine 'worthiness to be happy' as a type of determination of the subject that is unavoidable in the experience of self-worth.
   Such an analysis could be done, with much benefit, on other topics in Kant. One of these that may stand in most need would be the unity of apperception.

Self-Worth as Un-concealing of Worthiness to be Happy
   Worthiness to be happy is identified with our moral worth, or self-worth. To put this in another way: when we do what we ought to, we feel good about ourselves, and this good feeling is also a feeling of our worthiness to be happy. This sense of self-worth is quotidian, and I assume the feeling of it is available to all readers such that we can appraise it on our own in relation to how we think of worthiness. But first, we can continue to clarify.
   Kant takes there to be two ways in which things are valued: as means and as ends. So far as something is (or I am) useful as a means to some end, the thing (or I) have instrumental value for that end, which is valued. On the other hand, so far as I do what I ought to, then I have an inner worth (moral worth, or self-worth) which is indifferent to the results of my actions; this is what it means to be worthy as an end in myself. It is only in this latter, inner worth that we will seek to understand worthiness.
   Another question we might ask is - and this will sound phenomenological - how does worthiness to be happy show itself? Worthiness to be happy is something attributed to the subject. It shows itself through my self-worth arising from an action I performed. How does this self-worth constrain us to think the subject?
   Worth is always of some value, and we might ask if worth (be it from material or formal principles) should always be thought as connected with purposiveness (thinkable in terms of what for). If so, with self-worth I think a purpose (a what for) pertaining to myself. However, it is a purpose that is ambiguous, a peculiar usefulness which I cannot use for myself. I say this because we do not know any technique of using our self-worth to attain anything.
   If something is useful for us, and pertains to our happiness in some way. This usefulness, uncovered by self-worth, then relates to happiness. To put this in another way, our self-worth gives rise to the thought of our own useful, which is always for our happiness. We can see an interpretation of worthiness to be happy emerging.
   I would like to clarify the analysis so far, doubling back to two points in particular: first, worth always brings along with it the thought of purposiveness; second, that something useful for us always pertains to our happiness.

   Purposiveness is the suitability of something for some end. For example, when we experience the force of the moral law, we experience the suitability of the subject to the duty commanded by the law. Above we have mentioned that when we act for the sake of duty and feel self-worth that this value of ourselves is also the thought of ourselves as useful. However, through self-worth we do not also think a maxim or technique for use of ourselves to some end. Furthermore, there is no way we can guarantee that the world, which obeys laws of nature, will have any means to make us happy from this self-worth, since it is the result of laws of freedom. This worth cannot be manipulated or made use of by us. Is it coherent to say that something can be determined as purposive, and suited to some end, without any way of knowing how to use it for that end?
   This seems coherent, since I can suppose anything to be useful to the end of happiness without yet knowing how to make use of it. In fact, this simply is a heuristic for thinking the object according to a plan to know more about its usefulness. Perhaps we can add this additional clarification to our interpretation above and see if it is clearer: worthiness to be happy is the subject being made aware of his suitability for happiness by his self-worth arising from obedience to the moral law; this is a heuristic for coming to know more about how obedience to the moral law makes us suited for happiness, that is, it sets up an interest in the subject in the happiness that it might attain through virtue.
   We may recognize an additional clarification here. Since duty makes us useful to the ends of some command, does this mean that duty itself implies that the end it supplies is useful to us? No, since the representation of the suitability does not include any ends which we might take, and so which might contribute to our happiness. We do not find worth, that is, use, in the moral law, but we respect it.
   Now I want to clarify the second point which is what I mean when I say that something useful for us always pertains to our happiness.
   By happiness I understand when something has happened in accordance with my desire. When something is useful, but not worth anything to us, then it is thought as having a purpose in some relation to an end and means, but it is not useful for us. When something is useful for us, then it also has a worth because it can contribute to our happiness. A thing can contribute to our happiness when its purpose is suited to something we desire, and, therefore, aims at our happiness.

   In the analysis of worthiness to be happy, moral law, self-worth, happiness and an interest in our self-worth - all important in Kant's practical thought - have been represented in their relationships, and hopefully this has provided some clarity and distinctness to many of these concepts. However, it may be helpful to illustrate once more the connection of these concepts: self-worth, which is the result of acting out of respect of the moral law, is the same thing as a consideration of our usefulness to ourselves for happiness, which is always an interest to us. We can add to these connections the Highest Good.
   The usefulness to ourselves thought in self-worth is virtue, and it contains no maxim that we can adopt which will fulfill the value of the will. Therefore, for this value to be redeemed, intervention is requires. If this intervention is within the bounds of nature, and due to respect from other finite rational beings, then we find that we can be benefited by others due to respect for us. However, the Highest Good involves perfect happiness, which means that nature is entirely bent to my desire (will and wish). For this we must think a force at least as great as nature, but also capable of respect and so capable of judgment. Therefore, it cannot simply be nature. This entity must be a will with enough power to control nature entirely. This is the postulate of God.
   I hope to further consider the postulate of God in another post, by asking what it means to be asked if you believe in God.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Understanding 'Contexts' Better through Kant

   In much contemporary metaphysics, and in both of the so-called Analytic or Continental schools of thought, the concept of contexts are important. Some prime examples of contexts are how or when a word is used, the use or equipment-character of objects and the way of being a subject. What do these have in common as contexts (what is the context of contexts)? We certainly do not mean something that is a part of the word, object or subject, rather something that this word, object or subject is found in, and must already be in. I hope to be able to clarify what a context is by looking to the thought of Kant, and hopefully get a new context for thinking through Kant as well.
   This essay is not only to further consider how well we understand 'contexts' or Kant's thought, but also as an argument for an approach to philology. Many readers who are interested in a specific topic in metaphysics may feel that they only have a limited number of authors to turn to. 'Context' is not a term used in Kant or central in the literature on him, so he would be less likely to be considered. However, I would like us to consider if the field of metaphysics may not admit of a very wide variety of topics, or at least topics which are not all fundamentally integrated; we should consider, as philologists, if all attempts at metaphysics may be attempts at elucidating the same ground. If we accept this, then we should be far more liberal in who we read for what reasons when it comes to metaphysics. I hope the value of this approach will be seen from a cursory glance through Kant's three Critiques where it concerns contexts.

An Overview of Contexts in Kant
Critique of Pure Reason
   A good starting point for context in Kant is with appearances. Appearances are always of something in space and time. Space and time are not properties of appearances, rather they are the form of appearances, or what allows appearances to show themselves in various ways. This should not lead us to think of space and time as being containers of appearances. While being the field in which there are appearances, this field itself is ideal; it is not a thing, but the rules of the ability-to-arrange things as appearances.
   The field of appearance in Kant is very narrow compared to that of experience. Experience is not simply appearances, but relations of appearances; experience is the context of objects and occurrences. There are no events in an appearance or intuition, rather events are relations of appearances. The principles, or form of, the objects of experience are what Kant calls pure concepts of the understanding, or categories for short. However, experience doesn't just have relations between objects, but also a unity all unto itself. Within this overall unity of consciousness, we can think of a unitary subject, even thought such a subject is never known, and never appears. This means that the context of experience is more inclusive than simply the subject or a field of objects. Experience is the context of both the subject and objects.
   Besides objects and thought of a subject, experience always contains thought of three different relationships: first, a relation to the subject; second, a relationship between objects; third, a relation between everything taken together. Each of these relations is a schema for a particular manner of knowing; each manner of knowing is able to be formulated syllogistically.
   The relation to the subject is formulated by the categorical syllogism, and represents simply knowing something; the relation between objects is formulated by the hypothetical syllogism, which represents knowing the orderliness of objects; the relation between everything together is formulated by the disjunctive syllogism, and represents consistency in knowledge for the subject. Each of these describes a context in which situates a type of knowledge, and this means that experience is also the context of knowledge. Now these different relations in experience, while being the contexts of particular knowledge, also allow for a different and broader kind of context.
   The various relations exhibited in experience are not themselves given as objects, but as ways in which something is known. Each type of syllogism can be extended indefinitely, filling in more and more of the same sort of relation; when taken to their respective extremes in thought, these relations serve as plans for total systems of knowledge organized by a principle. Kant called the principles by which we organize these bodies of knowledge 'regulative principles'. With these regulative principles we find a context that is different in kind from those we have already discussed (appearance and experience), since these principles do not refer to objects, but to a heuristic through which a subject is directed to bring about more and more systematic unity in their knowledge; knowledge that is organized by a principle which directs the organization is called scientific, and so science is the introduction of this new context in which the subject plays an active role.
   When there is a principle which determines the actions of a subject, it is called practical in a general sense. When this determination is of a means to an end it is technically practical; if the determination of the subject is by a law of freedom, then it is morally practical. The regulative principles are technically practical. The change from theoretical contexts of appearance, experience and knowledge in the practical contexts of science (as an activity), technique and morality form the beginning of a very helpful distinction that we can import into the discussion of contexts. However, for now we can continue elucidating different contexts we find in Kant.
   The three different plans for sciences provided by regulative principles are those of knowing every thing (categorical), knowing the rules that govern the relations between every thing (hypothetical), and the unity of all the things to each other, there use and suitability (disjunctive). With these plans at hand, the subject can practice its talents for furthering the ends of its own reason compels it to in the field of experience; the subject can also use these as models for building more specialized sciences, such as, biology, chemistry, &c. With morality, however, we depart from determining the field of experience or furthering our knowledge of it directly. Before discussing morality directly, it first makes sense to discuss the context of life.

Critique of Practical Reason
   While theoretical contexts all concern objects that can be given in some experience, and relations in experience, life is even broader. The theoretical concerns ultimately organized knowledge, while an organized life makes the best use of its knowledge for aims that it could not derive solely from nature. The context of organizing life is practical.
   The experience of ourselves under the compulsion to act or omit action in this or that circumstance is common, and comes in two flavors: we desire to attain or avoid some state, and so we will our actions in accordance with means that attain our desired end; or, we know that something is good or bad apart from actually thinking of any particular end, and will our actions to act or omit actions so as not to violate our sense of duty. The contexts that both of these determinations of the will appear are practical, but only the latter Kant calls moral (purely practical) while the former is technical.
   Moral and technical maxims of action are both presented in the context of life, but also form the basis for further contexts, just as we found when the context of appearance contributed to the context of experience. With technical aims we can appreciate the utility in things, and of ourselves, and can value these in relation to how well they achieve what is desired; this is instrumental value. for the morally practical we come to esteem ourselves and others as good or evil according to how we compare them with their duties; this is self-worth and respect.
   Our life is organized by both technical and moral maxims, and these conflict frequently. However, we find ourselves as the kind of beings that want to be happy, and also the kind of beings that want to be good. We cannot neglect one or the other of these without torment. Now, while we do not perform our duty because of some personal interest, we still naturally become interested in what is good, and our own self-worth leads us to want happiness in like measure, this provides a foundation for a further context, that of reward and punishment.
   Our worthiness to be happy, acquired by frequent action from respect towards duty, can become a sore spot for us. And organizing life to bring virtue into harmony with our own sensible nature is ultimately our highest aim and most insurmountable challenge. Such a union, can never be guaranteed in nature, though we can come closer and closer.  The goal to unite our self-worth and happiness in this world forms a principle for the context of developing the kingdom of Heaven on Earth; this ideal arrangement on Earth is just the idea of all agents acting according to the moral law and in harmony with each other.
   The kingdom of Heaven on Earth is an idea of a continually advancing humanity, but not satisfied with merely with the happiness of some ideal posterity; we also are naturally interested in our own happiness.  When we have a natural aim, such as being rewarded, where we understand both its impossibility for us, but yet how it could be fulfilled, we find ourselves with the context for faith. (Since we are simply concerned with this as it a context, we can skip the specifics of Kant's moral proof of the existence of God.)

Critique of (the Power of) Judgment
   Now, casting a glance on what we have discussed this entire time, there have been a lot of contexts that deal with the determination of things, or the determination of the subject regarding things. In Kant's Critique of Judgment, we find the contexts in which the subject is related to itself in various ways. I will discuss contexts we find here as well, but briefly so as not to add too much more to consider.
   When we experience an object, and do not know what it is, yet are interested in it, this is what Kant calls beauty. However, for Kant, beauty is not a property of the object, but rather a sign that the subject is encountering something that recommends itself to our understanding (by being interesting without any reason for our interest). In this experience we uncover the context of the discovery of the subject as an intelligence (as well as how the faculty of intuition is conceived in its relation to the understanding).
   There is nothing that we can see that constitutes nature that provides us with a determination of purposes, and yet we see purposes that things have for each other, as well as purposes that we have. For Kant, considering something in terms of purposiveness is considering it in terms of a final cause. These purposes are not constituents of objects themselves, but they do reveal the way in which we think of ourselves as beings that are suited for making use of things. This we saw in the theoretical contexts, but the emphasis was not on the subject's character so much as it was on the different ways in which we have plans for knowledge.

Benefits of Further Consideration
   I will not go go over the vast number of insights that we can gain by reflecting on this cursory overview of contexts in Kant. Perhaps I can do this at a future time if there is interest, but I feel that simply the large number of different contexts, and their interwoven character, provides enough of an argument to consider thinking through Kant in this way, but we can provide other reasons.
   Kant is clearly not the only thinker to consider to get a better sense for contexts. We could consider Wittgenstein, or even Heidegger, to get straightforward discussions of the contexts of words, or of equipment. We could even get a lot out of considering Plato's forms in terms of contexts (a project for another time). These are all considerations that need to be made and philology that we will do and have done.
   However, we can see in Kant an incredible amount of variety in different types of contexts each with a very precise character, principle, and each related to distinct features of our experience of the world. This is something that few other thinker are able to provide, and these divisions could potentially be important into readings of Wittgenstein or of Plato in order to get a deeper reading of these other impressive thinkers, and this work could be used then in similar ways.
   Apart from these concerns of philology, understanding Kant's divisions can also help us to reflect on our own experience and lives and potentially help us to organize our thoughts better. Every new distinction for us is a possibility for more clarity in our thoughts, and the ability to better compare thoughts adds to distinctness.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guidelines for a Metaphysics Journal

   In the following I have taken different elements from the Doctrine of Method in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason which I think may be useful to inform an editor of a possible journal of metaphysics. I will work on some additional remarks later, but this a start.
   I have had various plans to start an online journal at some point, and here I am making some of my plans available so that I might benefit from input. I don't see these guides as being suited to any writing, but it seems specifically well suited (at least as an experiment) for articles on metaphysics.

Definitions: there are no definitions, only exposition, in metaphysics. Expositions, wherein a concept or principle is clarified, are the result of metaphysical work, not the first step.

Axioms: there are no axioms, since metaphysics uncovers a priori principles by analysis, and does not assume them first.

Demonstrations: there are no demonstrations, since metaphysics proceeds by analysis, not synthesis. Otherwise, there is nothing standing outside of the objects metaphysics has available which is of interest to it.

Polemics: (Internal) There are no genuine polemics in metaphysics, where polemic is understood as one side opposed to another. All parties are engaged in continually clarifying the principles of reason. (External) It is impossible that a proof external to metaphysics can undermine a principle in metaphysics. Metaphysics has no grounds to contest empirical claims except so far as they overstep their bounds.

Hypotheses: There are no hypotheses as Metaphysics is only concerned with what is necessary (necessary here is considered in terms of the category).

Proofs: There is no use of apagogic proofs, since proving how one alternative is not possible will not necessarily reveal any solution (consider the Antinomies); such proofs can have use from a skeptical, but not a critical, perspective. Proofs in metaphysics must first prove the objective validity of their principles or concepts.

-Metaphysics aims to clarify the means and ends of reason, not to bring reason further to its ends (which would require synthesis). No claims should be advanced synthetically, rather a critical attitude should be maintained towards whatever material is provided.

-The distinction between Practical and Theoretical should be actively preserved and explicit stated. All activity should be considered both in terms of how it cognizes its object, as well as any maxims of the activity. Even our own metaphysical research should not go unconsidered as to the conditions of its aims.

-The divisions in opining, believing and knowing should be preserved, and it should be clear which sort of taking-to-be-true is used in any case. Metaphysics does not have any need for taking-anything-for-true which is not necessary, and its powers are all spent on the clarification of the necessary.

-Philosophy (distinct from metaphysics) is not an actual science, but a science in idea. Philosophy as science is the legislation of human reason. We are concerned with advancing towards such a legislature concerning two different areas: causes of nature and causes of freedom. The would-be philosopher continually seeks a more unified life.

-The division between the different branches of metaphysics, which should be preserved, are as follows:
1) ontology (transcendental philosophy)
2) rational physiology (containing rational physics and rational psychology)
3) rational cosmology
4) rational theology

-The metaphysician's interest in doing history is in order to hold that history together under one view - that of pure reason. Whatever is mathematical, empirical, scriptural, &c in the history, in terms of its theses, hypotheses or positions, should be clarified from the main body of the metaphysical work. Where principles are blurred with what is unnecessary, then the history should document the error of the inclusion (or exclusion).

-There should be a unity in all the sciences, and since history is a body of knowledge, the principle that organizes it also allows for their unity, if not agreement.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kant and Common Sense

   Kant is considered one of the most difficult reads in the history of Philosophy, and so this usually fixes him in peoples minds as opposed to common sense. However, I mean to explain why Kant may yet be among the greatest advocates of common sense of all time.
   Imagine two men speaking on the street, a speculative philosopher, and Kant. A layman walks by overhearing some conversation just as the discussion has turned to some metaphysical doctrine (such as the doctrine of determinism). In overhearing the discussion, the layman may roll his eyes, and indignantly break in saying something like the following: "Excuse me for interrupting, but while you are both here bickering about everything being determined, the rest of us are out here acting. You are making fools of yourselves and should try to be more practical!"
   To this accusation, the speculative metaphysician may reply with some holier than thou rigmarole about the importance of Truth, or simply feel ashamed or at a loss for words. However, Kant would sympathize with the layman, and might say: "Exactly! These metaphysical discussions should be guided by the practical, and ultimately are if we understand them properly. That's why it's so important that we show the limits of the speculative outlook in these considerations. Even the speculative only serves the practical in life."
   In a certain sense, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason constitutes the most articulate eye-roll at speculative metaphysics that one can imagine (while Plato's may be the most pleasing eye-roll). This image of the eye-roll conveys a lot that isn't intended, however, since Kant doesn't take speculative reason to be totally bankrupt - at least as long as it is properly understood; the eye-roll is properly directed at the dogmatist (or for Plato the sophist).
   At first there is something humorous in Kant's agreement with the layman, since Kant's own complicated works aren't full of readily understandable notions. But we can we see the compatibility of Kant's very technical works with his affirmation of common sense with only some little consideration, and recognize that it isn't simply being very plain that makes one agree with common sense. (In fact, it is a harmful prejudice that being simple is necessary in order to agree with common sense.)
   Kant remarks of his Critique of Pure Reason that it is not meant for popular consumption. Rather, it is a medicine for those who have been stricken with enthusiasm in their metaphysical inquiries and have sought to extend their knowledge far beyond its proper limits. Those who are sick with this disease have been, contrary to their intention, abusing reason in setting themselves the task of answer questions which can only be assailed by each man's practical outlook.
   Kant sees many dangers resulting from speculative reason's attempt to usurp practical interests. It isn't that he thinks the subtle argumentation of dogmatists will directly cause confusion in society, since these arguments are ignored by the common man. However, so far as the erudite have an indirect influence on the culture through their disciplines (in Kant's day these were medicine, law and theology), there is a risk that the practical instinct could be misled as more and more begin to defer to others. There is also an opportunity for a positive influence on society (see Kant's Conflict of the Faculties for these considerations).
   (During Kant's life time, education was not as accessible. Today a lot more people have an opportunity to be exposed to dogmatisms while, it seems, just as few people are willing to think for themselves. In light of this, it may be more important to reevaluate just how many people the Critical project could benefit, and if it needs a new exposition in order to suit this need.)
   To understand why technical language alone isn't enough to separate subtle inquiry from common understanding, we should consider more closely what it means for the speculative to usurp the practical. Speculative Metaphysics attempts to settle, once and for all, problems which not only are insoluble, but really first become concerns for us in questions of how we should act. Right away, a speculative solution to this question is shown to usurp the question of how we should act, and take it out of the hands of individuals; instead it will be a handful of speculative philosophers who determine how people should conduct themselves, and on the false pretense (that may yet go unchallenged if these men have much prestige) that answers can be given in these matters. We can see, then, that technical terminology can be a friend to common sense, especially when it is trying to keep it out of bondage.
   Now, we shouldn't all at once think that the actions of the speculative philosophers are malicious, or intend to damage humanity. However, we should see if the actions of these philosophers is due to genuine, practical motives which have led to attempts at answers through methods that have not been considered as concerns their effectiveness. This is exactly what Kant's Critique of Pure Reason sets out to ask, and so far as we can see the merit of such an inquiry - whether we agree with Kant's results or not - we recognize that it is in our interests to know if we are properly serving our ends. If we agree with Kant's conclusions, then we will also find ourselves agreeing with the layman's reaction to sophists of all generations: they just aren't practical.