Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Problem as a Transcendental Philosopher

   This post is on a personal level rather than a scholarly one.  There are difficulties I face in life because of my decision (fate?) to become a transcendental philosopher, and to pursue philosophy generally.  I am writing this to share the experience I have had of it, and conclusions that I have come to.  Perhaps they can be worth while to those who may face the same difficulties, and have not yet clarified them for themselves.  Perhaps there are those who can help me make the next move through suggesting another layer of the dialectic.

   As someone who considers himself a fellow worker of Kant, I engage in pure philosophy as a pursuit worthy of special development.  This continual engagement in life leads me to constantly be directed out of life towards the clarifying of its form, its possibility, its a priori ground.  Once I had grown accustomed to this procedure, and found the great sense of clarity, command, and peacefulness that it brings (and which accompanies any activity where we find confidence in our powers) the tendency to bring things into their clarity took over in a manner that led to a continual tendency to retreat from life; this is a tendency with which I struggle constantly.
   I do not regret, but feel greatly rewarded by my work as a transcendental philosopher.  When I see others faced with complex problems of life, I see a tendency in them to defer to someone  else, or find something to help them forget, or make light of the issue; sometimes the result is that they lash out blindly.  When I am faced with a problem I have a tendency to enter into a critical analysis.  Here, the anxiety is lessened, and I find myself in control; I carefully evaluate the concern into principles and secure my stability and orientation to the problem.  Since every problem has a form, there is no problem which I cannot evaluate and bring under my power.  This I count as a great blessing.  However, merely attaining to stability does not solve the problems analyzed; nothing gets done with regard to the problems so far as I merely analyze them into principles.
   There are disciplines which work much closer to problem domains faced in life, and pure philosophy has its place in relation to all of them, but not directly in relation to their solutions.  This can make me appear useless (and at times feel useless), so far as the solutions to problems always are legitimately accredited to something else.  This means that for me to contribute to solutions, I must also develop skill and understanding in a narrow domain or I must present a legitimate claim to provide assistance in relation to problems.  These options do not exclude each other, but there are reasons why the first option is more difficult for me.
   The legitimacy of transcendental philosophy in relation to all problem domains is in the removal of confusion surrounding the problems.  Any removal of errors, misunderstanding, or confusion, even if it is only a negative contribution, is in the end a positive contribution towards the goal of resolving the problem.  This is how transcendental philosophy's merely negative relation of analysis is ultimately productive for all disciplines.  However, I find that having the tendencies of a transcendental philosopher makes it difficult for me to commit myself to one problem among others, since I can just as well be clarifying the principles that underly natural science at one moment, and in the next transition seamlessly into the principles that ground civil law.
   So far as I am unable to put all of the special problems under one super-problem, I am faced with anxiety as a transcendental philosopher.  I feel that I possess a key to all problems, but the problems, considered by themselves, are indeterminate in relation to their ultimate contribution - the problems themselves do not dictate which comes first.  The demand for the super-problem is itself a problem I face, and is open to analysis; this analysis results in clarifying an ideal that governs all activity.  This ideal has been called many things: virtue, God (as a theoretical ideal and regulative principle), the Good (ἀγαθὸν), universal objective harmony, &c.
   Just as the analysis of more special problem domains did not lead to a solution to the problems, the analysis of the super-problem also does not lead to a solution.  However, this analysis of the super-problem does remove a road block by putting all problems into dialogue with a universal interest that guides all of them, and so a common standard for evaluating them (see post on objective harmony or the Good for more clarification).  However, this merely makes the specific problems comparable in their intended results, and does not solve a single one, nor does it remove the demand to complete even the most minor of them.  It simply allows us to evaluate where we should more properly start, and sets this evaluation as a positive task.
  Ultimately the goal of philosophy (not simply transcendental philosophy) is not to remove oneself from life, but to live life well.  This goal requires transcendental philosophy, but does not allow it to be the final end, only a stage one must pass through on the way back to life.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Highest Objective Harmony and Practical Reason

   In a previous post I considered different types of contradiction, and hoped to elaborate on one of these that was potentially more obscure: practical contradiction.  Practical contradiction depended upon the goal of a highest objective harmony, the idea of which I will elaborate in order to hopefully reveal some new considerations of practical reason.
   The possibility of the conformity of all objective employment of reason (its employment concerning objects), both in the understanding of nature, and in its application to action, is the possibility of the highest objective harmony (coherence).  There is no need for us to worry that nature will not be in conformity with itself, since it must follow certain laws necessarily.  However, concerning actions as bringing about states of affairs (as objective), we are guaranteed nothing of such a harmony save for the possibility (at least in thought) of such a harmony.
   The complete objective harmony of the practical employment of reason concerns objective states of affairs as brought about by action in a manner as consistent as nature's own laws.  This concerns all possible actors, which means that this concern with objective states of affairs also places a demand on subjects universally (so far as we think this highest objective harmony).  Any act which disrupts this objective harmony is called a practical contradiction.
   If all subjects cannot perform the same act (in the same context) then it is not compatible with a rule, and so contradicts the highest objective harmony, since such a harmony concerns the complete regularity in the production of objective states of affairs according to rules, and so demands a uniformity resulting from the laws of freedom that is comparable to the results of laws of nature. 
   When we experience duty (feel that we are called to perform or omit an action), we do not experience it as optional.  This necessary character of duty postulates our freedom, but also a regularity of this freedom as governed by laws which would make a necessary demand.  The connection of freedom with necessary duties is by means of a principle of practical contradiction which is given in a formula as the demand for objective harmony. This can be seen as another formula of the Categorical Imperative.  (There can really be an indefinite number of such formulas, since each has merely to express the sort of necessity we find in duty in a general and universal manner.)  The objective harmony can be used to illustrate the meaning of contradiction in Kant's Categorical Imperatives. I will consider this with respect to Kant's discussion of a lying promise.
   A lying promise, as Kant explains, produces a (practical) contradiction when applied to the Categorical Imperative.  Under the Categorical Imperative (law of nature formulation), a promise would always be cognized immediately with the knowledge of its not being meant, and so not as a promise, making the act of promising impossible.  We can understand the sort of contradiction which Kant has in mind more clearly in relation to the highest objective harmony, since there we considered a demand of reason concerning the maximum of regularity in all objective cognitions.
   This objective harmony may be something of a linchpin between theoretical and practical reason, and suggests that pure practical reason only emerges from a combination of theoretical reason with something else which is called on to conform to the same regularity as natural law.  Perhaps this can help give direction for the connection of the faculties which cognize ends (purposes) with theoretical reason, and which result then in the production of a pure practical reason in their combination through a synthesis of objective harmony.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Different Types of Contradiction - Theoretical and Practical

   We are all familiar with contradiction, but contradiction is applied in many nuanced ways.  It can be very beneficial to go through different senses of contradiction, and I will briefly lay out some of these here, and then in another place develop some of them more closely.
   The sort of contradiction that seems most familiar is that the same object cannot be in two opposite states at once, e.g., something cannot be entirely black and entirely white.  However, we allow an object to have mutually exclusive properties/states over time.  This is understood well enough, and is typically the model of the other ways we speak of contradiction, which is confusing since it transports everything into the context of objects with properties too quickly.
   A more obscure sense of contradiction involves rules that connect a cause and effect (ground and consequence).  We take every effect to have only one cause (even if this cause is a complex - and it usually is), and when we connect a cause and an effect it forms a rule, and so we can say that is contradictory to have two rules for the same cause and effect pair.  To illustrate this sort of contradiction, consider the following: when one object displaces another, we call the connection of these moments impact (or various other terms that describe the same thing), and we say that impact is the cause of one object displacing another.  Impact names a rule that connects the two states (cause and effect).  It would be contradictory to say that besides impact, the rule that connects the cause and effect is a force that acts at a distance, and so the impact of the objects is accidental.  The reason this would be contradictory is that we cannot maintain that the rule of displacement requires impact, and also that the rule of displacement does not require impact; perhaps something can be moved by impact, and at a distance, but they exclude each other as rules connecting the same ground and consequence.
   Another form of contradiction which is obscure is a contradiction between contexts.  A context holds together a number of rules and purposes of things for some activity.  The context of wood working holds certain uses to the tools of the wood working, and the goal one has makes the context of wood working necessary to develop.  It is possible to have a context from which one can evaluate different possible contexts (ways of organizing ourselves and our things in an activity), but we cannot have more than one context at a time.  Even when we are accomplishing two tasks through one action, we have a context for this, as well.
   A context can be contradicted if it does not produce the results that are desired.  We may think that a certain organization of activities and materials will produce the results we aim for, but when it fails we must consider if there was some error or defect in our skill or the material, or if the context was poorly designed to begin with.  If we decide the the context itself is at fault, then it would be insane to repeat the same procedure expecting a different result.  I want to refer to this as a technically practical contradiction.
   Even though we can narrow our interests to certain contexts and achieve the goals we set in them, we can hardly ever remain in any one context at all times; the demands of life pull us into different contexts.  While we do not expect to find a single context that is specifically suited to all tasks, we strive for all of our tasks, and their respective contexts, to harmonize with each other, and so we eliminate contexts not only when they do not work, but also when they conflict with each other and make a harmonized life impossible.  This brings me to another sort of contradiction, which I will call simply a practical contradiction.  When a context functions (attains its aims), but falls into conflict with other contexts (and so throws our life into disarray), we have a practical contradiction.  An example of such a practical contradiction would be a lying promise.
   There is a peculiarity of practical contradictions (both technical, and pure) which makes them very distinct the first two sorts of contradictions (which I will call theoretical).  The first two sorts of contradictions have subjective necessity (we simply do not operate without them, and so they form a part of all of our practical contexts as well).  The theoretical contradictions also have objective necessity, since all objects must obey them, as well.  Now, for practical contradictions, there is no subjective necessity.  We can violate technically practical rules and continue to do the same ineffective thing over and over again — if we could not, then it would have also been impossible to try it the first time.  We can also act against our own interests in having a chaotic life which tries to hold together many different opposing contexts (opposing goals, ultimately), but this is problematic for attaining our higher ends, even if it always seems easier at any time.  These practical contradiction, which are by no means newly devised by me, will benefit from further development elsewhere.