Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Resolution to a Paradox of Objectivity

When judging objectively we act as sovereigns, but also as subjects: we command, but must also obey.  Put less tersely: when we judge objectively we are making a claim against the judgment of all, yet if our judgment is not open to the trial of all it fails its claim to objectivity.  Being a sovereign and also a subject is a paradoxical condition, and so it may seem we act in a contradictory manner when pursuing objective knowledge.
One thing that may be suggested about this paradox is to accept that we cannot judge objectively, and that each submits his subjective judgment to the community.  We may then say it is the community that advances objectively.  However, even in this case we find a problem: if an individual cannot judge what would at least be a candidate for objectivity then there is no way to legitimate a conversion of a collection of subjective judgments into objective ones.  
The distinction between objective candidacy and objectivity can help us develop some insights.  When we judge something objectively, and so demand universal agreement, we always produce at minimum a candidate for objectivity.  This is to say we really demand universal agreement for the judgment of candidacy for objectivity.  This tells us something interesting about objectivity itself: even though we judge particular characteristics of objects to be objective, the objectivity of the judgment does not depend on these characteristics, instead it depends upon some capacity in our own judging that recognizes these characteristics as universally affirmable.  Because this universal affirmability thought in the objective judgment comes before the actual trial it is thought a priori and provides a reflection of how we think others (i.e. humans) relative to the conditions of our own judgments.  Put briefly: judging something as objective submits a characteristic to be approved, but also contains an a priori judgment of candidacy for objectivity which is the same time a judgment of what it is to be a subject.  (Those familiar with Kant will gain in understanding by reflecting on the categories of the understanding, or the apprehension of the beautiful.)
Typically the consideration of what it is to be a subject per se is not considered in objective investigations.  This should be entirely expected, since it is a strict pre-condition of such investigations.  However, when we find difficulties, and conflicts, in our attempt to advance in our objective judgments it would be a good exercise to return to the foundations and form of the judgments themselves and to investigate if we are having a conflict in the same kind of judgment, or really in two different kinds of judgments under the same name (objective).
Philosophy (critical philosophy) should seek an agreement about the characterization of judgments generally.  In our case with judgments concerning the candidacy of objectivity, we are seeking agreement in how to talk about ourselves and our relationships to each other in judging, and to lay a stronger foundation for universal communicability and for the understanding (read: science, or morals).  Wherever we find a priori rules at work we should seek to understand how those things condition our universal judgments, but also how they condition the understanding of ourselves.  Agreement in terms on these matters would be no small gain for culture and the advance of humanity.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Reading Kant's 'Synthetic A Priori' as 'Necessary A Posteriori'

(Note: I could use the term 'analytic a posteriori' instead of 'necessary a posteriori'.  Both of these have a sense of being contradictory for Kant, but I supposed that 'necessary a posteriori' would bring this contradiction out without any confusion.)
In the second edition introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant discusses features of secure sciences.  I think it could be helpful to use the description of secure science in the Critique as a tool for interpreting why Kant pursued knowledge concerning the 'synthetic a priori', it also allows us to see an alternative that is equal in the same way transcendental idealism is taken by Kant to be the flip side of empirical realism.
A basic feature of secure science is that we are always able to guide them by putting something down in advance ourselves.  Mathematicians construct their concepts without having to check in with experience first to determine if there are such things, while natural science combines mathematical insight a priori in order to frame experiments regarding the reality of physical systems.
In addition to giving something in advance, knowledge also requires some material by which to connect concepts in our judgment.  Mathematics would be impossible without a pure intuition, that is, without the possibility of being able to construct its concepts. Natural science would be impossible without experience to see which mathematical models hold for appearances.
A synthetic a priori judgment is a paradox: it demands that we consider connections without anything given to connect them.  Something must in some manner be put down prior to experience in order for experience to acquire its order.  I think the reason for this paradoxical terminology is that it is modeled off of how secure sciences have things put down in advance.  Put in other terms, while Transcendental Philosophy is without hypotheses, its structure is at least modelled off of systems that have hypotheses.
What other option is there other than the synthetic a priori?  Unfortunately it seems only equally paradoxical terms are possible: if 'synthetic a priori' is a transcendental idealist term, then perhaps the empirical realist term is 'necessary a posteriori'.  I will take a few steps back before returning to this.
Kant does not make himself the sole arbiter of human reason, rather he insists that all others are the judge of his understanding just as much as he must be the judge of his own and theirs.  Kant's Critique concerns what all beings possessing human reason can say about themselves without requiring any similar experiences in particular.  What is the common structure we can all agree on for human reason (as a unity of our powers)?  Kant has no special mode of making visible the elements of reason apart from his analysis of experience, and his choice to talk about the elements of experience in terms of a system of them accords well with a customary scientific mode of building a system to reason about.  
We can also see Kant as starting a discourse about what he sees in his experience that he thinks every other humanly rational being (i.e. beings like himself) will agree with.  In this we can see how he is striving for a discourse that concerns something a posteriori - his reflections about experience, the limitation of his imagination with regard to experience - but at the same time claims universality and necessity as it is a discourse framed on experience to talk about the elements of it he is compelled to hold as common.
Now, while Kant denies the possibility of necessary a posteriori knowledge, he does not preclude the striving for it, which is all that a Critique can attain to even when pursuing knowledge of the synthetic a priori.  The reason for this is, of course, that in both cases the judgment of all humanly reasoning beings must be brought to bear in this striving.  Here we simply see a paradox of objectivity that afflicts all human knowledge, and which I will illustrate in another post.
My interest in raising this matter isn't to criticize Kant's choice to model transcendental philosophy after science, but to learn about the approach he did take by seeing that he could have gone another way with the same project.  To me, phenomenology (taken etymologically as discourse about that which shows itself) attempts the other manner of speaking about the same work Kant was doing, and so can be counted as an empirical realist mode of transcendental philosophy.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Problem with Philosophy (qua Discipline)

The problem of philosophy as a historical practice, or discipline, handed down through institution is that it has a great tendency to lose its problems.  It loses them to such an extent that there are often concerns of whether there are any problems at all in philosophy.  The institution may preserve the name 'philosophy' but no philosophy (as an activity) is guaranteed to be present in it.
The history of philosophy contains plenty of problems (in proposition form), and these seem to be the things that are most easily discoverable.  A beginning course in philosophy always attempts to raise some metaphysical doubts, questioning what we can know to be true, or if there are external things, or if we exist, &c.  But, for those that first posed these problems, the problems only found their expression in propositions after struggling with an anxiety that had to be wrestled into place.  These problems, encoded into propositions, are handed down as the problems of philosophy, however this is insufficient: the proposition does not preserve the subjective state of affection required for the problems: the propositions do not preserve the anxiety that is required to grasp their scope, and the real conditions for their solution (the resolution of the anxiety).
(I do not here make philosophical problems into mental disturbances, but simply note that we cannot notice our problems, or their resolution, without a more intuitive standard.)
Once inheriting these propositions, we seem to find it sufficient to deal with them in logical terms that are only suited to evaluate the consistency of statements, and not help recover the problem (the anxiety) any more.  Those that participate in philosophy have their own anxiety, however, and not connecting their anxieties with those of others, and guided by this personal anxiety, formulate their own resolutions to these problems to their own satisfaction.  Often because the language of the objective world is borrowed (since this language often feels required to relieve our anxiety), these solutions conflict with those of the past.  Dogmatic metaphysics emerges in this manner.
Philosophy will never find its center until it begins to recover those basic problems that run through it, and preserve its real order and continuity, and contain direction for its real truth, that would otherwise pass unnoticed on the surface in the presence of continual debate.  Much of the importance of Kant is exclusively in an attempt at providing future philosophy an understanding of its own problems, and the possibility of its problems (the possibility of the natural disposition to metaphysics).  (Heidegger seems to have taken up this challenge more exclusively.)
Rather than restating philosophical problems from the history of philosophy as if it was obvious that they are problems, beginning philosophy courses should strive to induce the real anxiety required for entering into these problems, and generating the sort of statements off these problems originally that would be required to understand past statements of them.  This way the history of philosophical thought will not just be a wasteland where thoughts are criticized in a quite superficial manner.
(There is a certain concern I have with religious traditions: that the wisdom of the past generation provides formulas that actually prevent the future generations from admitting the problems required for understanding religious feeling.  I believe that this sort of phenomena was treated by Kierkegaard in the Concept of Anxiety with a special concern for hereditary sin, and how this has us overlook how each of us - and not just Adam - bring sin into the world ourselves.)
Philosophy is not the only place where this problem exists, but it may be the only discipline that can't get off the ground and take its proper place as a result.  For example, mathematics has direction for its problems, and has advanced consistently.  However, education in mathematics does not produce mathematicians (who are truly very few), since it doesn't provide a real understanding of the problems of mathematics, and only provides a guide for correctness of results from computation (until one proceeds far enough).  This leads to revealing humor, such as the joke about doctors in math being unable to calculate their share of a bill.  This humor is revealing because the actual problems of mathematics do not start or end with computation.  The joke is on us for not realizing that this humor reveals that what we teach under the name of mathematics is no such thing.
In physics as well we find steady and regular progress, however, students of physics are left to standards of correctness of computations, and application of principles.  Physics is not principally concerned with computation: computation is merely a means for physics for testing and reforming theory.  
The genuine problems of a discipline, which always manifest in anxiety originally, should be a much larger matter of concern to educators that are interested in opening up a field to a student, and not merely running them through the algorithms of correctness.  Correctness is something we demand, but it is not itself a primary goal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Things-in-Themselves and How we Care About Them

When I study the Critique of Pure Reason with new as well as old readers I often encounter questions about 'things-in-themselves.'  It is interesting that there always seems to be a crystal clarity as to what is meant by 'things-in-themselves,' but there remains the question: if Kant says we can not know these objects, why does he say so much about them?  I hope to clear some of this up briefly, and connect it to some other aspects of the Critique.
I assume most people will agree that we experience ('see') objects, and that we think objects.  It will also be agreed that we do not have any other way of dealing with objects except in our representations of them, or thoughts.  If we had no representations or thoughts, this would amount to having no concerns at all.
When Kant discusses things-in-themselves, he calls them objects so far as they do not appear to us.  Now, when we are concerned with things-in-themselves we are not concerned with things as mere thoughts, but things even standing apart from thought.  That is, when we are concerned about the existence of the external world we are not satisfied with saying that it is a mere thought of ours.
Now, things-in-themselves are clearly not seen by us, nor are they thoughts of ours in particular, but only in general: we think an X so far as it is not seen or thought by us, but somehow may relate to what is seen and thought.  It should be clear from this that we do not know the conditions that these objects require for either of our modes of cognizing particular objects: appearance and thought.
It is fair to wonder how we become interested in objects that seem to fall outside of our possible concern: not one of them can become directly distinct for us in appearance or thought.  Additionally, we may wonder how there could be more than one of these things that we think.  This relates to Kant's question in the Introduction to the B edition of the Critique: how is metaphysics as a natural disposition possible?
We can see the answer fairly clearly on our own: it seems the only way we could concern ourselves with things-in-themselves is if we think objects as real that yet contradict some manner of the object appearing to us.  If we think an object, but think it as necessarily out of time and space, we find that we no longer have anything distinct to think, yet this contradiction pushes us outside of the field of experience altogether.We may contradict our manner of representation in our thoughts in a number of ways, and this may help us to understand the diversity of things-in-themselves.  This is precisely the insight that Kant shares in the Transcendental Dialectic where the conflict of reason with itself tempts us outside of all boundaries of experience.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Value of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

Kant's famous distinction between analytic and synthetic judgments seems to have left much of the tradition after him wondering about its value, and so, its meaning.  It seems obvious that concepts contain whatever they do (analytic), and when we learn something new we expand our concepts (synthetic), but how is this important?
The distinction between analytic and synthetic seems to have been abused after Kant, and began to suggest that propositions themselves were either analytic or synthetic when really Kant insists that what is important in any particular case is what we actually thought in these judgments.  (This being said, it was of no use to attempt to clarify language through this distinction.)
It seems to make sense to consider the value of the distinction between synthetic and analytic to reside in the context that was so crucial for them: critique of pure reason (the special science).  What was important to Kant about the distinction between analytic and synthetic was how it provided clearer access to the problem of synthetic a priori judgments.  It will help to consider other disciplines where the distinction is applicable, but not necessary for any work.
Mathematics and physics entirely consist of knowledge from synthetic judgments, but this does not mean they should concern themselves with the distinction between analytic and synthetic: mathematics uses pure intuition to guide itself, while physics uses experience (and mathematics).  These sciences have material to guide them that clearly shows the ground for their synthetic judgments, but also makes it unhelpful to know when these synthetic judgments are in effect: they always are.
On the other hand, metaphysics has no material to guide it in its use of pure concepts, and generates pure concepts, and so if we concern ourselves with the possibility of metaphysics it is necessary to test to see if pure concepts can be employed in the extension of knowledge.  Then, it will be necessary to discover what the pure concepts are, and for this the distinction between analytic and synthetic is crucial.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On Making the Best of Differences

As a reader and writer of fiction I can't help but take interest in the wealth of learning that one can gleam from reading inventions.  This is no less true for inventions that are supposed to be non-fiction.
Often I witness, or am involved in, personal conflicts that involve actual occurances (as they were remembered, at least), and there is a dispute about what actually happened.  In such disputes, I typically find little value in settling the 'facts' of the matter (the intentions involved, the words said).  Instead, I find that accepting all acccounts and taking them in turn in order to all learn from each is a much better course.
Why are we so concerned with finding fault, and holding people responsible at every turn?  Our instinct (or habituation) to retrubutive justice hurts us here. Why not take a primary interest in improving together, and - without needing to acknowledge fault - all find ways in which we can help each other?
This attitude may stem from my approach to interpreting philosophy.  My interest in reading the history of philosophy is to gleam how other people have tried to reconcile themselves with reality and their own finitude.  Even if the philosopher is presenting something that isn't critical or systematic, this is no reason to think that I cannot come to understand the sort of demands that were being faced through their solution, and that I cannot learn from this by reflecting on the demands I face from my own finitude.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why I Value Metaphysics

I hope to share the value that I derive from studying Metaphysics.  In order to do this, I feel like I must first explain what 'Metaphysics' means to me.
I consider Metaphysics to be an analytic discipline concerned with the exposition of principles already contained in our most basic ways of encountering (or being encountered by) beings.  I must emphasize that anything other than simple ways of encountering beings are to be excluded. (However, some beings must be encountered in ways that seem comparatively more or less simple.)
Through the analysis involved in Metaphysics many apparent difficulties are encountered.  Even our simple ways of understanding beings involve the coming together of many distinct terms, and we find ourselves at our limits to account for how these things come together.  Something in us seems to strive always for a truly simple union between the terms of our exposition.  Historically, resolutions to these difficulties have given rise to simple unifying ideas, as well as rejection of the very striving to simplicity and a settling on more principles of flux which still belie the urge for a more simple explanation.  Such ideas as the soul, and God serve to preserve the stability of things, while ideas such as chaos attempt to preserve change; sometimes both of these impulses are blended, such as in Plato's paradoxical description of the beautiful itself in the Symposium.
If people are not explicitly facing these metaphysical difficulties, we still form natural dispositions with the world that align us to one of these metaphysical options.  Our disposition concerning these can be fickle, and unrest can stem from vacillation between these natural metaphysical orientations.  At times we are guided by optimism, at others shipwrecked with doubts and fears of meaninglessness.  Science, religion or both may step in at this juncture to provide some measure of stability, but this stability is not understood without an appreciation of the difficulties revealed in the study of Metaphysics which exposes the original ground of this unrest.
In exposing the original ground of our unrest, the solutions to these difficulties from science become inadequate but more properly qualified towards their true objects.  In addition, Metaphysics increases the burden that faith requires of us, since it sharpens the difficulties that we face, and bars answers that are understood merely historically.  (It also exposes fanaticism and superstition as inadequate to the demands of these difficulties.)
Studying classical works of Metaphysics has helped to give me direction in my own reflections.  Seeing how metaphysicians have been overtaken by enthusiasm or skepticism, and understanding how, has served as a serious warning for me.  Other metaphysicians have provided a great deal of help through their clearheaded and critical ability.  I have yet to find a real metaphysician that has not instructed me in something valuable.
Apart from the study of these metaphysical expositions, I have been given a key into the fine arts.  Metaphysics allows me to fathom themes in a much deeper manner than perhaps their authors may have intended at first, and to use these works even as examples of natural Metaphysics.  Some metaphysicians, such as Plato, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, make great use of narrative elements in order to paint a richer picture and relate natural metaphysics to artificial metaphysics.
Metaphysics has not allowed me to give a resolution to any of the most demanding challenges I face as a human; it does not even provide a new starting point for any of these challenges.  However, it has provided a great deal of clarity, and has provided me with direction in sorting out what I have to deal with.  Metaphysics has also made life more difficult in a number of ways, since I have the problems I face more constantly before my eyes in a form that is harder to dispel, and so it can lead to a kind of stasis.  However, while it props up difficulties, it also gives me a special confidence in facing them, and a history of allies.
The majority of my reflections that concern my own direction in life do not directly concern Metaphysics, but rather concern happiness and virtue.  However, Metaphysics has probably been the single most helpful study for providing a clear manner of thinking about even these matters, even if it has contributed no material or solutions.  As a study it is an anchor for even my most common daily reflections, and is constantly in mind as I pursue my craft (as a programmer, or as a writer).

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How I Interpret Phenomenologically

Phenomenological interpretation of the sort that I practice is an attempt to submerge in the lived position of what I interpret.  The interest grounding the phenomenological interpretation is not in coming to agree or disagree with what is interpreted, but in rendering the position itself inhabitable by the reader in the way it was inhabited by the author.  Each attainment of this inhabited space is tentative, and we can introduce more material from the author to continue to adjust it - even to track differences over time.  With this inhabited standpoint, we may switch to a critical interpretation which will positively assess its limits, perhaps through imaginative variations that shatter the view (make it impossible to maintain).
Phenomenological interpretation clearly assumes somethings external to it, namely, that the position is able to be inhabited by the interpreter, and that if this position is uninhabitable that it must be rejected as even a possible standpoint.  This could be due to the author's poor description rendering the entry into the position impossible or, at an unfortunate extreme, the recognition of a form of experience that is otherwise than human (or rational).
Of course, there will be a circularity in using this interpretation technique to establish what 'humans' are determinatively, but it can serve regulatively in relating ourselves to those who it is possible for us to relate to.  But this circularity itself plays a role in the process of addressing the command 'know thyself' because it more and more clarifies what is involved in the universal human experience (in the limits of the interpretive process) and what is learned.  This being said, phenomenological interpretation has its sweet spot in texts that express elements of universal human condition (all texts due, to some degree).  This could be a text in any style, be it a poem, a work of philosophy or fiction.  Some genres are easier for reconstructing the lived experience, and some are harder.  Some may be open to multiple standpoints that are blurred together (either antinomic or complementary), and which may need to be separated.
As I practice phenomenological interpretation more I find greater confidence in an ability to inhabit the standpoint of an author and then emerge into the text of any number of other authors who had also led me to inhabit the same standpoint.  This enhances my interpretation of these other philosophers as well, since I find new routes to inhabiting their own standpoint.  Additionally, when moving between authors in dispute, I can find where terms are functioning differently for each within the same conversation by comparing where I can submerge myself in one author and emerge in the other.  Also, reading a tradition that has inherited its terms with an understanding of how to submerge myself in both reveals how one generation takes up another, and inherits what was thought in it, without exactly preserving the standpoint.
Biographically speaking, my reading technique is originally motivated by a rejection of contention and dispute as adequate ways of advancing understanding.  Ideally, when a dispute emerges, I think it is crucial that the conversation be allowed to completely settle the dispute before giving any arguments for what is to be done or understood.
We need to be able to communicate with each other better than we do, and even when people seem very difficult to understand, and it seems like a burden to understand them, we should be practiced, patient and gracious enough in our understanding - liberal enough with our understanding - to try to resolve our disputes at their foundation.  This requires each to work on understanding themselves as a means of discovering this foundation.
As a way of closing this out, I want to consider the significance of the name 'phenomenological interpretation.'  A year ago I was happy to call this sort of interpretation 'philosophical', and now I have decided to refer to it as 'phenomenological'.  There is a sense in which I have not settled on an understanding of 'philosophy' and 'phenomenology,' and that putting them in connection with the task of a technique or program for reading does violence to them.
For 'philosophical' interpretation, I was trying to emphasize the friendship aspect of the manner in which I interpret, which at the same time seems to require that one does their own work; that one gives themselves entirely to the interpretation.  'Phenomenological' interpretation here places emphasis on the way in which taking on a different position can alter the way that things appear - not always by adding new hypotheses, but exactly by removing them and clarifying the view in order to get to a description of more and more 'pure' phenomenon. (The use of the term 'pure' here, which must - form me - involve the removal of 'empirical' content, must seem strange.  It does to me as well, but there is a sense that all empirical content brings with it a specificity that is specifying and has the character of a hypothesis, and so paradoxically, in an analysis of experience to get to its structure, there is something of a struggle exactly against the material that is provided.  This seems to be why the form of experience is described in 'formal' language.  Understanding 'formal' language is itself an interesting task.)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Analysis of Descartes on Existence and Continuity

Descartes' analysis in the third meditation which equated the power for creating and preserving existence the same is important for how he sees God in relation to him as a cause.  I think that this moment in Descartes at the same time shows the distinction between two different kinds of causes, and then conceals them once again.  These causes begin to be unraveled again (in the canon passed down) by Leibniz, and the distinction is made again in Kant.
As a result of the second meditation, Descartes has placed the reader, and himself, before his own simple cognitions.  When you remove all inferences, and attempts to judge, Descartes still finds we have the raw activity of cognition - the seeming appearings, the loving and hating, the fact of judging (even if the truth is doubtable).  These shimmerings constitute our existence and this is what is referred to by the famous cogito sum.
The third meditation works on this more or less pure state recovered in the second meditation and attempts to analyze it to discover what else can be found in it.  When Descartes considers the cause of existence to be the same as the cause of the preservation of existence, we can get a clear picture of what he means by looking at our experience, which contains as a matter of fact a continuity as part of what is in every cognition.  How does Descartes take this experience, which contains a temporal depth (in its internal reference to the having been of the previous moment) and decide that it is the same thing to have this continuity as to have the simple existence?  Before I try to speak to this let me make some remarks about its apparent affect on history after him.
In Descartes' inheritors the results of the collapsed distinction between existence and preservation (continuity) are fascinating.  In Malebranche we find that at each moment God must act to set everything in its place (occasionalism).  In Spinoza we find something even more interesting which reveals a lot about what must happen when these things are collapsed: it no longer makes sense to say that the ego is a substance underlying the sequence, but that we must immediately have the absolute substance (God) be the unity of the continuity of events.  In both Malebranche and Spinoza we have God operating at every 'moment': everything is a miracle.
Lurking in the continuity of the cognitions is the 'great principle' put forward by Leibniz: the Principle of Sufficient Reason.  Through this principle, Leibniz will differentiate between the series of events (which is infinite) and the cause of the entire series itself (for Descartes, these were preservation and existence).  Leibniz found it intolerable that God would be performing a miracle at every moment, as apparently had to be the case under Descartes' analysis.  Additionally, the production of the 'I' (ego) in Leibniz is understood on the basis of the continuity of cognitions: in the Monadology, Leibniz discusses how apperception, as that which unified perceptions, is what produces the 'I' through a reflective process.  With differentiating between the continuity and the existence of moments of the series, Leibniz has introduced the substance of the subject again (which allows him to have more substances than just God, as in Spinoza).
Kant, perhaps without knowing it, takes Descartes' result in the second meditation more seriously, and along with the insights off Leibniz, continues more or less where Descartes has left off with an analysis of what is contained in the continuity of the experience.  What Descartes collapsed into the same cause, is for Kant's resolution to the third antinomy, the distinction between natural causes and spontaneous causes.  This distinction, in Kant, is the basis of the division of reason into the theoretical and the practical.  Many other implications in Malebranch and Spinoza, as well as things uncovered again by Leibniz and Kant, could be added to this, but I will save this for another time.
Returning to Descartes, what is it that he was seeing that allowed him to collapse the distinction that he had made between existence and preservation (continuity)?  It seems, to me, that one could see the continuity of the sequence as something that is entirely contained in the moment we are cognizing, and that we have  no reason to refer to the existence of another time before (the moment is entirely self-contained).  In Leibniz we find that the element in the moment which refers back transcends the moment and require just as much existence in the previous state in order to bring about the current one such that one original creation is sufficient for the series to continue.  At this point we have two speculative claims - that only this moment exists and that the whole series must exist.  In both Descartes and Leibniz the cause of existence is thought in terms of something in addition to the cognition of an object as such.
In Kant, the connection of the sequence is a rule of the understanding, and existence is not something we add to the object (as an extra judgment), but as part of the structure of cognition generally.  In Kant we do not find any reason to make the speculative claim that there is something like an 'efficient cause' of existence, or continuity, as seemed demanded by Descartes and Leibniz.
I think it is important to note that the advance that Kant seemed to make in his analysis is all possible in the picture that even Descartes had provided, and it would be interesting to try to carry the clarification through the rest of Descartes analysis (as well as those of other thinkers before and after).  When Descartes and Leibniz turned from their analysis - perhaps too soon - and started deriving knowledge from their conclusions, they turned to a scientific procedure which they hadn't eventuated yet in terms of its possibility.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Phenomenological Interpretation of Reason's Striving for Completeness

When reading Kant, it may occur to the reader to consider how Kant experienced reason's striving for completeness.  A more general treatment of reason's striving will involve discussing the ideas, and how these ideas relate to the three syllogistic figures.  However, what we are looking for is something that any reader of Kant can turn to themselves in order to experience that striving, and find the resources of developing Kant's own insight for themselves; we are looking for what we encounter in experience that Kant clarifies by discourse of the ideas and syllogisms.
The striving of reason concerns, ultimately, the coherence of things where incoherence will mean the impossibility of the attainment of our nature as knowers and agents generally.  Kant discusses how we want a complete system of nature as knowledge, and a resolution to our desire for happiness in relation to our virtue, and both of these are products we seek - but we don't originally feel our need for these it seems.  I will directly answer what the striving of reason looked like for Kant, and then discuss it.
For practical reason, the experience of hope is the product of the striving of reason, while for theoretical reason, it is the experience of learning.  Hope in God fulfills the human struggle for perfection, while learning is the clear advance of the human towards knowledge of a systematic kind.  However, the parts of our experience that directly show the working of the striving of reasons do not necessarily contribute to the differentiation of that activity from the striving of reason, and some other experience will be needful in the discovery of reason's operation.  We will need to consider despair for practical reason, and indeterminacy for theoretical reason.  These are practically (if not) the opposite of hope and learning, and these consist in a break down in reason's striving - something we have encountered that throws 'completeness' into question.
When we are in despair, we may express it as a loss of meaning or value of life; in relation to hope, in Kant, it will relate to a doubt in the existence of God.  If we can never be fulfilled, then we somehow no longer make sense to ourselves, and life seems a burden.  This anguish is the striving of reason, and the grounds for confirming once more a belief (not knowledge) in what brings possibility to our highest fulfillment.  This sort of despair seems to break out at one time or another in life.
For theoretical reason, it seems that some subtlety is required to discover the like of the Anitinomies, but more simply, and as a first step, we can refer to the experience of being wrong.  In Plato's Meno, Socrates shows that the slave boy already knows geometry, but this is not the point entirely.  Once the boy errs, Socrates points out that now that the boy has discovered his error he will want to know the truth (and that he will be better off for having learned his ignorance).  This shows the striving of reason through our impulse to heal what has ceased to make sense to us.  The discourse Diotima gives Socrates on love as lacking and striving seems also to relate to this.  In Kant, we are not confronted with errors of an accidental kind, but of errors that are lurking in the structure of experience itself.
When there is a debate over there being a smallest particle or not (a priori) we seem to find equally strong reasons to support each side.  This could lead to a general dispair of reason.  We cannot imagine an appearance of something with any size without dimension, and so always divisible in thought, and this both affirms the divisibility of the appearance and the necessity of the spaciality of appearances at once.  The indeterminacy we are lead to here has led to drawn out debates, and even pretended solutions (through calculus, for example, which already changes the nature of the object; or by using the current standard of empirical science, which certainly wouldn't be to settle the matter a priori).  The tail spit that we discover in these aporias is significant in how it shows our natural interest in coherence, and so the striving of reason directly given in our anxiety.
From these moments in experience we can see how Kant would see how even though we are in a situation not to know, it is a perennial concern to try to find out anyway.  The natural disposition to Metaphysics seems to be the result of the striving of reason for completeness along with our own falling into despair, error and aporia, and the anxiety we encounter here exerts all our resources to their limit and still leaves the problems unresolved: despair can always break out again, we will find people who have resolved their theoretical speculations in an different way than us.