Saturday, January 24, 2015

Phenomenological Exercises for Understanding 'objects' in Kant

(This isn't perfect, and serves more as a start and conversation piece.)
It isn't obvious what people are talking about when they speak of objects or things.  Speaking of objects becomes more confusing when members of the conversation have any philosophical training.  The problem, however, isn't that we should avoid philosophical training, but that philosophical training must be continually re-grounded in its sources.
This is an attempt to walk through Kant's account of an object by providing some simple instructions and remarks.  I will write in a manner different from Kant, but still using his account as my guide.  Read the numbers in order (which means skipping up and down through sections).


1) Look at something.  Pick it up.
4) The object is something of the sight and feel, but it is more than that.
7) You can imagine the object you're holding, and modify it in thought to be slightly different, but still possible.  You are experiencing the imagined object, but in a distinct way from the one you're holding.
10) The object could have been understood as something other than what it was understood to be.  With your attention turned to this, you may find other ways of understanding it as well or wonder what you would think of it if you weren't familiar with it at all. (E.g., a ball could have been understood as a paperweight.)

Object in General

2) You aren't picking up your sight of what you are seeing, but something else.  It isn't the feel of what you are feeling that is picked up either.
5) Note that the object is still there, and that its still-being-there isn't some part of its look or feel, yet this is something we can say of the thing.  Note that this is something said of the thing, and not of our unifying the thing.
8) Note how you can consider an imagined object in all the respects you can consider the sighted and felt one.
11) Any other understanding of the object would leave its character of still-being-there intact.

Appearance (perception)

3) Yet, you see and feel something, which apparently we can speak of separately.
6) Even though the object remains there, the look and feel changes as you adjust it in your hands and field of vision.
9) You do not see or feel the imagined object, yet it has a presence akin to the sighted and felt object.
12) The look doesn't provide enough information to comprehend why the object is taken to be what it is if it could be seen another way (as in 10).  It also provides no ground for the object still-being-there.  So, how does the appearance relate to the object we think apart from differentiating it from the imagined object?

Pure Forms of Intuition

13) Looks and feels are in space and time, but space and time aren't themselves looks or feels.  The character of objects as still-being-there, which does not appear depends on time, but time itself isn't a thing that is still-being-there or else it would, too, be in time.

Between Object in General and things-in-themselves

The difference between an object in general and a thing-in-itself can be seen in a simple experiment.  Think or see properties of an object as it appears.  These properties depend upon the characters of the object in general (i.e., still-being-there).  Now, wonder if the object in general itself has these properties that the ball has when considered with its appearance.  
The object in general does have these properties since these properties are given in the appearance which originally relates to it.  The object in general is simply the unity of the appearances via the manner of representation in space and time, it is not an additional object 'behind' the appearance.  When we treat the object in general, which is our thought of the 'real thing', as if it were itself questionable concerning properties, then we produce a new object: the thing-in-itself. 

Clearing up some Confusion Around 'thinking a thing'

Thinking of a thing can mean that we verbalize to ourselves about it internally.  However, thinking a thing can just mean the manner in which we access a thing apart from its look and feel.
When we think of the object we are experiencing, this means just refers to the manner in which the object is accessed by us apart from the look and feel.  Pay attention to this while going through the above again.

But I thought that we cannot know things-in-themselves?

Kant says that we cannot know things-in-themselves, but that does not mean that we are denied thinking such things.  In fact, thoughts of things-in-themselves are part of our experience of the object, even if the thing-in-itself is not given with the experience of the object: what is given is the appearance.

Notes on Development Hell

It took quite a bit of effort to illustrate how the appearance is only problematically related to the object of experience.
On the other hand, I had to show an affinity between the object in general and object.  This was not that hard, however, since it was easy enough to talk about the object's still-being-there

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