Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Improving Critique of Pure Reason with (More) Myths

After studying Kant for a short time the manner in which he talks about our faculties had to be read as a myth (story).  The process of intuition giving objects that are then understood (a priori) and so delivered in an orderly manner was not meant to be taken literally as a sequence, but has more the character of stories Socrates would defer to that he couldn't justify, such as the doctrine of recollection in the Meno.
This reading made the most sense due to Kant's acknowledgement that all knowledge begins with experience, yet not that all knowledge arises from it.  Another way of approaching this is the following: if pure intuition, or concept, wasn't combined already into experience there would be no vantage point from which to discover it, and this means that these things only have there definite sense if they are seen together.
Kant speaks of his interest in making his work sensible to the reader.  Would other stories perhaps make it more sensible?  Kant will often allow different accounts to light up the same thing (e.g., the formulations of the Categorical Imperative), and so it seems we don't need to tell a new story as if it must oppose the old one: these stories are not to be seen as facts that oppose each other, but as guides for the understanding.  Plato, too, seems to have recognized this and seems to make little effort to have the myths he tell be mutually consistent.
Kant provides an opportunity for a different story in the Critique of the Power of Judgment, particularly with regard to the judgment of taste.  Rather than a story about the a priori processing of material, we can instead see the object immediately presenced as interesting apart from a concept.  This interest draws us into conceptualization that first employs the empirical (objective) understanding.  This objective understanding is exactly the basis for an analysis of the form of understanding.  There are some interesting benefits of using such a description that fit very well with Kant's philosophy.
One thing we can benefit from is seeing the givenness of the object as clearly preceding the analysis on it.  Kant says analysis assumes prior synthesis, and this should not imply that analysis depends upon a literal bringing together of material.  We should see this assumption of analysis as the manner in which the activity of analysis guides itself in separating the material, not as a dependency on a speculative processing of material in the subject. This leads to another benefit regarding the understanding of 'subject' in Kant.
Even today there is a temptation to read Kant as another problematic idealist (i.e., Berkeley).  Part of Kant's problem is this subject centric narrative he uses.  Starting from the object of taste, we have something closer to the thoughts expressed in the refutation of idealism: that the conception of the subject depends on something outside us.  However, this narrative doesn't leave the subject as some pure result, rather it would be the 'I' of the 'I think' (objectivity) that is discovered: we have a definite existence apart from explicit empirical determinations, but with the beautiful object we are brought into our first (objective) empirical understanding, and all at once into an understanding of ourselves as thinking objectively.  This way of bringing about the thinking can show us another benefit regarding understanding. 
For Kant, the categories concern the form of understanding of objects of experience.  Nothing particular is thought by the categories alone. Instead the categories describe the basis upon which one can judge additional attributes.  The object of taste is exactly that upon which our understanding is first engaged freely (in spontaneity) to determine the object.  Having the object given first as that upon which we judge can help us see the categories more clearly for what they are and how we discover them: they are the form of the understanding and we discover them from an analysis of the objects understood objectively in experience.  This further avoids the interpretation of categories as existing in the head, and part of a mechanical process on data from senses that produces experience.
Another benefit of our narrative is that it opens up a relation to objects that has more possibilities than passing over to understanding. For example, from this narrative there is room for considering things as equipment in an environment.  This is harder to do when the narrative always delivers the thing to you as understood objectively as such and so particularly in the character of the understanding guided by categories employed in theoretical knowledge. This may open a space to understand topics such as equipmentality through Kant, and also to make use of other thinkers to clear this ground as well.
Ultimately Kant did not want us to repeat his work, but hoped that the work he was doing would help build a common ground for attaining to the more important goals he saw for mankind: expansion of our understanding, perpetual peace, enlightenment, the Highest Good, &c.  In the Prolegomena, Kant asks for help from future teachers of critique.  Kant does not want teachers of his book, but of the science that exists in idea, and which Kant's book of the same name was merely one attempt at working out. We can't hope to help the exposition of critique by merely interpreting and criticizing Kant's narrative, nor can we do it if we must feel alternative narratives can't be given in the spirit of genuine critique. We can continue the worthy project of critique by giving it a clearer exposition, and so more stories from which to develop understand.  I hope that I have suggested the value in this as much as I have given an example.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Plato's Call for Philosophical Friendship

A major topic of concern in my so-called philosophical work is the problem of community. Philosophy is unable to exist without a community of thinkers in discourse. However, a community of discourse can be envisioned in many ways and it is important to consider which ones have been taken to be suitable for philosophy. Plato's work seems in great part to be concerned with this problem of philosophical community, and since I feel a kinship towards him as regards the problems philosophical community seem to face I will take him as a guide.
Plato frequently distinguishes between dialectic and debate (and their respective cultures) explicitly and through illustrating these different cultures dramatically. Plato continually affirms dialectic over debate. I see the culture of dialectic in Plato as concerned with truth, and as being a true philosophical culture.
In Plato, dialectic is not concerned with refutation but rather with the disclosure of truth. Discourse (logos) purports to disclose truth, yet it can fail. Socrates' method of dialectic (which even has more than one style) detects such failure by submitting the discourse to questions that seek the grounds of such disclosure. 
A typical result of Socrates' style of dialectic is that no ground is discovered in the discourse of the interlocutor. This does not mean that there actually is no ground, but at least that it is obscured. There are a number of different responses to being presented with the groundlessness of a position (as well as many ways to discover it), but they all seem to contain an element of confusion and a response to that confusion. 
If the grounds of a discourse are not brought to light through dialectic confusion results. Interlocutors deal with this confusion in a number of ways both positive (wonder, interest, friendship, &c) and negative (recalcitrance, filibustering, suspicion, &c). The confusion typical positive outcome suggest something like an anxiety about now knowing whereby one wants to know. This knowing or acknowledged ignorance is a genuine concern for truth where truth was understood as what was unable to be uncovered in the dialectic.
Much of Plato's writing seems intended to promote the positive responses to the confusion of dialectic and justify them over the negative responses. There is another way of reading the results of dialectic that wasn't clearly available or of interest to Plato: evaluation by rules of (more or less)formal logic. When one looks to the discussion with a view primarily to its correctness, one losses access to the work being done to attain to the ground of the discourse and instead only anticipates the errors that the interlocutor may stumble into.
The confusion that interlocutors fall into (in Plato and in every day discourse) is not primordially the result of the violation of rules. These days we are hyper-aware of logical rules. Rules of this kind only seem to emerge from diagnosing the ways a discourse can become confused and appear ungrounded. A discourse seeks to disclose something, and discovering its ungroundedness is essentially discovering the forgetfulness of what it was trying to show through the discourse. This kind of forgetfulness is not simply the violation of formal logic, but yet these violations - since they have a regularity - can be read out of the discourse.
On the basis of developing a more or less formal understanding of discourse there is a new attitude one can take that doesn't necessarily concern itself with disclosure but with keeping to the rules, and even playing within the rules. One can present a discourse that avoids those pitfalls and can be persuasive without being concerned with the truth (rhetoric), or introduce paradoxes that intentionally confuse (eristics). With these external guidelines there is the potential for a kind of sport of discourse; this discourse is not concerned with the truth, but with control, power and gain. The culture built around this type of discourse is that of debate or sophistry.
Plato seems to see the negative attitudes of confronting confusion in discourse as promoting or at least accompanying a culture of sophistry. Plato strives to illustrate the needfulness and grounds for true philosophical discourse. He clarifies that which awakens speech into its capacity to disclose: things. He also works out the presuppositions of these things in their capacity to be disclosed through discourse: forms (ideas). 
Plato continually illustrates the difficulty the lover of truth faces in being received with the right attitude. Socrates is continually misunderstood, both by the sophists he discusses with, and by his own friends. It hardly needs to be pointed out that this confusion about Socrates' attitude contributes to his own death, both in the source of his accusation of impiety and in the misunderstanding of his own self-defense.
There seems to be a prejudice against truth that naturally arises from fear and misunderstanding of the anxiety that is the call to the truth. One feels confused and feels thrown out of the truth, but the pain of falling out of the truth is also the invitation or interest of getting back in.
When one grounds philosophy in a system of logic one begins to forget the importance of discourse in its disclosing character, and the sort of community that is required for a discourse at all, let alone a discourse guided by a love of wisdom. Philosophy of this sort is more like sophistry and debate. It no longer concerns itself primarily with disclosing truth, and merely runs along the rails that will keep it from contradictions.
Logic has gained a standing that seems unassailable, and it is correct for logic to be unassailable within certain bounds. It is not appropriate to found the essence of discourse, the attitude towards truth or philosophy itself by this kind of logic.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Using Time in Aristotle to Compare Kant and Heidegger - Part IV

In the last part (Part III) I discussed Heidegger's use of 'temporality' in relation to Aristotle and Kant. Where Kant had provided a ground for Aristotle's experience of events, Heidegger provided a ground for Kant's orientation to the possibility of objects of experience. I will now bring us back to Aristotle's outlook to get another view on Heidegger and Kant.
When Aristotle is working out his Physics, he is asking some fundamental questions about inquiry into beings.  Kant has already assumed the existence of natural science as secure science. Aristotle is looking out at the possibilities that nature presents to him through the senses. One of these is that it can be understood, and he wants to come to terms with this understanding and the basic character of it in the Physics. Kant is not looking at the way the experience of nature provides us with possibility for understanding. (At least we can say this with regard to the Critique of Pure Reason. In the Critique of Judgment he sees this in aesthetic judgment.)
Kant is looking to the objects not in order to understand how they are presented such that they could be understood. Kant is looking at the objects understood in a particular way, and looking at the elements of such an understanding. This subtle different is important.  Aristotle recognizes that things presented to us can enter into various sorts of activity - not merely theoretical understanding, and Kant recognizes this too, but Kant's analysis in the Critique of Pure Reason takes objects in just the attitude of theoretical understanding.
Heidegger sees temporality in our coming towards our own possibilities (as well as other modes that I will leave out for now).  Heidegger can be seen as looking to Aristotle's attitude towards the particular possibility he was receptive to in the Physics: the possibility to understand nature.  With this in view, Heidegger looks at the area in which this is a possibility for us among other possibilities.  This bears some repetition and development.
Aristotle looked at his possibility for knowing nature, and characterized nature in its understandability.  Kant looked at the nature understood and developed the elements of this understood nature.  Heidegger looked at Aristotle's understanding of the understandability of nature and developed the elements of this kind of understanding. There is some violence to Heidegger in this last statement about him, but this is just a rough start to characterize briefly the relationship I see between Kant, Heidegger and Aristotle which needs to be developed further.  First, however, I would like to avoid a potential misunderstanding.
Heidegger saw Aristotle's understanding of understandability.  Why not see the understanding of the understandability of understandability, and so on forever?  Clearly, these two kinds of understanding are to be differentiated.  Aristotle sees the understandability of nature, which means he sees certain possibilities for understanding object.  Heidegger understands the understability that Aristotle saw, but since this understandability is not an object but a possibility, the understanding Heidegger develops is in the possibility of these attitudinal possibilities in relation to things, he also sees the possibility of not getting our primary direction from things, and the manner in which the very understandability of things can lure us into this orientation towards things.
Kant and Heidegger both took up different projects that relate to Aristotle's.  Kant took up the understanding of objects once the method of this understanding had become secure.  Heidegger took up the characterization of the possibility of understanding that Aristotle saw in objects.  The interpretations of Kant and Heidegger developed differently on the basis of this.

Some Remarks:

I do not mean that Heidegger and Kant were explicitly looking at Aristotle.  Though they were aware of him it isn't necessary that they took their direction from Aristotle explicitly.
I am not suggesting any kind of order of importance between these thinkers and their thinking out of time.  This would require separate justification.
There is something interesting here with relation to transcendental inquiry: Aristotle, Kant and Heidegger all have different basic directions, but they all look to the transcendental ground of these.  This is not to give priority to Kant; one could just as well see that each of these thinkers disclosed the phenomena they had in mind, and give priority to phenomenology.  This does let us see a relationship between transcendental philosophy and phenomenology:  transcendental philosophy doesn't mean taking the same topics for analysis that Kant did.
I see that Heidegger and Kant are both attacking a tendency that people fell into with regard to the success of Aristotle's project.  Kant shows that metaphysicians cannot use the model of understanding from nature in their own pursuits, and so need to turn away from characterizing them in terms of objects.  Heidegger also wants to see new opportunities in carrying out the question concerning the being of beings without taking direction from objects.  Kant and Heidegger both suggest alternative ways forward, but these alternatives are not contradictory.  The alternatives that come out of Kant and Heidegger still seem to have the characteristic difference of their original points of departure.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Using Time in Aristotle to Compare Kant and Heidegger - Part III

In our last part (Part II) I discussed Kant's analysis of time and illustrated how he develops Aristotle's.
Kant's basic outlook from which he analyses time concerns the possibility of representations as simultaneous and sequential. The experience of time that conditions the temporality of objects is not a concept, but a mode of representing per se. It is infinite because it has no dimension, not even the character of dimensionality (in which case it would either be definite or indefinite). Time is constitutive for our experience of objects.
Aristotle's outlook was from the perspective of how time comes into our awareness as change. Here the structure of time was illustrated as having a beginning middle and end. Kant also looking in this direction, but because he had already characterized time as form he considered this a particular determinateness of objects in time.
So far we have seen three different ways of dealing with time: first, time as a form; second, time as a duration between a beginning and end; and third, time as units derived from motions (or changes) that happen with regularity (clock time). We have seen time go from something bounded (In Aristotle) to something unbounded (in Kant). In Heidegger an entirely different attitude is used in approaching the situation which does not take its guidance from things.
In Being and Time, Heidegger sets out from the very start with the explicit goal of analyzing Dasein, and then characterizing Dasein in terms of its particular temporality. The analysis of Dasein requires an outlook that is different from Kant and Aristotle, yet could be described as containing these other outlooks as possibilities for the entity being analyzed (Dasein).
Heidegger's analysis of time can be characterized in relation to Kant in a rough (non-complete) way: while Kant's outlook assumes the concern with objects as candidates for theoretical activity, Heidegger is concerned with the temporality wherein there is a possibility of concerning oneself with objects in this way. (Of course, Kant does not only deal with objects as theoretical, but this is the basis of his explcit interpretation of time.) Even though this characterization of temporality in Heidegger is incomplete, it suits my purposes here of relating Heidegger's outlook to that of Kant and Aristotle.
We now have a fourth manner of considering time.  Rather than time being a basis for objects with magnitudes, or events over certain amounts of time, temporality potentiality of Dasein to be itself.  We come towards ourselves in the possibilities we see for ourselves, and there are never times in which these possibilities aren't there to approach.  In Heidegger, past, present and future are all together in an interrelated manner.  This is not unique in that all the 'directions' of time are together, but the manner in which these are divided.  the future event isn't a unit of time that hasn't happened yet (a limitation on time as form of appearance), rather the future is differentiated by our becoming what we are according to our possibilities.
We project possibilities and advance towards ourselves; we drag the past along with us in our state of mind; we encounter the world in its presence. These characteristics of our existence do not happen at different times, our outside of each other, but are all characterizations of the structure of the same temporality that we undergo (that we live). Temporality is not different from the very ways in which we are enacted towards ourselves (where we are our very own possibilities).
I still have not carried through the comparison through Aristotle, and this will be best to leave for the next part.  While we have roughly characterized time for Aristotle, Kant and Heidegger, we can turn back to the projects within which they were working out their understanding of time. Kant and Heidegger can be seen in relation to Aristotle's project in the physics.   The goal of this comparison is not to reduce Heidegger and Kant to Aristotle, but to see how Aristotle's outlook on time can help us move between these thinkers in our own understanding.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Using Time in Aristotle to Compare Kant and Heidegger: Part II

(This is the second part of a series of comparative philosophy: here is part I.)
While in Aristotle time is seen as an indeterminate magnitude bounded by ideal points, Kant's exposition begins only with respect to time's magnitude.  
In Kant, time is described as an infinite given magnitude.  (Kant sharply distinguishes between infinite and indefinite: infinite is without limits, while indefinite is with undetermined limits.)  Kant provides a thought experiment that can help us gauge what he means.  If we try to imagine another time, we may succeed in imagining other objects in a past or future, but our own experience of time (of sequence and simultaneity) remains unchanged.  We cannot imagine this other time (imagination itself is only possible in the sequence and simultaneity of our experience).
Kant also calls time a form (namely, the pure form of inner sense).  We can use time's character as infinite magnitude to understand this term 'form'.
There is a paradox in an infinite magnitude: a magnitude, one would think, is the kind of thing that must have a size.  However, something infinite has no size in principle.  This sounds like a contradiction, but is rather the key to understanding 'form'.  Rather than being a magnitude, time makes any determination of magnitude possible by being the 'field' of such determinations, and so the time, as a pure form of intuition, is the possibility of time determinations (limitations).  Aristotle's understanding of the beginnings and ends that limit a time is possible on the basis of a more basic understanding of the magnitude between the points as limited from a field of possible limitations - the form of time.
While we still have kept a relation to Aristotle's sense of time, Kant's account still points to something different.  The indeterminate magnitude between the beginning and end of a change is now seen as a limitation on a more primordial time.  The limitation by way of the beginning and end is described by Kant, particularly through the pure concepts of the understanding (categories).  These should be connected with Aristotle's considerations of time.
In Aristotle time was experienced in change and had a structure of something with a beginning middle (indeterminate duration) and end.  In Kant, changes are experienced in time, where time is an infinite magnitude that allows for limitation through conceiving of times.  In discussing Aristotle we found that the measurement of the magnitude of time seemed impossible without regular motions.  Here we still find this to be the case, but can also see how the capacity for limitation already produces a second notion of time that can be pluralized (unlike time as a form, which is only singular).  This time is apparently the time of Aristotle, as it shares the characteristics of being demarcated with a beginning and end (in Kant, cause and effect).  This, in effect, leaves us with three notions of time: time as form, as bounded indeterminate magnitude, and as the measure of a regular motions discoverable within world events (clock time).
By introducing the form of time (as the form of inner sense), Kant shows the character of time in Aristotle as a product of the understanding.  We now have time as form of intuition, and as concept (and even measure).  In Kant, the intuition and understanding are never discovered apart, but are always synthesized a priori as experience.  This means that there is an original belonging together of these two halves that is seen in the original experience and allows these two halves to be parsed out.  Kant characterizes this original togetherness roughly in the schematism, where the pure concepts of the understanding are to be taken as transcendental expressions of time.  Generally speaking, Kant does not see any way of illustrating the original unity of the intuition and understanding.  While it may be possible to produce an account of this out of looking at later writings from Kant, I won't get pulled into those concerns here.
The pure concepts ultimately provide for the sort of object of experience that we can judge about. This object of empirical understanding is the primary orientation point Kant has phenomenologically, and from this standpoint the connection of time and concepts is murky - and with good reason.  In part III I will consider Heidegger's understanding of time as temporality.  From Heidegger's entry way into phenomena we can get another shot at understanding what was murky in Kant, and provide another mode for understanding time.  We will ultimately relate this back to Aristotle's model of time.