Thursday, March 17, 2016

Series Introduction: Considering Kant's Method of Distinction

(It's been a while since I've written regularly. Though I have been studying philosophy - perhaps more than ever - I have given myself little time to write. I have gotten a feeling for a project that I can hopefully write on regularly and in a short format.)
How does Kant work out his systematic philosophy, and how can this method (if there is one) help us to understand phenomenological research. (I plan on leaving 'phenomenological research' vague, as I actually hope to build up a meaning of this term from out of Kant.) I have decided to start by considering how Kant makes distinctions, since this is a case where there are lots of examples to consider. Kant also provides some helpful descriptions of his method. 
I hope to work through Kant's distinctions, taking one at a time. Here's a fragmentary (vs. systematic) account of the benefits I hope to get from this:
  1. See how consistent Kant is in making distinctions.
  2. Consider what the elements of a distinction are.
  3. More fully appreciate particular distinctions themselves.
  4. Work at a way of representing Kant's system systematically from the perspective of these distinctions.

To finish this post I'll quote from two passages of Kant that can help provide some insight into Kant's method of distinctions and provide a guide for discussing the distinctions themselves:
"It has been thought suspicious that my divisions in pure philosophy almost always turn out to be threefold. But that is in the nature of the matter. If a division is to be made a priori, then it will either be analytic, in accordance with the principle of contradiction, and then it is always twofold (quodlibet ensest aut A aut non A [Anything is either A or not A]). Or it is synthetic; and if in this case it is to be derived from concepts a priori (not, as in mathematics, from the a priori intuition corresponding to the concept), then, in accordance with what is requisite for synthetic unity in general, namely (1) a condition, (2) something conditioned, (3) the concept that arises from the unification of the conditioned with its condition, the division must necessarily be a trichotomy." Critique of the Power of Judgment (5:197)
This helps us to follow the distinctions themselves and give us a rough procedure for reflection when we encounter a division into either two or three.
"... every division presupposes a concept that is to be divided ..." Critique of Pure Reason (A290, B346)
This reminder from Kant can help us to get some additional insight by reflecting on the concepts that combine the distinctions that he makes. I'll consider the concept being divided, and see what insights can be afforded from it.

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