Monday, January 31, 2022

A xvii-xix, ¶ 13


[¶13] Finally, as regards clarity, the reader has a right to demand first discursive (logical) clarity, through concepts, but then also intuitive (aesthetic) clarity, through intuitions, that is, through examples or other illustrations in concreto. I have taken sufficient care for the former. That was essential to my undertaking but was also the contingent cause of the fact that I could not satisfy the second demand, which is less strict but still fair. In the progress of my labor I have been almost constantly undecided how to deal with this matter. Examples and illustrations always appeared necessary to me, and hence actually appeared in their proper place in my first draft. But then I looked at the size of my task and the many objects with which I would have to do, and I became aware that this alone, treated in a dry, merely scholastic manner, would suffice to fill an extensive work; thus I found it inadvisable to swell it further with examples and illustrations, which are necessary only for a popular aim, especially since this work could never be made suitable for popular use, and real experts in this science do not have so much need for things to be made easy for them; although this would always be agreeable, here it could also have brought with it something counter- productive. The Abbe Terrasson says that if the size of a book is measured not by the number of pages but by the time needed to understand it, then it can be said of many a book that it would be much shorter if it were not so short. But on the other hand, if we direct our view toward the intelligibility of a whole of speculative cognition that is wide-ranging and yet is connected in principle, we could with equal right say that many a book would have been much clearer if it had not been made quite so clear. For the aids to clarity help in the parts but often confuse in the whole, since the reader cannot quickly enough attain a survey of the whole; and all their bright colors paint over and make unrecognizable the articulation or structure of the system, which yet matters most when it comes to judging its unity and soundness.


Kant recognizes two sorts of clarity: 1) logical which consists in the explication of concepts required to understand; 2) intuitive/aesthetic which depends on examples to make material easier to digest. Kant finds logical clarity to be essential to his task while aesthetic clarity is less important as it tends to inflate the size of the work and introduce distractions.


Kant has written a difficult book and it may be disheartening to see that he has not set himself the requirement of aesthetic clarity. However, there is an additional peculiarity of his not meeting this requirement: Kant suggests that he had a draft with examples but he decided to leave them out. From this it is possible to consider whether Kant actually found the addition of examples to be confusing, which is paradoxical. One suggestion Kant gives to this end is that it would have made the work longer and this would have made the whole of the text harder to grasp. This concern isn't without merit since Kant insists that many issues the reader may find with his philosophy in the parts will be resolved in the whole, and so he hopes that the reader can get a view of this whole more readily. Besides this, Kant mentioned another difficulty introduced by examples.
When one uses an example or illustration, it is most helpful to use an example that makes things more distinct than other examples. However, this may not be an option here. For a large portion of the Critique, Kant will establish the necessary elements or all experience (the grounds of the possibility of experience or structure of experience). In this situation, any example Kant uses will be about as helpful as any other. To illustrate this, consider what I could do if I required an example of a substance. Here I could pick any object represented in appearance. The accidental characteristics of whatever example I select could themselves become a distraction. Kant notes as much nearer to the end of this paragraph. So, perhaps where no particular examples seem better than others, examples are generally not helpful. This problem of examples is worth further exploration, and an aside here on my personal experience hosting discussions of Kant's practical philosophy may be interesting.

Anyone may disagree with the conclusion of an example and yet can agree on the form that the example takes. In Kant, the form of judgments is typically interrogated while the content is negligible. For example, so far as we are concerned with the form of moral judgments (i.e., universality, necessity), the examples must at least express this form. In the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant gives four examples. The specifics of the examples are not important, but these examples illustrate the use of the formula for categorical imperatives introduced just prior. Whether we agree with the conclusions of the examples isn't very important since we are meant to consider the form involved in these judgments and how they relate to the formula for the categorical imperative. However, in discussing these examples with others - particularly with new readers of Kant - the particular correctness of these examples is often the theme of the discussion rather than the formal topic which the examples serve. This is excusable in readers first trying to interpret a difficult text, but this does cause the discussion to pass over the formal theme. These very examples have always been a stumbling block for reading groups going through this text, and I wonder if more examples in the first critique would have led to similar issues. At any rate, if you are a first-time reader, it is best to take Kant's advice and try to attend to the whole of the system first while perhaps making a note of anything that seems unresolved as you go. Kant himself (in the work Conflict of the Faculties), reports that he makes a habit of reading books at least twice: once quickly to get a sense of the whole, then again more slowly.


Is Kant's draft with examples available?

If anyone has any information on existing drafts please share in the comments.

What is popular use?

Kant mentions that the Critique is not suitable for popular use. This is often read as suggesting that the Critique couldn't have a popular audience. On this count, Kant would be wrong as the readership of the Critique of Pure Reason certainly extends beyond the metaphysicians constituting his original audience. However, the Critique not having popular use should also suggest that there is nothing that the text informs us about regarding our day-to-day affairs. This point is arguable. The themes of the text certainly don't aim at any daily employment, but perhaps what one learns about oneself through the text could change the relationship we have too many of our daily activities. What popular use the work may have may be best for the reader to ultimately decide, but we can appreciate Kant doesn't seek to write something that immediately addresses daily life.


clarity (Deutlichkeit), popular (populärer)

1 comment:

Office cleaning Elk Grove Village said...

Interesting point about examples serving as distractions. Thank you for your commentary.