A Few Responses To Kant’s Transcendental Idealism

There is a world out there, and your senses do give you an impression of it which yields genuine knowledge of empirical objects, according to Kant, but what empiricists fail to take into account is the apparatus that we depend upon to make sense of that world:

“Kant thought that Berkeley and Hume identified at least part of the mind’s a priori contribution to experience with the list of claims that they said were unsubstantiated on empirical grounds: “Every event must have a cause,” “There are mind-independent objects that persist over time,” and “Identical subjects persist over time.” The empiricist project must be incomplete since these claims are necessarily presupposed in our judgments, a point Berkeley and Hume failed to see. So, Kant argues that a philosophical investigation into the nature of the external world must be as much an inquiry into the features and activity of the mind that knows it” 

As mentioned, The American thinker W.V.O Quine has a dispute with the way in which Kant arrives at his answer to that problem. 

From a paper by Arthur Sullivan here:

“There do not exist two distinct types of reality in the world which require two distinct modes of expression. This leads Quine to conclude that the analytic-synthetic distinction is a purely logical convention that is ontologically unnecessary and empirically superfluous. In this respect, Quine agrees with the radical empiricism of Mill, with its claim that there is no a priori knowledge. The fact that something is the case, or even the fact that something seems to be necessarily the case, does not imply the reality of a priori truths. Quine goes so far a to refer to the notion of a priori knowledge as a “metaphysical article of faith.”

Of course, so also did Schopenhauer have a problem with Kant (wikipedia summary here).

This quote was found here:

“Empirical concepts are ultimately based on empirical perceptions. Kant, however, tried to claim that, analogously, pure concepts (Categories) also have a basis. This pure basis is supposed to be a kind of pure perception, which he called a schema. But such an empiricist analogy contradicts his previous rationalist assertion that pure concepts (Categories) simply exist in the human mind without having been derived from perceptions. Therefore they are not based on pure, schematic perceptions.”

Just some thoughts on a Sunday, as it was requested by a friend.  If you can refer me to a more comprehensive critique, I’d appreciate it.

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2 thoughts on “A Few Responses To Kant’s Transcendental Idealism

  1. Chris Navin: Did you know that William James developed an epistemological position that he called radical empiricism? How much this resembles Mill’s radical empiricism, I could not say. But it seems that contemporary pragmatists have broken into two schools of thought, with the difference between them largely depending on whether or not they subscribe to James’ radical empiricism. John Dewey was a radical empiricist, for example, and so is Robert Pirsig (the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance).

    If you’re interested, I’ll be giving a little talk about Pirsig’s version at Oxford on October 24th.

  2. David, Thanks for stopping by. I didn’t know about James’ radical empiricism.

    I’ve been taught (but haven’t thought too much for myself) that Charles Sanders Peirce was the father of pragmatism, which he then called pragmaticism to distinguish it from other versions. Peirce took the ideas of Kant’s noumena as a potentially useful limit for knowledge. As Kant realized, it is at best a negative limit.

    I’ll have to do some more digging on Mill’s radical empiricism, because I don’t know how “radical” it really is. Causal relations need not connect with a priori concepts logically. But as an empiricist, then how do you metaphysically explain the seeming disconnect between supremely abstract concepts and the sense impressions from which they originate…without more metaphysics?

    Good luck on your talk, and while I don’t have the means to attend, if you have a printed copy or video to link to, I’d be interested to read/hear it and post it here.

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