The Kant Dictionary

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This term appears in the titles of the three main books in Kant's Critical philosophy, which adopt the theoretical , practical and judicial standpoints , respectively. The purpose of Critical philosophy is to prepare a secure foundation for metaphysics.

PHILOSOPHY: Immanuel Kant

Most of the knowledge we gain through ordinary experience , or through science, is empirical. The phrase 'possible experience' refers to a representation which is presented to our sensibility through intuition , but is not yet known, because it has not been presented to our understanding through concepts. By contrast, knowledge implies objective and subjective certainty, while opinion is the state of having neither objective nor subjective certainty. Such action is nonmoral i. Ideas are special concepts which arise out of our knowledge of the empirical world, yet seem to point beyond nature to some transcendent realm.

The three most important metaphysical ideas are God, freedom and immortality. It is more or less equivalent to the terms supersensible and transcendent. By requiring appearances to be given in space and time , intuitions allow us to perceive particular relations between representations, thereby limiting empirical knowledge to the sensible realm.

Finding the source of two examples of such experiences is the task of the third Critique. If they are pure , the knowledge will be transcendental ; if they are impure, the knowledge will be empirical. In a looser sense, 'knowledge' also refers to that which arises out adopting any legitimate perspective. Hence it is concerned with nothing but the relationships between concepts. The law of noncontradiction A is not -A is the fundamental law of traditional, Aristotelian logic.

It thus provides a kind of bridge between a persons inner disposition and outer actions. Because the traditional, speculative perspective fails to succeed in this task, Kant suggests a new, hypothetical perspective for metaphysics. Metaphysics can succeed only when it is preceded by Critique. These two terms are sometimes used loosely as synonyms for ' transcendental object ' and ' thing in itself ', respectively.

The thing in itself is a thing which cannot become an object. Kant himself does not use this word, but he uses a number of other expressions such as standpoint , way of thinking, employment of understanding , etc. The main Critical perspectives are the transcendental , empirical , logical and hypothetical. Finding the sources of such action is the task of the second Critique. Although its proper opposite is 'impure', Kant normally opposes 'pure' to ' empirical '.

See also intelligible.

A Kant Dictionary

It abstracts completely from the conditions of sensibility. The main types of representations are intuitions , concepts and ideas. In the first Critique, the understanding is the dominant faculty in processing representations, while in the third Critique the faculty of imagination is dominant. Sometimes translated as 'presentation'. In the first Critique , this function is presented as one of the steps required in order for the understanding to produce empirical knowledge. This is accomplished primarily in the form of physical and mental sensations via 'outer sense' and 'inner sense', respectively.

However, such sensations are possible only if the objects are intuited, and intuition depends on space and time existing in their pure form as well. Sometimes used loosely as a synonym of theoretical. Thus Kant concludes that we only have the world- whole in concept but not in intuition, and his thought is that the first two antinomies are the result of confusing the fact that we have the concept of wholeness with the existence of an object.

The world cannot be given or experienced as a whole, and so questions about the magnitude of the world are badly formed. Kant offers a similar argument in the second antinomy about whether matter is infinitely divisible or not. The third antinomy has to do with freedom and determinism. The thesis argues for the existence of freedom, whereas the antithesis argues that everything in the world happens in accordance with the laws of nature. By freedom, in this context, Kant means the idea of an uncaused cause, or a cause that is not itself an effect, and so the question he is primarily concerned with here has to do with the possibility of a first cause, for a first cause is the idea of a free cause, for it is the idea of a cause that is not itself an effect.

In the Second Analogy of Experience Kant has argued that everything that happens in the phenomenal world must be subject to the laws of nature. And so he is committed to the position that each event must have some previous event or set of events as its cause. It is this argument that supports the antithesis, the claim that every cause must be an effect of some prior cause.

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Both the thesis and antithesis seem to be true. Kant's solution is to argue that both the thesis and antithesis are true.


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However, a first or free cause cannot be thought of as something existing in time, for anything existing in time must be subject to the deterministic natural laws, and so any event in time must be caused and so cannot be an uncaused cause. So, Kant concludes that the idea of a free cause is of something intelligible rather than phenomenal.

A free cause cannot exist in space and time, and so a free cause must be an intelligible rather than a phenomenal cause. If we think of time as involving a series of events, then Kant's thought is that the causality of a free, intelligible cause must be something outside the temporal series, because any cause that is a part of such a temporal series must also be an effect caused by earlier members of the series.

Although the causality of an intelligible cause must be outside the temporal series, there is no contradiction in thinking of the effects of such a cause being encountered in the series. Thus, Kant argues, if we distinguish between the phenomenal and intelligible realm, between the realm of nature and the realm of freedom, we can accept both the thesis and antithesis.

The antithesis is true because there can be no free causes within the phenomenal realm, but the thesis is consistent with this because there is no contradiction in thinking of an uncaused cause existing outside the phenomenal realm. Now, although Kant believes we have no theoretical justification for believing in the existence of any free and hence intelligible rather than phenomenal cause, he will argue that we have moral reasons for believing in the existence of such causes, for practical reason demands that we think of ourselves as such causes insofar as we regard ourselves as bound by the moral law.

In the fourth antinomy, the thesis is that there exists a necessary being, the antithesis is that everything that exists is contingent. Once again Kant argues that although the antithesis is true of all phenomenal objects, this is not inconsistent with the thesis, for this claim leaves room for the possibility of the existence of a non- phenomenal, or intelligible, necessary being.

Once again, however, Kant argues that, from the theoretical perspective, we have no good reason to believe in the existence of such a being. See also: freedom; reason; Transcendental Dialectic.

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In his table of judgements Kant lists the three different modalities that a judgement can have. Judgements can either be problematic, assertoric or apodictic. Problematic judgements are judgements that are represented as possibly true, assertoric judgements are judgements that are presented as actually true and apodictic judgements are those that are represented as necessarily true.

See also: necessity. Appearances are objects of possible experience. Kant argues that because our form of intuition is spatio-temporal, such objects necessarily exist in space and time, and he famously argues that there are certain a priori principles that govern the application of the categories to appearances. When talking of appearances, Kant is talking about the physical world around us and it is important to remember, however, that by terming such objects appearances he does not regard them in any way illusory or subjective. Appearances, then, are for Kant physical objects existing external to the mind in space and time.

See: phenomena; things-in-themselves, transcendental idealism. Apperception, then, is the capacity for thought to reflect on itself and so involves a certain type of self-consciousness. This capacity to make our own thoughts and actions the object of our thought is what distinguishes rational human beings from non-rational animals and is essentially the activity of reason. Non-rational animals have the capacity to categorize and distinguish objects in the world, but they lack the capacity to make their 'concepts' the objects of their thoughts.

It would seem that many animals possess 'concepts' in the sense of possessing a capacity to categorize objects in the world. Most animals seem to lack the capacity for meta-cognition, that is the capacity to make their own 'concepts' the objects of their thought. That is to say, animals lack the capacity of apperception. Because they lack this capacity, some philosophers claim that although animals are able to categorize objects in the world around them, strictly speaking animals do not really possess concepts.

Lucas Thorpe, The Kant Dictionary - PhilPapers

As human beings, on the other hand, we have the capacity to take our own concepts as the object of our thought and so we cannot just make judgements about objects in the world, but can also make judgements about our concepts, and it is this capacity to make judgements about our own concepts that is the subject matter of logic. And it is our capacity to engage in apperception that makes human reason possible, for reason is the capacity to make inferences and through these inferences it strives to unify and systematize our conceptual scheme.

In order to engage in this activity, reason must represent our conceptual scheme as unified and it does this through the representation of a unified T. Kant calls this representation of the unified T, which is thought of as having the functional role of unifying our thought, the Transcendental Unity of Apperception. Kant argues in the Paralogisms of Pure Reason that rationalist metaphysicians mistake this purely formal representation of T, which has no content, but is merely understood in terms of what its function is, namely its function of unifying thought, for the intuition of a simple substance that persists through time.

That is, he argues that these rationalist metaphysicians mistake a simple because contentless representation for the representation of something simple, namely a simple substance. That is, the rationalist metaphysicians mistake a property of the representation for a property of the thing represented.

A priori knowledge is knowledge that is prior to or independent of experience, whereas as a posteriori knowledge is empirical knowledge that is posterior to or dependent upon experience. It is important to distinguish between a priori and innate knowledge.

The Kant Dictionary

The word innate is derived from the Latin natus birth , so innate knowledge or ideas are those that we are born with. Kant does not identify a priori knowledge with innate knowledge. Thus, for example, mathematical knowledge is a priori but not innate. Such knowledge is, however, a priori because once we have learnt basic arithmetic we know that such judgements are true independently of any experience.

Kant argues that there are two marks or criteria of a priori knowledge: 1 necessity and 2 universality. This is not the case with a posteriori, empirical knowledge. Maybe all dogs have less than six legs, but perhaps God could have created a dog with eight legs. A judgement has strict universality if we know that it admits of no exceptions. This is the case, Kant argues, with our mathematical, logical and metaphysical knowledge. Empirical knowledge is different.

The evidence for the empirical judgement 'all swans are white', which was a favourite example in early modern logic textbooks, is based upon induction. Indeed, black swans are to be found in Australia, so it turns out that the claim 'all swans are white' is false. A priori knowledge cannot be falsified in this way.

See also: synthetic a priori.