Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Immanuel Kant’s Aesthetic and Analytic

Kant’s Analytic
Jonathan Bennett

Kant’s Analytic and Kant’s Dialectic are the part one and part two respectively of the two-volume work that Professor Jonathan Bennett has written on the doctrines and arguments that Immanuel Kant has proposed in the Critique of Pure Reason.

Kant’s Dialectic dwells on the dialectic ideas in the Critique’s second half (The Transcendental Doctrine of Method). In the present article I am describing Kant’s Analytic in which Bennett deals with both analytic and aesthetic ideas that Kant has presented in the Critique’s first half (The Transcendental Doctrine of Elements).

Bennett is critical of Kant’s aesthetic, and somewhat tolerant of his analytic—perhaps that is why he has used only the word “Analytic” in the book’s title.

In the preface, Bennet says that the Critique has much to teach us, even though it is wrong on nearly every page. He claims: “I have no feelings about the man Immanuel Kant; and in my exploration of his work I have no room for notions like those of charity, sympathy, deference, or hostility.” However, despite such a claim, in the chapters that follow Bennett shows sympathy and deference to Kantian ideas, even when he is rejecting them.

The book is divided into three parts: Aesthetic, Analytic of concepts, and Analytic of principles. The preliminary chapter, “Analytical table of contents,” is quite detailed and provides a synopsis of the line of argumentation that Bennett is taking in all the chapters that follow.

In the first section “Aesthetic,” Bennet is critical of Kant’s use of the terms ‘analytic’ and ‘synthetic.’ Bennet is of the view that Kant has overlooked the possibility that whether a sentence is taken as analytic or as synthetic may depend on “which of the two equally standard meanings is attached to one of its terms.”

According to Kant, a judgement is analytic if and only if it is true solely by virtue of the concepts it involves. But in this Bennett sees a snag: He says that if we take Kant literally then the sentence “All squares are circular” will fall in the synthetic category because it contains a predicate that is not a true definition of the subject. Bennett says this may be the result of an oversight, “for Kant certainly intends analytic judgements to comprise only those which are true solely because of the concepts they involve, and synthetic judgements to comprise only those which cannot be determined by the purely conceptual considerations either as true or false.”

Bennett rejects Kant’s idea of synthetic a priori judgements. While discussing the outer-sense theory, Bennett asks if Kant would have identified the outer sense with the sense-organs or nerves? He is of the view that “Kant would certainly have replied that since empirical things are given to us only through outer sense it would be absurd to identify any of them with outer sense.”

Further, Bennett asks: “What does Kant think the logical and epistemological status of his theory to be?” and he goes on to deduce three possible answers: 1) The theory is synthetic and a posteriori. 2) The theory is a priori because it is analytic. 3) The theory is both synthetic and a priori.

In the book’s second section, “Analytic,” Bennett asks the readers to imagine “a possible empiricist philosopher,” a successor to Hume, who concludes that “the world might at any moment become such that the objects in it cease to obey causal laws, or even such that it will cease to contain durable objects at all.” Bennett sees Transcendental Deduction as Kant’s program in the Critique to show that skeptical hypothesis is impossible. He points out that Kant dissents from “the conclusion that the objectivity and causal  order of the world are in constant jeopardy.”

The third section “Analytic of principles” has Bennett asserting that Kant’s terminology is preposterous. He says that Kant has used daunting labels that are “best regarded as arbitrary, undescriptive, proper names.”

The problem is that Bennett does not provide enough support and clarification for the positions that he is taking on different aspects of the Kantian doctrine. But, in my view, this is understandable. Kant is vague and there will always be a limit to the extent to which any commentator can overcome the obscurities that are there in the Critique. Taking into context the fact that there are gaps in Kantian thought that resist any explanation, it can be said that in Kant’s Analytic Bennett has managed to develop for the reader a less obscure picture of the Critique's ideas. 

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