Saturday, 28 July 2018

Kant On Empirical Concepts

Immanuel Kant, in his First Introduction to the Critique of Judgment, talks about the conditions of forming a set of empirical concepts which cohere with each other. Some kind of coherence is necessary to ensure that the concepts that are obtained through comparison are connectable to each other in judgement. In the First Introduction, Kant notes: "One may wonder whether Linnaeus could have hoped to design a system of nature if he had had to worry that a stone which he found, and which he called granite, might differ in its inner character from any other stone even if it looked the same, so that all he could ever hope to find would be single things — isolated, as it were, for the understanding — but never a class of them that could be brought under concepts of genus and species."

Henry E. Allison, in his essay, “Reflective Judgment and the Purposiveness of Nature,” (Chapter 1;  Kant’s Theory of Taste: A Reading of the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment), offers the following analysis of the above quoted lines from Kant:

"This note makes “explicit the requirement that a classificatory system reflect an underlying order of nature. Thus, whereas any number of such systems might be possible, the assumption is that there is one (and only one) that, as it were, “carves nature at its joints.” And the goal or regulative idea of a systematizer such as Linnaeus is to provide the system that reflects this order (or at least comes as close as possible to doing so). Moreover, since the classification of phenomena has to be based on observed uniformities and differences, the operative assumption must once again be that outer similarities and differences correspond to inner or intrinsic ones. To use Kant’s own example, objects with the observable features of granite must also be similar in their inner character; for otherwise there would be no basis for inferring from the fact that an object has granite-like features that it will behave similarly to other objects with these features.”

According to Kant, a hierarchical system of concepts (in which every concept is itself both a species of the concepts contained in it and a genus for the concepts falling under it) is a necessary condition for the application of logic to nature, that is, for empirical judgment. (By “logic” Kant does not mean formal logic but rather our discursive, conceptual abilities.)

Friday, 27 July 2018

Kant and the Capacity to Judge

Béatrice Longuenesse, in her book Kant and the Capacity to Judge: Sensibility and Discursivity in the Transcendental Analytic of the "Critique of Pure Reason," cites an example given by Immanuel Kant (in Lectures on Logic, translated by Michael Young) to illustrate the rule-governedness of the apprehension that precedes the formation of concepts in which these rules are expressed discursively.

Here’s Kant’s description of the situation in the Lectures of Logic:
If, for example, a savage sees a house from a distance, whose use he does not know, he admittedly has before him in his representation the very same object as someone else who knows it determinately as a dwelling established for human beings. But as to form, this cognition of one and the same object is different in the two cases. In the former it is mere intuition, in the latter it is simultaneously intuition and concept. 
According to Longuenesse, the savage cannot recognize a house as a house not only because he lacks the concept but also because he misses the schema (an essential condition for developing a concept). The savage receives the same sensory information on the house as someone familiar with the concept of a house does but he does not possess the procedure to process the information in a determinate way.

Here’s an excerpt from Longuenesse’s book (Page 119):
Kant's savage intuits a combination of sensations according to relations of contiguity in space, differences in color, light, and shadow, similar in "matter" to those intuited by "someone else" who knows that what he has before him is a house. Thus, in his intuition of the house, the "savage" is conscious of the "combination of representations with each other." He is also conscious of a relation of these representations "to (his) senses," that is, conscious of them not merely as presenting an object to him but as sensations within him, perhaps associated with feelings of pleasure or displeasure. But the system of comparisons into which the content of his intuition is channeled has nothing in common with ours. He has never seen anything similar (in the way "a spruce, a willow, and a linden" are similar) from which he could have obtained a common concept by comparing objects according to their similarities and differences, reflecting similar features and abstracting from the differences (in material, size, shape, and so on). In his apprehension there is no rule guiding him to privilege certain marks and leave aside others, so that a concept of house might apply. Should someone point to the object and call it 'house', this might suggest to him a proper name for the singular object he has in front of him, but even this is uncertain: how is he to know what is being referred to—the door, the color, the shape, the site, or what? Only the "application in a comparison," that is, the gradually dawning consciousness of a "rule of apprehension" common to the representation of various objects serving the same purpose, would pick out analogous marks and bring forth the concept of a house. This application alone will complement the intuition of Kant's savage with a discursive form similar to that acquired by the man who throughout his life passed his nights in a warm house in Königsberg. 
In the above passage, it is notable that Longuenesse says that “there is no rule guiding him to privilege certain marks and leave aside others, so that a concept of house might apply.” This means that, according to Kant, in order to recognize a thing a human being needs not only the concept of the thing but also the precondition for acquiring the concept of the thing, namely its schemata. 

Thursday, 26 July 2018

The Bounds of Sensibility and of Reason

In two of his letters to Marcus Hertz, Immanuel Kant has given a brief account of the philosophical project that he was working on in the 1770s. His fundamental concern is with metaphysics (or the possibility of metaphysics) and he says that his project will be an introduction to metaphysics and to it he has given the title, “The Bounds of Sensibility and of Reason.”

Here’s an excerpt from Kant’s June 7, 1771 letter:
Long experience has taught me that one cannot compel or precipitate insight by force in matters of the sort we are considering; rather, it takes quite a long time to gain insight, since one looks at one and the same concept intermittently and regards its possibility in all its relations and contexts, and furthermore, because one must above all awaken the skeptical spirit within, to examine one's conclusions against the strongest possible doubt and see whether they can stand the test. From this point of view I have, I think, made good use of the time that I have allowed myself, risking the danger of offending these scholars with my seeming impoliteness while actually motivated by respect for their judgment. You understand how important it is, for all of philosophy — yes even for the most important ends of humanity in general — to distinguish with certainty and clarity that which depends on the subjective principles of human mental powers (not only sensibility but also the understanding) and that which pertains directly to the facts. If one is not driven by a mania for systematizing, the investigations which one makes concerning one and the same fundamental principle in its widest possible applications even confirm each other. I am therefore now busy on a work which I call "The Bounds of Sensibility and of Reason." It will work out in some detail the foundational principles and laws that determine the sensible world together with an outline of what is essential to the Doctrine of Taste, of Metaphysics, and of Moral Philosophy. I have this winter surveyed all the relevant materials for it and have considered, weighed, and harmonized everything, but I have only recently come up with the way to organize the whole work. 
Kant provides further details of his project in his second, much longer letter to Herz (dated February 21, 1772):
I had also long ago outlined, to my tolerable satisfaction, the principles of feeling, taste, and power of judgment, with their effects — the pleasant, the beautiful, and the good — and was then making plans for a work that might perhaps have the title, The Limits of Sensibility and Reason. I planned to have it consist of two parts, a theoretical and a practical. The first part would have two sections, (1) general phenomenology and (2) metaphysics, but this only with regard to its nature and method. The second part likewise would have two sections, (1) the universal principles of feeling, taste, and sensuous desire and (2) the first principles of morality.
From these two letters, it is obvious that, in the 1770s, Kant had started grappling with the philosophical problem of taste. In 1781, the work that he had initially thought of calling “The Bounds of Sensibility and of Reason,” was published as The Critique of Pure Reason.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Epicurus’s Concept of Happy Gods

The gods of Epicurus are a blissful and immortal beings who have no worldly concerns—they don't exert themselves for humanity’s benefit. Here’s an excerpt from D. S. Hutchinson’s Introduction to The Epicurus Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia, edited by Brad Inwood and  Lloyd P. Gerson:
“Don’t fear god.” The gods are happy and immortal, as the very concept of ‘god’ indicates. But in Epicurus’ view, most people were in a state of confusion about the gods, believing them to be intensely concerned about what human beings were up to and exerting tremendous effort to favor their worshippers and punish their moral enemies. No; it is incompatible with the concept of divinity to suppose that the gods exert themselves or that they have any concerns at all. The most accurate, as well as the most agreeable, conceptions of the gods is to think of them, as the Greeks often did, in a state of bliss, unconcerned about anything, without needs, invulnerable to any harm, and generally living an enviable life. So conceived, they are role models for Epicureans, who emulate the happiness of the gods, within the limits imposed by human nature. “Epicurus said that he was prepared to compete with Zeus in happiness, as long as he had a barley cake and some water.”  
If, however, the gods are as independent as this conception indicates, then they will not observe the sacrifices we make to them, and Epicurus was indeed widely regarded as undermining the foundations of traditional religion. Furthermore, how can Epicurus explain the visions that we receive of the gods, if the gods don’t deliberately send them to us? These visions, replies Epicurus, are material images traveling through the world, like everything else that we see or imagine, and are therefore something real; they travel through the world because of the general laws of atomic motion, not because god sends them. But then what sort of bodies must the gods have, if these images are always steaming off them, and yet they remain strong and invulnerable? Their bodies, replies Epicurus, are continually replenished by images streaming towards them; indeed the ‘body’ of a god may be nothing more than a focus to which the images travel, the images that later travel to us and make up our conception of its nature.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

The Skepticism of Gottlob Ernst Schulze

Gottlob Ernst Schulze, a professor at Helmstedt, anonymously published a book in 1792 under a long title Aenesidemus or Concerning the Foundations of the Philosophy of the Elements Issued by Professor Reinhold in Jena Together with a Defense of Skepticism against the Pretensions of the Critique of Reason. The book created great controversy and eventually it became known that Schulze was the author. As it is apparent from the title, the Aenesidemus was aimed at examining Karl Leonhard Reinhold’s book Philosophy of the Elements, but Schulze’s real target was Immanuel Kant’s critical philosophy. He wanted to prove that Kant had not refuted David Hume’s skepticism.

Schulze’s choice of the title Aenesidemus is appropriate because Aenesidemus (1st century BC) was a Greek Pyrrhonist (skeptic) philosopher. He was a member of Plato’s Academy but he rejected Platonism and adopted Pyrrhonism. His life and ideas have been described Sextus Empiricus, the ancient historian of skepticism. Schulze’s plan was to renew Pyrrhonism to combat the enemies of skepticism, the foremost of which was Kant’s critical philosophy.

In his essay, “Schulze's Skepticism,” ( Chapter 9; The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte), Frederick C. Beiser notes that “Schulze's meta-critical skepticism gives a new twist to modern skepticism since its inception in Descartes's and Hume's writings. While Descartes and Hume use epistemology as an instrument of their skepticism, examining the conditions of knowledge in order to expose unfounded claims to it, Schulze brings this very instrument into question. The skeptic is now forced to be self-reflective, self-critical of the tools of his trade.”

Like Johann Georg Hamann and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Schulze saw Hume as a great destroyer of the pretensions of reason and the lofty claims of the Kantian critical theory. In Aenesidemus, Schulze argues that Kant never refuted Hume, he only begged the question against him. Here’s Beiser’s description of Schulze’s  arguments against the notion that Kant has refuted Hume:
Kant's transcendental deduction does not refute Hume, but only presupposes what he brings into question: the principle of causality. The deduction proves that the categories apply to experience only by assuming that the transcendental subject is the lawgiver of nature. But to assume that this subject is the lawgiver of nature, that it creates the laws to which nature conforms, presupposes the application of the principle of causality, which only begs the question against Hume. 
It is important to note that Schulze sees this as a general problem of all epistemology. In his view epistemology is caught in a vicious circle. It pretends to be the presuppositionless first philosophy; but it has to presuppose the principle of causality in order to investigate the origins of knowledge. Hence the whole enterprise of epistemology cannot get off the ground because of Hume's skepticism about causality. 
Kant’s critical theory and Schulze’s skepticism begin at the same point—that all our beliefs must submit to the free and open examination of reason. Schulze claims in Aenesidemus that he is a believer in reason, but he asserts that reason is not at odds with skepticism, rather it is its only consistent position. By coming together, Hamann, Jacobi, and Schulze—eventually Salomon Maimon jumped into their bandwagon—were able to revive interest in Hume’s skepticism.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Anscombe’s Explanation for Wittgenstein’s Solipsism

Wittgenstein ; Anscombe
A person is a solipsist if he thinks that he is the only I, and the world, with everything and everyone in it, is an object of experience, and therefore his own experience. In Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Ludwig Wittgenstein offers a glimpse of his solipsism in propositions 5.6 to 5.63. In proposition 5.62, he says:
This remark provides a key to the question, to what extent solipsism is a truth.  
In fact what solipsism means, is quite correct, only it cannot be said, but it shows itself. 
That the world is my world, shows itself in the fact that the lists of the language (the language which only I understand) mean the limits of my world. 
Elizabeth Anscombe, in her book An Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, relates Wittgenstein’s solipsism to his view of logic. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 13, "Mysticism and Solipsism” :
In the Tractatus Wittgenstein speaks of 'my language’ (5.6) and explains this as meaning 'the only language that I understand' (5.62). Its limits 'stand for the limits of my world’. I cannot postulate a language for talking about the relation of language, the world, and the philosophical I, in which my world (the world given by the limits of my language) would be one particular thing to talk about. I can only say how things are in the world corresponding to my language. But this manifests 'the 'all-comprehending world-mirroring logic’. 

That is why, having said at 5.6 'The limits of my language mean the limits of my world’, Wittgenstein gives as the first comment on this pronouncement a number of remarks on logic: 'Logic fills the world: the limits of the world are also its limits' (5.61). The argument is: 'The limits of my language mean the limits of my world; but all languages have one and the same logic, and its limits are those of the world; therefore the limits of my world and of the world are one and the same; therefore the world is my world.'  
But the ‘I’ of this way of talking is not something that can be found as a mind or soul, a subject of consciousness, one among others; there is no such thing to be 'found' as the subject of consciousness in this sense. All that can be found is what consciousness is of, the contents of consciousness: 'I am my world' and The world and life are one'. Hence this T, whose language has the special position, is unique; the world described by this language is just the real world: Thoroughly thought out, solipsism coincides with pure realism' (5.64).  
It is not possible to understand this passage unless one has a good deal of sympathy with solipsism. We should remember that Wittgenstein had been much impressed by Schopenhauer as a boy; many traces of this sympathy are to be found in the Tractatus. Probably no one who reads the opening of The World as Will and Idea: "The world is my idea', without any responsiveness, will be able to enter into Wittgenstein's thought here. 
Anscombe says that it is difficult to get rid of one’s conception of solipsism once one has developed it. One may want to get rid of such a conception because one may feel that it makes the ‘I’ too godlike, but it is not easy to free oneself from solipsist thoughts. She notes that in Wittgenstein’s version, “It is clear that the ‘I’ of solipsism is not used to refer to anything, body or soul; for in respect of these it is plain that all men are alike. The ‘I’ refers to the centre of life, or the point from which everything is seen.”

Friday, 13 July 2018

Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein

Karl Popper had an argumentative relationship with Ludwig Wittgenstein. He found little merit in the doctrine which Wittgenstein advances in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus that genuine philosophical propositions do not exist and cannot be solved. In Conjectures and Refutations, Popper says:

“If Wittgenstein's doctrine is true, then nobody can philosophize, in my sense. Were this my opinion I would give up philosophy. But it so happens that I am not only deeply interested in certain philosophical problems (I do not much care whether they are 'rightly' called 'philosophical problems'), but possessed by the hope that I may contribute—if only a little, and only by hard work—to their solution.”

However, Popper holds that Wittgenstein's attempt to eradicate philosophy (and theology) with an adaptation of Bertrand Russell's theory of types was ingenious and original. He says that the school of linguistic analysis is inspired by Wittgenstein’s idea that there are no genuine philosophical problems, and that the philosophers task is to analyze and explain the linguistic puzzles that have been proposed by traditional philosophy.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Lockean Campaign Against Kant

The German Empiricists who were loyal to the tradition of John Locke were alarmed by the appearance of Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason in 1781. They saw the Critique as an attack on Lockean empiricism. Among the leading members of the empiricist camp were J. G. Feder, C. Garve, J. F. Lossius, C. Meiners, F. Nicolai, H. A. Pistorius, C. G. Selle, D. Tiedemann, G. Tittel, and A. Weishaupt. They were the first German scholars to recognize the importance of Kant’s Critique and the challenge that it posed.

During the Pantheism controversy, they supported Kant and they believed that his intentions were noble, but they remained opposed to his critical philosophy. They recognized that Kant was trying to develop a synthesis between empiricism and rationalism, but they felt that he was biased towards rationalism. They believed that his critical philosophy was dangerous because while intending to defend the authority of reason, it undermines it. During the 1780s and 1790s, they leveled against Kant the charge of Humean solipsism or nihilism. They accused him of being a dangerous skeptic and a dogmatic metaphysician.

The Lockean campaign against the Critique began with Christian Garve’s January 1782 review, which elicited from Kant an angry response in the form of the Prolegomena. In 1784 there was a review by Dietrich Tiedemann and an essay by C. G. Selle. In the same year, there was also a review of the Prolegomena by H. A. Pistorius. But by 1786, the Critique had become immensely popular and that caused even more nervousness in the Lockean circles, inspiring them to launch a new offensive. Kant was attacked in several reviews, essays and books.

Frederick C. Beiser, in his 1987 book The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte offers an account of the Lockean campaign against Kant in chapter 6, “The Attack of the Lockeans.” Beiser says that as many authors were involved in the long drawn campaign, it is difficult to summarize the general arguments that the Lockeans used against Kant. But he offers seven themes that are characteristic of the Lockean campaign (and he also makes some points about the campaign against Kant by the Wolffians, the rationalist followers of Christian Wolff):
(1) One of the central issues between Kant and his empiricist opponents concerned the possibility of a priori knowledge. Every Lockean maintained that all synthetic knowledge is a posteriori, derived from and justified through experience. Some of them, however, were daring enough to argue that even analytic knowledge is a posteriori. 
(2) Another basic conflict centered on the proper method of epistemology. The Lockeans advocated a purely naturalistic epistemology, that is, one which explains the origins and conditions of knowledge according to natural laws alone. Such an epistemology was obviously modeled upon the natural sciences; its prototype was "the plain historical method" of Locke's Essay or "the principles of observation and experiment" of Hume's Treatise. The Lockeans therefore rejected Kant's a priori method. They saw it as metaphysical and condemned it for forfeiting the ideal of a scientific epistemology.  
(3) Yet another controversy surrounded the legitimacy of Kant's sharp dualism between reason and the senses, his radical dichotomy between the homo noumenon and homo phenomenon. The Lockeans regarded this distinction as arbitrary and artificial, as the reification of a purely intellectual distinction. Reason and sensibility were, in their view, inseparably united, different not in kind but only in degree. Of course, the Wolffians also attacked Kant's dualism; but there was still an important difference between the Lockeans and Wolffians on this score. While the Woffians saw sensibility as a confused form of the understanding, the Lockeans regarded the understanding as a derivative form of sensibility.

The Lockeans most often objected to Kant's dualism on the ground that it is antinaturalistic. It postulates a mysterious Platonic realm, the world of noumena, which is inexplicable according to natural laws. Kant's noumenal world makes the origin of our ideas and intentions obscure to us; and it renders the interchange between reason and sensibility unintelligible. Hence the Lockeans frequently accused Kant of 'mysticism', 'obscurantism', or ‘superstition'. 
(4) The most notorious and controversial issue between Kant and the Lockeans concerned whether there is any essential difference between Kant's and Berkeley's idealism. Feder was the first to deny such a difference; and all the Lockeans, and most of the Wolffians, seconded him. The charge of Berkeleyan idealism was tantamount to the charge of solipsism, which was generally regarded as the reductio ad absurdum of the critical philosophy.

(5) The Lockeans were sharp critics of the "Aesthetik," and in particular Kant's theory that space and time are a priori. They argued that space and time are not a priori intuitions, but a posteriori concepts, which are abstracted from particular distances and intervals. Almost all of their early examinations of the Kritik focused upon the "Aesthetik," because it was seen as the test case for Kant's idealism and theory of the synthetic a priori. On the whole the Lockeans, like the Wolffians, ignored the "Analytik," passing it over in silence. 
(6) The Lockeans criticized the way Kant classified concepts of the understanding as completely arbitrary and artificial. The Wolffians too made such objections to Kant. But the Lockeans, unlike the Wolffians, regarded any such classification as in principle mistaken. Maintaining that all concepts are abstractions from experience, they denied that there could ever be any complete list of all the possible concepts of the understanding.

(7) The Lockeans were the first to argue that the categorical imperative is empty, and that duty for duty's sake is in conflict with human nature. Against Kant, they defended eudaemonism as the only moral philosophy that can provide a sufficient criterion of morality and be in harmony with human needs.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Heidegger on The Kantian Interpretations of Being and Time

Martin Heidegger, in Being and Time (Chapter 2: “The Double Task in Working Out the Question of Being: The Method of the Investigation and its Outline”), suggests that Immanuel Kant’s view of the connection between being and time is influenced by the works of Descartes and Aristotle. In his analysis, he asks two questions: “To what extent in the course of the history of ontology in general the interpretation of being has been thematically connected with the phenomenon of time? We must also ask whether the problematic of temporality, which necessarily belongs here, was fundamentally worked out or could have been?” His answer is that Kant is the first and only one “who traversed a stretch of the path toward investigating the dimension of temporality—or allowed himself to be driven there by the compelling force of phenomena themselves.”

According to Heidegger, the problem of temporality has to be pinned down in order to bring clarity to the Kantian doctrine of schematism. He points out that in his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant indicates that he is entering into an obscure area when he writes, “This schematism of our under-standing as regards appearances and their mere form is an art hidden in the depths of the human soul, the true devices of which are hardly ever to be divined from Nature and laid uncovered before our eyes.” One of the aims of Being and Time, is to develop a fuller interpretation of Kant’s chapter on Schematism (in The Critique of Pure Reason) and the Kantian doctrine of time which has been developed there. Heidegger posits that there are two reasons which prevented Kant from gaining an insight into the problem of temporality: “first, the neglect of the question of being in general, and second, in conjunction with this, the lack of a thematic ontology of Dasein or, in Kantian terms, the lack of a preliminary ontological analytic of the subjectivity of the subject.”

Heidegger notes that Kant nullified much of his initial advances by dogmatically adopting Descartes’s position and neglecting something essential: an ontology of Dasein. Also, while Kant takes this phenomena back into the subject, his analysis of time, according to Heidegger, remains oriented towards the “traditional, vulgar understanding of it.” Because of these reasons, Kant was unable to divine the phenomena of a “transcendental determination of time.” Heidegger’s offers a short account of the errors in Descartes’s thesis which got adopted by Kant.

While speaking of Greek ontology, Heidegger says that Dasien, which, in essence, is a being of human being, is held as “that creature whose being is essentially determined by its ability to speak.” This has led to the development of structures for speech and discussion. Heidegger notes that Plato’s ancient ontology is “dialectic.” But the Greeks felt the need of having a more comprehensive conception of being and Aristotle transcended Plato’s vision and saw a being as something that is a presence. Heidegger says that there are problems in this vision of being but he does not provide the details. The first comprehensive interpretation of the phenomena of time, according to Heidegger, comes to us through the works of Aristotle. “The Aristotelian treatise on time has determined all the subsequent interpretations of time, including that of Bergson.” He says that an analysis of the Aristotelian concept of time shows that the Kantian interpretation of time is inspired by Aristotle’s ideas. He notes that despite all the differences that are implicit in the new inquiry, Kant’s basic ontological orientation is Greek.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Schopenhauer On University Philosophy

Arthur Schopenhauer talks about university philosophy in his book The World as Will and Representation, Volume Two, Chapter 17, “On Man's Need for Metaphysics.” Here’s an excerpt:

"As for university philosophy, it is as a rule mere juggling and humbug. The real purpose of such philosophy is to give the students in the very depths of their thinking that mental tendency which the ministry that appoints people to professorships regards as in keeping with its views and intentions. From the statesman's point of view, the ministry may even be right, only it follows from this that such philosophy of the chair is a nervis alienis mobile lignum*, and cannot pass for serious philosophy, but only for philosophy that is a joke. Moreover, it is in any case reasonable that such a supervision or guidance should extend only to chair-philosophy, not to the real philosophy that is in earnest. For if anything in the world is desirable, so desirable that even the dull and uneducated herd in its more reflective moments would value it more than silver and gold, it is that a ray of light should fall on the obscurity of our existence, and that we should obtain some information about this enigmatical life of ours, in which nothing is clear except its misery and vanity. But supposing even that this were in itself attainable, it is made impossible by imposed and enforced solutions of the problem.”

*"A wooden puppet moved by extraneous forces." [Tr.]

Saturday, 7 July 2018

My Personal Philosophy

My personal philosophy doesn’t have a name. I am not a follower of any philosopher or philosophical movement. I am an eclectic, free to explore any resource for good ideas.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Dialogue Between The Subject and The Matter

Matter and intellect, according to Arthur Schopenhauer, are inseparable correlatives. They exist only for each other and therefore only relatively. In his essay, “On the Fundamental View of Idealism,” (Chapter 1; The World as Will and Representation, Volume II), he writes: “Matter is the representation of the intellect; the intellect is that in the representation of which alone matter exists. Both together constitute the world as representation, which is precisely Kant's phenomenon, and consequently something secondary. What is primary is that which appears, namely the thing-in-itself, which we… recognize as the will. In itself this is neither the representer nor the represented, but is quite different from its mode of appearance.”

To explain his conception of intellect and matter, and to bring to light the fundamental mistake in most other systems, Schopenhauer offers a dialogue in which The Subject and The Matter argue with each other about what came first in the world. Here’s the complete dialogue:
The Subject I am, and besides me there is nothing. For the world is my representation. 
Matter
Presumptuous folly! I am, and besides me there is nothing: For the world is my fleeting form. You are a mere result of a part of this form, and quite accidental.  
The Subject What silly conceit! Neither you nor your form would exist without me; you are conditioned through me. Whoever thinks me away, and then believes he can still think of you, is involved in a gross delusion; for your existence outside my representation is a direct contradiction, a wooden-iron. You are, simply means you are represented by me. My representation is the locality of your existence; I am therefore its first condition.  
Matter
Fortunately the boldness of your assertion will soon be refuted in a real way, and not by mere words. A few more moments, and you—actually are no more; with all your boasting and bragging, you have sunk into nothing, floated past like a shadow, and suffered the fate of every one of my fleeting forms. But I, I remain intact and undiminished from millennium to millennium, throughout endless time, and behold unmoved the play of my changing forms.  
The Subject 
This endless time, to live through which is your boast, is, like the endless space you fill, present merely in my representation; in fact, it is the mere form of my representation which I carry already prepared within me, and in which you manifest yourself. It receives you, and in this way do you first of all exist. But the annihilation with which you threaten me does not touch me, otherwise you also would be annihilated. On the contrary, it concerns merely the individual which for a short time is my bearer, and which, like everything else, is my representation.  
Matter
Even if I grant you this, and go so far as to regard your existence, which is inseparably linked to that of these fleeting individuals, as something existing by itself, it nevertheless remains dependent on mine. For you are subject only in so far as you have an object; and that object is I. I am its kernel and content, that which is permanent in it, that which holds it together, without which it would be as incoherent and as wavering and unsubstantial as the dreams and fancies of your individuals, that have borrowed even their fictitious content from me.  
The Subject
You do well to refrain from disputing my existence on account of its being linked to individuals; for just as inseparably as I am tied to these, so are you tied to form, your sister, and you have never yet appeared without her. No eye has yet seen either you or me naked and isolated; for we are both only abstractions. At bottom it is one entity that perceives itself and is perceived by itself, but its being-in-itself cannot consist either in perceiving or in being perceived, as these are divided between us.  
Both
So we are inseparably connected as necessary parts of one whole, which includes us both and exists through us both. Only a misunderstanding can set up the two of us as enemies in opposition to each other, and lead to the false conclusion that the one contests the existence of the other, with which its own existence stands and falls.  
***  
This whole, including both, is the world as representation, or the phenomenon. After this is taken away, there remains only the purely metaphysical, the thing-in-itself, which in the second book we shall recognize as the will.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Schopenhauer On The Senses

Arthur Schopenhauer, in his essay, “On the Senses,” (Chapter 3; The World as Will and Representation, Volume II), says that the outer sense, or the receptivity for external impressions as pure data for the understanding, is divided into five senses, which conform to the four elements, or to the four conditions or states of aggregation, together with that of imponderability.
Thus the sense for the firm (earth) is touch, for the fluid (water) is taste, for the vaporous, i.e., the volatile (vapour, exhalation) is smell, for the permanently elastic (air) is hearing, for the imponderable (fire, light) is sight. The second imponderable, namely heat, is really an object not of the senses, but of general feeling; hence it always affects the will directly as pleasant or unpleasant.
He goes on to define the dignity of the senses, arguing that sight is the most refined sense, followed by hearing:
Sight has the highest rank, inasmuch as its sphere is the most far-reaching, and its receptivity and susceptibility the keenest. This is due to the fact that what stimulates it is an imponderable, in other words, something hardly corporeal, something quasi-spiritual. Hearing has the second place, corresponding to air. Touch, however, is a thorough, versatile, and well-informed sense. For whereas each of the other senses gives us only an entirely one-sided account of the object, such as its sound or its relation to light, touch, which is closely bound up with general feeling and muscular power, supplies the understanding with data regarding simultaneously the form, size, hardness, smoothness, texture, firmness, temperature, and weight of bodies; and it does all this with the least possibility of illusion and deception, to which all the other senses are far more liable. The two lowest senses, smell and taste, are not free from a direct stimulation of the will; thus they are always agreeably or disagreeably affected, and so are more subjective than objective.
He suggests that there exists some kind of an antagonism between sound and sight.  Here’s how he compares the two senses:
Perceptions through hearing are exclusively in time; hence the whole nature of music consists in the measure of time, and on this depends not only the quality or pitch of tones by means of vibrations, but also their quantity or duration by means of the beat or time. The perceptions of sight, on the other hand, are primarily and predominantly in space; but secondarily, through their duration, they are in time also.  
Sight is the sense of the understanding that perceives; hearing is the sense of the faculty of reason that thinks and comprehends. Visible signs only imperfectly take the place of words; therefore I doubt whether a deaf and dumb person, able to read but with no conception of the sound of the words, operates as readily in his thinking with the merely visible concept-signs as we do with the actual, i.e., audible words. If he cannot read, he is, as is well known, almost like an irrational animal; whereas the man born blind is from the beginning an entirely rational being. 
He speculates that sound can be disturbing for the mind, whereas sight isn’t:
Sight is an active, hearing a passive sense. Therefore, sounds affect our mind in a disturbing and hostile manner, the more so indeed, the more active and developed the mind They can destroy all ideas, and instantly shatter the power of thought. On the other hand there is no analogous disturbance through the eye, no immediate effect of what is seen as such on the activity of thinking (for naturally it is not a question here of the influence of the perceived objects on the will), but the most varied multiplicity of things before our eyes admits of entirely unhindered and undisturbed thinking Accordingly, the thinking mind lives in eternal peace with the eye, and at eternal war with the ear. 
According to Schopenhauer, the biographies of Kant, Goethe, and Jean-Paul testify that they were extremely sensitive to sound. "In the last years of his life Goethe bought a dilapidated house close to his own, merely in order that he might not have to endure the noise made in repair- ing it."

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Hegel’s Rabble and Marx’s Proletariat

In his account of civil society, G.W.F. Hegel argues that modern society tends to create an impoverished class, whose existence is against the fundamental principles on which the society is founded, but whose condition cannot he improved through the existing economic and social institutions. Hegel believes that this class of poor is a threat to modern society. He calls them the “rabble.” In his Lectures on the Philosophy of Right, Hegel says: "The rabble is a dangerous ill, because they have neither rights nor duties"

Karl Marx agrees with Hegel that modern society gives rise to a class of poor, but there is a difference in their view of the political significance of this poor class. Hegel sees the poor as the “rabble,” who are lacking in rights and duties and are a threat to civilized society, but Marx them as the working class, the proletariat, and the true spirit of the society. For Marx the proletariat is the means by which class solidarity will be achieved and the world-historical mission of overthrowing capitalism and revolutionizing civil society will be undertaken.

Allen Wood, in his essay “Hegel and Marxism,” (Chapter 13; The Cambridge Companion to Hegel, Edited by Frederick C. Beiser) offers a comparison between Hegel’s rabble and Marx’s proletariat:
Like Marx, Hegel thinks the condition of poverty gives rise to a distinctive disposition or mind-set on the part of the poor, which is hostile to the ethical principles of civil society. But whereas Marx sees the mission of the impoverished class as positive and its (at least incipient) mentality as creative and progressive, Hegel sees this mentality, despite the fundamental rationality embodied in it, as entirely corruptive and destructive, harboring no potentiality of abolishing or redeeming the evils that have produced it.  
Poverty, Hegel says, turns the poor into a "rabble" [Pobel). The mark of the rabble is not poverty itself, but "a disposition coupled with poverty, an inner indignation against the rich, against society, the government, etc." (Philosophy of Right) The poor turn into a rabble not through want alone, but through a certain corrupted attitude of mind that want tends inevitably to bring with it under the ethical conditions of modern civil society. The separation of the poor class from civil society's cultural benefits leads to a deeper separation, a separation of "mind" or "emotion" [Gemiit): "The poor man feels himself excluded and mocked by everyone, and this necessarily gives rise to an inner indignation. He is conscious of himself as an infinite, free being, and thus arises the demand that his external existence should correspond to his consciousness" (Lectures on the Philosophy of Right).  
Poverty is a wrong, an injustice; but the poor do not suffer merely some contingent denial of a right, which might leave intact their dignity and their will to defend their rights generally. Instead, poverty destroys the sense of self that for Hegel is the necessary vehicle of ethical attitudes in modern society. 
Hegel denounces the rabble mentality, but he accepts that the rabble class is justified in believing that they are not being fairly treated by the civil society. In his Philosophy of Right, Hegel talks about the “right of necessity,” which entails that when the rights of others threaten my well-being as a whole, then my violation of their right ceases to be a wrong. In normal cases, the right of necessity becomes valid only in circumstances of extreme danger or distress. But Hegel also confers this right on the rabble class. Allen Wood makes the following point in his essay:
Hegel argues that when you are poor, the right of necessity comes to apply generally to you, because your whole life is carried on beneath the minimum level recognized as necessary for a member of civil society. Thus the right of necessity becomes universal for you; against you, no one has rights any longer: "Earlier we considered the right of necessity as referring to a momentary need. [In the case of poverty, however], necessity no longer has this momentary character." Poverty thus gives rise to "the non-recognition of right.” The poor thus fall outside the ethical life of civil society; their way of life is beyond its standards of right and wrong.

Monday, 2 July 2018

On Hegel’s Historicism

Portrait of Hegel
G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophical thought is imbued with deep historicism—he believed that the central objective of philosophy is to find an explanation for its own purpose, principles and problems in a historical context, and to discover the meaning and direction of history. Frederick C. Beiser, in his essay, “Hegel’s Historicism,” (Chapter 9; The Cambridge Companion to Hegel, Edited by Frederick C. Beiser) says that Hegel’s historicist thought has engineered a revolution in history of philosophy. Here’s an excerpt:
Hegel's historicism amounted to nothing less than a revolution in the history of philosophy. It implied that philosophy is possible only if it is historical, only if the philosopher is aware of the origins, context, and development of his doctrines. Hegel thus threw into question the revolution with which Descartes began modern philosophy. It is not possible to create a presuppositionless system of philosophy a la Descartes, Hegel believes, by abstracting from the past and by simply relying upon one's individual reason. For if Descartes were a completely self-sufficient, self-enclosed mind, transcending the realm of history, he would not have been able to produce his philosophy. The aims of his system, and the ideas he defended in it, were typical products of the culture of seventeenth-century France. So if philosophy is to be truly presuppositionless, Hegel maintains, then it must not abstract from, but incorporate history within itself.
But Hegel’s historicist revolution does not represent a radical break with the past. Beiser points out that several philosophers have posited about history’s critical role in facilitating a better understanding of human institutions and actives. Therefore the historicist doctrine must be seen as in itself being a product of history.
In his Spirit of the Laws (1749) Montesquieu saw the constitution of a nation as the product of its history, as the result of its changing economic, geographic, and climactic circumstances, and the evolving traditions, religion, and character of its people. In his Inquiry concerning the Principles of Political Economy (1767), James Steuart developed an evolutionary theory of the development of society, explaining how mankind grew from primitive simplicity to complicated refinement through the pressure of economic factors. In his Ideas for a Philosophy of History of Humanity (1784-88), Herder explained how such human activities as philosophy, religion, and literature are the product of the history of a people, the characteristic form of their national culture. And in his System of Transcendental Idealism (1799), Schelling explained how the intellectual intuition of the "I am," the first principle of philosophy, was the product of the ego's history.
According to Beiser, The distinctive thing about Hegel’s work is that he made historicism a self-conscious and general method of philosophy, one that can be used to reveal and neutralize the inherent pretenses and illusions of philosophy. “This self-reflective, self-critical element is not found in the historicism of Hegel's predecessors or contemporaries. Hegel made historicism the self-critical method of philosophy because he believed that philosophy stood in the same need of historical explanation as politics, religion, or literature.”

Hegel’s historical criticism was made necessary because history of philosophy has been mired in, what Beiser calls, “a deep-seated and widespread illusion of a-historicity.”
There have been many forms of such a-historicity, and all of them became in one form or another the subject of Hegelian criticism, (a) The belief that certain laws, beliefs, or values are universal, eternal, or natural when they are in fact the product of, and only appropriate to, a specific culture, (b) The doctrine that certain ideas or principles are innate, the inherent elements of a pure a priori reason, although they are learned from experience, the product of a cultural tradition, (c) The claim that certain institutions and forms of activity have a supernatural origin (for example language, religion, and the state) when they in fact originate from all-too-human sources, (d) The reification of certain activities and values, as if they were entities existing independent of human consciousness, when they are in fact the product of its subconscious activity, (e) The belief that certain intuitions and feelings are the product of innate genius, although they are the result of education, (f) The attempt to create a presuppositionless philosophy by abstracting from all past philosophy and by relying upon individual reason alone.
In his Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Hegel says: "The question at issue is therefore the ultimate end of mankind, the end which the spirit sets itself in the world." The ultimate end of history, according to him, is freedom. But this does not mean that man is born free or that he exists in some kind of state of nature as a free being—it only signifies that the purpose or end of man is to realize his freedom. There are both conservative and progressive implications of Hegel’s historicism.