Monday, 8 October 2018

Immanuel Kant on Space and Time

In his Inaugural Dissertation of 1770, Immanuel Kant denies the realty of time and space and of temporal and spatial form. He writes:
Time is not something objective and real, neither a substance, nor an accident, nor a relation. It is the subjective condition necessary by the nature of the human mind for coordinating any sensible objects among themselves by a certain law; time is a pure intuition.  
Space is not something objective and real, neither substance, nor accident, nor relation; but subjective and ideal, arising by fixed law from the nature of the mind like an outline for the mutual co-ordination of all external sensations whatsoever.
It is noteworthy that Kant is not implying that the existence of objects perceived in space and time is dependent on the nature of the human mind. Rather he is saying that the existence of mind-dependent forms like time and space make it possible for the human mind to precisely observe the mind-independent objects.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Of Experience by Michel de Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne, in his final essay, “Of Experience,” (The Essays of Michel de Montaigne; Chapter 13), talks about his lifelong quest for self knowledge through life’s experiences. He begins his essay with these lines: “There is no desire more natural than that of knowledge. We try all ways that can lead us to it; where reason is wanting, we therein employ experience.”

In the last paragraph of the essay, he writes:
The pretty inscription wherewith the Athenians honoured the entry of Pompey into their city is conformable to my sense: “By so much thou art a god, as thou confessest thee a man.” ’Tis an absolute and, as it were, a divine perfection, for a man to know how loyally to enjoy his being. We seek other conditions, by reason we do not understand the use of our own; and go out of ourselves, because we know not how there to reside. ’Tis to much purpose to go upon stilts, for, when upon stilts, we must yet walk with our legs; and when seated upon the most elevated throne in the world, we are but seated upon our breech. The fairest lives, in my opinion, are those which regularly accommodate themselves to the common and human model without miracle, without extravagance. Old age stands a little in need of a more gentle treatment. 
What he is essentially saying in the above paragraph is that no matter that we may mount on stilts, we still must walk on our own legs; and on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Who Should Be The Judge?

In Metaphysics 4.6, Aristotle summarizes the arguments from his skeptic opponents in this paragraph:
There are, both among those who have these convictions and among those who merely profess these views, some who raise a difficulty by asking, who is to be the judge of the healthy man, and in general who is likely to judge rightly on each class of questions. But such inquiries are like puzzling over the question whether we are now asleep or awake. And all such questions have the same meaning. These people demand that a reason shall be given for everything; for they seek a starting-point, and they seek to get this by demonstration, while it is obvious from their actions that they have no conviction. But their mistake is what we have stated it to be; they seek a reason for things for which no reason can be given; for the starting-point of demonstration is not demonstration.
According to Aristotle, when anyone inquires about who is likely to judge rightly on each class of questions, he is seeking to cast doubt on opinions of one’s preferred experts and authorities. If you say that you prefer the beliefs of X to that of Y, the skeptic will undermine the grounds for which you are preferring X. The question is do we accept that we are justified in believing a particular issue only by appealing to some further principle—if such a condition to accepted then nothing can be judged because every principle will need a further justification. Aristotle points out that it is futile to appeal to the authority of any figure—the analysis should begin with what requires proof and what does not, and in case something requires proof, then what kind proof is required.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Was Charles Darwin a Teleologist?

It is generally believed that Charles Darwin has provided a non-teleological theory of evolution through adaptation, but James G. Lennox, in his article, “Darwin was a Teleologist,” shows that there is a teleological element in Darwin’s explanation of adaptations. In his works, Darwin uses terms like 'final Cause,’ ‘purpose,' 'end for which,’ and 'good for which’ quite frequently.

According to Lennox, Darwin was acquainted with the concept of teleology, and while at Cambridge, he admired the argument from design in Paley’s work. Lennox says that Darwin was “apparently ready to accept creation by design as the most reasonable explanation for adaptation when the Beagle sailed. Less than ten years later he was confident of the main outlines of a theory which explained adaptation, and the creation of new species, by references to natural causes, and was an avowed agnostic.”

In his article, Lennox looks at Darwin’s two explanations of adaptations. The first explanation of adaptation is of the species of Primula which have been observed to be adopting a particular strategy, by means of particular structures. The second explanation of adaptation is of Orchids about which Darwin has commented in his Various Contrivances. In his conclusion to the article, Lennox provides a summary of his key arguments:
By carefully examining Darwin's actual use of teleological explanation, one finds an explanatory structure which is at once irreducibly teleological, and at the same time unlike any of the standard forms of teleology in the nineteenth century. Indeed it is only rather recently that there is a model of teleological explanation to which Darwin's reasoning conforms. Moreover, though Darwin occasionally endorses his own teleology, to my knowledge he never provides a philosophical commentary on it.  
This last fact is closely related to the puzzle of Darwin's public silence on how he intends his readers to understand his use of terms such as 'Final Cause', 'purpose', 'end for which', 'good for which'. After all, his letters and notebooks indicate that he thought about it a good deal. Puzzling as this is, however, it is not a special puzzle about his teleology. The same sources show that he thought deeply about the nature of inductive support for theories, but his published books and papers leave such issues alone. Darwin read and thought much on the philosophy of biology — he published nothing at all on the subject. There is no reason to think he would deal with the question of final causation any differently. A skilled rhetorician knows when to speak, but more importantly, when to be silent. That followers as different as T.H. Huxley and Asa Gray could both find a teleology that they could live with in Darwin's explanatory practice indicates that, as usual, Darwin was a skilled rhetorician. 
Lennox notes that while Darwin’s explanatory practices are not in line with the dominant philosophical justifications of teleology at his time, they are in conformity with the recent defenses of the teleological character of selection explanation.