April 24, 2009
I am trying to grasp Kant’s conception here with the Principles of Understanding. It is very difficult and I am far from grasping it.
The Axioms give us the shapes and sizes (magnitude) of spectral objects as well as pure imaginative objects like a circle traced out in mid air. We see them already as composites and comprising a magnitude of space and time, as extended. So automatically we judge of all specters/appearances/Erscheinungen, with regard to their appearance in time and space, as extended and needful of a synthesis into a total which makes a unity. I.e., they must be apprehended as extended things.
Now the perceptions are made up of some shape in space and time and some sensation. Here also my understanding has a guide for judging, namely something which is real and, oddly, somehow not real. That hint leads me to judge of the sensation that it is of an intensity. Therefore when I compare a bright red and a dull red and a bright green, I recognize three impressions, but only two sensations (the “things” of the sensitivity and especially the vision). So while I may not have occasion to be conscious of this upon the very first impression of some color, nevertheless I judge it so because upon the presentation of the dark red later and the bright green, I know that I have seen the red of the dark and bright reds before. I.e., it is sort of “old hat”, that sighting of the second red. As in “I know this somehow. This is another degree of red.” So I guess this sighting of the second red is taken for granted and does not require further investigation.
In any case in this wise we have the object and this object can be seen in two ways, subjectively as a something of this shape and color and I judge that the shape is the thing and the color is the material. This is the subjective perception. It can be said to be a certain sensation in a configuration together and appearing as a singularity, just as the face in the cloud or the Big Dipper appears as a singularity (although there is no unity there at all, and thus no objectivity, i.e., not such a perception as could be required of all people. There is no necessity at all in this object, and it is, as far as we have been able to tell, even ephemeral, i.e., might vanish, just as the face in the cloud vanishes and all that I see is cloud). Again this is the subjective perception.
Next is the objective perception where we add a necessity to that multiplicity which comprises the object of the sighting and do so by uniting it in a single object. We accomplish this by conceiving of an object which would have to appear in the way that this object does. For example:* in order to recognize the circle traced out in air I must of course apprehend the elements which make up the object (for I know in advance in my judging [per the Axioms] that there is a multiplicity that is developing before me). I have to ignore the finger leading to the Noon point and then follow it to One and to Two and so on back to Noon, and thereafter ignore it.** And then of course I have to keep that multiplicity in mind and (in this case) represent it in space before my eyes to contemplate and behold (via my imagination). I have to hold it all together and be consciousness of it all as a single thing. And then finally, in order to achieve to the objective perception, i.e., the perception of a determined object (and hence no longer a mere specter/appearance/Erscheinung which can come and go like other specters, e.g., the face in the cloud), I must conceive of an object which must be sighted in this way with this multiplicity, and I do this by means of a rule which can present the object at any time, and which, in this case, would be a line which encloses a space, or perhaps even the outline of a disk in space. In this way then I come to recognize and identify the object and can point it out to others and require that they see it too (even if I have to draw it on paper to make it clear to children at first and at some tender age they think you may be playing a trick on them, to make fun of them in asking them to see a circle in mid aid).
[* This is a description of the "subjective deduction" of the application of the categories of pure thinking to spectral objects.]
[** I think is what Kant refers to in the B version of the Deduction as paying attention.]
And so we are now perceiving something which we assert to be objectively present in a given time and space, and now we are ready to deal with this object. We are aided here in our judging. There is the category of substance and predicate or attribute, and we are encouraged by our practicing understanding to judge that the object is of a certain shape and made up of a certain sensation, the color red (in our example). The object is made up of a material which we consider to be its substance. And red is merely a predicate of this material, of this thing we have recognized to be an object, and not merely a specter or appearance (like, for example, the rainbow). The guide of this hint for us is to judge that the thing endures, i.e., it is not a specter but rather a real thing. And the way we express this in our judging is that it does not change with regard to its quantity, i.e., it abides in all time. That is the most fundamental difference between a specter and a real thing, e.g., between the rainbow and the water of the rain. The expression of this enduring substance we express by asserting that any object, once perceived (objective perception, i.e., recognized), endures and therefore if it is not here, then it is somewhere else (like looking for my missing glasses), for it does not go in and out of existence since, again, it has been found to be a real thing in space and time, and so it is not a specter like the face in the cloud which can come and go.
And so, it seems to me just now, that the endurance of the material of the object (as substance) is the first recognition to be made. And (thinking now about Schopenhauer) also necessary for the subsequent recognition of the eye (our first experience) is an awareness that Hume’s “diminishing table” is counter-intuitive and thus calls for an investigation and explanation (which is true for all “violations” of a recognition, e.g., a machine that does not function).
So it seems to me that you would first have to judge that things are abiding in quantity before you could learn anything about them at all, for if they were not abiding in quantity (material make up) they would be specters/appearances, for that is what we mean with specter, i.e., something that comes and goes (like the rainbow and a face in a cloud). Then, with that fundamental recognition of this endurance (tied up with the category of substance vis-a-vis attributes and predicates, like the table is red and will soon be black [via my painting of that table]), I can have a framework for considering the existence of this object, e.g., that water, when cooled to a certain degree, ices over.
In the Transcendental Aesthetic Kant speaks of specter as the undetermined object of an empirical envisagement (Anschauung). In the determination of the object, therefore (as we have seen here), we are necessitated to rule that this object does not change size. That in turn then leads to the question of the perceptions, namely that the object is seen to change size, and this is necessitated by means of the discovery and recognition of the eye through experiments suggested by the analogy of causation, where we apply touch to this enduring object, a red ball let us say, and then notice how this touch continues even when the eye is closed which leads us to realize that what we see is spectral (in a transcendental way) and the object does not exist on its own as a substance as we see it, i.e., as it appears to us, and this explain how it happens to look smaller at a distance.
Thus we have both levels of the meaning of specter. It is an unidentified (unrecognized) object and then is identified as a real thing and no longer a specter. That is the common speech and common sense talk. And then we have the transcendental (knowledge-enabling) sense that the things of vision are physically on the retina and are not real things on their own. And even the feelings of touch and hearing and smell, etc., are our reaction to things and that these sensations do not exist in the thing, but only in us.
And so we identify a thing in the specter and seek it out, and we find it to be a real thing and actually in space and time, and that what we see is merely a specter or appearance of this real thing, the way it appears to our sensitivity. But that thing remains for us merely a something which can appear to us in the forms of diverse senses, but we distinguish it in thought from what it might be independent of these sensation. And so we say with Kant that there is a real world, but we can know nothing of it except as it appears to us, i.e., via our sensations, and have no reason to think that this somehow encompasses the thing independently of all this our own affections. As we know that a blind man cannot know the object as well as a seeing man, and a deaf man is denied information available to those who can hear, we have no reason not to imagine other senses as possible, and in any case to realize that we dream up this object (via the hints of the understanding in its search for rule-oriented behavior in all things) and we add predicates to it, e.g.,, it is red, it is hard. And while we assume for science that this makes up the object, we realize in philosophy that all this is simply “add-on” to the notion of this real thing on its own, and does not by any means tell us what this real thing is not.
As I reflect further on this, I think I will have to disagree with Schopenhauer when he asserted (as I can remember) that the eye was the first object we recognize. We would first have to recognize a real object apart from us before we could make a distinction with specter, and then it is that we can come to realize that what we see is a function of our eye.
Next we come to the third analogy where we judge that things in space together are in interaction together and affect each other. We can tell that the light from the far tree is a reflection not only of the light of the sun but also in our own reflection to the tree and so being bounced back. Thus we know that space is full of the interactions of these many real things which abide in space in all time. That is the reason that we can look and see A here and B there and know that their condition or state remains unchanged and that we can just as easily see B first and then A, for as our eyes move from one to the other we encompass the space between them and judge that it is full of interaction between A and B. Thus all things are in some degree of interaction and mutual causation and “no thing is an island, entire to itself”.
Finally, with regard to modality, we judge things to be possible to the extent it were possible to conceive of them in an experience, and things to be actual to the extent they have some sensation (even though it can vary in degree and in terms of more and less) and things to be necessary which fit in with a general experience.
I think I now want to back track, or rather spring back and consider again the deduction of the categories. So in general we validate the use of the categories by noticing, with Hume, that his table only “seems” to get smaller.
What we are doing in the recognition of an object is combining diverse consciousnesses into an identical consciousness. This arises through the unification of two consciousnesses into a single consciousness whereof the two particular consciousnesses represent parts. The provision of the object means a unification in consciousness, so that an identical consciousness is possible over time.
It would not be appropriate to be able to have many disjointed perceptions, of this and that, of A and B and C, etc., if at the instant of any one the others would be out of consciousness or only in consciousness as the effect of a prompt, for example upon A, I might spring ahead to B, and where B could be a memory of something earlier, something suggested by A. All contingent and no unity whatsoever. It would even be impossible to discern any contradiction amongst the perceptions, for there would be no unity between them. Each would stand on its own.
In order for this to occur, this unified consciousness with regards to perceptions (binding them together into a unity), this identical self which continues one and the same through time (speaking now of the recognition of that identical self), it is necessary that the perceptions be assembled and recognized by means of rules for the production of their sighting, of their spectacle (perhaps that’s a better word for Erscheinung). These are the concepts which the productive imagination comes up with in accordance with the categories (connective rules) of the understanding. So we bind a multiplicity or manifold in the perception just like we combine a multiplicity of the perceptions in the experience. So it is all one procedure.
The most general assumption then of all is this: that the specters are subject to laws. That is the thing on its on as expressed with regard to the human, the Transcendental Object = X = nature = obeying laws. We introduce the notion of the thing on its own in order to bind the apperception (consciousness of self) via a recognition of the object (always for us humans only the TO=X; thus we add to the notion of the thing on its own, but do not restrict it as to what else this thing might be or affect other beings). We make the assumption that the specters/appearances/Erscheinungen are subject to laws, and in that way achieve to a unified consciousness through the recognition of the existence of real things in and amongst the spectacles (including the rain, the Big Dipper, the “water” on the roadway ahead, the face in the cloud, etc.). We could not be aware of ourselves as perceiving beings if we did not first recognize the external object in space, the real “thing on its own” (TO=X).
Consider Hume and his law of association, described essentially in terms of the ABC’s. How did he come to suspect a connection in this way, that prior exposure develops into expectation? He first would have had to assume the affinity of all specters, that all specters are connected such that he then can look out for connections and give the productive imagination (as opposed to the reproductive imagination) something to work on and figure out.
So then based on the affinity which we demand of all our specters we set out and discover those laws and on the way we come up real things by means of which we can then unify the multiplicity and distinguish the specter and realize that it is something special, and not universally true, e.g., we distinguish the real thing from the specter by means of this real existence in space (and in time). This distinction then validates the assumption of the affinity, for it is only via the latter (the TO = x = nature = laws) that we can have either experience (the combining of two perceptions) or the object of experience (combining the spectral data in the envisagement/intuition/look [Anschauung]). The affinity then is validated by the fact of the identical self consciousness and the perceptions of real things.
The pure apperception precedes the empirical apperception by being the capacity for “paying attention” or looking at data in an accumulative way, namely that something is being developed. This pure apperception then must proceed as a potentially unified consciousness (encompassing many individual consciousnesses and perceptions) to provide the attention needed for the apprehension and retention of a multiplicity in an envisagement (like a face on a person or a face in the cloud) and then the unify in rule which necessitates the multiplicity and provides for the recognition of the object.
Now let me attempt a broader scope. The sensitivity provide us with objects which are entirely contingent and are seen as singularities in space and time and are either spectral/appearances, like the table or the rainbow or the rain, or else are pure envisagements like a triangle or circle traced out in the air. That’s from the Transcendental Aesthetic. Some objects, like space and time, remain entirely pure envisagements and while assembled by the understanding, take no concept from the understanding, and stand in their own infinite given. They are seen as infinite, given objects, and they are the constant form of our looking at things in the “brainarium” within our heads, the specters and appearances.
We see the objects in space and time and must think them accordingly, i.e., as they are in space and time. And this is the work of the understanding. The understanding provides the rules for the envisagements of the sensitivity. The understanding provides the rule of the assemblage of a table from tops and legs. The table can be sighted as a singularity in the same way that the face in the cloud can be so sighted, and then the understanding provides the object binding/connecting/unifying the multiplicity sighted in the singularity and by means of that unifies the consciousness in the recognition of the object.
The mechanics of this is covered in the principles of understanding. These are destined by our make up to be applied solely to specters, to objects in space and time, and not objects on their own no matter how or if intuited (in a different way for the human envisagement in space and time). We judge the object to be a composite (and thus accumulate the multiplicity sighted in the singularity of the envisagement), to be made up of sensations (and which are to be judged as in degrees), to be enduring its is quantity, and the condition of which is a function of both some past condition (succession via causation) and some continuing condition (simultaneity via mutual affectation).
Let me now back up to a beginning for all this. Regardless of all our philosophical squabbles* we know for a fact this much, that what we see about us is within the brain, the sense organs having converted impressions into electrical impulses which are conducted to the brain and which are then displayed to us in what we might call a crainorama or brainarium, to indicate that it exists entirely within the brain. All that we see is in that crainorama. That means that when we blink, the entire universe that we perceive goes out of existence. I am not speaking about the things which cause these impulses in our sense organs, but the result of these in the brain itself.
[* Kant takes on Descartes' skeptical argument against the reality of things in and amongst the specters and argues that a dream cannot be recognized except in contrast to real things and the fact that Descartes makes that distinction is proof enough that real things exist in space apart from us. Descartes' own recognition of his internal sense is dependent upon an earlier recognition of external things in space apart from us. Regarding Berkeley and his dogmatic idealism any argument against the reality of space and extended things in space holds just as well against the reality of the inner sense and real things in time (our own souls).]
Accordingly we know for a fact that everything we can see about us (and even feel and sense) is spectral and does not exist apart from our envisagements and perceptions.
Now it will not help us in the least to know how it is that we came to discover all this, that the entire perceived universe is pictured within a crainorama, for we have made the distinctions already between specters and real things, and don’t need to know how we did this.
By the same token we don’t have to know the underpinnings of mathematics. We don’t have to know that mathematics obtains its certitude from pictures (pure envisagements/intuitions/Anschauungen) that we original draw in space and time, and only because this space and time is within us as the form of all our looking at the specters of the crainorama, as the form of our representations in space and time. Mathematics has no need of this.
But Kant wants to know how it is that we are so certain of our mathematics (and which cannot be analytical at all) and so certain that we are dealing with specters and not with real things on their own. He wants to do this for a greater purpose, namely he wants to see how it is then in contrast that pure reason, not concerned with specters, zooms out into a sort of outer space of pure ideas and always flounders in contradictions and uncertainty. What is the source of the certitude of our science (that what we see are just specters) and the source of our certitude with mathematics* in order that we can see how pure reason fails on its own and without reference to a real object, without being able to show the reality of the objects that it devises in its own pure contemplations.
[* I cannot know that 7+5=12 by reducing each side down to the same thing, i.e., 12 ones in a row, for we are unable to know that two wholes are interchangeable (identical) simply because the parts can be substituted. Otherwise we would never be able to understand how it is that each of a pair glove will not fit both hands. We would know that it cannot, but we would never understand why not.]
And so it ends up being a lot of work, but with a good purpose, namely of putting pure reason in its place, in its proper place and then of making good use of that domesticated pure reason.
To try to carry this further, Kant goes on to show the objects that pure reason naturally conceives, the soul, free-will and God, can never be shown to be real objects, and how it is that people have mistakenly thought otherwise (through a certain illusion of language). The upshot is that while these three concepts (Ideas) are unneeded in science and are entirely superfluous to it, they also do not contradict science and so while they cannot be proven to be true, they can be held to be true if there should be a need for them. And then much latter Kant will find a need for them in his Critique of Practical Reason.
Filed under: Kant