A Look at Kant’s Philosophy

Kant
The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant presents a fascinating summary of Kant’s philosophy, which, otherwise, is quite difficult to understand. Here is the whole summary: Immanuel Kant and German Idealism

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Durant introduces Kant as follows:

NEVER has a system of thought so dominated an epoch as the philosophy of Immanuel Kant dominated the thought of the nineteenth century. After almost three-score years of quiet and secluded development, the uncanny Scot of Konigsberg roused the world from its “dogmatic slumber,” in 1781, with his famous Critique of Pure Reason; and from that year to our own the “critical philosophy” has ruled the speculative roost of Europe. The philosophy of Schopenhauer rose to brief power on the romantic wave that broke in 1848; the theory of evolution swept everything before it after 1859; and the exhilarating iconoclasm of Nietzsche won the center of the philosophic stage as the century came to a close. But these were secondary and surface developments; underneath them the strong and steady current of the Kantian movement flowed on, always wider and deeper; until today its essential theorems are the axioms of all mature philosophy. Nietzsche takes Kant for granted, and passes on; Schopenhauer calls the Critique “the most important work in German literature,” and considers any man a child until he has understood Kant; Spencer could not understand Kant, and for precisely that reason, perhaps, fell a little short of the fullest philosophic stature. To adapt Hegel’s phrase about Spinoza: to be a philosopher, one must first have been a Kantian…

Here is how Durant starts out with his summary of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason:

The Critique comes to the point at once. “Experience is by no means the only field to which our understanding can be confined. Experience tells us what is, but not that it must be necessarily what it is and not otherwise. It therefore never gives us any really general truths; and our reason, which is particularly anxious for that class of knowledge, is roused by it rather than satisfied. General truths, which at the same time bear the character of an inward necessity, must be independent of experience,—clear and certain in themselves.”  That is to say, they must be true no matter what our later experience may be; true even before experience; true a priori. “How far we can advance independently of all experience, in a priori knowledge, is shown by the brilliant example of mathematics.” Mathematical knowledge is necessary and certain; we cannot conceive of future experience violating it. We may believe that the sun will “rise” in the west to-morrow, or that someday, in some conceivable asbestos world, fire will not burn stick; but we cannot for the life of us believe that two times two will ever make anything else than four. Such truths are true before experience; they do not depend on experience past, present, or to come. Therefore they are absolute and necessary truths; it is inconceivable that they should ever become untrue. But whence do we get this character of absoluteness and necessity? Not from experience; for experience gives us nothing but separate sensations and events, which may alter their sequence in the future. These truths derive their necessary character from the inherent structure of our minds, from the natural and inevitable manner in which our minds must operate. For the mind of man (and here at last is the great thesis of Kant) is not passive wax upon which experience and sensation write their absolute and yet whimsical will; nor is it a mere abstract name for the series or group of mental states; it is an active organ which molds and coordinates sensations into ideas, an organ which transforms the chaotic multiplicity of experience into the ordered unity of thought…

Kant’s thoughts are the ultimate in philosophy at the moment. I shall be posting my comments based on this summary of Kant’s philosophy.

COMMENTS:

Mindfulness looks at mind as a sense organ that perceives mental objects. All knowledge is derived from physical and mental sense-experience. It is an arbitrary assumption that “pure” reason is to mean knowledge that does not come through our senses, but is independent of all sense experience.
Knowledge seems to exist as associations among data. This data may be perceived as being arranged in a matrix form. Each node of the matrix may be perceived as a matrix in its own right. This may keep on going to any number of levels. This is the inherent nature and structure of the mind.
Pure knowledge is characterized by continuity, harmony and consistency in this matrix at all levels. Knowledge does not become impure just by being sensed. Knowledge becomes impure to the degree it is discontinuous, disharmonious and inconsistent in its matrix.

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Comments

  • vinaire  On May 15, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    Durant writes on Kant,

    The struggle for existence, then, is not altogether an evil. Nevertheless, men soon perceive that it must be restricted within certain limits, and regulated by rules, customs, and laws; hence the origin and development of civil society. But now “the same unsociableness which forced men into society becomes again the cause of each commonwealth’s assuming the attitude of uncontrolled freedom in its external relations,— i. e., as one state in relation to other states ; and consequently, any one state must expect from any other the same sort of evils as formerly oppressed individuals and compelled them to enter into a civil union regulated by law.” It is time that nations, like men, should emerge from the wild state of nature, and contract to keep the peace. The whole meaning and movement of history is the ever greater restriction of pugnacity and violence, the continuous enlargement of the area of peace. “The history of the human race, viewed as a whole, may be regarded as the realization of a hidden plan of nature to bring about a political constitution, internally and externally perfect, as the only state in which all the capacities implanted by her in mankind can be fully developed.” If there is no such progress, the labors of successive civilizations are like those of Sisyphus, who again and again “up the high, hill heaved a huge round stone,” only to have it roll back as it was almost at the top. History would be then nothing more than an endless and circuitous folly; “and we might suppose, like the Hindu, that the earth is a place for the expiation of old and forgotten sins.”

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    The civilization is continuing to progress. Groups and nations need to become civilized.as individuals have become civilized. In my opinion, civilization of group depends upon greater civic sense among people as a group. Teaching of mindfulness can be of great help here.

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    • Chris Thompson  On May 16, 2013 at 8:07 AM

      Vin: The civilization is continuing to progress.

      Chris: Again, true tautology. Civilization, the world, the universe progresses but whether it is improving would be only an opinion. Kant’s quote (not Durant’s cover of it) is eloquent and profound: “The history of the human race, viewed as a whole, may be regarded as the realization of a hidden plan of nature to bring about a political constitution, internally and externally perfect, as the only state in which all the capacities implanted by her in mankind can be fully developed.” I especially like “. . . the realization of a hidden plan of nature. . . ” This part of Kant’s quote embraces the geno-type vs pheno-type distinction, or also as we were taught in school, “ontogeny repeats phylogeny. ”

      This really embraces my own attitude and opinion of a truer road to understanding the basis of ourselves. We truly wrestle with the hidden plan of Nature. It is truly well hidden, maybe by simply being inaccessible as a part of the superset outside the subset in which we exist. This opinion of mine is mathematical more than spiritual, which I am not trying to address.

      • vinaire  On May 16, 2013 at 12:25 PM

        In my opinion unstacking of the mind may reveal the hidden plan. It is not a one shot revelation, rather a bit by bit revelation. It has to occur across the whole mankind.

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        • Chris Thompson  On May 16, 2013 at 1:35 PM

          The mind may have been very well unstacked many times by many philosophers. I don’t know how this plays out across the whole of mankind. This seems to by coming from that dynamic urge proposal of Hubbard’s which model I no longer agree with.

          In my own life, I seem to be more fixated on the self than say, my wife. She seems to be forever “that’s nice dear”‘ing my stupendous 5 star epiphanies or replying “you’re just figuring that out, hmmm.” My wife is quite all about the family and me and the pets with very little attention on herself. She seems to have worked out her place in the cosmos and is just humming along completely unaware that THE WORLD COULD COME TO AN END at any time! haha

        • vinaire  On May 16, 2013 at 5:08 PM

          LOL! Your wife has it right. She is happy and that is what counts.

          We are happy too, but we are also trying to proof ourselves against unhappiness, which is very much part of this world.

          There is a spectrum of organism from cells to organs to individuals to groups to society to nations to mankind to planet, to galaxy to universe. There are both physical and mental aspects associated with this spectrum of organism. The enlightenment has to across this whole spectrum of organism.

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    • Chris Thompson  On May 16, 2013 at 8:24 AM

      Vin: Teaching of mindfulness can be of great help here.

      Chris: Yes, your preaching of mindfulness might be the panacea the world needs — beautifully simple! But how to ever make that seed take hold? I can only try to practice it and teach my children. But in an over-stimulating world, the beautifully simple and understated and easily underestimated power of mindfulness can be missed.

      Mindfulness is harmony and consistency. There is an amount of inconsistency which is desirable, this is the random motion of life which is interesting. Too much inconsistency is stressful to the organism, to the social order, to the solar system, — anything. How to strike this balance is the art of living well but I wouldn’t know how to begin to wrap my mind very well around what I just wrote.

      • vinaire  On May 16, 2013 at 12:30 PM

        All one can do is keep throwing the seed out. Sooner or later it will start taking hold at different places. The other part is to make the seed more appropriate for the conditions on the ground.

        What you are thinking of as inconsistency, may be consistency under the conditions on the ground. Make sure you do not have fixed ideas about consistency and inconsistency.

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        • Chris Thompson  On May 16, 2013 at 1:41 PM

          Consistent and inconsistent are not truths except relative to conditions on the ground. This is one of my points. It seems to me that this universe is set up in such a way that there is always a greater inconsistency possible than we are experiencing now and likewise, no matter how smooth the water it can always be smoother. That’s a Nature point or axiom of this universe to me. From that point of view, or should I write any point of view, one will not ascend from this universe. I’m not sure that is even the goal or ideal scene of one’s own admin scale or that of religion. All we seem to do is deal with more and less consistent sets of this same universe.

        • vinaire  On May 16, 2013 at 5:16 PM

          My current understanding seems to be that the source of inconsistencies are the filters that are distorting our view. Somewhere among all those filters there is a ‘logic filter’ too.

          The inconsistencies can be specific to a person depending on his or her filters. When one is dissolving inconsistencies, one is actually dissolving one’s filters.

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        • Chris Thompson  On May 16, 2013 at 9:59 PM

          Which brings up the question that if logic is a filter, then does it need to be filtered out? Logic, unlike many filters, is a carefully and deliberately crafted filter designed just for exploiting inconsistencies. How are logic and looking different from one another?

        • vinaire  On May 17, 2013 at 5:29 AM

          Logic helps one determine where to look.

        • Chris Thompson  On May 17, 2013 at 2:32 PM

          Please, lay out what you mean. Maybe an example.

        • vinaire  On May 17, 2013 at 5:53 PM

          Take a look at the Scientific Method. One starts with a conjecture and uses logic to come up with possible phenomenon. One then looks (experiments) to see if that phenomenon exists.

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  • vinaire  On May 17, 2013 at 5:43 AM

    Durant writes on Kant,

    The struggle for existence, then, is not altogether an evil. Nevertheless, men soon perceive that it must be restricted within certain limits, and regulated by rules, customs, and laws; hence the origin and development of civil society. But now “the same unsociableness which forced men into society becomes again the cause of each commonwealth’s assuming the attitude of uncontrolled freedom in its external relations,— i. e., as one state in relation to other states ; and consequently, any one state must expect from any other the same sort of evils as formerly oppressed individuals and compelled them to enter into a civil union regulated by law.” It is time that nations, like men, should emerge from the wild state of nature, and contract to keep the peace.

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    Unchecked freedom can be wild, but there is an inner sense of consistency. We see that consistency in wild nature. There is eat and be eaten, but there is a balance there. A tiger who is not hungry would not stalk its prey for food. There is no struggle for existence. There are simply various facets of life. Animals are not mentally stressed. A prey escapes if it can, otherwise it simply let’s itself to be eaten. It is the whole system. One takes the viewpoint of the whole system.

    What we see in nature is mindfulness. The higher intelligence in Man makes mindfulness a complicated affair.

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  • vinaire  On May 17, 2013 at 6:47 AM

    Mindfulness seems to start with the whole system’s viewpoint.

    Man is only a part of the system.

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    • Chris Thompson  On May 18, 2013 at 11:32 PM

      We are sure on the same wavelength about this. I have been seeing something like this or about this for a year and been fumbling around with no good way to voice it or hardly to bring it up.

    • vinaire  On May 19, 2013 at 4:42 AM

      I know what you mean. It seems to be coming into focus now with the manifestation-perception model.

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      • Chris Thompson  On May 19, 2013 at 7:19 AM

        I know it is not a new idea, but it is new to me. As I’ve been writing, men and women have been working this out, and I think successfully for themselves, throughout the history of man.

        • vinaire  On May 19, 2013 at 8:40 AM

          It is difficult for most to us think beyond ourselves. It is an egocentric world. Look how long it took to dispel the idea that earth is the center of the solar system. It took the simplifying of mathematics to dispel that idea.

          We still do hold the egocentric idea that Man is the most developed form of life in the universe.

          Thus, our view is limited by our localized experience and acceptance of inconsistencies (lack of mindfulness).

          Acceptance of inconsistencies is the bug in the subject of logic.

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        • Chris Thompson  On May 19, 2013 at 2:24 PM

          I guess I’m saying its groundhog day all over again for mankind.

        • vinaire  On May 19, 2013 at 8:44 PM

          🙂

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  • vinaire  On May 17, 2013 at 6:58 AM

    Durant writes on Kant,

    The whole meaning and movement of history is the ever greater restriction of pugnacity and violence, the continuous enlargement of the area of peace. “The history of the human race, viewed as a whole, may be regarded as the realization of a hidden plan of nature to bring about a political constitution, internally and externally perfect, as the only state in which all the capacities implanted by her in mankind can be fully developed.” If there is no such progress, the labors of successive civilizations are like those of Sisyphus, who again and again “up the high, hill heaved a huge round stone,” only to have it roll back as it was almost at the top. History would be then nothing more than an endless and circuitous folly; “and we might suppose, like the Hindu, that the earth is a place for the expiation of old and forgotten sins.”

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    The hidden plan of nature is nothing but the inherent sense of consistency. The moment a change is made it propagates through the rest of the reality leveling any inconsistencies as a result of it.

    Thus, if the inherent sense of consistency is allowed to reign, there is always a dynamic self-correcting balance. This doesn’t mean that no innovations can be made. It simply means that the moment an innovation is made the whole system adjusts to it in unison.

    This is system wide mindfulness in action.

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  • vinaire  On May 17, 2013 at 7:14 AM

    Durant writes on Kant,

    The essay on “Eternal Peace” (published in 1795, when Kant was seventy-one) is a noble development of this theme. Kant knows how easy it is to laugh at the phrase; and under his title he writes: “These words were once put by a Dutch inn-keeper on his sign-board as a satirical inscription, over the representation of a church-yard cemetery. Kant had before complained, as apparently every generation must, that “our rulers have no money to spend on public education…. because all their resources are already placed to the account of the next war.” The nations will not really be civilized until all standing armies are abolished. (The audacity of this proposal stands out when we remember that it was Prussia itself which, under the father of Frederick the Great, had been the first to establish conscription.) “Standing armies excite states to outrival one another in the number of their armed men, which has no limit. Through the expense occasioned thereby, peace becomes in the long run more oppressive than a short war; and standing armies are thus the cause of aggressive wars undertaken in order to get rid of this burden.” For in time of war the army would support itself on the country by requisitioning, quartering, and pillaging; preferably in the enemy’s territory, but if necessary, in one’s own land; even this would be better than supporting it out of government funds.

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    The overall system is self-correcting. If changes have been made that generated inconsistencies on a large scale and those inconsistencies are persisting, then it is simply a matter of time that those inconsistencies would be leveled.

    If man has acted on a selfish viewpoint and that has generated large scale inconsistencies of God and war, then that selfish viewpoint shall sooner or later be leveled.

    It is a matter of time. Maybe that time has come. It starts with teaching of mindfulness.

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  • vinaire  On May 17, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    Durant writes on Kant,

    Much of this militarism, in Kant’s judgment, was due to the expansion of Europe into America and Africa and Asia; with the resultant quarrels of the thieves over their new booty. “If we compare the barbarian instances of inhospitality . . . with the inhuman behavior of the civilized, and especially the commercial, states of our continent, the injustice practiced by them even in their first contact with foreign lands and peoples fills us with horror; the mere visiting of such peoples being regarded by them as equivalent to a conquest. America, the negro lands, the Spice Islands, the Cape of Good Hope, etc., on being discovered, were treated as countries that belonged to nobody; for the aboriginal inhabitants were reckoned as nothing. … And all this has been done by nations who make a great ado about their piety, and who, while drinking up iniquity like water, would have themselves regarded as the very elect of the orthodox faith.” —The old fox of Konigsberg was not silenced yet!

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    It is quite an inconsistency that Kant is pointing out among human logic, human instincts and human behavior. To resolve this inconsistency one needs to understand logic (associations), and instincts (filters).

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  • vinaire  On May 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    Durant writes on Kant,

    Kant attributed this imperialistic greed to the oligarchical constitution of European states; the spoils’ went to a select few, and remained substantial even after division. If democracy were established, and all shared in political power, the spoils of international robbery would have to be so subdivided as to constitute a resistible temptation. Hence the “first definitive article in the conditions of Eternal Peace” is this: “The civil constitution of every state shall be republican, and war shall not be declared except by a plebiscite of all the citizens.” When those who must do the fighting have the right to decide between war and peace, history will no longer be written in blood. “On the other hand, in a constitution where the subject is not a voting member of the state, and which is therefore not republican, the resolution to go to war is a matter of the smallest concern in the world. For in this case the ruler, who, as such, is not a mere citizen, but the owner of the state, need not in the least suffer personally by war, nor has he to sacrifice his pleasures of the table or the chase, or his pleasant palaces, court festivals, or the like. He can, therefore, resolve for war from insignificant reasons, as if it were but a hunting expedition; and as regards its propriety, he may leave the justification of it without concern to the diplomatic corps, who are always too ready to give their services for that purpose.” How contemporary truth is!

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    Not to have democracy seems to be an inconsistency. But the actual inconsistency is lack of mindfulness among the people. Under that scenario few can use force to suppress many.

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  • vinaire  On May 17, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    Durant writes on Kant,

    The apparent victory of the Revolution over the armies of reaction in 1795 led Kant to hope that republics would now spring up throughout Europe, and that an international order would arise based upon a democracy without slavery and without exploitation, and pledged to peace. After all, the function of government is to help and develop the individual, not to use and abuse him. “Every man is to be respected as an absolute end in himself; and it is a crime against the dignity that belongs to him as a human being, to use him as a mere means for some external purpose.” This too is part and parcel of that categorical imperative without which religion is a hypocritical farce. Kant therefore calls for equality: not of ability, but of opportunity for the development and application of ability; he rejects all prerogatives of birth and class, and traces all hereditary privilege to some violent conquest in the past. In the midst of obscurantism and reaction and the union of all monarchical Europe to crush the Revolution, he takes his stand, despite his seventy years, for the new order, for the establishment of democracy and liberty everywhere. Never had old age so bravely spoken with the voice of youth.

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    When one knows the truth, there seems to be no other way but to stand with the truth.

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    • Chris Thompson  On May 17, 2013 at 9:55 PM

      Vin: When one knows the truth, there seems to be no other way but to stand with the truth.

      Chris: This has never much ever been in question. The question has always been which fork in the road? There may be a key in this thought.

      • vinaire  On May 17, 2013 at 9:59 PM

        I admire Kant.

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        • Chris Thompson  On May 17, 2013 at 10:21 PM

          I have not done Durant justice – weirdly, my father in law owns THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION (he has a lot of books.) Reading here back and forth between Durant, Kant, and your commentary, I also developed a respect for Kant and not as much for Durant. I should just shutup about that now.

  • vinaire  On May 18, 2013 at 5:06 AM

    Durant writes on criticism of Kant,

    First, then, is space a mere “form of sensibility,” having no objective reality independent of the perceiving mind? Yes and no. Yes: for space is an empty concept when not filled with perceived objects; “space” merely means that certain objects are, for the perceiving mind, at such and such a position, or distance, with reference to other perceived objects; and no external perception is possible except of objects in space; space then is assuredly a “necessary form of the external sense.”

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    Space is the fabric of the manifestation-perception system. All objects are knitted into space. Space is, therefore, an aspect of manifestation. There is orientation in space. Space is, therefore, an aspect of perception too. Space is an aspect of both manifestation and perception because manifestation and perception are defined in terms of each other.

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    • Chris Thompson  On May 18, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      Vin: Space is the fabric of the manifestation-perception system. All objects are knitted into space. Space is, therefore, an aspect of manifestation.

      Chris: Therefore, is space-time the manifestation-perception system?

      • vinaire  On May 18, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        One may say that.

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        • Chris Thompson  On May 18, 2013 at 10:05 PM

          Vin: One may say that.

          Chris: If this were the case, it would clear the way for an even more wondrous underpinning than had previously put forth (or at least of which I am aware.) I have been working on just this point and the ramifications are staggeringly wondrous! I said that twice because it seems big enough to contain it.

          What I imagine is a reality, which now that I have imagined it, becomes a metaphor for whatever is really going on. I am not providing an answer nor even a proper question but I will work on that. What I am trying to say is that a greater truth, one which encompassed anything outside the set of what is known may be greatly different, say with more dimensions, than anything encompassed by the currently known dimensions.

          All the great breakthroughs have been like this.

        • vinaire  On May 18, 2013 at 10:08 PM

          🙂
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  • vinaire  On May 18, 2013 at 5:24 AM

    Durant writes on criticism of Kant,

    And no: for without doubt, such spatial facts as the annual elliptical circuit of sun by earth, though statable only by a mind, are independent of any perception whatever; the deep and dark blue ocean rolled on before Byron told it to, and after he had ceased to be. Nor is space a “construct” of the mind through the coordination of spaceless sensations; we perceive space directly through our simultaneous perception of different objects and various points—as when we see an insect moving across a still background.

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    Annual elliptical circuit of sun by earth is a mental object formed by many astronomical observations and consistency among those observations. It is not independent of mental perception as stated in the criticism above.

    Sensations are not spaceless. Sensations are mental objects that are perceived in mental space. What has been lacking is a proper model of a manifestation-perception system that extends across both physical and mental dimensions. The above criticism is ‘individual-centric’. Both manifestation and perception can be there without the ‘individual-centric’ filter.

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  • vinaire  On May 18, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    Is reality truly that which is objective, and it is falsely colored by what is subjective?

    Objectivity is generally defined as “the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject’s individual feelings, imaginings, or interpretations.” Kant summarized it as “thing-in-itself” that is beyond sense perception. We can certainly have speculative definitions, such as this one, which cannot be observed directly. In that case, where does speculation fit into this idea of objective reality?

    Reality has also been defined as an actual existence, which is not imagination, fiction, or pretense. But don’t we all imagine? Don’t we read fiction? Haven’t we observed pretense in others? So, imagination, fiction and pretense do seem to have actual existence. They do not exist as physical objects. But they do exist as mental objects. Kant’s philosophy has existed for us since he expressed it in the 18th century.

    Just as we cannot deny the perception of physical objects, we cannot deny the perception of these mental objects either. The idea of reality should not limit itself to physical objects only. It should extend itself to mental objects.

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  • vinaire  On May 18, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Subjectivity is generally defined as “the condition of being a subject and the subject’s perspective, experiences, feelings, beliefs, and desires.” Subject is defined as “a being that has unique experiences and a unique consciousness.” A subject is an observer and an object is a thing observed. So, the unique aspect of a subject is consciousness. Consciousness is apparently “the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself.” Being aware is to be able to perceive.

    When we add all this up, we find that subjectivity has to do with the ability to perceive. We perceive not only the physical objects in the external world, but also the mental objects of the inner life. Subjectivity boils down to the subject of perception.

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  • vinaire  On March 19, 2017 at 6:19 AM

    There are gradients to knowing. Such gradients are always there. The ultimate knowledge is always out there like a carrot on a stick.

    This is an agnostic approach that goes against absolutism. Absolutism is any theory, which holds that values, principles, etc., are absolute and not relative, dependent, or changeable.

    In this sense, Kant’s philosophy is absolutist when it describes a thing in itself, as distinguished from a phenomenon or thing as it appears. He is using black and white logic that allows no gradients in between.

  • vinaire  On March 19, 2017 at 9:16 AM

    Reese Archer’s idea of “relative absolute” is a self-contradiction as expressed by ideas, such as, “dark light” or “evil good” or “stupid intelligence”. It is like defining one end of a scale by the other end. It collapses the whole scale as if it does not exist. It provides a beautiful study of inconsistency in thinking.

    This kind of thinking provides a window into Kantian philosophy. Kant’s idea of a “thing in itself” cannot be sensed and discriminated that way. It collapses the idea of space and matter into one. Space and Matter form the two ends of the electromagnetic spectrum. They are separated by a gradient of energy. Kant’s “thing in itself” is affirming of a “space material” where all energy has been collapsed into nothingness. Again it provides a beautiful study of inconsistency in thinking that is being justified.

  • vinaire  On November 2, 2017 at 8:10 AM

    Here is an interesting view on Kant’s thinking.

    https://aeon.co/essays/why-the-western-philosophical-canon-is-xenophobic-and-racist
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