Thursday, March 1, 2012

Introduction, IV-VII

I realize that we're only in the introduction, and that the real arguments are yet to come, but there's a jump here I'm going to have to work through carefully, because it's not coming immediately.  And hey, why not in this space?

We started out so promisingly, "That all our knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt." (Introduction I) Yes, I'm totally with you there, Immanuel.

But then, here we are at the end of the introduction, with "The most important consideration in the arrangement of such a science is that no concepts should be admitted which contain anything empirical, and that the a priori knowledge shall be perfectly pure."  (Introduction VII, incorrectly marked II in my edition, I think)  But if all knowledge begins from experience, how can there exist any knowledge that does not contain anything empirical?

I'm getting the impression that the point of the introduction is to complete the walk between these two points, and I'm struggling with that.  In the early introduction, Kant declares that knowledge must begin with experience, but not necessarily arise from experience.  I'm not getting this distinction (maybe this is clearer in the German), so let's start at the other end and walk backwards.

Kant wants to talk about "pure reason" (obviously), so do I think such a thing exists?  I want to demand that any form of reason inherently derives from the physiological constraints of the human brain in considering acquired experiences.  And Kant covers it there in the introduction.  Kant points us at mathematics as a science of pure reason, and dismisses critics who say that pure reason can't exist by pointing to mathematics, and saying, if you say this can't exist, then you're saying mathematics doesn't exist, and plainly it does.

My first instinct is to counter and demand that mathematics derives from the observed properties of objects abstracted in the mind and then contested with each other based on their own rules, and that any application to the empirical -- that is to say, any grounding mathematics has in objective reality -- is in its ability to imperfectly but practically model the behavior of reality.  But then, as I write this out, I realize that this conception of how mathematics works derives from my previous understanding of the school of philosophy that begins with none other than Kant.

So, here's where we are, I think.  Kant wants to describe "pure reason."  Inasmuch as I don't think that truly exists, I can't deny that there is very clearly, a la mathematics, something that we experience as pure reason, and that this demands an analysis.  Or, perhaps, as Kant puts it, transcendental philosophy.  And yes, it certainly merits critique.

1 comment:

  1. I'm very nervous in V, because if I follow Kant right in the prefaces than intuitive knowledge is being contrasted with empirical knowledge, and it feels to me he's saying that certain mathematical concepts are valid intuitively instead of empirically. And I'm not convinced of that. a=a feels deeply right to us because we make certain assumptions about permanence and self-equivalency based on our experiences interacting with objects. Without something like a conception of object permanence, would we have any reaction to a=a that we experienced as intuitive?