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Kant and people writing about Kant often use the word "presuppose". What exactly is meant by this and how does it differ from other words like "imply" or "necessitate"?

Here's an example of a use of "presuppose" in Paul Guyer's book Kant:

In fact, Kant does not suggest that the possibility of conditional value presupposes the existence of something with unconditional value; rather, he assumes that morality requires the existence of something of unconditional value, and infers from this that conditional or relative value cannot be the whole story about value.

It seems to me that Guyer is using "presuppose' to mean "imply" here. That is, Guyer is saying that Kant does not think that the possibility of conditional value implies the existence of unconditional value. Am I correct?

Guyer, Paul (2014-03-05). Kant (The Routledge Philosophers) (p. 217). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

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    You can see Presupposition for the linguistic aspects, and Distinguishing Between Inferences and Assumptions for assumptions in logical arguments. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Dec 25 '15 at 11:03
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    Can you give some examples of where you're having difficulty grasping it? I've read quite a bit of Kant and Kant scholarship and can't recall finding the term to be used in a way that left me scratching my head. – virmaior Dec 25 '15 at 16:43
  • This does improve your question insofar as we can now read the sentence where you are confused. – virmaior Dec 28 '15 at 2:39
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I don't think the word "implies" would be a good substitute for "presupposes" here. Presuppose and imply put the arrow in somewhat opposite directions.

It's quite a mouthful to say:

Kant does not suggest that the possibility of conditional value presupposes the existence of something of unconditional value.

This translates to :

   For Kant 
     It is not the case that 
        possibility of conditional value 
            presupposes
              existence of something of unconditional value

We can strip out the top two bits for now.

In Kant (and many other contexts in philosophy), X presupposes Y = Y is a condition for the possibility of X. Or to put it another X is not possible without Y. This doesn't translate to Y at least under normal circumstances.

The arrow should point ← left for presupposes ( not → ). Implies points the arrow right (→). It's sloppy to get that backwards though comprehensible. I.e., the existence of unconditional value is a condition for the possibility of conditioned value. (but again, remember, that's not the position Kant takes).

Or to put it another way, he's not saying Kant's argument is not:

  1. Conditional value is possible.
  2. Ergo, unconditional must exist. (This is what your "implies" would mean -- but not what Guyer is saying Kant is not saying).

Guyer is saying Kant's position is not:

  1. Unconditional value exists
  2. Ergo, conditional value exist

Instead,

rather, he assumes that morality requires the existence of something of unconditional value, and infers from this that conditional or relative value cannot be the whole story about value.

So then Kant's position is:

  1. Morality exists.
  2. Morality requires unconditional value.
  3. Ergo unconditioned value exists

Also true:

  1. conditioned values exist (hypothetical syllogism either for practical use or for happiness)
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The German word, that means what Kant actually wrote, is voraussetzen, e.g. in the preface of the Critique of Practical Reason, A13/14, Ak. 5:8 where he writes:

It presupposes indeed the Groundwork to the Metaphysic of Morals (GMM), but only to the extent that this provides a preliminary familiarity with the principle of duty, and renders and justifies a determined formula of that duty. Otherwise this critique is complete in itself.

In German:

Es setzt zwar die Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten voraus, aber nur in so fern, als diese mit dem Prinzip der Sittlichkeit vorläfige Bekanntschaft macht und eine bestimmte Formel derselben angibt und rechtfertigt; sonst besteht es durch sich selbst.

voraus could be translated to beforehand or in advance.

setzen could be translated to set or put sth., but in this context it is better to say to assume.

As it has something to do with inference @virmaior is correct in saying that imply or necessitate would change directions, as it is rather that only because we assume something beforehand, we are logically enabled to make a certain statement or perform a certain act.

E.g. only because we presuppose the ball will fall, we throw it in an angle, not trying to throw it in a straight line to our aim. Our angle implies that we made this presupposition and the presupposition is necessary for achieving our apparent goal.

If you look at Guyer's words, they literally say:

In fact, Kant does not suggest that one has to assume the existence of something with unconditional value before being able to state the possibility of conditional value; rather, he assumes that morality requires the existence of something of unconditional value, and infers from this that conditional or relative value cannot be the whole story about value.

The comment of @MauroAllegranza provides good further readings on that topic.

Disclaimer: This answer does not say anything different from the other ones, just the same content in another form ;)

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Were I someone unfamiliar with the word 'presuppose', I'd suggest that 'presuppose' places a supposition before a suppose; and this by taking the word apart, and noting: presuppose=pre+suppose.

This is just using language as it should be; and one should expect good philosophers being good users of language to be sensitive to their meanings and use-value; so that it discloses meaning even in unfamiliar contexts or usages - but one may need to pay attention, so that the meaning shines forth.

And since there are many good philosophers writing in different languages - though in one tradition; this then shows the worth of good translators who know the real value of two different languages.

Now, for example, if a man says 'I suppose that ...'

Then I might have cause to think that this suppose has a presupposition behind it.

Let's examine the extract, now knowing this:

In fact, Kant does not suggest that the possibility of conditional value presupposes the existence of something with unconditional value;

So if Kant was here, standing on his soap-box, saying: '[I suppose or posit] the possibility of conditional value ...'

Then, I might have the chance to wave my hand, catch his attention and stop him speaking; and then ask him directly 'Hey there, Herr Kant; are you presupposing the existence of something with unconditional value?'

Then, according to Guyer, in the short snippet above, he would say 'why, no ...'

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