6

I have been studying Stephan Körner's intro to Kant's philosophy. I'm not sure if in the following excerpt I make sense of the reasoning quoted from Kant.

enter image description here

In fact, I wonder how the permanence must be something outside him by the virtue of its determination of the person's existence. Permanence can be just an inherent attribute of the self as the traditional argument for immortality of the soul has it. Or may be Kant is referring to time when it writes "... only be determined by it," which could provide a different way of interpreting the concluding remark: the perception of permanence is determined by time which is outside the person's existence. But again I don't see how that negates the idea that the self is permanent. Maybe it has to do with the Kant's argument that the pure self like other noumena is unknowable.

  • 3
    The only place in the Critique of Pure Reason where he uses empirical realism as a term is in the fourth paralogism of the A-Edition (366-380) and the argument runs completely different there. Interestingly, he argues explicitely against different forms of Idealism in this bit as well. The bit in question is the first theorem of the Refutation of Idealism in the B-Edition (275-279). Both bits have in common that they have some weight in perception, which is a technical term here and includes sensibility (also technical). – Philip Klöcking Jun 8 '17 at 21:01
3

Körner is referring to the Refutation of Idealism argument (B274–279), directed against the skepticism about the external world attributed to Descartes and Berkeley. The idealism in question is the "dogmatic" idealism concerning the empirical, hence the "empirical realism". The choice of words is unfortunate, however, since "empirical realism" is also one of the two names given by Kant to his own philosophy. The other one came to be much better known, and became its canonical label, the transcendental idealism. But Kant considered "empirical realism" to be equally valid, except that his meaning for it has little to do with what the term means today, which is closer to what is argued for in the Refutation, see Palmquist's Two Perspectives on the Object of Knowledge.

Here is Dicker's reconstruction of the Refutation argument:

1) I am conscious of my own existence in time; that is, I am aware, and can be aware, that I have experiences that occur in a specific temporal order. (premise)

2) I can be aware of having experiences that occur in a specific temporal order only if I perceive something permanent by reference to which I can determine their temporal order. (premise)

3) No conscious state of my own can serve as the permanent entity by reference to which I can determine the temporal order of my experiences. (premise)

4) Time itself cannot serve as this permanent entity by reference to which I can determine the temporal order of my experiences. (premise)

5) If (2), (3), and (4), are true, then I can be aware of having experiences that occur in a specific temporal order only if I perceive persisting objects in space outside me by reference to which I can determine the temporal order of my experiences. (premise)

6) Therefore, I perceive persisting objects in space outside me by reference to which I can determine the temporal order of my experiences. (1–5)

Permanence is required as a baseline for establishing temporal order among past experiences. Conscious states can not play this role, "this permanent something cannot be something in me, for the very reason that my existence in time is itself determined by this permanent something". The empirical "soul", or self, is a collection of appearances arranged in time, the metaphysical soul, along with the immateriality arguments, is dispatched in the Second Paralogism, see What are the problems with the argument for the mind-body dualism from immateriality of thoughts? The noumenal self is moot to the kind of "metaphysical" idealism that Kant is dealing with here. The entire argument concerns the realm of appearances, in space and time, we are talking about realism vs idealism about appearances, the noumena are out of the picture. Time itself can not supply the permanence either, for "time by itself is not perceived... Hence it follows that consciousness in time is necessarily connected also with the existence of things without me".

There are three common objections. One might suggest that the memory is unreliable, and hence reject premise 1). One can argue, contra premise 3), that conscious states (empirical ones, we are not talking about the "soul" here) can function as the permanent baseline in lieu of the external things. Kant could reply, I suppose, that this is highly implausible due to general obscurity of introspection (and Wittgenstein would agree). But, on Berkeley's view, the "external things", including clocks, are subject's mental states too, esse est percipi. So Kant's refutation falls short of its intended target. Finally, the "permanence", if established at all, is only of relative quality, flashing mental time stamps would suffice for establishing the temporal order too. See SEP discussion for more details. A recent defense of the argument is in Refutation of Idealism and the Distinction between Phenomena and Noumena by Edmundts in the Cambridge Companion to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

  • "one of the two names given by Kant to his own philosophy" Does Kant, then, never, himself, refer to his work as the Critical Philosophy? – user26700 Jun 9 '17 at 21:42
  • Thank you! Although now I have objections to Kant's argument (contra premise 3) , your answer was helpful in understanding the argument in the first place. – infatuated Jun 10 '17 at 10:30
  • 1
    @Dwarf: Arguably most prominent quote with this term: “It sounds arrogant, self- seeking, and for those who have not yet relinquished their old system, belittling, to assert: that prior to the development of critical philosophy there had been no philosophy at all” (6:206) - Conifold is correct when including the qualification "within both editions of the Critique of Pure Reason", though. – Philip Klöcking Jun 10 '17 at 13:27
  • Where did you get "within both editions of the Critique of Pure Reason" from? Do you mean he would be almost correct is he added that "qualification?" I believe Kant often refers to his work, and even primarily, by that title, Critical Philosophy, in other works, such as KPR. – user26700 Jun 12 '17 at 16:50
  • Kant is fond of calling his philosophy critical in contrast to the previous "dogmatic" philosophies. But this is not exactly a label. Presumably, Hume, who awakened Kant from his "dogmatic slumber", was also "critical", and so were classical German idealists. But they were not transcendental idealists. This label is much more loaded and specific to Kant (see Palmquist), and was claimed by neo-Kantians and Husserl as his "successors". – Conifold Jun 15 '17 at 19:22
1

"Maybe it has to do with the Kant's argument that the pure self like other noumena is unknowable."

Yea. He's excluding the moral self or "constitution" from science. From the clear and distinct. Fitting it to Newtonian physics, i.e., to the non-metaphysical physics, as Kant understood it.


One might try to think it over next to the way he handles the "empirical" argument about the absolute reliability of the other chief "condition for the possibility," space.

It strikes me that the argument that we know we have passed through space, even if all the time we have been rolling, while asleep, in our carriage, unconscious, is empirical in the sense of common-sense experiencing. You get out of the carriage, you are no longer in the far-North, but over by Berlin, OK, you can be sure space was always "there". That makes "empirical", a common sense, rather than a theoretical measure. I think the point is that empirical originally meant rough experiential evidence, more like "brute fact" evidence. Likely the connotation we have of empirical, i.e., scientific, both misleads us and is correct. It's correct because after Kant science is always relative to space time in this kind of brute fashion, but it wasn't that before, or, as it were, during Kant's time.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.