The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

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The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 7th, 2015, 1:33 pm 

The Copernican Revolution refers primarily to a paradigm shift in astronomy. Before Copernicus, it was assumed that the sun revolved around the earth. Afterwards, it was realized that the converse was the case. Kant described his own “Copernican Revolution” wherein he maintained that “objects do not determine cognition, but rather cognition determines objects.” In this context, by “objects” Kant meant things that we think exist outside of us. By “cognition,” he meant the conscious experience of objects. Kant was, in effect, saying that what we call objects are really only mental impressions that cannot be equated with anything that may lie outside of us (things in themselves). This denies that the senses give us knowledge as a matter of a correspondence of any kind with external reality. Our world is the world of phenomena (appearances, mental impressions) that embrace no part of things as they really are (noumena). Kant claimed that his epiphany was the realization that causation, as well as time and space, were phenomena and not noumena.

What Kant was actually trying to achieve with all this was an accommodation between science and religion. He labored to make causal determinism compatible with the existence of God and with a morality dependent on free will. The world of things in themselves was the place he made for God and morality. However, the incoherence of the distinction between phenomena and noumena--particularly as it affects the reality of causation, time and space--has not escaped the attention of critics.

Doubts regarding the veracity of sensations did not originate with Kant. Both Berkeley and Hume opined that the experience of shape and size, as given by the sense of touch, was not the same as that provided by sight. Hence, they concluded that a blind person whose sight was restored could not correlate the sense of shape as given by touch with that given by sight. Individual cases over the years have established not only that this is the case but also that one who is blind from early childhood and whose sight is restored much later in adulthood can make no sense of the neurological information provided by the eyes.

It appears that the occipital lobe of the brain has the power to give shape and comprehensibility to this information. However, the brain must learn to do this over time. Absent continual visual stimulation, the occipital lobe may lose this power and never regain it. This is yet another example of the fact that human potential must be actualized by appropriate experience. Thus, we see that feral children deprived of human contact and raised by lower animals will never learn to speak fluently, whatever their potential intelligence. Indeed, if this were Shakespeare’s lot, he would never have learned to read and write.

At first blush, it may seem that these circumstances confirm the Kantian analysis. However, it is not quite that simple. Kant tells us the “Inner sense [of time]…represents to consciousness even our own selves only as we appear to ourselves, not as we are in ourselves. For we intuit ourselves only as we are inwardly affected…In inner sense, one is conscious of oneself only as one appears to oneself, not as one is.”

Thus, Kant argues that our experience of consciousness in its temporality and of our very selves is merely an appearance (phenomenon) even though it is experienced without the intercession of the senses. It would seem to follow from this that we have an unknowable self that is a noumenon. As such, it would not only be without spatial extension but also utterly timeless. This supposed state of affairs necessitates the preposterous conclusion that all of the content of our consciousness is, in reality, embraced in a singularity. Accordingly, all that was stated in the previous two paragraphs are only appearances of things and not things as they really are. This is so because all the empirical evidence contained therein requires temporal succession.

To put it another way, the fact that experience, or the lack thereof, seems to change the character of consciousness is a clear indication that the latter contains temporal succession and hence cannot be a noumenon; for if it were, it would be a timeless (and hence unalterable) singularity. The additional fact that the changing forms of consciousness are contemporaneously conjoined with physical processes in the brain, according to Kant, would give only the appearance that these processes are the cause of the various conscious states. As it were, Kantianism trips over itself if it accepts any kind of empirical evidence to support the distinction between phenomena and noumena.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Braininvat on January 7th, 2015, 2:37 pm 

Yep. Thinking along these lines preceded Darwin and so there wasn't much consideration given to the idea that there might be a selective advantage to brains that create a phenomenal world that is a close match with the noumenon. In a world that is ever-changing, time is real to the degree that some rates of change are consistent and regular. A brain that is "in tune" with these regularities in change in the environment has a better chance of passing along its genes. A brain that is awestruck at a timeless world tends to get eaten by a tiger.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby owleye on January 7th, 2015, 4:36 pm 

Braininvat » Wed Jan 07, 2015 12:37 pm wrote:Yep. Thinking along these lines preceded Darwin and so there wasn't much consideration given to the idea that there might be a selective advantage to brains that create a phenomenal world that is a close match with the noumenon. In a world that is ever-changing, time is real to the degree that some rates of change are consistent and regular. A brain that is "in tune" with these regularities in change in the environment has a better chance of passing along its genes. A brain that is awestruck at a timeless world tends to get eaten by a tiger.


Note that I'm not on board with Neri's interpretation of Kant, as usual, and I don't wish to engage him any further than I already have over the years, knowing how frustrating that has been. I quite agree that the Naturalist Darwin would have undermined the a priori aspect of Kant's argument. Given this, Kant, had he lived, would have had to transform his ideas in such a way that biology would fit better within it. My guess is that he would have dropped the a priori aspect and instead relied on an inner determination developed around what would become a genetic endowment. Instead of the categories of understanding and the forms of intuition being a priori, he would somehow allow that humans, because of their particular genetic endowment, create the conditions for the possibility of their having experiences. Very little else would need to be changed. At most, he would have to become more empiricist to maintain his system, something he was doing toward the end of his life anyway. Of greater interest, as it turns out, is the effect of a change in logic (Frege) and the development of mathematics in the 19th century. This would have had a profound effect,, causing him to reconsider the possibility of the existence of time and space solely within human experience (consciousness).
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 10th, 2015, 9:16 am 

Sorry for the late reply. I was otherwise occupied.

Braininvat,

Good post. You appreciate the crux of the problem--although it goes a lot deeper that Kant’s ignorance of evolution.

James,

I am afraid that I do not completely agree with comments. In particular, I do not think it would have made any difference to Kant if he knew about evolution.

Kant’s basic notion that time, space and causation were creations of the mind that were conditions precedent to all understanding was fundamentally anti-realistic. This necessarily means that things as they really are [things in themselves] are unknowable. To Kant, all science concerned itself only with appearances [phenomena] and was not capable of knowing things in themselves [noumena]. There is no reason to think that biology in general and evolution in particular would have been any exception.

Kantianism would hold that individual living things, species and biological structures and functions were only appearances and nothing real in their own right. In fact, Kant went so far as to say that the way we experience our own consciousness is itself a phenomenon, for the mind is not at all as it appears to us; so that we are not only excluded from knowing what things outside of us really are but also are excluded from knowing what we ourselves really are. This essentially says that “we only think that we think” [for thought as experienced is a temporal succession and Kant excludes time from the real world].

Further, the notion of the survival of the fittest, which is pivotal to evolution, necessarily means that there are real conditions [noumena] outside us that are a danger to our continued existence, not only as individuals but also as a species. To Kant’s way of thinking, however, such conditions cannot be real, because time is no part of the real world. In other words, nothing can do us harm in a timeless world, simply because nothing can happen there. This was as incoherent in the 18th Century as it is in the 21st Century.

For example, reason would dictate that if a man stands in front of a speeding carriage and is run down, he will either be killed or seriously injured. Yet, to Kant, all of this is mere appearance, for in a timeless world the carriage could never close the distance between it and the man. Time is just the “inner sense” that creates the illusion of motion, not only in whatever may lie outside of us but also in the very progression of our own thoughts. Now, if as a result of the collision with the carriage, the man appears to be dead to all outside observers—he must appear to be dead to himself. But, to say that it appears to him that he is dead is nonsense; for if it appeared to him that he was dead, nothing would appear to him in the first place.

It has always been a source of amazement to me that this Kantian business of phenomena-noumena has been taken seriously by so many generations of philosophers.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Braininvat on January 10th, 2015, 4:12 pm 

I sense some kind of semantic trickery in that penultimate paragraph. A harsh interpretation of Kant. Will check back when I'm not typing on touchscreen.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Positor on January 13th, 2015, 11:42 am 

Neri » January 10th, 2015, 1:16 pm wrote:I am afraid that I do not completely agree with comments. In particular, I do not think it would have made any difference to Kant if he knew about evolution.

Kant’s basic notion that time, space and causation were creations of the mind that were conditions precedent to all understanding was fundamentally anti-realistic. This necessarily means that things as they really are [things in themselves] are unknowable. To Kant, all science concerned itself only with appearances [phenomena] and was not capable of knowing things in themselves [noumena]. There is no reason to think that biology in general and evolution in particular would have been any exception.

I raised the same point in a thread of mine some time ago:

http://www.sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=23744

Note in particular owleye's and yadayada's posts in that thread.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby owleye on January 13th, 2015, 4:17 pm 

Positor..

Though I'm able to stand by my response in this topic, I feel obliged to say I've evolved a bit. For one thing, Kant can be understood in today's philosophical milieu within his own writings and there's no need to naturalize him for the purposes of moving Kant forward, even though I think Kant, had he lived long enough would have been forced to alter his system, and would have, in the manner I believe he was doing toward the end of his life. (Note that science was advancing quite rapidly, and Kant was trying to keep up with it, making interesting observations about the atomic nature of existence as well as about the nature of the ether, which at the time was a hot topic.)

In any case, Kant scholars, and there are many, take seriously the systematic treatment that Kant offers his readers despite that certain parts of his system were criticized even within his time and where he was forced to respond to them (the main one being the noumena).

In particular, and the main point of disagreement with Neri's rather wild interpretation, is that the existence of things in the world brought to us in our experience of the world, are associated with objects themselves that exist independently of us. In Kant's refutation of idealism of Berkeley or Leibniz he specifically points out that it would be ridiculous to regard appearances as the object of our experience, when in fact it is always the case that such appearance has to be the appearance of something (when it is so understood). And it is this 'something' of which the appearance is an appearance of that is linked initially as a noumenal counterpart of that something -- namely that aspect of the something that appears to us which we can't know "in itself". Nevertheless, Neri is completely off-target when he thinks all we can know is what is experienced phenomenally. We assume, quite legitimately that if our senses pick up a red sensation in a certain quadrant of our visual field, we would conclude that if it represents a property of something external to us, then it must be the case that there is an object which exhibits to us its red property (informatively considered). Kant is not Berkeley. Kant is actually ahead of his time. While not officially a phenomenologist, both Husserl and Heidegger, especially the latter, are highly influenced by him. The 'Time' in Heidegger's famous "Being and Time" is none other than Kant's "Time."

I'll also note that this view has been challenged in a quantum-theoretic setting of the nature of reality of the very small. That is, it does so, unless one takes quantum theory as represents only an epistemic understanding of reality and not an ontic one.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 14th, 2015, 11:58 am 

Positor’s observations are quite correct. No one who really understands Kant would disagree.

Kant’s assertion that he is an “empirical realist” is contradictory when taken in conjunction with his claim that causation, time and space are creations of the mind that do not exist outside of the mind. His sole claim to the quoted appellation is his admission that there are “things” outside of us. He repeats over and over again that we can know nothing of what lies outside of us, yet he says that what lies outside of us are “things” and not one continuous thing. Thus, he ascribes plurality to external reality—even though he later says that plurality is a “concept of understanding” included purely in our mental framework. Kant never explains this contradiction. Indeed, plurality cannot be real-in-itself unless space is real-in-itself, and therein lies the problem.

James [Owleye not William] tells us that Kant was not fundamentally an idealist, because what he calls our “experience of an object” must be “an appearance of something.” The problem with this is that Kant never tells us what this “something” contributes to the “appearance.” If the “something” and the “appearance” in no way correspond, how can the appearance be of anything more than what is already in the mind? This Kant does not explain.

If we say that the “something” contributes to the “appearance,” but we cannot know what that contribution may be—we are still left with the question: How does the contribution take place in the absence of time, space and causality?

Whatever this contribution may be, it must result only when a “thing-in-itself” is before the senses. Hence, the thing-in-itself must somehow cause the contribution [whatever it may be] to the appearance. This must mean that causation is real in itself and cannot be a contribution to the appearance made solely by the mind, as Kant claims.

Further, in the case of sight in particular, the contribution provided by the thing-in-itself must somehow move from the thing-in-itself to the eyes. This is a problem for Kant, because he denies that motion is real in itself [as a necessary consequence of his claim that neither space nor time is real in itself]. Clearly, the contribution cannot move from the thing-in-itself to the eyes unless time, space and causation are conditions of every thing-in-itself; for to cause anything, something originating in a thing-in-itself must move through space in a time certain in order to reach the eyes and thereby make its contribution to the appearance.

As has been pointed out, to be plural, things-in-themselves must be spatially separate in themselves, and this cannot be the case unless space is a real condition of thing-in-themselves. Additionally, only a single thing-in-itself could have the power to be before the senses if time were not a real condition of all things-in-themselves; for it is only time that can allow multiple encounters between the senses and any other individual thing-in-itself [in that the encounters must occur "on separate occasions."]

Unfortunately, Kant’s claim that he is an empirical realist is nominal at best [as where comparison with Berkeley is concerned] and incoherent at worst [when considered in conjunction with his view of the ideality of time, space and causation].
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 14th, 2015, 8:57 pm 

Having re-read my last post, I see that in my haste I inartfully expressed [in the second from last paragraph] the necessity for time in my analysis. What I intended to convey was the following:

“Without time, all things ever experienced by way of the senses would have to be experienced in a single instant. There cannot be a series of separate encounters with other things-in-themselves, for such a series would have to be a temporal one.”
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby owleye on January 14th, 2015, 11:44 pm 

Neri...

Here's one quote that should disabuse you from trying to draw the faulty comparison you somehow wish to emphasize:

This is from his discussion of 'external objects':

Kant wrote:Appearances, so far as they are thought as objects according to the unity of the categories, are called phenomena. But if I postulate things which are mere objects of understanding, and which, nevertheless, can be given as such to an intuition, although not to one that is sensible ... such things would be entitled noumena. ...

If the senses represent to us something merely as it appears, this something must also in itself be a thing, and an object of a non-sensible intuition, that is, of the understanding. In other words, a [kind of] knowledge must be possible, in which there is no sensibility, and which alone has reality that is absolutely objective. Through its objects will be represented as they are, whereas in the empirical employment of our understanding things will be known only as they appear. ...


Please note that Kant is speaking epistemically about objects of our experience -- the phenomena. They are also spoken of epistemically in the sense in which these objects, absent the forms of intuition that go into our experience of them, are not knowable in themselves. When our mind applies the category 'reality' to what is sensibly experienced, it refers to objects that we otherwise can't know anything about. Kant doesn't actually have the notion of reference within his system -- this is a Fregean touch --, instead Kant would use the term 'represent', which is the same term used in neuroscience and most theories of perception to indicate that our experience is a unity of a collection of representations.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 15th, 2015, 11:20 am 

James,

The quotes you provide are inapposite in that they concern knowledge “in which there is no sensibility” or “an object of non-sensible intuition. Here I think Kant must be referring to moral duty or some such thing. Although you have not provided a citation, I suspect the quotes may be from the Critique of Practical Reason, but I am not sure. At any rate, we instantly concern ourselves with “objects of sensible intuition”—that is, phenomena resulting from sensory encounters with real things outside of us.

I will now treat your own comments [even though there is not much in them that has anything to do with the quotes you provide].

Your use of the expression, “otherwise” is misplaced. Kant is clear that, with or without sensible intuitions, we can know nothing about things as they really are. That is, although a sense object may be said to “represent” a real object, it does not really resemble it in any way. To put it more precisely, our sensory encounters with real objects do not contribute anything to our experience of the object--even though, according to Kant, our minds would not form that experience absent that confrontation. As I explained in my previous post, this lack of correspondence between an object of sense and a real object (thing-in-itself) is traceable to Kant’s insistence that that time, space and causation are neither real objects nor conditions of real objects but rather pure creations of the mind.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Braininvat on January 15th, 2015, 2:20 pm 

The modern bandaid on Kant's notion of time is having the noumenon be a timeless Block universe, where what we call time is actually a physical landscape which the mind traverses and then construes the mile markers as temporal units. IOW, our idea of time is indeed a creation of the mind, and actual time is not a dynamic flow of events but rather a vast static landscape of already determined event/objects. I don't favor this idea, myself, just pointing out how a Kant supporter might try to upgrade his phenomenal/noumenal divide.

Representation, in this modern revision, would mean the brain constructing a narrative flow from its travel over a static landscape. I think the analogy of a flipbook, creating the illusion of a little movie, is often invoked. It's fun to play with, but for me, it doesn't get you anywhere worth going.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby DragonFly on January 15th, 2015, 4:42 pm 

Well, if there wasn't something to take in from "out there", we wouldn't have senses.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 15th, 2015, 6:14 pm 

Braininvat,

As to the point you raise, Popper said it best:

“Appealing to his own [Einstein’s] way of expressing things in theological terms, I said: if God had wanted to put everything into the world from the beginning, He would have created a universe without change, without organisms and evolution, and without man and man's experience of change. But He seems to have thought that a live universe with events unexpected even by Himself would be more interesting than a dead one.”

—Karl Popper, Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Positor on January 16th, 2015, 9:34 am 

Neri » January 15th, 2015, 3:20 pm wrote:James,

The quotes you provide are inapposite in that they concern knowledge “in which there is no sensibility” or “an object of non-sensible intuition. Here I think Kant must be referring to moral duty or some such thing.

But the second quote states:
Kant wrote:If the senses represent to us something merely as it appears, this something must also in itself be a thing, and an object of a non-sensible intuition, that is, of the understanding.

Kant seems to be referring here to noumena that are related to sensory phenomena. If so, I am puzzled by his following statement "a [kind of] knowledge must be possible, in which there is no sensibility". In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant insists that we cannot have knowledge of noumena, although we can think about them. In other words, we can logically deduce their bare existence in a rationalistic way (from the fact that appearances must be "of something"), but we cannot know them empirically; we cannot know any of their properties beyond the bare fact that they cause or ground phenomena. If the quote is indeed from the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant seems to have changed his use of the word 'knowledge'.


James,

Are you interpreting Kant to mean that each individual phenomenon (appearance of a thing) corresponds to an individual noumenon (that thing itself)? If so, I think this is problematic. I can elaborate on this if necessary.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 16th, 2015, 9:35 am 

Quite right, DragonFly. Kant’s analysis renders the senses utterly useless.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 16th, 2015, 9:43 am 

Positor.

Kant may mean an understanding of duty—I do not know. Perhaps James can enlighten us by providing the source and context of the quote.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby owleye on January 16th, 2015, 12:13 pm 

Neri » Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:20 am wrote:James,

The quotes you provide are inapposite in that they concern knowledge “in which there is no sensibility” or “an object of non-sensible intuition. Here I think Kant must be referring to moral duty or some such thing. Although you have not provided a citation, I suspect the quotes may be from the Critique of Practical Reason, but I am not sure. At any rate, we instantly concern ourselves with “objects of sensible intuition”—that is, phenomena resulting from sensory encounters with real things outside of us.

I will now treat your own comments [even though there is not much in them that has anything to do with the quotes you provide].

Your use of the expression, “otherwise” is misplaced. Kant is clear that, with or without sensible intuitions, we can know nothing about things as they really are. That is, although a sense object may be said to “represent” a real object, it does not really resemble it in any way. To put it more precisely, our sensory encounters with real objects do not contribute anything to our experience of the object--even though, according to Kant, our minds would not form that experience absent that confrontation. As I explained in my previous post, this lack of correspondence between an object of sense and a real object (thing-in-itself) is traceable to Kant’s insistence that that time, space and causation are neither real objects nor conditions of real objects but rather pure creations of the mind.


I'm afraid I don't understand the significance of this. What's real is a category imposed by the mind and represents the way our mind judges that objects in experience are real, existing independently of us, even though we experience them phenomenally. Perhaps because you think that just because the mind creates the experience of a world phenomenally, that world must be a fantasy world, an illusion, if you like. Well, as far as I'm concerned you haven't bothered reading the CPR. True, Kant's noumenal concept met with a lot of criticism, but over time he altered it to a two-standpoint (or Two-Aspect) concept in which external objects could be thought of from the standpoint of one or another aspect and that are taken by our mind to apply to the very same object. This move clarifies what Kant really had in mind, in my view. The point being that you should be able to understand this, since it is easily enough understood. Anyone can understand that the mind is capable of viewing things from different perspectives.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby owleye on January 16th, 2015, 12:45 pm 

Positor » Fri Jan 16, 2015 7:34 am wrote:James,

Are you interpreting Kant to mean that each individual phenomenon (appearance of a thing) corresponds to an individual noumenon (that thing itself)? If so, I think this is problematic. I can elaborate on this if necessary.


The problem being addressed is the reality of external objects within Kant's transcendental idealism. Kant has our mind imposing reality onto to external objects when it understands that they exist independent of us. The moon would be real on that basis, for example. It can at some point withdraw that category should it discover that, for example, the tooth fairy doesn't really exist.

Because this is a feature of our mind, many, including Neri, think that it must all be a fantasy. It's as if the mind doesn't actually receive anything from world at all and makes it all up. Kant can't be an empiricist regarding knowledge. Well, I think such folks haven't really read the CPR, seeing as how Kant goes to great lengths in a number of places to refute this conclusion. It's true that Kant's noumena is controversial at best, and Kant, from the criticism he received, eventually found a clarification that would allow a better understanding of what he was getting at: namely the two-standpoint (or Two-Aspect) idea of what the mind is capable of, wherein the same object can be viewed from two aspects or two perspectives. In doing so, the same object considered real, but phenomenally represented, is real when considered as a thing in itself.

The moon, as a thing in itself, is not knowable, according to Kant. If you recall, Leibniz held out for windowless monads, one where the moon would have a form of consciousness in its inner core. This idea is how Kant launches his moral theory, which is basically his main objective, except that Kant restricts it to humans, and human consciousness. For the moon, the thing-in-itself term is a bit unfortunate. The idea of 'in itself' represents a sense in which there is an 'inside', or 'other side' to reality, one that consciousness can only refer to, but can't actually get at. Though it might lead us to think that the moon is some windowless monad, there's something to this idea, seeing as how we continue to ask as we gain more knowledge of things at ever finer levels, that we're not actually getting at the object itself, but rather getting at only its properties. Note that I think it would be better to say the object is not knowable itself, rather than 'in itself'. (In any case, some scientists have not bothered to regard objects as existing at all, but merely bundles of some or another property. The properties they are alleged to exist without their being attached to any object, despite their association. It sounds weird to say this, but that's what one interpretation of quantum theory says of these objects.)
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 16th, 2015, 1:17 pm 

James,

If by “CPR” you mean “Critique of Practical Reason,” I take it that your quotes were taken from that source. If so, you are “comparing apples with oranges”—that is, comparing the internal experience of free will with the experience derived from sensory encounters with real things outside of us.

Below Kant states the objections to his view, on the one hand, of the self as phenomenon [in The Critique of Pure Reason] and, on the other hand, as noumenon [in The Critique of Practical Reason] where free will and morality are concerned:

“…the most considerable
objections which I have as yet met with against the
Critique [of Practical Reason] turn about these two points, namely, on the one
side, the objective reality of the categories as applied to
noumena, which is in the theoretical department of
knowledge denied, in the practical affirmed; and on the other side,
the paradoxical demand to regard oneself qua
subject of freedom as a noumenon, and at the same time
from the point of view of physical nature as a phenomenon
in one’s own empirical consciousness; for as long
as one has formed no definite notions of morality and
freedom, one could not conjecture on the one side what
was intended to be the noumenon, the basis of the alleged
phenomenon, and on the other side it seemed
doubtful whether it was at all possible to form any notion
of it, seeing that we had previously assigned all the
notions of the pure understanding in its theoretical use
exclusively to phenomena.”
The Critique of Practical Reason by Immanuel Kant
translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott (1788); page 6.

Unfortunately, Kant never satisfactorily resolves this ontological conundrum.

However, it is abundantly clear that the experience of the moon (to use your example) does not involve an exercise of free will in making moral choices and therefore would not be considered as corresponding to a noumenon even in the “CPR.”
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 16th, 2015, 2:24 pm 

James,

I should like to add that if I had not “bothered to read” the Critique of Practical Reason, I would not have perceived that the concealed source of your quotes was in fact that critique. Reluctantly, I must say that your failure to supply the source and context of those quotes was not in the best traditions of intellectual honesty.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby owleye on January 16th, 2015, 5:48 pm 

Neri » Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:17 am wrote:James,

If by “CPR” you mean “Critique of Practical Reason,” I take it that your quotes were taken from that source. If so, you are “comparing apples with oranges”—that is, comparing the internal experience of free will with the experience derived from sensory encounters with real things outside of us.

Below Kant states the objections to his view, on the one hand, of the self as phenomenon [in The Critique of Pure Reason] and, on the other hand, as noumenon [in The Critique of Practical Reason] where free will and morality are concerned:

“…the most considerable
objections which I have as yet met with against the
Critique [of Practical Reason] turn about these two points, namely, on the one
side, the objective reality of the categories as applied to
noumena, which is in the theoretical department of
knowledge denied, in the practical affirmed; and on the other side,
the paradoxical demand to regard oneself qua
subject of freedom as a noumenon, and at the same time
from the point of view of physical nature as a phenomenon
in one’s own empirical consciousness; for as long
as one has formed no definite notions of morality and
freedom, one could not conjecture on the one side what
was intended to be the noumenon, the basis of the alleged
phenomenon, and on the other side it seemed
doubtful whether it was at all possible to form any notion
of it, seeing that we had previously assigned all the
notions of the pure understanding in its theoretical use
exclusively to phenomena.”
The Critique of Practical Reason by Immanuel Kant
translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott (1788); page 6.

Unfortunately, Kant never satisfactorily resolves this ontological conundrum.

However, it is abundantly clear that the experience of the moon (to use your example) does not involve an exercise of free will in making moral choices and therefore would not be considered as corresponding to a noumenon even in the “CPR.”


Well, to be sure I wasn't able to find the references in the CPR (Critique of Pure Reason) which the site that passed it along, which I subsequently cited, but as I saw them as representative of the many references to external objects in the CPR, I passed in along. That you resort to the Critique of Practical Reason to affirm your stance on the topic, feeling free to dismiss Kant's construction as pure fantasy, well, that's your prerogative, of course, In matters of epistemology and metaphysics, I would think you would get your guidance from the CPR.

No matter. I'm not seeing the problem you do regarding the passage cited. First, it is not about external objects, but instead it is about the inner experience of one's own self, and whether the categories and the forms of intuition apply to them -- i.e., whether it represents an empirical observation about which we can have knowledge. And he denies this. Moreover, he allows the conundrum you speak of only insofar as reason hasn't formed any moral basis for its thinking that perhaps they should apply. The noumenal aspect of this addresses human consciousness, with its apparent ego associated with it, and hasn't yet pinned down what it is that such consciousness is about, which, of course, is what goes into the moral basis of humans. Kant's whole project is to find a way of making it possible for both knowledge of the starry heavens above (and the laws which guide it) with the freedom of our moral sphere. He does this by denying knowledge to the noumenal aspect of consciousness -- the inner us -- and, in considering the freedom it gives us (as opposed to the necessity we are bound by in the real world), is able to build a practical (moral) edifice around the notion of free-will where reason forms the laws of freedom, such laws being imperatives to humans, not necessary, like physical laws.

Don't know why you think Kant never resolves this.

Another way of understanding all this is that we have two sides to us -- one real (the physical part of us) and one ideal. They occupy different regions within us, where the practical side of us is directed to making what is real ideal by the actions we take when we are governed by our moral imperatives. Kant doesn't have a dualist ontology here, since he is speaking of one and the same thing, but it's true that he thinks it is only a feature of humans (generally) to have the kind of freedom that supports his so-called moral law within us. Thus, inner experience of the self is reserved for humans. (That it might extend to some primates or other species wouldn't be a huge problem for Kant.)
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 17th, 2015, 9:45 am 

James,


I am sorry to say that the comments in your last post are largely an effort to change the subject. The matter at hand is “The Cartesian Revolution and the Senses.” This is a subject covered in the Critique of Pure Reason [first critique] and not in the Critique of Practical reason [second critique] which embraces Kant’s views on morality and free will. [I presume that you now admit that your quotes were taken from the Critique of Practical Reason.] In other words, the question before us is “what is” and not “what ought to be.” While I have no reluctance to discuss Kant’s ideas on morality, that subject is not germane to the present inquiry.


However, because I mentioned in passing that the application of the principles contained in the first critique result in an unresolved paradox when applied to the second, I feel obliged to explain what I meant. The problem may be stated clearly [that is, without the opacity of Kant’s diction] as follows:


Kant tells us in the first critique that knowledge cannot be achieved by pure reason but instead requires sensory encounters with external reality. The sensory impressions arising from those encounters are said to be conditioned by certain categories native to our thought processes. These are said to make those sensory impressions understandably to us. However, this process, Kant tells us, does not yield knowledge as a correspondence to reality. In the second critique, Kant posits a categorical imperative as the very expression of morality. This holds that one should act only according to those maxims that can be consistently willed as a universal law. Kant does not tell us in detail what these maxims may be. The categorical imperative, he says, is valid as a matter of correspondence with reality, because it arises from “pure practical reason.” How this may differ from “pure reason” Kant never tells us--except to say that the categorical imperative reveals the supersensible power of the freedom of the will. Some of his exposition seems to argue that all reason is the same. If this is so, we are not provided with an explanation as to why reason gives us a window to reality in the moral realm, when the application of the principles of the first critique give us only the appearance of reality.


Returning to the issues posited in my OP, I should like to emphasize that I do not consider phenomena (as that expression is understood by Kant) to be purely a matter of fancy [a position you have erroneously ascribed to me]. To Kant, a phenomenon is what is real to us but not real in itself. It is also objective, but only in the sense that phenomenal experience is common to us all. Taken epistemically, it is proper to say that the truth of any proposition concerning a phenomenon is a matter of intellectual coherence but not a matter of correspondence to anything belonging to a noumenon. The fact that phenomena appear real to us all is not a matter of “perspective” but rather a matter of the limitations of the cognitive framework native to the human mind. In fact, Kant never uses the word “perspective” in this connection. Further, to say that a noumenon is “real in itself” must mean that its reality does not depend on perspectives of any kind.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby owleye on January 17th, 2015, 10:41 am 

Neri...

Not sure why all the fuss regarding passages that I was unable to find their source. You apparently found them in the Critique of Practical Reason. Fine. This fact doesn't mean that I found the passages any less relevant to the Critique of Pure Reason. Kant has written many books, and he needs to tie them together into one grand scheme. As far as I can tell the passages could have been from the Critique of Pure Reason. They just happen to appear in the book he was currently writing which turns out not to be the first or second versions of the CPR. I fail to see why this should throw you off. The Cartesian Revolution comparison depends very much on an understanding of Kant's project as outlined and specified in the CPR. He presents his case in the Introduction for this interpretation and he defends it by his transcendental arguments.

But I want to consider what you write in your last post: You say: "To Kant, a phenomenon is what is real to us but not real in itself." I think this is a bad reading of what Kant is depicting. A phenomenon can be a representation of what is real, empirically understood, but this doesn't exclude that what the representation represented as real is not also a thing in itself. In its noumenal treatment, Kant has considerable difficulty expressing it, but as he moves toward the dual aspect theory of external objects, it becomes easier to understand what he is getting at. External objects deemed to be real from its phenomenal representation are also the same objects looked at from the perspective of a thing-in-itself.

Well, Kant himself says that there is a correspondence between what is thought about some external object and the very same external object. What I would grant is that if one is viewing it from Kant's transcendental construction, such objects are largely given to us through a coherent picture of the world. However, this view has to be tempered seeing as how experience itself is affected in some unknowable way by the world of objects that exist independent of us. There is a contingency to that picture. Kant retains the view that all knowledge derives from experience, and that part of this involves the world itself somehow affecting us, producing within us certain sensations that cause them to be placed within a framework of time and space. In turn, the concepts and categories are applied to these sensations to form a phenomenal picture of objects that represents in some way what is actually going on independently of us.

With respect to Kant not using the term 'perspective', I think you are being overly pedantic. Though not so much in the CPR, I believe in the passages that you found in the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant began the move toward his aspect theory. My memory, however, is not all that good. However, by the time he reaches "The Metaphysics of Morals", it is clear that he speaks of two standpoints. The Stanford site speaks to this.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 17th, 2015, 10:50 am 

James,

See my post of January 14th.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Positor on January 17th, 2015, 11:00 pm 

owleye » January 16th, 2015, 4:45 pm wrote:The moon, as a thing in itself, is not knowable, according to Kant. If you recall, Leibniz held out for windowless monads, one where the moon would have a form of consciousness in its inner core. This idea is how Kant launches his moral theory, which is basically his main objective, except that Kant restricts it to humans, and human consciousness. For the moon, the thing-in-itself term is a bit unfortunate. The idea of 'in itself' represents a sense in which there is an 'inside', or 'other side' to reality, one that consciousness can only refer to, but can't actually get at. Though it might lead us to think that the moon is some windowless monad, there's something to this idea, seeing as how we continue to ask as we gain more knowledge of things at ever finer levels, that we're not actually getting at the object itself, but rather getting at only its properties. Note that I think it would be better to say the object is not knowable itself, rather than 'in itself'.

You distinguish between the 'moon itself' and its properties. But I would say the moon (itself) is the sum of its (intrinsic) properties. If the idea of the moon having consciousness (or any other exotic transcendent property) is ruled out, then all its intrinsic properties are physical, and discoverable by us in principle. Therefore, if we could discover all its properties, down to the smallest subatomic detail, we would therefore empirically know it 'itself'. Meanwhile, we have partial knowledge of the moon 'itself', to the extent that we know some of its properties.

The problem with this 'analog' interpretation of the noumena/phenomena relation is that it seems to me indistinguishable from straightforward realism. If there is nothing unknowable in principle about the moon itself, there seems no room for 'transcendental idealism' (at least as far as non-conscious objects are concerned). The more we discover about the moon, the more exact the mapping between its sensible properties and its intrinsic properties.

An alternative interpretation ('digital', as it were), preserving transcendental idealism, would be to regard the noumenal realm (that of things-in-themselves or things-themselves) as a kind of 'code' or 'algorithm' for generating phenomena in human consciousness (somewhat like Dave Oblad's 'mathematical reality'), whose bare existence and causative power we can deduce rationalistically, but which we cannot 'know' empirically. This seems to me more compatible with Kant's position in the Critique of Pure Reason, in which he keeps insisting that we are unable to have any knowledge of things-in-themselves – not because of our scientific ignorance but because the properties of things (in) themselves are absolutely unknowable. For example, see B522 of the Critique of Pure Reason, including the following:

Kant wrote:The non-sensible cause of these representations is completely unknown to us, and hence cannot be intuited as an object.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby owleye on January 18th, 2015, 11:44 am 

Positor » Sat Jan 17, 2015 9:00 pm wrote:You distinguish between the 'moon itself' and its properties. But I would say the moon (itself) is the sum of its (intrinsic) properties. If the idea of the moon having consciousness (or any other exotic transcendent property) is ruled out, then all its intrinsic properties are physical, and discoverable by us in principle. Therefore, if we could discover all its properties, down to the smallest subatomic detail, we would therefore empirically know it 'itself'. Meanwhile, we have partial knowledge of the moon 'itself', to the extent that we know some of its properties.


So, you think that objects don't exist apart from the (essential) properties themselves. Well, this is certainly radical. Properties aren't really properties of things that exist. They are like wings on birds that otherwise don't actually exist. They become the cheshire cat, existing only through its teeth. It more ore less completely eliminates the existence of such objects as the moon about which we only think exists because it just so happens to exhibit properties all at some point in space and time. There's nothing there to make us think that the moon is what has these properties. The moon exists in name only. To adopt this position, I think, one would need an explanation of why these properties come to be bundled together and given to us as if there were an object that had these properties and located at a certain place in space and duration in time.

Positor wrote:The problem with this 'analog' interpretation of the noumena/phenomena relation is that it seems to me indistinguishable from straightforward realism. If there is nothing unknowable in principle about the moon itself, there seems no room for 'transcendental idealism' (at least as far as non-conscious objects are concerned). The more we discover about the moon, the more exact the mapping between its sensible properties and its intrinsic properties.


Why conclude that the moon, as we learn more about it, can't sustain its ontology? Indeed, isn't it reasonable to conclude that because we are learning more about its properties and have identified them with one and the same object, that the object is merely being clarified, not eliminated?
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Neri on January 20th, 2015, 4:49 pm 

To properly understand Kant, one must accept the clear letter of his work, whether or not it results in anomalies [as Positor has done] rather than engage in a kind of revisionism that seeks to mitigate those anomalies by imaging that Kant was a representative realist instead of the idealist he actually was [as unfortunately James has done]. Also, one must understand that Kant posited the phenomena-noumena distinction for basically religious reasons.

James declares that Kant does not “exclude that what the representation represented as real is not also a thing in itself” and “Kant himself says that there is a correspondence between what is thought about some external object and the very same external object.” The following quotes should disabuse James of such notions:

“Our sense representation is not a representation of things in themselves, but of the way in which they appear to us.” Prolegomena, Carus Translation, page 34.

"(...) Truth, it is said, consists in the agreement of cognition with its object. In consequence of this mere nominal definition, my cognition, to count as true, is supposed to agree with its object. Now I can compare the object with my cognition, however, only by cognizing it. Hence my cognition is supposed to confirm itself, which is far short of being sufficient for truth. For since the object is outside me, the cognition in me, all I can ever pass judgement on is whether my cognition of the object agrees with my cognition of the object. [Kant, Immanuel (1801), The Jäsche Logic, in Lectures on Logic. Translated and edited by J. Michael Young (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 557-558.]

Kant does not say that sense representation is a representation of things in themselves, as James claims, but rather only a representation of how they appear to us. Further, It should be obvious that Kant’s view of what is “true-to us” as opposed to what is “true-in-itself” necessitates the conclusion that truth cannot consist in any sort of correspondence with things in themselves but can only be a matter of the coherence of our thinking when taken as a whole.

One must understand that Kant’s view of space and time is crucial to an understanding of his philosophy. He speaks of this in the clearest terms:

“…space is not at a quality of things in themselves, but a form of our sensuous faculty of representation; and that all objects in space are mere appearances, that is, not things in themselves but representations of our sensuous intuition.” Prolegomena, ibid., page 35
.
“Space does not represent any property of objects as things in themselves, nor does it represent them in their relations to each other; in other words, space does not represent to us any determination of objects such as attaches to the objects themselves…” Critique of Pure Reason, Meiklejohn Translation. Page 5.

“Time is not something which subsists in itself or which subsists in things as an objective determination…”

“Time is nothing else than the form of the internal sense, that is, of the intuition of self and our internal state.”

“If we abstract our internal intuitions of ourselves…then rime is nothing.”

“We deny to time all claims of absolute reality; that is, we deny that it, without having regard to the form of our sensuous intuition, absolutely adheres in things as a condition or property.”

Critique, ibid. pages 8, 9, 10.

As a necessary consequence of his denial of the independent reality of time and space, Kant also denies that change and motion are real in themselves. Critique ibid. pages 11 and 13.

Kant’s view of time and space has very serious consequences, which I will treat in another post, when time permits.
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby Positor on January 20th, 2015, 5:42 pm 

owleye » January 18th, 2015, 3:44 pm wrote:So, you think that objects don't exist apart from the (essential) properties themselves. Well, this is certainly radical. Properties aren't really properties of things that exist.

No, when I stated that the moon is the sum of its properties I didn't mean that it does not exist as an object. Indeed, it is an object with particular properties. One of the moon's properties is that it consists of various basic physical entities (particles, fields etc) spatially and temporally configured in a particular way. If we knew all its properties, we would know everything about it. To say that there are some things we do not know about the moon is to say that it has some properties that we do not know.

owleye wrote:It more or less completely eliminates the existence of such objects as the moon about which we only think exists because it just so happens to exhibit properties all at some point in space and time. There's nothing there to make us think that the moon is what has these properties. The moon exists in name only. To adopt this position, I think, one would need an explanation of why these properties come to be bundled together and given to us as if there were an object that had these properties and located at a certain place in space and duration in time.

If one adopts the commonsense view that the moon exists as an object (which I do), it does not obviate the need for an explanation. Instead of "why these properties come to be bundled together and given to us as if there were an object that had these properties", the question then becomes "why does there exist an object that has these properties?". Although there is an important philosophical difference between these two questions, scientifically they amount to the same thing; they both ask for an explanation of a macroscopic phenomenon in terms of microscopic ones. The answer will involve fundamental physical entities acting deterministically to produce a higher-level result. The moon does not acquire some special, irreducible, downwardly causative power by virtue of being an 'object'.

owleye wrote:Why conclude that the moon, as we learn more about it, can't sustain its ontology? Indeed, isn't it reasonable to conclude that because we are learning more about its properties and have identified them with one and the same object, that the object is merely being clarified, not eliminated?

Certainly. So I am puzzled by your statement in your previous post that "we continue to ask as we gain more knowledge of things at ever finer levels, that we're not actually getting at the object itself, but rather getting at only its properties". Why are we not getting (gradually) at the object itself? What is there to learn about an object other than its properties (i.e. its constituent objects and the relations between these)?

And if there is something about an object in addition to its properties, why should this 'something' be undiscoverable empirically? In the light of modern science, can we still justify Kant's insistence in the CPR that things (in) themselves (even non-conscious things) are unknowable and cannot be intuited as objects?
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Re: The Copernican Revolution and the Senses

Postby owleye on January 20th, 2015, 9:10 pm 

Positor » Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:42 pm wrote:[quote="[url=http://www.sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=274056#p274056]owleye » January 18th, 2
No, when I stated that the moon is the sum of its properties I didn't mean that it does not exist as an object. One of the moon's properties is that it consists of various basic physical entities (particles, fields etc) spatially and temporally configured in a particular way.


In considering the first sentence above, that changes everything. When referring to objects in experience, this means that properties are what are capable of being known about the object. If an object exists, we know it through the properties it reveals to us. However, I don't believe this means that an object's 'constituency' is a property. If the object exists as a (e.g.,) system of parts, this tells us something about the object. In observing the moon existing, we adopt the position that its being somewhere at sometime are properties of the moon, because space and time in their physical sense are relations (which are properties). Constituency, however, is not a property (at least that's how I see it). If one has an ontology that the moon exists in name only, well, then we have to look at what we think of as existing, which might be what we think of its constitution. However, there are other ontologies arising from an emergence of constituent elements. In any case, as this constituency thing goes deeper and deeper we run into trouble, as you well know.

Since I misinterpreted what you meant, the rest doesn't need a response.
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