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  1. Hi guys, it took me a while to get through the video (in small pieces). I was sort of hoping someone would comment to start a discussion, but I see most of that is over at MoLTV.

    This didn’t really change my opinion of Kant, though it was worth the effort of trying once again. The “two aspects” concept was new to me, having been taught the “two worlds” interpretation.

    As I never had a problem with Hume’s naturalistic “solution” to skepticism, maybe that’s why I don’t see the utility of Kant’s project. The need for it. I mean I don’t completely accept Hume’s position 100%, but I find it acceptable enough and with a few tweaks works just fine.

    I guess I am curious if you were as troubled by Hume, empiricism, or skepticism as Kant was? Is this why you find his work so interesting.

    In the end I still can’t embrace the idea of a priori knowledge (analytic or synthetic), it being better conceived of as definitions and logical relations based on those definitions… which we do in fact learn, or generate based on experiences. Sure you can start running with it once you’ve gained the ability to work with the abstract, but that does not place it before experience in some relevant sense.

    Nor do I fully embrace Kant’s noumenal concept. That there are objects with characteristics we may not have access to, and other beings might, seems straightforward. Further, that some beings might have a vastly different experience of the world based on different sensory organs or ways of organizing sensory data, ok too. That this means objects are conforming to our different cognitions seems to miss the point.

    For example is the one side of the moon I ever get to see the moon conforming to my cognition, or is it simply the result of viewing it from my particular vantage point? Perceptions are the results of interactions of different factors. By varying interactions (taking different vantage points) we can discover what characteristics are relatively intrinsic to the object, as compared to artifacts of our sensory organs, cognitive faculties (the way we organize), and our spacio-temporal vantage point.

    To see objects as conforming to our cognition, rather than accessing something relevant about the external objects seems to undercut any reason to study those objects at all (because we’re not).

    Finally, I was curious about how Kant used the bean counting example in contrast to how you guys used it.

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  2. I haven’t commented because much of the discussion here is introductory…. some of the entree we get to after the appetizer is tasty enough, but well-covered without further spice.

    dbholmes,
    “To see objects as conforming to our cognition, rather than accessing something relevant about the external objects seems to undercut any reason to study those objects at all” – remember that Kant is engaging in foundational epistemology. On one level, regardless of whether we want to experience the world, this is how we do experience the world nonetheless.

    On another level, Kant is presuming – as Hume did before, and as both Hegel and Schopenhauer do after (which indicates how profound the notion is, given the differences between these thinkers) – that experience is born of desire, not of curiosity – there is no quest for knowledge that is not motivated by desire. As Santayana once put it, the ideal apple is not the one we can ‘know’ scientifically, but the apple we can pluck from the tree and taste. Consequently, what we know is really a logisitics of how we can acquire what we want. (Not everybody has been happy with this – the Phenomenological tradition is in some ways really a prolonged argument between those, like Husserl and Heidegger, who object to this, and others, like Merleau-Ponty and Sartre, who embrace it.)

    The scientistic-rationalist bias of the Positivist-Analytic tradition has tried to bury this, but without success. It keeps creeping back in through ordinary language theorists like Austin and his followers, psychology, and Pragmatism..

    I should note that Kant’s explanation of this process is pivotal in the history of Western philosophy. The notion that we can know,, with complete disinterest, the nature of reality just as it is, is forever blown to ribbons. The recurrent expression of nostalgia for this notion continues to haunt us, but remains unconvincing.

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  3. Hi EJ, interesting but I think this helps raise examples I would want to against Kantian concepts (it is not simple conformation to cognition).

    Let’s run with the apple we want to eat. Well we certainly understand that some quality must underlie an (external) object’s form such that our cognitive powers consistently experience “apple” and not “orange”. It is then not simply the object conforming to us, otherwise we could see apples anywhere we want, but an interplay between stable qualities of the object and qualities of our cognitive systems. With logical relations between the qualities of each, which are potentially discoverable.

    Now the most succulent apples, mmmmmm, with rigorous testing and breaking down apples (physically) into the components which make them up, scientists find that there are these certain kinds of substances they call sugars which in certain ratios make apples more or less tasty. Those “sugars” are not available to our cognitive systems in any direct way at all… beyond taste and smell. We do not see their form (even crystals are not seeing the molecules or atoms which make up the molecules). Scientists can then isolate and potentially synthetically produce these sugars in the exact right proportions to create the most delicious apple flavors.

    With time the same can be done with the underlying experiential (and nutritional) elements of an apple such as texture and colors, and so (one day) produce a synthetic apple. To many if not most one of the most ideal of apples.

    In order for this to happen it seems the scientists must be getting at something objective about that object, regardless of our cognitive faculties (except in the end proof in the tasting of the synthesized apple)… or at most by understanding both the properties of the object and the properties of our cognitive faculties as properties belonging to two separate entities. Thus there are (at some level) external objects we are trying to understand the nature of, and minds (the desirers of the apple and the knowledge of it).

    This even reaches to the a priori problem. Once one understands a relationship like the regularity certain molecules have to assemble in exact ways to form what we come to call sugars, how is that different than the stable relationships between numbers that we also discover? In precise, defined conditions (which is also true of any mathematical relation) it will be just as real and stable.

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  4. “We can eat oysters only insofar as they are brought under the physiological and chemical conditions which are the presuppositions of the possibility of being eaten. Therefore, we cannot eat oysters as they are in themselves.”

    I’m going a bit more slowly than db through this. I’m curious how the idea that objects conform to our cognition brought up early is seen as an advance over Berkeley (“the mind … is deluded to think it can and does conceive of bodies existing unthought of, or without the mind, though at the same time they are apprehended by, or exist in, itself.”). Maybe it comes up later.

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  5. Hey guys,

    Sorry I didn’t see your comments right away. I thought people had kind of moved on.

    db
    “I guess I am curious if you were as troubled by Hume, empiricism, or skepticism as Kant was? Is this why you find his work so interesting.”
    I do think Hume’s account of things like cause as “constant conjunction in the mind” is inadequate. It is too deflationary. Kant has other advantages over Hume as well. He is more logically sensitive and has a better account of the mind as an active set of faculties to name just two.

    “In the end I still can’t embrace the idea of a priori knowledge (analytic or synthetic), it being better conceived of as definitions and logical relations based on those definitions… which we do in fact learn, or generate based on experiences. Sure you can start running with it once you’ve gained the ability to work with the abstract, but that does not place it before experience in some relevant sense.”
    Maybe, but like Quine we can see some things as being more a priori than others. On such a view it would still be possible, in fact necessary, to acknowledge that we make a contribution to perception and knowledge. My old teacher John Haugeland had a really good paper on this called Truth and Rule Following.

    “For example is the one side of the moon I ever get to see the moon conforming to my cognition, or is it simply the result of viewing it from my particular vantage point? Perceptions are the results of interactions of different factors. By varying interactions (taking different vantage points) we can discover what characteristics are relatively intrinsic to the object, as compared to artifacts of our sensory organs, cognitive faculties (the way we organize), and our spacio-temporal vantage point.”
    According to Kant’s view, beings with different faculties would see different objects from the same vantage point (literal or metaphorical).

    “To see objects as conforming to our cognition, rather than accessing something relevant about the external objects seems to undercut any reason to study those objects at all (because we’re not).”
    Well, we tried to motivate the idea that it could still count as knowledge. Consider, for instance, cause and effect. We may add “cause” to the world, but if we want to know whether X caused Y at time T, that is an empirical matter. It is up to the world.

    “Finally, I was curious about how Kant used the bean counting example in contrast to how you guys used it.”
    Kant thinks that since we need visual aids to acquire mathematics, there must be some contribution from sense so it must be synthetic. I think he is trying to force a square peg in a round hole. He want mathematics to be synthetic because he thinks mathematics has “content” in that sense.

    duffy,
    ” I’m curious how the idea that objects conform to our cognition brought up early is seen as an advance over Berkeley”
    Good question. For Berkeley things in the world just are mental stuff. And they are mental independently of us and our perceptions of them. For Kant things are idealized insofar as we bring a certain form to them. The ideality o things as they appear to us is dependent on us and the way we represent things.

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