Transcendental idealism

Transcendental idealism is a doctrine founded by German philosopher Immanuel Kant in the 18th century. Kant's doctrine maintains that human experience of things is similar to the way they appear to us—implying a fundamentally subject-based component, rather than being an activity that directly (and therefore without any obvious causal link) comprehends the things as they are in themselves. The doctrine is most commonly presented as the idea that time and space are just human perceptions; they are not necessarily real concepts, just a medium through which humans internalize the universe.

Background

Although it influenced the course of subsequent German philosophy dramatically, exactly how to interpret this concept was a subject of some debate among 20th century philosophers. Kant first describes it in his Critique of Pure Reason, and distinguished his view from contemporary views of realism and idealism, but philosophers do not agree how sharply Kant differs from each of these positions.

Transcendental idealism is associated with formalistic idealism on the basis of passages from Kant's Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics, although recent research has tended to dispute this identification. Transcendental idealism was also adopted as a label by the subsequent German philosophers Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Arthur Schopenhauer, and in the early 20th century by Edmund Husserl in the novel form of transcendental-phenomenological idealism.

Kant

Kant presents an account of how we intuit (German: anschauen) objects and accounts of space and of time. Before Kant, some thinkers, such as Leibniz, had come to the conclusion that space and time were not things, but only the relations among things. Other thinkers, including Newton, maintained that space and time were real things or substances. Leibniz had arrived at a radically different understanding of the universe and the things found in it. According to his Monadology, all things that humans ordinarily understand as interactions between and relations among individuals (such as their relative positions in space and time) have their being in the mind of God but not in the Universe where we perceive them to be. In the view of realists, individual things interact by physical connection and the relations among things are mediated by physical processes that connect them to human brains and give humans a determinate chain of action to them and correct knowledge of them. Kant was aware of problems with both of these positions. He had been influenced by the physics of Newton and understood that there is a physical chain of interactions between things perceived and the one who perceives them. However, an important function of mind is to structure incoming data and to process it in ways that make it other than a simple mapping of outside data.[1]

If we try to keep within the framework of what can be proved by the Kantian argument, we can say that it is possible to demonstrate the empirical reality of space and time, that is to say, the objective validity of all spatial and temporal properties in mathematics and physics. But this empirical reality involves transcendental ideality; space and time are forms of human intuition, and they can only be proved valid for things as they appear to us and not for things as they are in themselves.[2]

The salient element here is that space and time, rather than being real things-in-themselves or empirically mediated appearances (German: Erscheinungen), are the very forms of intuition (German: Anschauung) by which we must perceive objects. They are hence neither to be considered properties that we may attribute to objects in perceiving them, nor substantial entities of themselves. They are in that sense subjective, yet necessary, preconditions of any given object insofar as this object is an appearance and not a thing-in-itself. Humans necessarily perceive objects as located in space and in time. This condition of experience is part of what it means for a human to cognize an object, to perceive and understand it as something both spatial and temporal: "By transcendental idealism I mean the doctrine that appearances are to be regarded as being, one and all, representations only, not things in themselves, and that time and space are therefore only sensible forms of our intuition…"[3] Kant argues for these several claims in the section of the Critique of Pure Reason entitled the "Transcendental Aesthetic". That section is devoted to inquiry into the a priori conditions of human sensibility, i.e. the faculty by which humans intuit objects. The following section, the "Transcendental Logic", concerns itself with the manner in which objects are thought.

Historical parallels

Xenophanes of Colophon in 530 BC anticipated Kant's epistemology in his reflections on certainty. "And as for certain truth, no man has seen it, nor will there ever be a man who knows about the gods and about all the things I mention. For if he succeeds to the full in saying what is completely true, he himself is nevertheless unaware of it; and Opinion (seeming) is fixed by fate upon all things."[4] Certain interpretations of some of the medieval Buddhists of India, such as Dharmakirti, may reveal them to be transcendental idealists, since they seemed to hold the position of mereological nihilism but transcendental idealists who held that their minds were distinct from the atoms. Some Buddhists often attempt to maintain that the minds are equal to the atoms of mereological nihilist reality, but Buddhists seem to have no explanation of how this is the case, and much of the literature on the aforementioned Buddhists involves straightforward discussion of atoms and minds as if they are separate. This makes their position very similar to transcendental idealism, resembling Kant's philosophy where there are only things-in-themselves (which are very much like philosophical atoms), and phenomenal properties.

Schopenhauer

Briefly, Schopenhauer described transcendental idealism as a "distinction between the phenomenon and the thing in itself", and a recognition that only the phenomenon is accessible to us because "we know neither ourselves nor things as they are in themselves, but merely as they appear."[5] Some of Schopenhauer's comments on the definition of the word "transcendental" are as follows:

Transcendental is the philosophy that makes us aware of the fact that the first and essential laws of this world that are presented to us are rooted in our brain and are therefore known a priori. It is called transcendental because it goes beyond the whole given phantasmagoria to the origin thereof. Therefore, as I have said, only the Critique of Pure Reason and generally the critical (that is to say, Kantian) philosophy are transcendental.

— Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. I, "Fragments for the History of Philosophy," § 13

Schopenhauer contrasted Kant's transcendental critical philosophy with Leibniz's dogmatic philosophy.

With Kant the critical philosophy appeared as the opponent of this entire method [of dogmatic philosophy]. It makes its problem just those eternal truths (principle of contradiction, principle of sufficient reason) that serve as the foundation of every such dogmatic structure, investigates their origin, and then finds this to be in man's head. Here they spring from the forms properly belonging to it, which it carries in itself for the purpose of perceiving and apprehending the objective world. Thus here in the brain is the quarry furnishing the material for that proud, dogmatic structure. Now because the critical philosophy, in order to reach this result, had to go beyond the eternal truths, on which all the previous dogmatism was based, so as to make these truths themselves the subject of investigation, it became transcendental philosophy. From this it follows also that the objective world as we know it does not belong to the true being of things-in-themselves, but is its mere phenomenon, conditioned by those very forms that lie a priori in the human intellect (i.e., the brain); hence the world cannot contain anything but phenomena.

P. F. Strawson

In The Bounds of Sense, P. F. Strawson suggests a reading of Kant's first Critique that, once accepted, forces rejection of most of the original arguments, including transcendental idealism. Strawson contends that, if Kant had followed out the implications of all that he said, he would have seen that there were many self-contradictions implicit in the whole.

Strawson views the analytic argument of the transcendental deduction as the most valuable idea in the text, and regards transcendental idealism as an unavoidable error in Kant's greatly productive system. In Strawson's traditional reading (also favored in the work of Paul Guyer and Rae Langton), the Kantian term phenomena (literally something that can be seen from the Greek word phainomenon, "observable") refers to the world of appearances, or the world of "things" sensed. They are tagged as "phenomena" to remind the reader that humans confuse these derivative appearances with whatever may be the forever unavailable "things in themselves" behind our perceptions. The necessary preconditions of experience, the components that humans bring to their apprehending of the world, the forms of perception such as space and time, are what make a priori judgments possible, but all of this process of comprehending what lies fundamental to human experience fails to bring anyone beyond the inherent limits of human sensibility. Kant's system requires the existence of noumena to prevent a rejection of external reality altogether, and it is this concept (senseless objects of which we can have no real understanding) to which Strawson objects in his book.

Henry E. Allison

In Kant's Transcendental Idealism, Henry E. Allison proposes a reading that opposes Strawson's interpretation.[6] Allison argues that Strawson and others misrepresent Kant by emphasising what has become known as the two-worlds reading (a view developed by Paul Guyer). This—according to Allison, false—reading of Kant's phenomena/noumena distinction suggests that phenomena and noumena are ontologically distinct from each other. It concludes on that basis that we somehow fall short of knowing the noumena due to the nature of the very means by which we comprehend them. On such a reading, Kant would himself commit the very fallacies he attributes to the transcendental realists. On Allison's reading, Kant's view is better characterized as a two-aspect theory, where noumena and phenomena refer to complementary ways of considering an object. It is the dialectic character of knowing, rather than epistemological insufficiency, that Kant wanted most to assert.

Opposing views: Realism

Opposing Kantian transcendental idealism is the doctrine of philosophical realism, that is, the proposition that the world is knowable as it really is, without any consideration of the knower's manner of knowing. This has been propounded by philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, Ralph Barton Perry, and Henry Babcock Veatch. Realism claims, contrary to idealism, that perceived objects exist in the way that they appear, in and of themselves, independent of a knowing spectator's mind.

See also

References

  1. ^ Gottfried Martin, Kant's Metaphysics and Theory of Science (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1955), p. 57.
  2. ^ Gottfried Martin, Kant's Metaphysics and Theory of Science (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1955), p. 41.
  3. ^ Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London: Macmillan, 1933), p. 345 (A 369).
  4. ^ Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla to the Presocratic Philosophers, Xenophanes fragment 34.
  5. ^ Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. 2, "Sketch of a History of the Doctrine of the Ideal and the Real."
  6. ^ Allison, H. E., Kant's Transcendental Idealism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983); Revised and Enlarged Edition, 2004.

External links

Absolute idealism

Absolute idealism is an ontologically monistic philosophy "chiefly associated with Friedrich Schelling and G. W. F. Hegel, both German idealist philosophers of the 19th century, Josiah Royce, an American philosopher, and others, but, in its essentials, the product of Hegel". It is Hegel's account of how being is ultimately comprehensible as an all-inclusive whole (das Absolute). Hegel asserted that in order for the thinking subject (human reason or consciousness) to be able to know its object (the world) at all, there must be in some sense an identity of thought and being. Otherwise, the subject would never have access to the object and we would have no certainty about any of our knowledge of the world. To account for the differences between thought and being, however, as well as the richness and diversity of each, the unity of thought and being cannot be expressed as the abstract identity "A=A". Absolute idealism is the attempt to demonstrate this unity using a new "speculative" philosophical method, which requires new concepts and rules of logic. According to Hegel, the absolute ground of being is essentially a dynamic, historical process of necessity that unfolds by itself in the form of increasingly complex forms of being and of consciousness, ultimately giving rise to all the diversity in the world and in the concepts with which we think and make sense of the world.The absolute idealist position dominated philosophy in nineteenth-century England and Germany, while exerting significantly less influence in the United States. The absolute idealist position should be distinguished from the subjective idealism of Berkeley, the transcendental idealism of Kant, or the post-Kantian transcendental idealism (also known as critical idealism) of Fichte and of the early Schelling.

Actual idealism

Actual idealism was a form of idealism, developed by Giovanni Gentile, that grew into a 'grounded' idealism, contrasting the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant, and the absolute idealism of G. W. F. Hegel. To Gentile, who considered himself the "philosopher of Fascism," actualism was the sole remedy to philosophically preserving free agency, by making the act of thinking self-creative and, therefore, without any contingency and not in the potency of any other fact.

Arnór Hannibalsson

Arnór Hannibalsson (1934–2012) was an Icelandic philosopher, historian, and translator and former professor of philosophy at the University of Iceland. He completed a master's degree in philosophy at the University of Moscow and a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

He was predominantly concerned with aesthetics, philosophy, history, epistemology, and science. In 1975 he translated Roman Ingarden's On the Motives which led Husserl to Transcendental Idealism from Polish. He also contributed to journals with articles such as "Icelandic Historical Science in the Postwar Period, 1944-1957".Arnór had strong anti-Communist views and was said to have been "extremely critical of the Icelandic Socialists" in his 1999/2000 book Moskvulínan: Kommúnistaflokkur Íslands og Komintern, Halldór Laxness og Sovétríkin.He was the son of Hannibal Valdimarsson, a former minister, and had several sons and one daughter, Thora Arnorsdottir.

He died on December 28, 2012.

Beth Lord

Beth Lord (born 1976) is a Canadian philosopher specialising in the history of philosophy, especially the work and influence of Immanuel Kant and Baruch Spinoza, and contemporary Continental philosophy. She is currently a reader in the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, where she has worked since 2013.

Cartesian Meditations

Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology (French: Méditations cartésiennes: Introduction à la phénoménologie) is a book by the philosopher Edmund Husserl, based on four lectures he gave at the Sorbonne, in the Amphithéatre Descartes on February 23 and 25, 1929. Over the next two years, he and his assistant Eugen Fink expanded and elaborated on the text of these lectures. These expanded lectures were first published in a 1931 French translation by Gabrielle Peiffer and Emmanuel Levinas with advice from Alexandre Koyré. They were published in German, along with the original Pariser Vortrage, in 1950, and again in an English translation by Dorion Cairns in 1960, based on a typescript of the text (Typescript C) which Husserl had designated for Cairns in 1933.

The Cartesian Meditations were never published in German during Husserl's lifetime, a fact which has led some commentators to conclude that Husserl had become dissatisfied with the work in relation to its aim, namely an introduction to transcendental phenomenology. The text introduces the main features of Husserl's mature transcendental phenomenology, including (not exhaustively) the transcendental reduction, the epoché, static and genetic phenomenology, eidetic reduction, and eidetic phenomenology. In the Fourth Meditation, Husserl argues that transcendental phenomenology is nothing other than transcendental idealism.

The name Cartesian Meditations refers to René Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy. Thus Husserl wrote:

France's greatest thinker, René Descartes, gave transcendental phenomenology new Impulses through his Meditations; their study acted quite directly on the transformation of an already developing phenomenology into a new kind of transcendental philosophy. Accordingly one might almost call transcendental phenomenology a neo-Cartesianism, even though It Is obliged — and precisely by its radical development of Cartesian motifs — to reject nearly all the well-known doctrinal content of the Cartesian philosophy.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈjoːzɛf ˈʃɛlɪŋ]; 27 January 1775 – 20 August 1854), later (after 1812) von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Johann Gottlieb Fichte, his mentor in his early years, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, his former university roommate, early friend, and later rival. Interpreting Schelling's philosophy is regarded as difficult because of its evolving nature.

Schelling's thought in the large has been neglected, especially in the English-speaking world. An important factor was the ascendancy of Hegel, whose mature works portray Schelling as a mere footnote in the development of idealism. Schelling's Naturphilosophie also has been attacked by scientists for its analogizing tendency and lack of empirical orientation. However, some later philosophers have shown interest in re-examining Schelling's body of work.

Gnosology

In philosophy, gnosology literally means the study of gnosis, meaning knowledge or esoteric knowledge. The study of gnosis itself covers a number of subjects, which include magic, noetics, gnostic logic, and logical gnosticism, among others. Gnosology has also been used to render Johann Gottlieb Fichte's term for his own version of transcendental idealism, Wissenschaftslehre, meaning "Doctrine of Knowledge".In Immanuel Kant's gnosology, intuition takes a prominent position and was introduced as appearing on two levels: that of sensation and intellectualization. Here, the so-called "intellectus ectypus" derives its knowledge of objects from intuitions of things-in-themselves without the forms of intuition while the "intellectual archetypus" creates the objects of its knowledge through the act of thinking them.

Henry E. Allison

Henry E. Allison (born April 25, 1937) is an eminent scholar of Immanuel Kant, and is widely considered to be the greatest English-language Kant scholar of the postwar era. He is Emeritus Professor of the University of California, San Diego and Boston University. His interests are Immanuel Kant, Baruch Spinoza, German idealism, 18th and 19th century philosophy. Allison is perhaps best known for his 1983 book, Kant's Transcendental Idealism, which proposed a new "epistemological" reading of the Critique of Pure Reason that was both radically different from standard interpretations and capable of withstanding many of the objections advanced by philosophers like Paul Guyer.

Hierarchical epistemology

Hierarchical epistemology is a theory of knowledge which posits that beings have different access to reality depending on their ontological rank.

Idealism

In philosophy, Idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, Idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to Materialism, Idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

Idealism theories are mainly divided into two groups. Subjective idealism takes as its starting point the given fact of human consciousness seeing the existing world as a combination of sensation. Objective idealism posits the existence of an objective consciousness which exists before and, in some sense, independently of human ones. In a sociological sense, idealism emphasizes how human ideas—especially beliefs and values—shape society. As an ontological doctrine, idealism goes further, asserting that all entities are composed of mind or spirit. Idealism thus rejects those physicalist and dualist theories that fail to ascribe priority to the mind.

The earliest extant arguments that the world of experience is grounded in the mental derive from India and Greece. The Hindu idealists in India and the Greek Neoplatonists gave panentheistic arguments for an all-pervading consciousness as the ground or true nature of reality. In contrast, the Yogācāra school, which arose within Mahayana Buddhism in India in the 4th century CE, based its "mind-only" idealism to a greater extent on phenomenological analyses of personal experience. This turn toward the subjective anticipated empiricists such as George Berkeley, who revived idealism in 18th-century Europe by employing skeptical arguments against materialism. Beginning with Immanuel Kant, German idealists such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and Arthur Schopenhauer dominated 19th-century philosophy. This tradition, which emphasized the mental or "ideal" character of all phenomena, gave birth to idealistic and subjectivist schools ranging from British idealism to phenomenalism to existentialism.

Idealism as a philosophy came under heavy attack in the West at the turn of the 20th century. The most influential critics of both epistemological and ontological idealism were G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, but its critics also included the New Realists. According to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the attacks by Moore and Russell were so influential that even more than 100 years later "any acknowledgment of idealistic tendencies is viewed in the English-speaking world with reservation". However, many aspects and paradigms of idealism did still have a large influence on subsequent philosophy.

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant (; German: [ʔɪˈmaːnu̯eːl ˈkant, -nu̯ɛl -]; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was an influential German philosopher in the Age of Enlightenment. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time, and causation are mere sensibilities; "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited a priori ('beforehand'), and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.

In one of Kant's major works, the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), he attempted to explain the relationship between reason and human experience and to move beyond the failures of traditional philosophy and metaphysics. Kant wanted to put an end to an era of futile and speculative theories of human experience, while resisting the skepticism of thinkers such as David Hume. Kant regarded himself as showing the way past the impasse between rationalists and empiricists which philosophy had led to, and is widely held to have synthesized both traditions in his thought.Kant was an exponent of the idea that perpetual peace could be secured through universal democracy and international cooperation. He believed that this would be the eventual outcome of universal history, although it is not rationally planned. The nature of Kant's religious ideas continues to be the subject of philosophical dispute, with viewpoints ranging from the impression that he was an initial advocate of atheism who at some point developed an ontological argument for God, to more critical treatments epitomized by Nietzsche, who claimed that Kant had "theologian blood" and was merely a sophisticated apologist for traditional Christian faith.Kant published other important works on ethics, religion, law, aesthetics, astronomy, and history. These include the Universal Natural History (1755), the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), the Metaphysics of Morals (1797), and the Critique of Judgment (1790), which looks at aesthetics and teleology.

Information source

An information source is a person, thing, or place from which information comes, arises, or is obtained. Information souces can be known as primary or secondary. That source might then inform a person about something or provide knowledge about it. Information sources are divided into separate distinct categories, primary, secondary, tertiary, and so on.

List of epistemologists

This is a list of epistemologists, that is, people who theorize about the nature of knowledge, belief formation and the nature of justification.

Neo-Kantianism

In late modern continental philosophy, neo-Kantianism (German: Neukantianismus) was a revival of the 18th-century philosophy of Immanuel Kant. More specifically, it was influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer's critique of the Kantian philosophy in his work The World as Will and Representation (1818), as well as by other post-Kantian philosophers such as Jakob Friedrich Fries and Johann Friedrich Herbart.

Objective idealism

Objective idealism is an idealistic metaphysics that postulates that there is in an important sense only one perceiver, and that this perceiver is one with that which is perceived. One important advocate of such a metaphysics, Josiah Royce (the founder of American idealism), wrote that he was indifferent "whether anybody calls all this Theism or Pantheism". It is distinct from the subjective idealism of George Berkeley, and it abandons the thing-in-itself of Kant's dualism.

Problem of universals

In metaphysics, the problem of universals refers to the question of whether properties exist, and if so, what they are. Properties are qualities or relations that two or more entities have in common. The various kinds of properties, such as qualities and relations, are referred to as universals. For instance, one can imagine three cup holders on a table that have in common the quality of being circular or exemplifying circularity, or two daughters that have in common being the female offsprings of Frank. There are many such properties, such as being human, red, male or female, liquid, big or small, taller than, father of, etc. While philosophers agree that human beings talk and think about properties, they disagree on whether these universals exist in reality or merely in thought and speech.

The problem of universals relates to a number of questions in close relation to not only metaphysics but, to logic and epistemology, all in efforts to understand how the thought of universals has a connection to those of singular properties.

System of Transcendental Idealism

System of Transcendental Idealism (German: System des transcendentalen Idealismus) is a book by Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling published in 1800. It has been called Schelling's most important work. In this work, Schelling attempted a Kantian project to discover the ground of knowledge.

The Bounds of Sense

The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is a 1966 book about Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1781) by the Oxford philosopher Peter Strawson, in which the author tries to separate what remains valuable in Kant's work from Kant's transcendental idealism, which he rejects. The work is widely admired, and has received praise from philosophers as an important discussion of the Critique of Pure Reason, although Strawson's treatment of transcendental idealism has been criticized.

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