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Post 20

Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 5:41pmSanction this postReply
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I certainly would not wish to be perceived as defending the attempt to refute someone by misrepresenting his views. (Hence my delay in answering Mr. Barnes’ and Citizen Rat’s points in other threads—I often like to understand the total context, as much as time permits, behind another person’s opinions before answering, and in these cases it involves studying all their past posts and becoming better acquainted with the views of Karl R. Popper.)

But Ayn Rand was not writing a treatise refuting Kant. She was discussing his theories in terms of her already-worked-out philosophy. She was offering a summation of how her philosophy, if one accepts it, would apply to the topic of Kant.

Philosophers often build systems first, then defend them. It has been years since I studied philosophy academically, but I think of G. E. Moore’s Principia Ethica, Spinoza’s Ethics, Leibniz’ theory of the monads, Descartes’ Discourse on Method. If I remember correctly, they built up their systems with little reference to other philosophers’ theories. The same goes for all the modern moral theorists who are continually refuting each other in the journals.

Let me discuss in detail the kind of thing I am thinking of when I say that Rand’s discussion of Kant is in terms of her own views, and perhaps it will not be viewed quite so negatively. I will quote Tara Smith: “In the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant contends that ‘all morals concepts have their seat and origin entirely a priori in reason.’ … there are certain things a person simply must do … it is our rationality that obligates us.’” Certainly, Kant says “rationality.” But reading him more, we see that by this term he means roughly the categorical imperative—a sense of duty. According to one commentator, “the categorical imperative is best seen not as a source of moral principles, but as a test of those principles we already have.” Now, to Ayn Rand, “reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.” That is, in reality, in fact, and contrary to Kant, there is no reasoning “a priori.” Rand holds that therefore, if one does not judge one’s action by reason in her sense, the only possible alternative in reality is to coast on one’s emotions (which are the result of the thinking what has done or failed to do). That leads you emotionally to the prevalent morality of your culture (likely the morality of dutiful altruism).

That is basically why I find Rand’s view as per Mr. Younkins’ statement “Kant assigns one’s emotions the power to know the metaphysically superior ‘unknowable’ noumenal world by indefinable means that he termed ‘pure reason’” a fair statement of the reality despite Kant’s rejection of the term “emotions.” Now, if I were not convinced of the truth of Rand’s characterization of the relation of reason and emotion, I would not accept this seemingly facile idea. But I am.

(Edited by Rodney Rawlings on 4/13, 5:52pm)

(Edited by Rodney Rawlings on 4/13, 6:06pm)


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Post 21

Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 11:30pmSanction this postReply
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Rodney wrote:
>I certainly would not wish to be perceived as defending the attempt to refute someone by misrepresenting his views. (Hence my delay in answering Mr. Barnes’ and Citizen Rat’s points in other threads—I often like to understand the total context, as much as time permits, behind another person’s opinions before answering...)

Good for you! You have my great respect for that.

(But please don't think it is a requirement in order to discuss anything with me that you study Popper first! Critical Rationalism doesn't really work like that!)

On the other hand, as this is an Objectivist forum, I have taken the trouble to examine Rand's ideas in some detail, though doubtless I will make many blunders.

- Daniel

Post 22

Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 5:17amSanction this postReply
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Michelle:

Thanks for your post!!!

I have spent many hours reading Kant straight and trying to understand what he said. Of course, I bet you have already guessed that. :)  And yes, I have made an estimate of Kantianism on my own and it tracks closely with Ayn Rand's views. My assessment of Kant can be found in my book, Capitalism and Commerce, particularly on pages 169-173.

I have found Kant to be difficult to read and understand but I have given it my best shot!

Whenever I read Kant two phrases pop into my mind:

(1) They muddy the waters to make them appear deep. (Who said that?)

(2) I hate it when people obfuscate! (From a tee shirt)

Take care.

Ed


Post 23

Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 10:34amSanction this postReply
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Ed, I thought I would post something about your two points (1) They muddy the waters to make them appear deep. (Who said that?)
(2) I hate it when people obfuscate! (From a tee shirt).
I am currently teaching Ethics and we are doing Kant’s “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals” and Mill’s “Utilitarianism” (as well as Plato, Aristotle and Rand.) One student was curious as to why Kant is more difficult to read than Mill. My answer was that they were writing for very different audiences. Mill’s work was originally serialized in Fraser’s Magazine and was intended for a wide audience. Kant wrote for two (actually three but two is enough for my purposes) audiences; the masses and the academics. Works like What is Enlightenment and On a Newly Arisen Superior Tone in Philosophy are meant for a wider audience. The Critique of Pure Reason, on the other hand, was meant for about 6 people (just kidding); it was meant for professionals only. By a professional he meant those well acquainted with physics, (especially Newton’s), mathematics, and the history of philosophy. Peikoff is aware of this fact. In his lectures on Kant that were delivered on tape in my home town of Pittsburgh back in 1966 and 1967 he talked for about an hour and then announced that the audience now had enough context to understand the opening sentence of the Critique! If Peikoff is right, then most readers are going to find Kant’s academic writings dense and difficult.
Let me close with a little quotation for On a Newly Arisen Superior Tone in Philosophy in which Kant very sarcastically and rather clearly bashes mysticism, a topic dear to the hearts of many Objectivists.
“It is immediately apparent that intimation [Abhung] consists in a certain mystical rhythm [mystischer Takt], a vaulting leap beyond concepts into the unthinkable, a capacity to grasp what evades every concept, an expectation of secrets or, rather, a suspense-redden tendering of secrets that is actually the mistuning of heads into exaltation. For intimation is obscure preexpectation and contains the hope of a disclosure that is only possible in tasks of reason solved with concepts; if, therefore, those intimations are transcendent and can lead to no proper cognition of the object, they must necessarily promise a surrogate of cognition, supernatural communication (mystical illumination sic), which is then the death of all philosophy.”
Take that you nasty mystics. Hope this helps a little Ed. Let me end by quoting George Walsh who said at the close of the APA meeting in 1992, “Kant is hard.”
Fred Seddon


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Post 24

Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 10:14pmSanction this postReply
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Joe: “Like if she says capitalism is good, you can't just change the definition of capitalism to be "the system of killing babies and destroying the environment"?”

I agree, and as you say, it’s quite proper to draw out the implications of any philosophical position to highlight any inconsistencies, and also to show a better interpretation of the topic under discussion. What is unacceptable is to speculate, for instance, that Kant considered man’s conceptual faculty to be a distorting mechanism, or that only knowledge independent of perception is valid, when he made no such claims. Similarly, it’s fine to deny a priori knowledge, but it’s not acceptable to then speculate that Kant was “really’ appealing to emotion under the guise of a priori knowledge.

By all means critique Kant. Unfortunately, as Daniel has pointed out, doing so from a Randian perspective can only be faulty, since she misread him so badly.

Brendan


Post 25

Friday, April 16, 2004 - 8:03amSanction this postReply
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Thanks Ed for your clear presentation...I enjoyed reading it, and that is a accomplishment when the subject is Kant. Though I don't have much interest in general philosophy I do have a keen interest in aesthetics and understanding Kant's aesthetics has been of keen help for me in coping with our contemporary art culture; his concepts of the Sublime underlie postmodern art's most definitive works.

I recently was interviewed by Peter Cresswell for the Free Radical, here is a relevant outtake from it:
 
TFR: You’ve said that you’ve read and -worse -
digested Kant’s ‘Critique of Judgement.’ Would you recommend the task to others? Is there anything of any value there?
M: What a horrible task to pass on to someone! No, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a profound interest in a particular content or a general love of philosophy.
Anything of value? Kant’s aesthetics are incredibly subversive. In his Concepts of Beauty he identifies artistic values of skill, positive sensory experience, form, and theme; pretty much a classic view of art. But here is the rub, he then treats the Concepts of Beauty as inferior to his Concepts of the Sublime, which are based on formlessness, instinct, mass acceptance, and violation. For a moment if you contemplate Kant’s view that formlessness is superior to form then you might see how that is a conceptual slap-in-the-face to Beethoven and Michelangelo, who are known to have the greatest form/structure in the arts. Kant’s Concepts of the Sublime maligns the values of the world’s greatest art. But one value I get from studying Kant’s aesthetics is that once you understand his position you can, with some normative application, understand postmodern art. Another value is seeing how ideas, philosophical ideas, can affect all of humankind regardless of their negativity or their absurdity.

Michael

www.RomanticRealism.net
www.MichaelNewberry.com
www.ArtAdvancement.org


Post 26

Friday, April 16, 2004 - 4:20pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you Michael!!!

I am happy that you "enjoyed" my paper on Kant!!! :)

Thanks also for the brief but insightful lesson on Kant's Aesthetics.

Cheers!!!

Ed


Post 27

Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 1:13amSanction this postReply
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Daniel, I agree with your statement that: "you have to believe that somehow she [Rand] could have knowledge of Kant without the experience of having read him." She did read excerpts from his work, but she should have read much more before denouncing him as she did.

It is the case, however, in partial (but by no means complete) mitigation of her approach, that she did read several commentators on Kant, and she did have endless conversations about what he meant, first with me when I was studying Kant and later with Leonard Peikoff when he was doing so. And,equally relevant, she had an ability that never ceased to amaze her friends. She could be presented with a philosopher's view of, say, a specific aspect of moral theory, and then tell us what his views would be on almost every philosophical problem of importance. Hers was a mind, an intelligence, of great power and depth; her ability -- to paraphrase badly -- to see the universe in a grain of sand, was a unique testament to her genius.

Barbara



Post 28

Sunday, April 9, 2006 - 8:57pmSanction this postReply
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Hi!
I am a first timer on RoR and I have just read your 2004 (Fred Seddon) RAND’S DENUNCIATION OF KANT :
"I have never been able to understand how....(Kant) can be both a deontologist and a saver of altruism"
No doubt that all mystical " impératifs catégoriques " of the religious or philosophical types are deontological by definition. It is even more true of Kant who worked so hard to establish morality as something a-rational ( by his own admission : out of the reach of rationality).
But, was Kant not aware that all actions, even the highest, the morally inspired ones, bore fruits ( not to be enjoyed by the doer, as he would recommend) ? If that explicit recommendation is true( or the implicit one: to act by duty for the sake of the action itself), is that not proof that he knew that any action was carrying some element of " telos " which related -at least and negatively- to the doer and, therefore, actions could fall under the judgment of any consequientialist or teleologist with his two feet on the ground ( Mrs. Rand happening to be just that)?
It seems to me that her pronouncement went like so : No matter what Immanuel Kant -or anybody for that matter- says of Immanuel Kant, I pronounce him " saver of altruism", by consequence of the fact that since one cannot be the beneficiary of one’s own action, others have to logically, implicitly be the ones to reap the benefits. And an action that is (even negatively) intended for others is altruistic by nature.


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Post 29

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - 12:18amSanction this postReply
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It was not Rand's view that Kant was an "altruist" in the sense of wanting the good of others. According to Rand, Kant was a quintessential advocate of duty as an end in itself. Quoting Peikoff, in Rand's journal, The Objectivist (September 1971): "If men lived the sort of life Kant demands, who or what would gain from it? Nothing and no one. The concept of "gain" has been expunged from morality. For Kant, it is the dutiful sacrifice as such which constitutes a man's (problematic) claim to virtue; the welfare of any recipient is morally incidental. Virtue, for Kant, is not the service of an interest -- neither of the self nor of God nor of others. (A man can claim moral credit for service to others, on this view, not because they benefit, but only insofar as he loses.)" Here are some quotes from the horse's mouth that confirm this interpretation of Kant:

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804):

Obedience to duty "without any end or advantage to be gained by it...should serve as the inflexible precept of the will." Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. L. W. Beck (Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1969), p. 65.

"...the ground of obligation here [in regard to moral laws] must not be sought in the nature of man or in the circumstances in which he is placed..." Ibid., p. 6.

"Empirical principles are not at all suited to serve as the basis of moral laws... But the principle of one's own happiness is the most objectionable of all. This is not merely because it is false... Rather, it is because this principle supports morality with incentives, which undermine it and destroy all its sublimity..." Ibid., p. 69.

Moral principles direct us "to act even if all our propensity, inclination, and natural tendency were opposed to it. This is so far the case that the sublimity and intrinsic worth of the command is the better shown in a duty the fewer subjective causes [personal motives] there are for it and the more there are against it..." Ibid., p. 49.

"To behold virtue in her proper form is nothing else than to exhibit morality stripped of all admixture of sensuous things and of every spurious adornment of reward or self-love." Ibid., p. 50, n. 11.

- Bill


(Edited by William Dwyer
on 4/18, 12:31am)

(Edited by William Dwyer
on 4/18, 12:53am)


Post 30

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - 1:51pmSanction this postReply
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Excellent post Bill.

Michael


Post 31

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - 7:06pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Michael. Interesting that the last post you made on this thread was a year ago, almost to the day, April 16, 2004. When I first saw some of the posts around that date, I thought they were for this year. I guess we've revived an old thread, with most of the original participants gone. Shame, really. I would like to have jousted with Fred Seddon on this a bit. But I suppose he'd demand that I read his book first! So many books...so little time...

- Bill

Post 32

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 - 12:37amSanction this postReply
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Yes, yes (excellent post indeed).

Ed


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Post 33

Friday, January 9, 2009 - 2:40pmSanction this postReply
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"I had therefore to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief." -Immanuel Kant..."Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination." -Immanuel Kant ... "From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned." -Immanuel Kant.....I could keep going, but you get the point.

Post 34

Friday, January 9, 2009 - 3:05pmSanction this postReply
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Welcome, Jesse. Please fill out your extended profile to the extent with which you are comfortable. No, I don't think you need to continue, here, about Kant. But they are good quotes.

Post 35

Monday, April 20, 2009 - 11:24pmSanction this postReply
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Regarding Ed's essay concernig animousity between Kant and Rand:

Ed -

A lot of very unprofessional biases are evident in the form and content of your essay.  This is easy to see simply by considering each and every adjective and adverb that you use.  You often use adjectives and adverbs that are clearly pejoratives, but you try to sneak them by as if they were commonly used modifiers or in some sense objective modifiers.

Actually, any use of adjectives or adverbs reveals bias.  Nothing wrong with bias, but the more biased is a piece of writing the less able it is to change carefully thinking minds, though the more able it is to titilate the choir.

suggestion: try writing without any strong or pungent or hidden-meaning modifiers.  I think Prof John Searle at UC Berkeley  has a great writing style because he does just that.

Another technique you use, whether you are aware of it or not, is to use certain key words in vague ways so that you can use the same word to mean different things at different places in your writing, thus misleading the reader in a manner similar to shuffling the pea under the cups.  "Reality" is one word you use in this way.  What exactly did Kant mean by reality, and what exactly did Rand mean by that word.  In fact, they had different definitions, so apples are being compared to oranges. "morality" ---same problem.  Rand and Kant had different definitions of the word.  As you have described Rand's issue with Kant, I see not a debate about something really important or sublime, but an tussel over who gets to own those words.  And yet, neither word has a single, objective defination.  Every "definition" of reality is a tautology.

other tidbits....

Rand's claim that Kant hated life is just soooooo.....dramatic.  It's high drama.  High drama is usually a sign that careful cognition is not taking place.  We know from Kant's biography that he was somewhat ascetic, but he did have some mild pleasures.  He had a certain quiet disposition, but I think it unfair to say he hated life - actually I think he rather liked it.  And for all we know he had some secret sex life and was not really withered down there.   In that day a biographer would not make such a mention  if he know about it. 

I think it is fairly well accepted fact now that an individual's constitution/disposition is largely inherited and not something for which to  be blamed.  I will go further and say that an individual's hereditary constitution also determines their world view.  Regardless of subject matter, or at how high a level one discusses the subject matter, one can't escape one's worldview since it is largely hereditary and bio-mechananical.  Yes, I am saying that no matter how much one studies, or what one studies, or under which famous author one dedicates one's study, even if one's mind is changed a bit here and there, in the end one is little different at 80 than one was at 12.  A strong dynamic man is still that at 80, though weakend by age, and a wimp is still a wimp.  Some wimps "overcome" their wimpiness, which seems like a dramatic change and refutation of the mechanistic claim,  but in fact that individual was destined to overcome and the intitial steps to overcome were only taken because of a pre-existing worldview in which the wimp saw him or herself as someone who has a point beyond which they will not continue to submit to the will of another.  Has Woody Allen changed much since he was 12?  Or Boy George?  Or Hugo Chavez?  Was Marx not fated to write what he wrote?  Don't the details of his life suggest he could not have written anything else?  Marx had  low impulse control - a mechanical feature of the brain - and thus I suggest his worldview was an excersize in excuse-making about just that.  What drunk, what drug addict.....doesn't favor socialism or Marxism?  All of those types who I have known have that same worldview.

From each person's basic worldview, which is hereditary, comes each person's desire to know and how much to know.  Yet the entire process of seeking knowledge is only done in support of the pre-existing worldview, applying synaptic filters that are also inherited.  Thus each person's pursuit of knowledge is sort of vain, because the nature or flavor of the path of the pursuit is likely caused by some of the same synaptic and biological conditions that create the initial worldview.  One's own particular variant of human consciousness is confined to follow a predestined path in support of it - sometimes that's called ego.  Ego, if there is such a construct, has to be bio-mechanical.

Thus Kant's and Rand's philosophy, and everyone's,  are naught but reportages of the person's time-space coordinates in the  socio-political power pyramid, those coordinates being fixed at any given instant.  Any changes in the coordinates during one's lifetime are as destined as one's initial coordinates.  Easy to understand example:  an ugly person will never win a beauty pageant.  Another example: A good, inherited faculty of cunning will be a boon to the businessman.  And yet, that cunning may not be enough to go way up in the pyramid, as there are other needed qualities that are not so well known, but certainly it is not cunning alone that has enable Khun Sa to corner the opium trade in the Golden Triangle and have his own kingdom and army numbering in the tens of thousands, and to remain unharmed by the Chinese, Thai, Myanmarese or USA authorities.  ( I would rather be Khun Sa than a professor of philosophy - you only live once!) Hail to Khun Sa, the last living bonafide Asian Warlord.  Blessings be upon him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpCZGC9XzWg

I am not making an argument for solipsism.  There could be more right and more wrong individual consciousnesses, however that really never does matter, because in any clash of wills the more powerful will prevails.  In one instance the King may prevail and put down the rebellion, and the King may be a bit of an idiot and prevailed only because he had inherited a good army from his father - and in victory he will proclaim the manifest destiny of his bloodline.  In another instance the people's rebellion may be successful, and they will cite things like "truth" and "righteousness" and "morality" and "god" being on their side, and they will write songs about these verities.  Yet the fact of the matter may simply be that the people outnumbered  the King's men, or the King's general made a foolish mistake.   In both cases, might made right.  So do profess solidarity with my muddy, gap-toothed brothers in the French Revolution, or do I sort of take the view presented in "The Scarlet Pimpernil"?  My decision will be based on my genetics and how they place me and move me in the socio-political power pyramid.
And I could have sympathies for both viewpoints, but still that will be as mechanistic as any other viewpoint.

Obviously this kind of understanding makes a mockery of professional philosophy.  (Let us take a minute to note that professional philosophers are genetically similar:  rarely good looking nor physically strong, nor even particularly vital). 
But I suggest that the highest level of honesty requires that we admit of being totally mechanical, and accept that reasons we give for this and that, as well as  excuses, are epiphenomenon of the brain and play no role in changing destiny.  In fact, it is our story telling ability that gives a major clue:  horrified that we can see that our ship moves under it's own direction and that we can't change course or slow down or speed up, we invent fables of every kind to create such mass confusion about "life" - such entertainment - that we can experience some reduction of anxiety via forgetfulness and distraction as we careen towards our certain death, which we unfortunately know will most likely be horrific to various degrees.  Who doesn't hope for a quick heart attack while sleeping soundly?

Unless we all, all humans, admit to being mechanisms then philosophical debates will continue for perpetuity and never be resolved.  The solution is to drop the debate.  But as long as an income can be generated from philosophical debate via professorships, the debate will not be dropped, just as any shopkeeper will keep the shop open as long as there are customers and profits.

 Cheers


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Post 36

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - 8:29amSanction this postReply
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Troll alert.

Post 37

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 - 1:37pmSanction this postReply
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Seddon made some excellent points about the essay. But I see he missed one point that sticks out foremost in my mind, involving the section of the essay devoted to the "analytic-synthetic dichotomy."

Upon reading this section, it doesn't appear that Rand or Peikoff had any notion of what the analytic-synthetic was all about for Kant. And so they missed the target by focusing only on the analytic/synthetic but have left Kant's synthetic a priori completely out of the picture.

If we take Kant's synthetic to be rather equivalent to judgments about reality, and the a priori in general to be any kind of necessary intellectual foundation you can think of, then, putting them together, the synthetic a priori serves as the necessary intellectual foundation for judgments of experience.

That is not to be confused with the intellectual foundation for reality. That would be the notion of a supersensible substrate found in Kant's Critique of Teleological Judgment, and Kant considered it to be a wholly subjective but necessary methodological guide to exploring nature.

The a priori intellectual foundation for experience is no mere guide, nor is it arbitrary or uncertain. It is the objectifying element in experience, that which legislates to perception and brings it within the domain of objective laws of nature.

I hope this helps. Because I know from experience that any attempt to learn about Kant's theory through secondary sources is limited by interpretation. Some interpretations are worse than others, and Rand's and Peikoff's interpretation stands high among the worst.


(Edited by Robert Keele on 1/05, 3:09pm)


Post 38

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 - 4:53pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,

I request some clarification ...

Upon reading this section, it doesn't appear that Rand or Peikoff had any notion of what the analytic-synthetic was all about for Kant.
First, do you agree that Kant was answering to Hume, who essentially said that anything synthetic should be committed to the flames (as mere sophistry and illusion)? And, if so -- if you think that Kant was trying to supercede the epistemological limitations that Hume had proposed -- do you think that Rand or Peikoff didn't? There are 2 things here. Either Kant was reacting to Hume, or not. And either Rand or Peikoff knew about that, or not.

What is your answer to these 2 questions?

If we take Kant's synthetic to be rather equivalent to judgments about reality, and the a priori in general to be any kind of necessary intellectual foundation you can think of, ...
I agree with your take on the synthetic, but when you say that the a priori in general is any kind of necessary intellectual foundation, I disagree. Your view of the a priori is static and unchanging, like an axiom in geometry. A weak point of that view is that it makes the a priori "analytic." As an illustration of this, picture what it is that can be known by merely analyzing geometric axioms. This view of the a priori, I claim, will limit your ability to judge the epistemology of philosophers such as Kant.

I think that I can show how that's true, if requested to do so.

On the other hand, I'd say the a priori in general is that which is known without further experience (and the a posteriori is that which can't be known without some further experience). This makes the a priori out to be something malleable or growing, expressing the learning curve of humans. As we learn, things "become" a priori (knowable without any further experience).

What is your take on that view?

Ed


Post 39

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 - 6:47pmSanction this postReply
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Ed,

Please bear with me, at the moment I can only guess at how to format these posts. < i >< /i >, < a > tags, etc.? How about this box's method for inserting block quotations? I have had to paste your response at the bottom of this box.

You're somewhat requesting clarification on things I didn't write about in a very short post. Maybe it was so short it left you thirsting for more information.

As far as I can tell, Peikoff got his information on the "analytic-synthetic dichotomy" from A. J. Ayer, not from Kant. But as Ayer was a friend of the British Positivist school of philosophy, one has to wonder how much of his philosophy Ayer got from the German Kant, even indirectly. Notice that Objectivists always lump all present-day schools of philosophy into "the moderns," when in fact they come down to at least two distinct divisions: British, European, and possibly American.

Ayer's variation on the analytic-synthetic theme is logical positivist, and that is the one Peikoff took issue with in his essay on the "dichotomy," not Kant's. Kant was not a logical positivist, nor could he be since logical positivism had rejected the theory of the synthetic a priori at the logical basis of Kant's architectonic. Positivism's tenets "included: the opposition to all metaphysics, especially ontology and synthetic a priori propositions." (Wikipedia article on logical positivism.) So I don't buy Peikoff's claim that the "moderns" played with Kant's "marked cards" only they played it "deuces wild." Philosophers are quite capable of marking their own cards, they don't need Kant's help.

That should answer your question as to whom (or which school of philosophy) Peikoff was reacting to. And of course Kant was reacting to Hume, that is a matter of historical fact which everybody here should know.

Did Rand and Peikoff know that Kant was reacting to Hume? Possibly the best place to go for this answer would be Rand's critical/historical essay in For The New Intellectual. But she does not there place Hume and Kant in a direct relationship, she only states that Kant formalized, thus concretizing and 'metaphysicalizing' as it were, the old ("absurd") dispute between rationalism and empiricism.


Two more questions to go. You consider my idea of the
a priori to be static. I think Kant's point about the mind is that the rules it operates by are static - do you believe the laws of nature are changing or unchanging? Kant considered the expressions "laws of nature" and "laws of experience" to be identical. And they are static, unchanging, immutable, necessary. Those ideas go to the very heart of what it means to be a priori, along with "independently of experience," where appearance only brings with it constant change. But to keep this constant change orderly, to show that there is some basis for this change that never changes, that keeps the change orderly and prevents it from collapsing into chaos, you need the a priori.

Hume mistook the forms of understanding for forms of sensibility. Leibniz mistook the forms of sensibility for forms of understanding. Kantian Critique brought both kinds of form to their respective proper transcendental topics.

Rand and Peikoff know nothing of this. I agree there are problems with modern philosophy, but I don't see attacking Kant in order to cure it as anything more than attacking a straw-man. And I have seen non-Objectivist philosophers attacking Kant on similar grounds long before Objectivism came along, so he does serve as a target for potshots coming from various camps.

You say the a priori is known without further experience, but by definition the a priori is that which is known independently of any and all experience. Your argument concludes that there needs to be something more than just the static notion of an a priori judgment, but Kant has already provided that answer for you: the synthetic a priori judgment.










Robert,

I request some clarification ...

Upon reading this section, it doesn't appear that Rand or Peikoff had any notion of what the analytic-synthetic was all about for Kant.

First, do you agree that Kant was answering to Hume, who essentially said that anything synthetic should be committed to the flames (as mere sophistry and illusion)? And, if so -- if you think that Kant was trying to supercede the epistemological limitations that Hume had proposed -- do you think that Rand or Peikoff didn't? There are 2 things here. Either Kant was reacting to Hume, or not. And either Rand or Peikoff knew about that, or not.

What is your answer to these 2 questions?

If we take Kant's synthetic to be rather equivalent to judgments about reality, and the a priori in general to be any kind of necessary intellectual foundation you can think of, ...

I agree with your take on the synthetic, but when you say that the a priori in general is any kind of necessary intellectual foundation, I disagree. Your view of the a priori is static and unchanging, like an axiom in geometry. A weak point of that view is that it makes the a priori "analytic." As an illustration of this, picture what it is that can be known by merely analyzing geometric axioms. This view of the a priori, I claim, will limit your ability to judge the epistemology of philosophers such as Kant.

I think that I can show how that's true, if requested to do so.

On the other hand, I'd say the a priori in general is that which is known without further experience (and the a posteriori is that which can't be known without some further experience). This makes the a priori out to be something malleable or growing, expressing the learning curve of humans. As we learn, things "become" a priori (knowable without any further experience).

What is your take on that view?

Ed

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