Kant Journal #5

Immanuel Kant on Reason, God, and Morality

Kant now takes himself to have waged a devastating critique of rational theology in the Transcendental Dialectic, and yet we find in the Canon of Pure Reason that we are still justified, according to him, in believing that there is an omniscient and omnipotent God, and that the soul is immortal- on other than theoretical grounds. “If then, these three cardinal propositions [the three unconditioned ideas] are not at all necessary for our knowing, and yet are insistently recommended to us by our reason,” he says, “their importance must really concern the practical” (B 828, p. 674). Making the distinction between pragmatic law and moral law, Kant places moral law within the realm of the practical, because between the two laws, the moral law is the only one which “permits a canon” (p.674). It is upon this ground, that of the idea of the moral law, that Kant begins to build his ethics and the justification for belief in an all-powerful God (which will later grow into his Religion Within the Bounds of Reason Alone, for which he is made to apologize and recant).

Humankind has a naturally occurring deep and real sense of morality according to Kant- an objectively valid experience of a moral life and the way things ‘ought to be’ which is necessary in order for the universe to make any unified sense at all. This common experience of the moral law within each of us is the practical importance of reason’s ever-reaching upwards toward realms it cannot fly in. Three questions concern it most, three questions it is always asking, and these are: What can I know? What can I do? And what can I hope? (B 833, p. 677). The first he dismisses (the purely theoretical), having already discussed it at length in the rest of the Critique. It is helpless on its own and we can find nothing for us in it. The second, Kant says, is not transcendental, but purely moral (practical), and therefore dismisses it. It as well is helpless on its own, and of no use or interest to us. The third, however, is both “practical and theoretical, so that the practical leads like a clue to a reply to the theoretical question and in its highest form…” (p. 677, emphasis added).

What can I hope? we ask, after Kant. All hope concerns happiness according to him(p. 677), and one can always either concern one’s self with the pragmatic (practical) approach, bent on acquiring that happiness, or with the moral approach, which “has no other motive than the worthiness to be happy” (p.677).

In an ‘ideal’ world (in the conventional sense of the term), a world “in which we have abstracted from all hindrances to morality”, one’s worthiness to be happy would perfectly coincide with one’s degree of happiness; however, says Kant,

this system of self-rewarding morality is only an idea, the realization of which rests on the condition that everyone do what he should, i.e., that all actions of rational beings occur as if they arose from a highest will that comprehends all private choice in or under itself” (p. 679).

Through discerning the way things ought to be from out of a comparison with our inner sense of the moral law, we see that while we are constituted in such a way as to fit in such a world, our senses and tell us this is nothing like where we now are. “To regard ourselves as in the realm of grace,” says Kant, “where every happiness awaits us as long as we do not ourselves limit our share of it through the unworthiness to be happy, is a practically necessary idea of reason,” and yet we live in the realm of nature (Leibniz) where, although we “stand under moral laws[, we] cannot expect any successes for [our] conduct except in accordance with the course of nature in our sensible world” (p.680-681). Since this moral world cannot come to be on this earth (as we humans are far more disposed to go our own directions than anyone else’s, moral or not), it is clear that if the hope of happiness necessarily linked and equal with the striving to be worthy of that happiness is to survive, we must believe in an afterlife where this is possible. Pure reason imposes this belief on us.

The system of morality itself, being a system, is cohesively one, and our conception of it must be policed in such a manner as to make sure it is able to remain whole. Kant says that the coherence of the moral law requires the existence of a God-like being to make the moral laws commands by enforcing them and endowing them with the consequences appropriate to (or even dictated by?) their nature. Thus pure reason shows us the necessity of supposing a commanding ‘highest reason’, or ‘highest good’, a being “which alone can make possible such a purposive unity” (B840, p.680).

In this way, Kant has achieved the construction of an argument for compelled belief in God and the afterlife, built from the ground of the common experience of the moral law up. Without these two beliefs, “the majestic ideas of morality are, to be sure, objects of approbation and admiration but not incentives for resolve and realization.” (p.681). But with a God there to make good on the ‘promises and threats’ involved in the consequences of the moral law, it is clear why our moral disposition must come first and open the door to happiness rather than the desire for happiness instituting the moral disposition within us (p.681). According to Kant, we are convinced of this concept of the divine being,

not because speculative reason convinces us of its correctness but because it is in perfect agreement with the moral principles of reason… we will not hold actions to be obligatory because they are God’s commands, but will rather regard them as divine commands because we are internally obligated to them” (p.683-684).

c. Mary Kathryn Gough

Katie Huffman (married, Gough)/ 5.21.04 /Kant / Professor Hardy / Journal # 5


Kant Journal # 1

Mary Kathryn Huffman (Married: Gough) / Kant Journal One / 2/17/04 Hardy

A Priori Synthetic Judgments

Kant wanted to make clear some defining lines in the muddiness of metaphysics, as it seemed to be making no progress beyond producing dogmatic bickering. At the very outset of the Critique of Pure Reason, he draws a key distinction between two kinds of knowledge (a priori and a posteriori). He then distinguishes between two kinds of judgments, one of which he calls ‘analytic’, the other ‘synthetic’. After describing the way that these two kinds of judgments have always been related to a priori and a posteriori knowledge, he reveals his intent to rearrange the strict definitions and bring to light a new pairing on the terms. The result, Kant says, is a hereto for unseen kind of judgment which constitutes metaphysics proper and ought to be recognized and examined: ‘a priori synthetic judgment’. This examination should, by definition, clarify for us what metaphysics really is, and allow us to state the problem of whether it is in fact possible in a more helpful way than ever before. Here I will attempt to lay out these definitions and connections in a clear and concise way in order to show how Kant found them relevant to the viability of the practice of metaphysics in philosophy.

Kant begins his momentous response to the stagnancy he finds in the discipline by making two important distinctions: one between a priori and a posteriori knowledge, and one between analytic and synthetic judgments. A priori knowledge is knowledge it is useless to doubt, knowledge which has the characteristic of being both necessary and universal. It is knowledge given prior to experience, based on something deeper in our being which is able to perceive more “than mere

experience would teach… certain cognitions [that] even abandon the field of all possible experiences and seem to expand the domain of our judgment beyond all bounds of experience through concepts to which no corresponding object at all can be given in experience” (p.128).

A posteriori knowledge, on the other hand, is based upon experience, giving itself in the empirical evidence to be found there.

A posteriori knowledge has always been linked with synthetic judgments in the past, according to Kant, because synthetic judgments add to or “amplify” our given concept of a thing, thus making use of experience in positing its new judgment (p.130). The statement that “all bodies are heavy,” is a synthetic judgment because our concept of a body does not in essence include heaviness as a necessary or universal characteristic. One must “first cognize the concept of a body

analytically through the marks of extension… etc. which are all thought in this concept…[and then] amplify [one’s] cognition and, in looking back to the experience from which [one] had extracted this concept of a body, [one] find[s] that weight is also always connected with the previous marks” (p.131).

But Kant shows that a priori knowledge has always been linked to analytic judgments, which he describes as being “clarifying” judgments that “break down concepts into their component parts” (p.130). The statement that “all bodies are extended” is an analytic judgment. This is because we need only analyze our concept of a body and “become conscious of the manifold that [we] always think in it… in order to encounter this predicate [extension] therein” (p.130). The predicate (extension) is found within the identity of the concept itself in an analytic judgment.

This brings out a question. The question, really. Where does metaphysics fit in this, and what type of knowledge and judgment are appropriate to it? It would seem that all the options are already taken, but Kant goes on from here to introduce and explain a kind of a priori synthetic judgment and to explain how understanding this overlooked kind of judgment will allow the possibility of the project of metaphysics to be stated and then analyzed properly. With four terms of two different kinds, there are four possible ways to link them up. Theoretically one could have a priori analytic judgments, a posteriori analytic judgments, a priori synthetic judgments, and a posteriori synthetic judgments. By definition, analytic judgments are a priori, and therefore cannot be a posteriori (Hoffe,p.41 and Kant,p.142). Synthetic judgments often take from experience to perform their ‘amplifying’ function and therefore the idea of a posteriori synthetic judgments is only natural. However a priori synthetic judgments are not by definition impossible (Hoffe,p.41). This possible pairing has been overlooked according to Kant, and we ought to consider it carefully, as it is not immediately obvious whether or not it is valid. Kant claims that the project of metaphysics, never having properly analyzed itself, did not know that it was constituted entirely by a priori synthetic propositions. This means that the question of “whether or not the conceptual possibility can also be realized and there actually are synthetic judgments a priori, that is, an expansion of knowledge prior to experience – this question decides the possibility of metaphysics as a science”(Hoffe, p41).

In a posteriori synthetic judgments, one can go back to experience in order to amplify one’s cognition and make a judgment, reflecting upon the evidence given to add to a preexisting concept. But in this new category of a priori synthetic judgments, Kant says, “this means of help is entirely lacking. If I am to go

outside concept A in order to cognize another B as combined with it, what is it on which I depend and through which the synthesis becomes possible, since I do not have the a advantage of looking around for it in the field of experience?” (p. 131).

This sort of activity is one in which the sciences have always engaged unawares. Mathematics makes use of it in the simple act of addition, finding that it has a pure intuition of the necessity of a sum and then positing a name from outside the identity of the pair of numbers for the result. “That 7 should be added to 5 I have,

to be sure, thought in the concept of a sum = 7+5,” says Kant, “but not that this sum is equal to the number 12. The arithmetical proposition is therefore always synthetic…” (p.144).

Physics “contains within itself synthetic a priori judgments as principles” as well, going beyond the known and experienced concepts of the natural world “in order to add something to it a priori that [we] did not think in it” (p.145). Each of these sciences bring a creative element into the knowledge process, and only by doing so are they able to make any progress at all. This idea is a result of Kant’s so called Copernican turn. As Höffe says, “about an object one can know with certainty only what one himself sets into its concept; only by creative thought and construction does scientific knowledge become accessible” (p.36).

In the project of metaphysics, precisely what we want to do is “to amplify our cognition a priori,” as Kant says, and “to this end we must make use

of such principles that add something to the given concepts that was not contained in them, and through synthetic a priori judgments go so far beyond that experience itself cannot follow us that far, e.g. In the proposition “The world must have a first beginning,” and others besides, and thus metaphysics, at least as far as its end is concerned, consists of purely synthetic a priori propositions” (p.146).

So metaphysics, being purely constituted by an “extending of its a priori cognition synthetically,” (Kant, p.148) is entirely founded upon the possibility of this a priori knowledge being valid, and on its being able to form a base for forming synthetic a priori propositions. Recognizing and understanding this new term, therefore, is key in beginning the trial before us. It defines exactly the conditions under which metaphysics will be pronounced a valid science, or, if she fails to meet these conditions, a useless waste of time.

c. Mary Kathryn Gough

Kant Journal #3

The Transcendental Deduction:
A Defense of the Objective Validity of the Categories of the Understanding

Kant takes up the defense of the objective validity of his ‘categories of the understanding’ in the very beginning of The Transcendental Analytic, laying out a ground for his thesis to stand on by shaping a kind of ‘transcendental self-consciousness’. This transcendental self-consciousness is a consciousness that is able to look down from above in self-reflection, a capability that allows it the creative spontaneity needed to synthesize its apprehensions and all the separate, jumbled sense data it receives. His argument actually centers around the fact that these apprehensions are initially separate, jumbled, and in need of an ordering framework of rules if they are to have any meaning at all in my experience. A priori concepts provide that framework, allowing for all the separate data to become intelligible parts of my experience. As he states, “The transcendental deduction of all a priori concepts therefore has a principle toward which the entire investigation must be directed, namely this: that they must be recognized as a priori conditions of the possibility of experiences (whether of the intuition that is encountered in them, or of the thinking).” (p.224-225).
Kant says that any object, if it is to be an object of my experience, must conform to the conditions of my experience, my knowledge-gaining capacities and limitations—and further, that these conditions are themselves pure, a priori concepts. In first setting out to show that there is a pure synthesis of apprehension, one that originates in the subject, Kant introduces the transcendental faculty of the imagination. He shows how it functions and why it is necessary as a bridge between sensory perception and the understanding, explaining its place within the original, transcendental unity of apperception. This transcendental unity is able to make a whole out of what the imagination reproduces, each piece being referenced back and gathered to a single entity.
Kant holds that cognition is impossible without the spontaneous reproductions of representations by the imagination, or (in other words) knowledge can’t come into being unless the imagination reconstructs for itself the manifold of available bits and pieces of raw sensory information it has received over time. We gather this information bit by bit as each present moment full of its own data passes into the next, becoming the past; without this faculty of the imagination allowing us to reproduce representations, the past sensory data we received would be lost to us and it wouldn’t be there for the transcendental self-consciousness (or ‘one’ consciousness) to incorporate into our present understanding, thus synthesizing a whole intelligible experience within the subject.
This transcendental faculty of the imagination is necessary for “even the purest and most fundamental representations of space and time [to] ever arise” (p.230). Take the example of a musical score. As it is played, we hear each note over a stretch of time, and each phrase over an even longer stretch of time. If we were only able to hold a single point of the music in our minds at any one point time however, lacking the imaginative faculty to reconstruct what had already gone by in order that they might be grouped together and connected into a whole, we would have no experience of music as we know it. No one momentary point of experience would ever remain with me to be made an intelligible part of my experience. Kant says that if,
“in counting, I forget that the units that now hover before my senses were successively added to each other by me, then I would not cognize the generation of a multitude through this successive addition of one to the other, and consequently I would not cognize the number; for this concept consists solely in the consciousness of this unity of the synthesis. The word “concept” itself could already lead us to this remark. For it is this one consciousness that unifies the manifold that has been successively intuited, and then also reproduced, into one representation” (p.230-231).

In examining the word concept and Kant’s use of it here, it becomes clear that it is a very important part of the deduction. Up to now he has been expounding on the necessity of the faculty of the imagination in order to pave the way to describe the transcendental self-consciousness and show that only with the collected data the imagination provides is it able to generate whole, understandable, and meaningful experience. He spends some time describing this ‘one consciousness’, and then grounds its ability to function in a priori concepts, showing that they are essential and absolutely necessary for the unification process to take place, and therefore for the fashioning of meaningful experience/ knowledge within the human mind.
In the end of the above quotation, he transitions into this description, saying “it is this one consciousness that unifies the manifold that has been successively intuited, and then also reproduced, into one representation” (p.231). And again, later on, it is
“that unity of consciousness that precedes all data of the intuitions, and in relation to which all representation of objects is alone possible. This pure, unchanging consciousness I will now name transcendental apperception… thus the original and necessary consciousness of the identity of oneself is at the same time a consciousness of an equally necessary unity of the synthesis of all appearances in accordance with concepts” (p.233, emphasis added).

The objects of my experience, as stated previously, in order to be such at all, must conform to the conditions inherent in the structure of my mind. “The unifying connection stems not from the object but from the subject, and (1) from a source of knowledge distinct from sensibility, which (2) is not receptive but itself active” (Höffe, p.76). This is classically Copernican— my experience originates within me, is shaped to my previous Being, and is created actively, rather than passively. This is achieved by making use of concepts as rules with which to unify and sculpt the gathered data into coherent wholes, the product of which action is the object of our experience. And hence, says Kant,

“concepts of objects in general lie at the ground of all experiential cognition as a priori conditions; consequently the objective validity of the categories, as a priori concepts, rests on the fact that through them alone is experience possible (as far as the form of thinking is concerned). For they then are related necessarily and a priori to objects of experience, since only by means of them can any object of experience be thought at all.” (p.224).

However, these concepts must be a priori in order to be used in this way, arising prior to experience. Otherwise they would have no authority from out of which to order experience. In this way it is made clear that Kant’s previously outlined ‘pure concepts of the understanding’ are necessary, bringing our everyday concepts into their most general, universal, and pure form: the categories of the understanding which make thought itself possible.
The categories make thought possible just as the pure concepts of space and time make intelligible experience (givenness) possible for me. Once one sees that the faculty of human understanding is essentially the same as the faculty of judgment, it becomes clearer why this is the case. With the pure concepts, we are able to have an initial grasp of certain properties and then move on to make judgments of the relationships existing between those properties (“the copula “is,” which combines subject and predicate into the unity of a judgement” (Höffe, p.79)), i.e., thinking. And the making of inferences comes naturally right behind that, and thus the development of knowledge.
Kant says that the categories necessarily apply and has proceeded, in this objective deduction, to defend his position. The central piece that one finds oneself returning to again and again to explain why the categories do necessarily apply, is that we only experience representations of things, not things-in-themselves, and therefore experience is self-referential. We actively experience by reproducing the representations that appear to us with the imagination, then unifying those collected representations in our transcendental self-consciousness. The central piece is clearly revolutionary in the Copernican sense: that the experience is to be mine. The fact that we must use the already-existing (pure) concepts of the understanding as a rule by which to extract meaning from (and, might I say, inflict order on?) that which we observe is due to this. The understanding is, according to Kant,
“not merely a faculty for making rules through the comparison of appearances; it is itself the legislation for nature, i.e., without understanding there would not be any nature at all, i.e. synthetic unity of the manifold of appearances, as such, cannot occur outside us, but exist only in our sensbility” (p.242).
Once again, in order for any object to be an object of my experience, it must conform to the conditions of my experience, my knowledge-gaining capacities and limitations—and further, these conditions are themselves pure, a priori concepts .

c. Mary Kathryn Gough, Sept. 2004