The Logic Forum Discussion Area

This Forum is Locked
Futher critique of Kant's unreason

Hi. I would like to thank Dr. Avi Sion for the work "A Short Critique of Kant's Unreason", because it is the best criticism of Kant I have ever seen. The only questions I would be glad to receive the answers to concern some generalisations from this criticism.

It seems to be fair to restate your statement on Hume and say about Kant that when the latter says that dogmatical metaphysics is false, he of course means that dogmatical metaphysics as he sees it is false; but he does not realize that he sees it incorrectly. If it is true, the following questions arise:

1. Is there anything that philosophy of Kant refuted as dogmatical metaphysics or his enterprise was simply fighting with windmills?

2. As a corollary to the previous question: what is the actual scope of Kantian notion of metaphysics? To say otherwise: was Kant in the position to treat, for example, the philosophy of Plato, Avi Sion's philosophy, buddhist vijnana or the doctrine of Atman as dogmatical metaphysics exactly as he criticised Leibniz? Can we say that his criticism was relevant to Leibniz but is simply irrelevant to the abovementioned doctrines?

3. Is there any meaning of the so called "Copernican Turn" which he supposedly accomplished?

4. Was Kant really a father of the problem of finitude or his philosophy is simply unreasonable capitulation in the face of it?


Re: Futher critique of Kant's unreason

Hello, Sentience. I am intrigued by your many questions. It looks to me like you are better able to answer them than I am. You should rather write your thoughts on the subject than ask me for mine. Best regards, Avi

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: Further critique of Kant's unreason

Well, I don't think I'm better able to answer these questions than you, because Kantian philosophy always seemed mysterious to me. It is as if Kant attempted to "reboot" world philosophy. This aim could look more plausible if there was no philosophy other than western. But because Kant knew nothing about Indian philosophy, the question automatically arises whether his criticism can be expanded to the latter. With consideration of his universalistic ambitions one can suggest that it can be so. Concerning my questions I would answer that Kant not only was not an anti-metaphysician, but tried to introduce metaphysics par excellence, from the point of view of which he wanted to defeat his opponents, whom he also treated as metaphysicians, but erroneous.

The problem is that either the meaning of the term "metaphysics" now received very narrow technical sense or Kant simply invented metaphysics. And it is plausible assumption that this new idea of metaphysics was deeply connected if not identical with the belief in the independence of logical deduction. But I personally cannot understand how this is possible. It is as if Kant accuses his opponents (and all people) of being false "deductivists" and recognises himself as the true one, which cannot be true even of him, as you have shown. All this is very strange, but forces to answer all my questions negatively - that Kant refuted nothing, that his criticism was irrelevant even to Leibniz, that his Copernican turn and interpretation of finitude is actually reduced to his "deification" of deduction. So, on the strength of this "pessimistic" situation, when one is faced with such complex error and cannot explain the very possibility of granting exclusive status to deduction, I certainly need some of your comments.

Re: Further critique of Kant's unreason

Hi Sentience. I do agree with you that one of Kant's main motives was to reboot metaphysics. He did not invent metaphysics, which certainly existed before, notably in Christian religious assumptions. But he did revive it and give it new impulse, under a more 'scientific' garb, which is one reason he became so popular in German philosophy. Kant's metaphysics is made possible by his postulating a realm beyond that which is accessible to ordinary perception and reasoning. This realm is, in principle, out of reach for humans (except, of course, Kant, who is inconsistently telling us about it, or even just its existence). This is similar to the assumption by Oriental philosophy, except that to the latter the metaphysical realm, which is ordinarily inaccessible to common humanity, is indeed accessible to human beings who attain spiritual 'enlightenment' (mainly through meditation). Kant does not have such breakthrough-to-reality possibility in his world-view. He does however, as you point out, claim the ability to attain to some otherworldly knowledge through 'deduction' (which is, of course, not ordinary deduction, but some sort of special cognitive means he is graced with). It is here that my thesis is crucial - viz. that Kant, following Hume, was led into multiple absurdities due to his lack of understanding of the inductive processes involved in ordinary human cognition. Best regards, Avi

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: Further critique of Kant's unreason

The problem lies precisely in the question of this postulating of things-in-themselves. If we know that such thing doesn't exist and Kant lacked the understanding of induction the question arises what is the ontological/epistemological status of such a powerful mistake which made possible Kant's metaphysics? It looks like that after Kant not only all those who suppose noumenon as knowable but also those who know it non existing must necessary posit it because Kantian philosophy demands it.

As the example we can consider another impressive (but ridiculous in the final analysis) criticism of Kant which originated in the last decades, one of the french philosopher Quentin Meillassoux. In his book "After Finitude" he, instead of criticising Kant on epistemological grounds declared that we must know thing-in-itself and with this aim in mind presented a far-reaching ontological doctrine.

I think, however, that truth in this regard consists in that classical and Indian philosophies cannot have rational grounds to suppose this so called thing-in-itself as existent. So, we are faced with (almost) insoluble equivocation of the term "metaphysics". If we try to interpret noumenon as the Subject, then we hardly be able to explain the very distinction between noumena and phenomena Kant made and must have ontological explanation of Kantian error.

Re: Further critique of Kant's unreason

Things-in-themselves is a stolen concept. The term reality is originally a characterization of most things within the world of appearance we inhabit; i.e. those things that are not found to be illusory (e.g. because of contradiction). But in Kant, reality becomes something beyond this world, something otherworldly. This can be affirmed as an act of faith; or perhaps through some prophetic or meditative discovery; but it is not needed.

The same stolen concept is found in Buddhism, where this world is called dream, in comparison to the world of Nirvana. The concept of dream is a concept within ordinary experience, which we know happens when we sleep or maybe when we fantasy too much. But if the whole world of our ordinary experience, including the waking hours, is called 'dream' - this is misusing the term.

These two doctrines are thus very similar. As regards your calling the noumenon subjective; I think that is an inaccurate reading of Kantianism. The noumenon, in his view, is the ultimate reality; at best, we might infer (some have) that he views the phenomenon as subjective - but not the noumenon. To call the noumenon subjective is to defeat the whole purpose of this concept.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: Further critique of Kant's unreason

We should address now to terminological matters. To clarify situation we need four terms: "reality", "phenomenon", "external world" and "thing-in-itself". While the first two or even three terms can rightly be postulated as identical, I cannot agree that there can be synonimy between "thing-in-itself" and "external world", because the former is a sophisticated "extension" of the latter. Now, if Kant identify "thing-in-itself" with "reality", some part, so to speak, of the external world turns out to be illusory, as you noted. It is hard to understand, though, how it is possible for Kantian subject to know external world after all this even in illusory form.

It seems to me that Indian philosophers could not perform analogous procedure for the simple reason that for all of them phenomenon (and external world in that case) by definition was inconceivable without knowledge of it, because it is what appears in knowledge. It is true not only for advaita-vedantists, but for brahmanical realists and all schools of Buddhism. Indian philosophers would agree with "principle of induction", but would add that it by implication contains the "principle of knowledge" or consciousness, not necessary in the form of Atman. Knowledge, of course, not in Kantian sense of the term. Now, it seems to me that Buddhists used "stolen" concept differently than Kant, because according to the "principle of knowledge" they can identify "reality", "phenomenon" and "external world", but precisely for that reason cannot know what to do with "thing-in-itself". It would be simply identical with "reality" or "phenomenon". Alternatively, one advaita swami (it is not my approach) proposed to identify Atman as the principle of knowledge itself with thing-in-itself, which in that case can only be understood as singular. But, after all, the "thing-in-itself" looks at least useless in this context.

So, concerning Buddhists, it seems for me that their accent on Nirvana contra illusory world corresponds to accent on knowledge contra phenomena (with inherent difficulties, of course), but not on reality contra phenomena as in Kant. And if the notion of reality was stolen by Kant, nobody, including him, really can posit thing-in-itself as true, because the latter should be counted as false phenomenon.

Re: Further critique of Kant's unreason

You say: **four terms: "reality", "phenomenon", "external world" and "thing-in-itself". While the first two or even three terms can rightly be postulated as identical**
No - phenomenon does not fit in this list - noumenon does. Noumenon is absolute reality, phenomenon is the world of appearance.

Kant does not say that any part of the "external world" (as you put it) can be illusory. Nor have I said that. The noumenal (let's call it that) is the epitome of reality; there's no illusory about it, by definition. It is, in Kant's view, true reality, at the deepest level (whereas what we normally call reality is in his view not really real).

In my view, the noumenal is - for us ordinary, unenlightened minds - speculative metaphysics. In this sense, paradoxically, it is imaginary. This is one of the perverted feats of Kant, that he has managed to posit what is effectively the most imaginary part of our belief-system as the most real. This paradox is what makes all irrationalists love Kant so much.

Also note, contrary to what you say, Kant does not claim that the noumenon is knowable (that is another paradox, in fact, since then there is no explanantion as to how he knows about it.)
As regards 'thing-in-itself', that is in Kant (as I understand it) identical with noumenon and reality. I do not know on what basis you claim it to be different.

With regard to Indian philosophy, as you say there are idealists and realists (as in the West). For the Idealists (the mind-only school) the very fact that knowledge of reality goes through consciousness means that reality is mental, or at any rate that it can only be claimed to be mental, since this is necessarily all we have. This may seem like a credible and consistent position at first sight; but if one thinks about it, it is inconsistent and therefore not credible. For to understand this position, we need to already have in our minds a distinction between the mental and the non-mental - and such distinction is prior in the course of knowledge, being based on the inductive course of ordinary knowledge. So mentalism is based on stolen concept. You cannot speak of 'mind' if you have not first experienced non-mind; the term is relative. This is what I previously referred to as 'dream', mental stuff. I do not agree with you that Indians understand induction.

Here again, I want to point out your personal error in identifying reality and external world with phenomenon. Phenomenon is appearance - which to mentalists means something in the mind, but to me means something neutral. The external world, in an ordinary perspective, refers to the world outside the mind, i.e. the body and the material (and eventually mental and spiritual) objects outside it. In the way you are using this term, I suspect you are referring to Kant's noumenal world, the world of things-in-themselves (as against things-as-they-appear, the phenomenal world). This corresponds to Indian philosophy's Absolute, the experience of which constitutes Nirvana.

I should add that, to my understanding, the world beyond this one, i.e. the spiritual world, the Absolute, the world of Nirvana, the noumenon, etc. - all this refers to One. It is NOT a multiplicity as worlds like 'things-in-themselves' suggest. It is singular. It is where the multiplicity of things meet, what they have in common, their common source. It is Monism. For me, that's God. Monotheism.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: Further critique of Kant's unreason

Well, when I hypothetically identified "reality", "phenomenon" and "external world" I of course did it irrespective to Kant, so the term "phenomenon" here is certainly not Kantian. But your answer seems to suggest that you see some legitimacy in Kantian notions of "phenomenon" and "thing-in-itself". My main point on this matter is that "thing-in-itself" cannot be posited as existent, so I cannot understand what you mean by my supposedly "referring to Kant's noumenal world".

Of course Kant cannot claim that noumenon is knowable, but what I tried to show is that noumenon, when seen from Indian perspective, can only be phenomenon (not in Kantian sense), and in this status certainly knowable, although false. Further, I did not try to differentiate reality from thing-in-itself in Kant, but supposed that "external world" cannot be reduced to "thing-in-itself". That is to say Kant must presuppose external world to make more sophisticated conception of it (indeed split of it) in the form of "thing-in-itself".

What I want to pay special attention to concerning Indian philosophy is that all schools of it, both "idealists" and "realists", atmavadins and anatmavadins, theists and atheists etc. cannot conceive phenomenon without knowledge of it and precisely because of this cannot suppose unknowable and existent thing-in-itself. What I called "principle of knowledge" is thus more general consideration than the idealism/realism debate, and it seems to me quite compatible with the "principle of induction" (irrespective of its understanding by Indians) and your understanding of phenomenology. According to all this, the assertion that Indians identified real with mental seems to be forced at least. So, I certainly did not use the term "phenomenon" in the Kantian sense in my last message.

Re: Further critique of Kant's unreason

Hi Sentience. This is my last post on this string, as I cannot devote more time to this.

I reiterate that phenomenon refers to appearance - this is not just my opinion, but generally accepted. You have misunderstood this term, as well as (to a lesser extent) other terms you have been using.

I assumed that you actually read my booklet A Short Critique of Kant's Unreason, but it does not look like you did so. If so, I recommend you read this book. You should also first read the booklet Hume's Problems with Induction, to better understand the background of Kant. Most of all, I recommend you read my book Phenomenology.

Thank you for your interest. Best regards, Avi

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher