Die Differenzen zwischen Kant und Herder (German Edition)
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But the more epistemology advanced, the more it seemed to lead to the conclusion that what we know — the object of cognition — is conditioned by how we know — the act of cognition. Nowhere is this conclusion more apparent than in the theory of ideas, which is endemic to the epistemology of the Enlightenment.
Coleridge and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
According to this theory, the role of sensory organs and perceptual activities in cognition makes the immediate objects of perception not things themselves but the ideas we have of them. It was just this theory, however, that seemed to lead directly to skepticism. If radical criticism seemed to end in skepticism, a radical naturalism appeared to lead to materialism. If something falls under mechanical and mathematical laws, then it must be quantifiable or measurable. But to be quantifiable or measurable it must be extended, having a determinate size, shape, and weight; in other words, it Hence the mechanical-mathematical paradigm of explanation applies only to matter; and if it explains everything, everything must be material.
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The only escape from such materialism seemed to be a form of dualism, a sharp distinction between the material and the mental. Such dualism admits that the mechanical-mathematical paradigm explains everything in nature, but it denies that everything that exists is within nature. It makes a distinction between extended substance, which falls inside nature, and mental or thinking substance, which falls outside it.
But such dualism also has its price: the realm of the mental becomes something mysterious, inexplicable according to scientific laws.
But both are unacceptable. For if materialism explains the mind, it also denies its distinctive status, reducing it down to a machine; and if dualism recognizes the unique qualities of mind, it makes it into a mysterious entity. Hence the mind becomes either a machine or a ghost; on no account is it possible to explain its characteristic qualities according to natural laws. The crisis of the Enlightenment went even deeper. Its problem was not only that each of its concepts of reason had unacceptable consequences, but also that these concepts were in conflict with one another.
Criticism and naturalism, when universalized, undermine one another. Since criticism ends in skepticism, it undermines naturalism, which is committed to the independent reality of nature and the necessity of scientific laws. Since naturalism results in materialism, it undermines criticism, and more specifically its claim to be in possession of universal and necessary standards of reason. For materialism ends in relativism, given that it claims that everything, including human rationality, is the product of material forces at a specific time and place.
The conflict between these concepts of reason appears time and again in the epistemologies of the Enlightenment.
The epistemologies of Descartes, Locke, Hobbes, and Hume attempted to provide some foundation for the new natural sciences; yet they also ended in a skepticism that completely undermined scientific naturalism. This tension was apparent in Descartes, who could resolve his doubts about the reality of the external world and the applicability of mathematics only by a question-begging demonstration of the existence of God. It was no less clear in Locke, who wanted his epistemology to be a handmaiden of the new natural philosophy, but who also made the perceiving subject directly aware only of its own ideas.
Finally, it was also evident in Hume, who doubted the reality of the external world and induction, but who also wanted to develop a science of human nature. These problems with the Enlightenment concepts of rationality were already The dangers of materialism were widely felt. The threat of skepticism was also widely recognized. That Humean skepticism is the inevitable result of the way of ideas was a well-known doctrine in Germany, especially from the writings of Thomas Reid and the Scottish philosophers, who had a large following among the Popularphilosophen.
Still, Kant came to save the Enlightenment, not to bury it. His aim was to give a lasting foundation to its fundamental article of faith: the authority of reason. No one saw more clearly than Kant, however, that the Enlightenment had to keep its house in order. If reason is not aware of its limits, he taught, then it undermines itself, turning into unreason by lapsing into all kinds of fallacies. The sleep of reason breeds monsters: amphibolies, antinomies, paralogisms. Kant was confident that a fully aroused and alert reason, properly disciplined through the critique, could stay firmly within its own limits and so save the Enlightenment from self-destruction.
In the s Kant could already see that the Enlightenment was heading for trouble. Before he wrote the Critique of Pure Reason he was unsettled by the dangers of skepticism and materialism. Kant was well aware that criticism could end in skepticism, given his appreciation of Hume, who had awakened him from His early concern to refute skepticism and materialism is apparent from several sources: his Nova dilucidatio, his Dreams of a Spirit Seer, his Inaugural Dissertation, and his lectures on metaphysics during the s and s.
Kant had two fundamental tasks to rescue the Enlightenment. The first was to prevent criticism and naturalism from self-destruction. He wanted to establish criticism without skepticism, and naturalism without materialism.
A criticism without skepticism would provide an account of our knowledge of the external world that is resistant to Cartesian and Humean doubts. A naturalism without materialism would insist that everything in nature is explicable by mechanical laws, yet it would forswear the claim — crucial to materialism — that everything that exists is in nature.
He wanted to create a criticism immune from the dangers of naturalism, and a naturalism free from the threat of skepticism. A criticism immune from materialism would ensure that reason is an autonomous faculty, a source of universal laws, independent of the causality, and hence the relativism, of the historical and natural world.
A naturalism free from skepticism would show that the laws of physics apply to nature itself and do not simply consist in our habit of associating impressions. The Critical philosophy intended to avoid, therefore, that tension between naturalism and criticism that had so marred Enlightenment epistemology. As Kant describes that Revolution in the preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, it consists in a reversal of the normal externalist conception of truth Bxvi—xvii.
According to that conception, truth consists in the conformity of concepts with objects, in the correspondence of our representations with things that exist independent of them. While Kant is willing to accept such a conception of truth within ordinary experience, he thinks that it is profoundly misleading if it becomes an account of truth in general or the possibility of experience itself. Such a conception of truth aids skepticism because it is impossible to get outside our representations to see if they conform to an object in itself.
Die Differenzen zwischen Kant und Herder
To avoid such problems, Kant proposes that we see truth as the conformity of objects with our concepts, as the agreement of our perceptions with certain universal and necessary concepts that determine the form or structure of experience. If we adopt this conception of truth, it is no longer necessary to get outside our own representations to see if they conform Rather, the standard of truth will be found within the realm of consciousness itself by seeing whether a representation conforms to the universal and necessary forms of consciousness itself.
Since Kant held that we do not create the objects of our cognition, and since he also claimed that we know these objects only insofar as they conform to the conditions of our cognizing them, he concluded that we know these objects only as they appear to us but not as things in themselves. Hence Kant would explain transcendental idealism in terms of two fundamental doctrines: the distinction between appearances and things in themselves, and the claim that we know things only as appearances and not things in themselves.
It was a very strategic doctrine because it allowed him to avoid the dangers of both skepticism and materialism. Through its new conception of truth, transcendental idealism could escape the snares of skepticism. While Kant admits that such a standard of truth is unrealizable, he also doubts its necessity. The truth of all empirical judgments would still be preserved, he maintains, if we explain it in terms of the conformity of representations with the universal and necessary forms of consciousness.
Kant on formative power | Lebenswelt. Aesthetics and philosophy of experience.
While skeptical idealism doubts the reality of the external world, transcendental idealism is committed to its reality because it shows that objects in space must exist outside us. The reality of these objects in space consists not in their existence as things in themselves, to be sure, but in their conformity to universal and necessary forms of consciousness, which is sufficient to establish that they are not illusory. Through its distinction between appearances and things in themselves, transcendental idealism also secured the possibility of naturalism without materialism.
Kant maintained a universal naturalism, so that everything that occurs in nature must be subject to universal laws; yet this does not entail materialism since he limited nature to the realm of appearances, denying that the laws of Kant therefore undermined the central contention of materialism: that everything that exists must be in nature.
Culture and Culturality
Such a contention simply conflated appearances with things in themselves, assuming, wrongly, that what is true of the phenomena of nature must also be true of reality itself. It was in virtue of his distinction between appearances and things in themselves that Kant could also resolve the classical conflict between criticism and naturalism. Criticism would not undermine but support naturalism since it would show how the fundamental principles of natural science apply without exception to all appearances, to any object of experience.
Conversely, naturalism would not undermine criticism because transcendental idealism would show how naturalism operates only in the sphere of appearances and cannot be extended to things in themselves. Transcendental idealism would ensure the autonomy of reason, its freedom from the determination of experience and history, by showing how the standards and activities of reason do not operate in the natural realm at all. Kant insisted on describing his transcendental idealism as critical idealism because it limits knowledge to experience alone and makes no claims about reality in itself.
From the standpoint of critical idealism, the idealist claim that the essence of an object is perception is no better than the materialist claim that the essence of an object is its occupation of space. Both are metaphysical propositions that go beyond the realm of possible experience. IV The pantheism controversy Despite its brilliant strategy, the Critique of Pure Reason could not prevent the crisis of the Enlightenment. The issues that had been simmering for decades — the skepticism and materialism implicit in a radical rationalism — finally burst on the public stage in the late s.
Ironically, no one played a greater role in their transmission than Kant himself. For all his good intentions toward the Enlightenment, Kant had posed its fundamental problems in a way that made them impossible to ignore.