December 9, 2003

Kant Final

1. According to Kant, intuitions only gain objective status by being thought or conceptualized. How do empirical concepts perform this function?

In what follows, we will see how Kant believes empirical concepts give objective status to intuitions.

In order to see how this works, we first need to understand what Kant means when he uses the terms concept, intuition, and objective status. First, a concept is a number of common characteristics that a group of objects share. Therefore, when we apply a concept to a group of objects, we unite those objects, or show that those objects are alike because they all share certain characteristics. An example of a concept is redness. Redness is a characteristic that many objects share—e.g., blood, lobsters, and sunsets are all red. When we apply the concept redness to a group of objects, we unite those objects, as we show that those objects are alike insofar as they all possess redness—e.g., blood, lobsters, and sunsets are all alike insofar as they are red. A pure concept is a characteristic that a group of pure objects share; space and time are pure objects. An empirical concept is a characteristic that a group of empirical objects share; all those objects existing in space and time are empirical objects.

Second, intuition is the act whereby we experience a particular object. Since space and time are pure intuitions, any intuition of space and time is a pure intuition. Since all those objects existing in space and time are empirical objects, any intuition of an object existing in space and time is an empirical intuition.

Third, an event or object is objectively true if it really happened or if it really exists. An event or object is subjectively true if it did not really happen or if it does not really exist, but if it only seemed to have happened or seems to exist. For instance, if it is objectively true that it is snowing outside, then it is the case that it is actually snowing outside; if it is subjectively true that it is snowing outside, then it is only the case that it appears to be snowing outside. To say that something is given an objective status is to say that it can be considered real, or to say that it can be considered to have actually happened or that it can be considered to actually exist. To say that something is given a subjective status is to say that it can be considered apparent, or to say that it can only be considered to have seemingly happened or that it can only be considered to seemingly exist.

Kant believes that intuitions can only attain objective status if empirical concepts are applied to them because apart from concepts, we do not intuit events and objects as they actually happen and exist. In order to see why this is so, it will be helpful to consider a couple examples.

Let’s suppose that I have an intuition of a kid dropping a rock to the ground: at T1, I see the rock at S1 (in the kid’s hand); at T2, I see the rock at S2 (in between his hand and the ground); at T3, I see the rock at S3 (at rest on the ground). If I apply the empirical concept “unsupported body” to these intuitions, I can know that the object I intuited at T1/S1 is the same as the object I intuited at T2/S2 and T3/S3. Applying the concept “unsupported body” to this object allows me to recognize that these different intuitions were all of the same object because the concept “unsupported body” allows me to unite these different intuitions: since the concept “unsupported body” tells me that all bodies on earth fall downwards unless acted upon by an outside force, when I apply this concept to my intuitions of the rock (and thus declare the rock to be an unsupported body), I can realize that the object I intuited at T1/S1 must be the same object I intuited at T2/S2 and T3/S3 because it was not acted upon by an outside force and, therefore, after leaving the boy’s had at T1/S1, it must have arrived at T2 at S2 and at T3 at S3. If I did not apply the concept “unsupported body” to this object, I would not be able to know that these intuitions were of the same object: since the object at T1/S1 is different than the object at T2/S2 and the object at T3/S3 (these objects are different both temporally and spatially), if I did not have the concept of “unsupported body” and, thus, could not unite these different objects, I would have no way of knowing that they were the same.

It is really the case that the rock at T1/S1 is the same as the rock at T2/S2 and T3/S3. In other words, this is objectively true. We can only give these intuitions objective status (i.e., we can only consider these intuitions to have actually occurred) if we apply the empirical concept “unsupported body” to them. If we do not apply the empirical concept “unsupported body” to these intuitions, then we cannot know that the rock at T1/S1 is the same as the rock at T2/S2 and T3/S3 and, therefore, we cannot give these intuitions objective status (i.e., we cannot consider these intuitions to have actually occurred) as it would only apparently be the case that the rock at T1/S1 was different than the rocks at T2/S2 and T3/S3; it would not actually be the case.

Let’s look at another example. Suppose I have the experience of looking at a tree at T1, then close my eyes at T2, and then open my eyes and look at the tree at T3. If I apply the empirical concept “being a tree” to these intuitions, I can know that the tree I intuited at T1 is the same as the tree I intuited at T3. Applying the concept “being a tree” to these intuitions allows me to recognize that these different intuitions were all of the same object because the concept “being a tree” allows me to unite these different intuitions: since the concept “being a tree” tells me that a tree is an object that exists throughout time and does not cease to exist when I close my eyes, when I apply this concept to my intuitions, I can realize that the object I intuited at T1 must be the same object I intuited at T3 because the both objects were trees and trees exist throughout time and do not cease to exist when I close my eyes. If I did not apply the concept “being a tree” to this object, I would not be able to know that these intuitions were of the same object: since the object at T1 is different than the object at T3 (these objects are different temporally), if I did not have the concept of “being a tree” and, thus, could not unite these different objects, I would have no way of knowing that they were the same.

It is really the case that the tree at T1 is the same as the tree at T3. In other words, this is objectively true. We can only give these intuitions objective status (i.e., we can only consider these intuitions to be of the same object) if we apply the empirical concept “being a tree” to them. If we do not apply the empirical concept “being a tree” to these intuitions, then we cannot know that the tree at T1 is the same as the tree at T3 and, therefore, we cannot give these intuitions objective status (i.e., we cannot consider these intuitions to be of the same object) as it would only apparently be the case that the tree at T1 was different than the tree at T3; it would not actually be the case.


2. Explain the three-fold synthesis by which intuitions are rendered objective. Show how this synthetic process takes place on both the empirical and transcendental level.

Two conditions are necessary in order for an intuition to be rendered objective. First, that intuition must be part of a manifold. In other words, that intuition cannot be completely isolated, but must be part of a sequence with other intuitions. Second, that intuition must be synthesized. In other words, that intuition must be put under a concept.

Synthesis is a threefold process. That is, in order for an intuition to be synthesized, three syntheses must be performed on it. Each synthesis, it should be noted, is necessary in order for the other syntheses to occur. The three syntheses are the syntheses of apprehension, reproduction, and recognition.

The synthesis of apprehension is the act in which the mind links different intuitions together. In other words, the synthesis of apprehension is the act in which the mind takes a manifold of intuitions and shows that they are part of a sequence. If the mind did not link these intuitions together, then these intuitions would be experienced as isolated, unrelated intuitions that were not part of a sequence. In order for these intuitions to hold together, both empirical and pure syntheses of apprehension must take place. The empirical synthesis of apprehension links together different intuitions. To see how this works, let’s look at an example. Suppose I experience a ball being held in someone’s hand at T1, the ball being halfway in between that person’s hand and the ground at T2, and the ball being on the ground at T3. I could only know that the ball experienced at T1 is the same as the balls experienced at T2 and T3 if my mind my mind performs an empirical synthesis of apprehension—that is, if my mind links together the balls experienced at T1, T2, and T2. If my mind did not link together my intuitions of these balls, I would have no way of knowing that they were the same. The pure synthesis of apprehension links together different times. In the above example, I could only know that the ball experienced at T1 is the same as the balls experienced at T2 and T3 if my mind performs a pure synthesis of apprehension. In other words, I could only know that the ball experienced at T1 is the same as the balls experienced at T2 and T3 if my mind links together the times T1, T2, and T3. If my mind did not link together T1, T2, and T3, my mind could not link together the balls which are located in T1, T2, and T3. But by linking these times together, I can know that they are related to one another, that T1 comes before T2 and that T2 comes before T3.

The synthesis of reproduction is the act in which the mind remembers previous intuitions. If the mind did not remember previous intuitions, then it could not perform the synthesis of apprehension. In other words, if the mind was only aware of the present intuition at hand and did not remember previous intuitions, it could not link together a manifold of intuitions, for it would only be aware of one intuition at any given time. In order for the mind to remember intuitions, both empirical and pure syntheses of reproduction must take place. The empirical synthesis of reproduction remembers previous intuitions. To see how this works, let’s again look at the example of the ball being dropped. When I experience the ball at T3, the empirical synthesis of reproduction enables me to remember the balls I experienced at T1 and T2. If it were not for this synthesis, I would not remember the balls at either T1 or T2 and, therefore, could not link them together with the ball I’m currently experiencing at T3. The pure synthesis of reproduction remembers previous intuitions of time. When I’m experiencing the ball at T3, the pure synthesis of reproduction enables me to remember T1 and T2. If it were not for this synthesis, I would not remember either T1 or T2 and, therefore, could not perform a pure synthesis of apprehension. In other words, if I could not remember T1 and T2, I could not link them together with T3.

The synthesis of recognition is the act in which the mind recognizes that it is not presently intuiting an intuition when it is remembering it. If the mind could not recognize the difference between a present intuition and the memory of a past intuition, then it could never put its intuitions in the correct sequence. In order for the mind to recognize the difference between past and present intuitions, both empirical and pure syntheses of recognition must take place. The empirical synthesis of recognition recognizes the difference between past and present intuitions. To see how this works, let’s again look at the example of the ball being dropped. If I remembered the ball at T1 and was intuiting the ball at T2, but could not tell which intuition was past and which was present, I would not know that the ball at T1 came before the ball at T2. The empirical synthesis of recognition allows me to recognize that I am presently experiencing the ball at T2 and that I am only remembering the ball at T1; therefore, it enables me to know that the ball at T1 came before the ball at T2. The pure synthesis of recognition recognizes the difference between present and past times. If was remembering T1 and was presently in T2, but could not recognize that I was only remembering T1 and not presently in it, I would not know that T1 came before T2. The pure synthesis of recognition allows me to recognize that I am presently experiencing T2 and only remembering T1; therefore, it enables me to know that T1 came before T2.


3. Explain the difference between mere maxims and practical law. Why must the former be expressed through hypothetical imperatives and the latter through the categorical imperative?

A maxim is a rule of action that someone is following. For this reason, we can discover what maxim someone is following if we merely discover what action that person is performing. For instance, if someone is currently eating, then we would say that that person’s maxim, at least for the time being, is eating. A mere maxim is a rule of action that is determined by one’s inclinations or desires. A practical law is a rule of action that is determined by practical reason. Practical reason is the faculty that discovers the moral law. In other words, practical reason discovers what it is that people ought to do. To put it yet another way, practical reason determines when an action should be performed regardless of its consequences and regardless of one’s inclinations. (All rational beings possess practical reason.) By contrast, theoretical reason is the faculty that discovers natural laws. In other words, theoretical reason discovers how the world actually is. (All animals, not just humans, possess theoretical reason.) To summarize, then, while a mere maxim is a rule of action that is determined by one’s inclinations, a practical law is a rule of action that is determined by practical reason.

Since a mere maxim is a rule determined by inclination, it might seem that it does not need an imperative or command. For why, it may be asked, does one need to be commanded to do that which he or she is naturally inclined to do? But it is only the end of a mere maxim that does not need an imperative; the means of a mere maxim does need an imperative. In other words, people do not need commanded to desire their desires or inclinations, but they might need to be commanded to perform the actions that are required in order to bring about the fulfillment of those desires. Proof that people might need to be commanded to perform the actions that are required in order to bring about the fulfillment of their desires is that one can desire a certain end yet not be willing to perform the means necessary to achieving that end. For example, one can desire to drink a lot of alcohol, but he or she might not be willing to take the necessary actions required to drinking a lot of alcohol—for instance, he or she might not be willing to a hold a job and, thus, earn enough money to obtain a sufficient amount of alcohol. Therefore, there must be an imperative that commands people to take the necessary actions to bring about their desired ends.

A mere maxim must be expressed through a hypothetical imperative. This follows because (1) a mere maxim is a rule of action determined by one’s desires and (2) a hypothetical imperative commands what steps must be performed in order to bring about any given desire. In other words, mere maxims must be expressed through hypothetical imperatives because hypothetical imperatives prescribe the actions one must perform to actualize mere maxims. A hypothetical imperative commands conditionally. That is, a hypothetical imperative states what conditions must be met in order to bring about a given end. For this reason, a hypothetical imperative comes in one of the following forms: “If you want Y, you must do X,” or “Do X if you want to attain Y.” For example, given that one desires to, say, spend Thanksgiving Day watching football, a hypothetical imperative might say, “If you want to spend Thanksgiving Day watching football, you must (1) tell your family you won’t be able to go to dinner because you are sick, (2) lock your bedroom door so no one can disturb you, (3) turn the television set on, etc.”

Since a practical law is not determined by one’s inclinations, it seems obvious that such a law needs an imperative. In other words, since (1) one’s reason can conflict with one’s inclination (and experience proves that this often happens) and (2) practical law is determined by reason, not inclination, it follows that (3) one, at least sometimes, needs to be commanded to follow practical law, or follow reason instead of inclination.

A practical law must be expressed through a categorical imperative. This follows because (1) a practical law is a rule of action determined by one’s practical reason and (2) a categorical imperative commands that one ought to follow his or her practical reason, regardless of one’s inclinations and regardless of the consequences of a given action. Unlike a hypothetical imperative, a categorical imperative does not command conditionally. That is, it does not state what conditions must be met in order to bring about a given end. For this reason, a categorical imperative simply comes in the form “Do X.” Unlike a hypothetical imperative, it does not command that one do X in order to achieve any desired end; rather, it merely commands that one do X regardless of one’s desires and regardless of the ends that will result in doing X. For example, if one’s practical reason determines that it is always wrong to lie, a categorical imperative would state that one should not lie—even if lying should bring about a set of consequences that he or she desires.


4. Why must the moral law be purely formal? How does the formal character of the law imply that moral beings have a free will?

Kant believes that the moral law must be purely formal. He believes this because he believes (1) that any theory that begins with any type of object is naturalistic and (2) that when you begin with object, the law has content (is not formal).

Before seeing why he believes the moral law must be purely formal, we should define a few terms. First, a moral theory is naturalistic if it confuses an is with an ought, or, in other words, if it confuses a natural good with a moral good. Second, the object of a moral law is the Good, or the standard by which the moral quality of actions is judged.

Kant believes that any moral theory that begins with an object is naturalistic. In other words, he believes that a theory is naturalistic if it determines its object before it determines the law. To see why he believes this, let’s look at the examples of two consequentialist theories: utilitarianism and Platonism. Utilitarianism is a naturalistic theory because it equates natural goods with moral goods. Specifically, utilitarianism believes that people desire to be happy and concludes from this that people ought to maximize happiness. Utilitarianism does not start with the rule “People ought to maximize happiness.” Rather, it starts by determining that its object or Good is happiness. After determining that happiness is the Good, utilitarianism then forms it law—“People ought to maximize happiness.” Platonism is a naturalistic theory because it believes that people ultimately desire to have well-ordered souls and concludes from this that having a well-ordered soul is morally good. Platonism does not start with the rule “People ought to have well-ordered souls.” Rather, it starts by determining that its object or Good is a well-ordered soul. After determining that having a well-ordered soul is the Good, Platonism then forms its law—“People ought to have well-ordered souls.”

Some might believe they can establish a moral theory that begins with an object but that is not naturalistic if they begin their theory with what it is humans ought to do. In other words, it might be claimed, if we start a moral theory with a moral good, and not a natural good, then we might be able to establish a non-naturalistic moral theory that begins with an object. For instance, it might be argued that we should start a moral theory, not by observing what people pursue, but by stating what it is that people ought to pursue. But Kant believes that this theory, like the consequentialist theories we looked at, does not work. We cannot begin a moral theory by stating what it is that people ought to pursue because we are only able to observe what people actually pursue, not what they ought to pursue.

So we have seen why Kant believes the moral law must be purely formal. Since the law is purely formal (i.e., without content), it seems that nothing can be known about it. However, Kant believes that at least one thing can be known about the moral law—it is a law and it, therefore, has a universal form. All laws, Kant notes, are universal—both natural laws and the moral law. In other words, both natural laws and the moral law are universally binding. Just as all natural beings do in fact obey natural laws, so, too, all natural beings ought to obey the moral law.

Because the moral law is purely formal and, therefore, is composed of universalized maxims, it follows that the moral law implies that moral beings have a free will. This follows because: (1) A will that follows an object that is part of the noumenal world is free; (2) The moral law is part of the noumenal world; (3) Therefore, a will that follows the moral law is free. Let’s look at each of these points in turn. First, a will that follows an object that is part of the nomenal world is free. Kant believes that a will must follow one of two types of objects: either an object that is part of the phenomenal world or an object that is part of the noumenal world. A will that follows an object that is part of the phenomenal world is merely obeying the laws of efficient causality and is not free. For example, when I eat because I am hungry, I am not free; I am not free because I am merely obeying natural laws, laws that give me a desire to eat when I am hungry. On the other hand, a will that follows an object that is part of the noumenal world is not obeying the laws of efficient causality and is, therefore, free. For example, when I obey the moral law simply because I am choosing to do my duty, I am free; I am free because I am not obeying natural laws, but the moral law. Second, the moral law is part of the nomenal world. As we have seen, the moral law is composed of universalized maxims and since universalized maxims are part of the noumenal world, it follows that the moral law is part of the noumenal world. That universalized maxims are part of the noumenal world is obvious. For an object is either part of the phenomenal world or part of the noumenal world. It is clear that universalized maxims are not part of the phenomenal world, as it is impossible to empirically observe such a maxim; therefore, such maxims must be part of the noumenal world. Therefore, a will that follows the moral law is free. This conclusion logically follows from the first two premises.


5. What is Kant’s answer to Hume’s critique of causality? How is this answer grounded in the unity of apperception?

According to David Hume, we cannot know that any one event in the universe is the cause of any other event. Sure, it is common to claim that certain events cause other events; for instance, it is common to say that a ball dropped to the ground because someone released it from his hand. But it is debatable whether any one event really is the cause of any other event. One cannot establish the principle of causality through Relations of Ideas. Relations of Ideas are truths that are based on the law of non-contradiction, as their negations are self-contradictory. A statement about causality cannot be based on the law of non-contradiction, as its negation is not self-contradictory. For instance, I am not violating the law of non-contradiction when I say, “I released the ball from my hand and it remained suspended in mid-air,” as this statement is not self-contradictory. Weird as this statement may sound, it is not self-contradictory: since the concept of “falling downwards when dropped from one’s hand” is not in the concept of “ball,” the aforementioned statement does not fall into the “A is non-A” form. Not only can one not establish the principle of causality through Relations of Ideas, but neither can he or she establish the principle of causality through Matters of Fact. A Matter of Fact is a truth discovered through one’s senses. Although our senses may have experienced that certain events always occur before other events (at least insofar as we know), our senses have never experienced one event causing any other event. Since our senses have only observed that certain events are always conjoined together with certain other events but have never experienced causality existing between any two events, it follows that we have merely inferred the existence of causality but have never established it through experience.

While Hume claims that we impose causality onto our experiences, Kant believes that one cannot have any experience without imposing causality and eleven other categories onto it. His argument can be stated as follows: (1) A unified consciousness is a necessary condition for any experience; (2) An objective manifold is a necessary condition for a unified consciousness; (3) Therefore, an objective manifold is a necessary condition for any experience. The conclusion naturally follows from the two premises. In order to see how this answers Hume’s critique of causality, we need to understand two points about the second premise: (1) an objective manifold is a synthesized sequence of intuitions, or, in other words, a sequence of intuitions that is put under a concept, and (2) one of the concepts that a synthesized manifold is put under is causality. Let’s now look at Kant’s arguments for the two premises.

First, a unified consciousness is a necessary condition for any experience. In order to see why this is so, we need to define what Kant means by experience and unified consciousness. An experience is a perception of an event or series of events that lasts more than one instant. A unified consciousness is an awareness of oneself and of other things that exists over a period of time. Given these definitions, it follows that I could not have any type of experience if I did have a unified consciousness. In other words, if I did not exist for more than one instant (or was not conscious of existing for more than one instant), then I could not have an experience of any event—as an experience necessarily lasts more than one instant.

Second, an objective manifold is a necessary condition for a unified consciousness. An objective manifold is a sequence of intuitions that a subject has synthesized or put under a concept. If my mind did not put the intuitions I experience under various concepts and, thus, render them an objective, all my intuitions would be completely isolated or, in other words, completely unrelated to one another. And if no one intuition of mine was related to any other intuition of mine, then my consciousness could not be unified. In other words, if my intuitions were not put under certain concepts (one of them being causality), there would not be anything to hold together my consciousness—and, thus, my consciousness would not unified. If my intuition at T1 was completely unrelated to my intuition at T2 and my intuition at T2 was completely unrelated to my intuition at T3 and so on ad infinitum, then my mind (since it is experiencing these intuitions) would have nothing to hold it together, as there would be nothing that it could latch onto and use it as a marker for its continual duration throughout time. Since my mind would not have such a stable marker, as far as I know, I would be a completely different person each moment.

A manifold is rendered objective through the three-fold process of synthesis. The first synthesis, the synthesis of apprehension, is the act in which the mind links different intuitions together; the second synthesis, the synthesis of reproduction, is the act in which the mind remembers previous intuitions; and the third synthesis, the synthesis of recognition, is the act in which the mind recognizes that I am not presently intuiting an intuition when I am remembering it. In order to perform the three-fold synthesis, I must have apperception. While perception is the awareness of a representation, apperception is the awareness that the representation I am aware of belongs to my consciousness. For example, I can be said to perceive a representation of a tree and I can be said to apperceive that a representation of a tree is my representation and not someone else’s. I must have apperception in order to perform the three-fold synthesis because I cannot perform the three-fold synthesis unless I notice myself as the one performing the synthesis. First, in order to link together different intuitions, and thus perform the synthesis of apprehension, I must recognize that all of the intuitions I am linking together are my intuitions; if I were not sure that all of these intuitions were my intuitions, then there would be no point in linking them together. Second, in order to remember previous intuitions and thus perform the synthesis of reproduction, I must recognize that the intuition I am remembering is my intuition; if this intuition were not my intuition, then I could not remember it.

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