Thursday, September 17, 2015



[Here I continue my notes on Kant’s first (discarded) Introduction to the Critique of the Power of Judgment which he replaced by another Introduction in the printed book. I will not here stop to justify my commenting on the discarded Introduction. The following notes may be the final batch on the Introduction(s). Possibly the next batch of notes will start taking up the main body of the third Critique.]

Kant says that the “unity of nature in time and space and unity of the experience possible for us are identical”. It is from the totality of experience that all thinking starts. From the totality of experience we form the ideas of space, time, causality, as well as the concepts of specific things, plants, animals. I have read that Einstein, before he immersed himself in Physics, had been reading Kant. I suppose it was Kant’s doctrine of space and time as modes of the understanding that sparked in him the insight that space and time were relative to the observer which insight led to the theory of Relativity. Newton’s absolute space and time had to be superseded before the classical theory of Gravity could be radically revised. (I am not recanting my insistence on the complete separation of science and philosophy. Einstein’s insight could have just as well been suggested by a line of Shakespeare’s or by meditating on the colourful panorama of the setting sun. Moreover, when I insist on the separation of science and philosophy I do not mean to deny that they have points of contact and instances of interaction. What I assert is that philosophical investigation does not yield factual knowledge and scientific methods do not answer questions about meaning, value, or purpose.)

Kant tries while thinlong to stand outside his thinking. That is how he can come up with such involved structures as “a mere faculty for reflecting on a given representation, in accordance with a certain principle, for the sake of a concept that is thereby made possible”. This says no more than that in thinking we beget ideas. What sense is there in speaking of the concept being made possible as if the possibility of the concept were something other than the concept? This surely is a fit candidate for Occam’s razor. It is the kind of thinking that made the later Wittgenstein go round and round in vacuous circles, though Kant could escape Wittgenstein’s fate by fitting his vacuous intricacies into theoretical architectonics.

Similarly, “The principle of reflection on given objects of nature is that for all things in nature empirically determinate concepts can be found …” says nothing. We cannot consider an object as an object unless we already have the concept of that specific object, since it is the conccpt that constitutes the specifity of the object for us as the Critique of Pure Reason shows. It is no wonder that thinkers of the rank of Nietzsche, Russell, Whitehead, could write Kant off, which is a pity because Kant has profound insights hidden in the heaps of his theoretical junk.

Kant writes:

“All comparison of empirical representations in order to cognize empirical laws in natural things and specific forms matching these, … presuppose that… nature has observed a certain economy suitable to our power of judgment and a uniformity that we can grasp, and this presupposition, as an a priori principle of the power of judgment, must precede all comparison.”

Kant here has forgotten his own Copernican revolution. He forgets that it is the mind that imposes the economy and the uniformity on nature to make it thinkable. A thing in nature, in itself, never is but is always becoming, as Plato knew, and it is not strictly definable because, like Leibniz’ monads, it reflects the whole universe. If we try to pinpoint the least thing in nature we find that, like the King’s ghost in Hamlet, “ʼTis Here. ʼTis there. ʼTis gone.” We do not think things; we think our ideas. That is what Bergson finds wrong with conceptual thinking, but it is a necessary and inescapable limitation. Though on principle I avoid mixing philosophy with science, I may perhaps say that scientists are at last finding in Relativity and in Quantum mechanics that nature refuses to be finally defined or finally situated. May the gods forgive me for trespassing where philosophers should not tread.

Cairo, September 17, 2015.


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