History of Modern Philosophy: Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant

The main objective of Kant in his work of critique of pure reason was to identify the scope and limits that are applicable to pure reason. He worked so hard to determine the capability of reason itself without being in collaboration with other mental faculties. Most of the claims made by metaphysicians about the nature of reality with respect to pure reason alone normally tend to conflict each other in the long run. Kant went ahead to doubt the authenticity of metaphysics itself.

There is a great difference between synthetic and analytic judgments and a posteriori and a priori knowledge. Kant was able to come up with distinctions between these two types of judgments and knowledge respectively. According to Kant a priori knowledge that is universal and human mind is able to gain it without necessarily undergoing an experience while a posteriori knowledge is one that human mind perceives from a particular experience.  The concept of the subject does not contain the predicate concept in a synthetic judgment. Therefore a synthetic judgment apart from being definitional it is also informative. The subject’s concept contains the predicate’s subject in a judgment that is analytic in nature. An analytic judgment is normally associated with a priori knowledge while synthetic judgment is normally associated with a posteriori knowledge. an argument such as all birds fly is synthetic since  flight is never a concept of birds, however, it can also be a posterior because almost all birds fly.

Human beings are capable of suggesting that pure reason is in position of identifying reality through use of synthetic a priori knowledge. Kant unlike other rationalist metaphysics does not borrow the idea that mysteries of the universe can be grasped by pure reason itself. He believes that mind receives information from human senses and then shapes them to obtain the desired knowledge. The mind is capable to arrange all the experiences it receives from the senses in a systematic manner in terms of the time they occurred, the effects they caused and even their causes. He was able to argue that incase a man puts on sunglasses that are bluish in color and are tinted then each and every object he would be would be bluish in color. Kant then argued that human mind is permanently fitted with causation-tinted and time-tinted sunglasses making all the human experiences to obey the causation law and to occur on time.

Kant was able to put forward an argument that inertia and causation as concepts of physics are purely intuited by the faculty of understanding of the human brain while space and time are purely intuited by the faculty of sensibility of the human brain. The faculty of sensibility of human mind processes sensory experience to conform to intuition of space and time to make them sensible.  Kant argues that each and every event that takes place in the mind of human beings can still be deemed to lack meaning if it is not processed by the faculty of understanding which is in a position to organize it to form a concept.

Kant achieved a synthesis between traditional empiricism and traditionalism through his work Critique of Pure Reason. He rejects the idea that pure reasoning can suggest things within themselves but accepts the idea that pure reason has sufficient knowledge in itself from rationalism point of view. He does not borrow the idea that experience cannot provide one with universal truth but he borrows the concept of essential knowledge is obtained through experience from the empiricism point of reasoning. Kant maintains sound empirical approach to human knowledge about his external world and sets clear boundaries with respect to speculations arising from metaphysics through using critique of human reason to provide solutions to metaphysical problems as opposed to use of external world.

Philosophy underwent Copernican revolution according to Kant when he turned the focus of philosophy from external knowledge of metaphysics to critical evaluation of human mind as far as reality is concerned. Kant went ahead to suggest that reality can be obtained through joint evaluation of both human mind and his knowledge about his external world. He went ahead to rule out an assumption that suggests that mind is a slate that is always blank and only wait to receive stimuli from its external world. Kant suggests that mind does several other functions apart from receiving information. The human mind provides the received information with its shape because the knowledge in the external environment is not always in its pure form. This perhaps explains the reasons as to why two different people will normally interpret the same information provided to them differently. Information received from the external environment undergoes various simulation processes in human mind to become knowledge. Experience determines how the faculties of the human mind will grasp knowledge to obtain the truth.

Leibniz and Hume had both made some valuable research work as far as philosophy is concerned. they presented both a posteriori and synthetic-analytic distinctions respectively. Hume considered posteriori to be a collection of all synthetic judgments. He does not put see the difference between a posteriori and the synthetic. Priori is presumed to be all truth about reality because it is only prior truths that have the capability of becoming universal truths. They are derived from general observations of events that are connected. Hume is deemed to be right when he concludes that it is not possible to rationally justify necessary truth and knowledge so long as we keep on limiting our a priori knowledge analytical judgments that can be defined. Kant in his work critique has tried to explain why a priori can sometimes encompass synthetic judgments. He suggests that scientific and mathematical principles are neither a posteriori nor analytic because the shape of our mental faculties is determined by our external experience. He went ahead to suggest another category of pure reason known as synthetic a priori. This can be used to explain why he believed that he had caused a Copernican revolution in the field of philosophy.

The rationalist predecessors of Kant had earlier suggested that pure reason was capable of discerning both content and form of reality. This was the exact of opposite of what Kant later came to suggest during his time as philosopher. He suggested that pure reason was capable of discerning only the form of reality but not the content. Speculations about nature of time, the universe, space, god and space were put forward by rationalists such as Leibniz, Descartes and Spinoza who believed that they could exercise pure reason to provide answers to metaphysical questions concerning them. Kant however, believed that his predecessors could defend their metaphysical speculations simply because they had a belief that human mind was capable of grasping their content externally.  He went ahead to suggest that causation, space and time are the form that is given to experience by mind but cannot be provided by experience. People are able to grasp the nature of space, causation and time due to the fact that pure reason provides the mental faculties with insight but not that pure reason provides nature of reality with insight.

There are several detractors who come out to openly criticize Kant with ingenuity and great insight. This however, has made Kant to earn great compliment as a philosopher with several detractors in the history providing with the world recognition. The idealism of the Germans which dominated the field of philosophy by nineteenth century was able to attack things in themselves, a conception that belonged to Kant. Hegel who is an idealist for instance argued that human beings are capable of possessing sensations without knowing that they actually possess them. He was against Kant’s claim that human minds cannot receive knowledge without the mental faculties to process the information from its external environment. Mental phenomena are the ideal component of reality but not things-in-themselves as Kant puts it.

The philosophy of the twentieth century is considered to be analytic philosophy has not been left out in the war of attacking the philosophical reasoning of Kant. Due to the fact that analytic philosophy is taught in almost all schools of philosophy it has made Kant to be the philosopher with the highest number of critics in the history of philosophy. The logistical structure of reality does not require form which subject-predicate as Kant puts it in his distinction on analytic-synthetic according to logician Gottlob Frege. He went ahead to suggest that human beings should base distinction between analytic and synthetic philosophy when justifying a given judgment by considering its empirical investigation or its logical form. When we base our argument on analytic-synthetic distinction with respect to its empirical investigation or its logical form then we realize that the category of the synthetic a priori that was coined by Kant becomes unnecessary.

Philosophers min the twentieth century are able to suggest that Kant is only capable of arguing that metaphysical problems such as geometry depends on synthetic a priori knowledge when presenting solutions because he is unable to distinguish between empirical geometry and pure geometry in his reasoning. Empirical geometry refers to geometry that presents its principles to science while pure geometry presents its principles to mathematical proofs and axioms. Empirical geometry is a posteriori and at the same time synthetic part of philosophy because human beings are able to learn experience obtained from the applications of his kind of philosophy in the real world. Pure geometry is analytic and the same time a priori because its justification is dependent on only its logical principles.

The work of Kant has still remained very significant in the world of philosophy because of the strong prepositions he presented in his philosophical works. Kant has shaped the way of reasoning of most philosophers and the students of philosophy by trying to justify that pure reason alone is not sufficient is defining the reality as far as nature is concerned.

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