Sunday, November 29, 2009


""Now I may say without contradiction: that all the actions of
rational beings, so far as they are appearances (occurring in any
experience), are subject to the necessity of nature; but the same actions, as regards merely the rational subject and its faculty of acting according to mere reason, are free. For what is required for the necessity of nature? Nothing more than the determinability of every event in the world of sense according to constant laws, that is, a reference to cause in the appearance; in this process the thing in itself at its foundation and its causality remain unknown. But I say, that the law of nature remains, whether the rational being is the cause of the effects in the sensuous world from reason, that is, through freedom, or whether it does not determine them on grounds of reason. For, if the former is the case, the action is performed according to maxims, the effect of which as appearance is always conformable to constant laws; if the latter is the case, and the action not performed on principles of reason, it is subjected to the empirical laws of the sensibility, and in both cases the effects are connected according to constant laws; more than this we do not require or know concerning natural necessity. But in the former case reason is the cause of these laws of nature, and therefore free; in the latter the effects follow according to mere natural laws of sensibility, because reason does not influence it; but reason itself is not determined on that account by the sensibility, and is therefore free in this case too. Freedom is therefore no hindrance to natural law in appearance, neither does this law abrogate the freedom of the practical use of reason, which is connected with things in themselves, as determining grounds. Thus practical freedom, viz., the freedom in which reason
possesses causality according to objectively determining grounds,
is rescued and yet natural necessity is not in the least curtailed with regard to the very same effects, as appearances. The same remarks will serve to explain what we had to say concerning transcendental freedom and its compatibility with
natural necessity (in the same subject, but not taken in the same reference). For, as to this, every beginning of the action of a being from objective causes regarded as determining grounds, is always a first start, though the same action is in the series of appearances only a subordinate start, which must be preceded by a
state of the cause, which determines it, and is itself determined in the same manner by another immediately preceding. Thus we are able, in rational beings, or in beings generally, so far as their causality is determined in them as things in themselves, to imagine a faculty of beginning from itself a series of states, without falling into contradiction with the laws of nature. For the relation of the action to objective grounds of reason is not a time-relation; in this case that which determines the causality does not precede in time the action, because such determining grounds represent not a reference to objects of sense, e.g., to
causes in the appearances, but to determining causes, as things in themselves, which do not rank under conditions of time. And in this way the action, with regard to the causality of reason, can be considered as a first start in respect to the series of
appearances, and yet also as a merely subordinate beginning. We may therefore without contradiction consider it in the former aspect as free, but in the latter (in so far as it is merely appearance) as subject to natural necessity.""

(from the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics)

Reason, which is free, possesses causality, said Kant, and is outside the scope of natural determinism. Do you agree, or disagree? Provide arguments for your point of view. could Kant be called a dualist, or Cartesian, given his strict demarcation between Reason and nature? Or is he instead a compatibilist.

In contemporary terms, we suggest Kant is responding to strict determinists, whether of anglo-empiricist sorts, or spinoza-ists. Like Descartes, Kant starts from the perspective of the subject; Reason (and the understanding itself) does not present itself as phenomena, as appearance. Were we to limit ourselves merely to phenomena (for this is philosophy, not physics--though perhaps we could ask the physics department to define Time...not to say Reason, Freedom, justice) we would have no real evidence of reason, or Freedom: or that's how Contingencies reads it.

Wittgenstein also says something of the sort in Philosophical Investigations: how does one know humans are not automata? Why not BF Skinner?? Kant, updating Descartes (and responding to anglo empiricists and reductionism), if not the greeks shows the solution to that--his view not entirely different than say Chomsky. Reason itself is not data or phenomena--at least at basic level. So the speculation on freedom/nature (and the 3rd antinomy, actually) leads to an ontological issue regarding Mind. Cognitive scientists may disagree with the epiphenomenal (and pro metaphysicians offer clarifications--property or substance dualism, etc.), but have not as of yet charted out the human action or decision, certainly not of any complex sort (say, playing chess, or working through a reductio proof).

(another interesting factoid on Kant. While a professor of Logic and Metaphysics, Kant also taught Physics, and Astronomy and offered very informed critiques of Leibniz and Newton, and some of his work in astronomy indeed anticipated the big bang.: From the SEP: """Kant did “out-Newton” Newton to the cutting edge of current knowledge. Nature, in the Universal Natural History, streams outward in a wavefront of organization (1:314.1-2), generating worlds (1:314.8), biospheres and sentience (1:317.5-13, 352-3), and finally reason, human and otherwise (1:351-66). Organization is fragile, and spontaneity, pushed far enough, invites chaos. Mature cosmic regions decay, chaos sets in, and entropy follows in the wake of complexity. But entropy provides the very conditions that allow the cosmic pulse to bounce material points back to order. Thus the expanding chaos curdles at its center into order, followed by chaos, by order, by chaos. Like a rising and burning phoenix, nature cycles between life and death""" (1:312.13).)

Of course most humans, whether academics, or mafiosi or ordinary joes, reject Kantian rationalism. Rationalism of whatever sort does not bode well for bidness. Kantianism is considered overthrown, whether by Marx, Darwin, modern science or Freud (or Al Caponay). Nietzsche himself detested Kant--Kant vs Nietzsche is another battle unknown to most in Consumerland yet still retains some significance. Most humans are sort of Nietzsches--or Nietzsche-lites, and dislike anything which resembles metaphysical reflection--that holds even with academics. Mention Kant to a UC economist, and De-Economist will say what useless theorizing, ghost-discussion, etc. Ayn Rand hated Kant as well, both in terms of metaphysics, and politics (Kant's politics were closer to say Rousseau, than to Hegel--not too PC, but the late Kant sided with abolitionists): what need have we for that subjective ghostly metaphysics, the categorical imperative, or the doubts of phenomena, or the ding an sich darlink?? Strike while the iron's hot, what you see is what you get. Ayn Rand, like Nietzsche rejects the a priori, the hints of transcendence, the categories--at least Nietzche cops to the anti-rationalism, and naturalism.

Ayn Rand now resides in Hades, most likely, with a large load of shekels stuffed in her moneymaker. That loud male nurse Nietzsche's not too far above er (with many an anglo-Darwinist nearby, or rightist-techie-fraud like Heinlein). Rah-thur

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