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Saturday, June 18, 2022


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Thank you all these source texts! There are a lot to discuss, particularly Prolegomena §13 Note 2 which is especially problematic. But can we start with my comment to an earlier post, as follows:

The effect of an object on the capacity for representation (Vorstellungsfähigkeit), insofar as [B34] we are affected by it, is sensation (Empfindung). That intuition (Anschauung) which is related to the [A20] object through sensation is called empirical. The undetermined object of an empirical intuition is called appearance (Erscheinung).
Question: is sensation ‘intersubjective’? If so, then my sensation is also F’s sensation. They are one in number? That does not seem right.

Sensation is not intersubjective. Why would you think that it is?

Your eyes are not her eyes; your visual sensations caused by the thing you are looking at are yours, not hers. The object you both see is an intersubjective object because the different sensational matter is formed by common forms, the a priori forms of sensibility, space and time, and the a priori forms of understanding, the categories.

The real problem here is the problem of affection. If the category of causality has cognitive application only within the bounds of sense, how can the thing as it is in itself cause sensations in the perceiver?

Jacobi was on to this problem not long after 1781.

>Sensation is not intersubjective. Why would you think that it is?

My desk has a black rectangular surface. Kant says that colour is a sensation (“colours, taste, etc., are correctly considered not as qualities of things but as mere alterations of our subject, which can even be different in different people” – B45).

So the blackness in the rectangle that I see is not the same blackness that she sees. How can that be? And how is the rectangularity a ‘common form’? How can the rectangle that I see be one and the same as the rectangle she sees, and yet the coloured patch whose rectangular limits are defined by the rectangle not be the same for both of us?

>If the category of causality has cognitive application only within the bounds of sense, how can the thing as it is in itself cause sensations in the perceiver?

Yes that is a problem too.

Also, colour is a quality of a body, whereas sensation is an affection of the mind. How can a quality of a body at the same time be an affection of the mind?

How about this on the Jacobi quandary: the notion that sense impressions are caused by noumena is not literal, but analytical from an experiential standpoint. The problem is somewhat like that found in scientific texts on evolution. They find it very difficult to talk about an evolutionary process without using teleological concepts like 'design' and 'purpose.' But if asked if the process they describe is teleological, they vehemently deny it. So too with that Kantian gateway between the world and experience. Sense impressions per se are of a thing in itself, but as such cannot be literally conceptualized as caused by the thing in itself, because temporal succession and causation are rendered by the positive activity of the mind in a later moment of experience.

Or to put it another way, any talk of a relation between sense impressions and the world needs to be done in a Derridean erasure: impressions are /caused by/ the things in themselves.

Note to BV. This is too long for you to post, but I think it is relevant to your blog discussions of Kant. In any case, I need to 'get it out the door' so I can move on to other things. Kant tends to capture too much of my attention.

As to the Jacobi critique, but also with reference to Ed's subjective idealism thesis:

From The Kant-Eberhard Controversy, translated by Henry E. Allison, 1973. Eberhard asks the question: "What gives the sensibility its matter, i.e., sensations?" and then answers with, "We may choose what we will-we nevertheless arrive at things in themselves." Kant agrees with this. He states: "Now this is precisely what the Critique constantly asserts. The only difference is that it places the ground of the matter of sensible representations not itself again in things as objects of the senses, but in something super-sensible, which grounds the sensible representations, and of which we can have no knowledge. The Critique says: the objects as things in themselves give the matter to empirical intuition (they contain the ground of the determination of the faculty of representation in accordance with its sensibility), but they are not the matter of these intuitions."

In reading this, note that "matter" and "sensations" are presumed equivalent for Kant.

So, the relation of things in themselves to the sensations which are the content of an intuition is as a ground, not as a cause. This answers Jacobi, I think, but to the extent you don't put much credence in the notion of a ground as (somehow) necessarily linking the things in themselves to the sense impressions of things in themselves, then Kant might very well be considered a subjective idealist as Ed wants to say. For, post sensation, all that the mind has to work with are empirical intuitions which are appearances only and irrevocably tainted with the minds imposition of a spatio-temporal matrix on the content. And without the anchor of the noumena behind the sense impressions, it would seem difficult to maintain that the empirical objects of intuition are not private mental objects.

But even so, I still maintain that Kant is not a subjective idealist simply because Kant made the things in themselves fundamental to his philosophy and refused to excise them in his on going development of his ideas. All you can say is that as a version of empirical realism, Kant was not persuasive.


Thanks for your comments. Common to both is the suggestion that the Jacobi problems might be solved if the relation whereby the human mind receives sensory input is not the causal relation that connects already constituted empirical objects, but something analogous to it, some sort of grounding relation. I believe J N Findlay makes a suggestion along these lines. I'll have to pull his Kant book from the shelf.

Another problem for the ‘inter subjective’ thesis. Colours (for Kant, sensations) exist in space. This black patch that constitutes the visible surface of the desk has a definite shape, and it is located two to three feet in front of me. So the patch is extended in three dimensional space.

But according to Kant there is just one space, of which the space occupied by the patch is a small part. So when F comes into the room and intuits the black patch, ‘her’ black patch is a part of the very same space as ‘my’ patch. (I say ‘her’ and ‘my’ because sensations, according to Kant, are affections of her and my mind respectively. That idea is strange.

Cook Wilson (*Statement and Inference* p 64)

".. what I think of the red object is its own redness, not some mental copy of redness in my mind. I regard it as having real redness and not as having my copy of redness. [...] If we ask in any instance what it is we think of a given object of knowledge, we find it always conceived as the nature or part of the nature of the thing known."

And here is a compelling argument on the other side.

1. I take this to be the visible surface of a desk.
2. It is almost certain that this in fact the visible surface of a desk, but it is possible that it is not (it may be the result of a highly realistic virtual reality program)
3. If this were not the visible surface, it would be a mental item
4. It is impossible that the visible surface of a desk could ever be a mental item
5. Therefore this, which could possibly be a mental item, is not identical with what could not possibly be a mental item.
6. Therefore this, which I take to be the visible surface of a desk, is not the visible surface of a desk.

(Compare with Cook Wilson: if in certain cases that we see cannot be a body, the same thing must be true of all cases)

In the (1)-(6) argument, what is the conclusion? That the visible surface of your desk is not a mental item or that it is?

The conclusion is obviously #6. "this, which I take to be the visible surface of a desk, is not the visible surface of a desk"

If it is possible that A is an F, but impossible that B is an F, then A /= B.

So you are arguing against your own position?

>So you are arguing against your own position?

I am setting up an aporia. Nothing wrong with that! We have two positions each with a strong claim to plausibility.

(A) Colour is a quality of a body, whereas sensation is a mental item. So the X that I take to be the black colour of the visible surface of this desk is not a mental item.

(B) But the 6-point argument above seems irrefragable. The X that I take to be the the black colour of the visible surface of this desk could be a mental item, and whatever could be a mental item cannot be a physical item. Corollary: X is a mental item (since there is nothing else for it to be).

I think the 6 point argument is logically defective, by the way, and happy to discuss.

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