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Modern Philosophy

Some Esential Points in Reading The Critique of Pure Reason

Eduardo Shore

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ABSTRACT: (1) Things are not to be found in the Critique (real things also called physical objects-an epoché 'avant la lettre' as in Husserl). The things as appearances are only Vorstellungen (representatio, B376). Confusion arrives because Kant calls these objects with the same names employed in the language of common sense for designating the things. (2) Due to the absence of these things, nothing is said concerning the relation between things and empirical objects (things as appearances, Erscheinungen). (3) Things in themselves, considered in the abstraction of sensible receptivity, are for this very abstraction, unknowable. Consequently, they cannot be considered as the origin of appearances. (4) I propose an explanation of the relation mentioned in (2). (5) What is the use of the Critique of so strange a conception as the thing in itself instead of simply mentioning real things and their representations in the subject? (6) Mind is not an adequate translation of the German gemüt. I think subject is better.

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At this paper I shall limit myself to expose only two items as possible themes of an adequate reading of the Critique. (1a) According to the imposed extension of the paper a detailed treatment is not to be found here. These two themes are: the first one, things and things in themselves. The other one, the translation of the German word Gemüt as subject and not as mind or spirit.

Previous Definitions

Two languages will be used: one of them it's Kant's exposition of his sistem, the transcendental idealism (TI) and the other one, designated as the common sense language (CSL), the colloquial language concerning Husserl's natural actitude. (1) In this later one, the things are the so called real things or physical objects, things we can see, touch and handle and modify them according to determinate purposes

In this paper I shall refer only to this kind of things, simply calling them things. It is no necessary, I think to mention each time that Aristoteles defines these things as being in the mode of fusis and techne. (2) Heidegger also defines them as the natural things (3) When we are looking at something — a state of things — in this same action a representation appears in conscience of that we are looking at. We erroneously believe that we truly see things directly, but instead what we really do is to become conscious of the representation of the thing. (4) This representation is in the Critique the thing as appearance, or simply the appearance as usually Kant designates to the empirical object with reference to its origin in the multiplicity of appearances (Mannigfaltig der Erscheinungen)

On the contrary the thing does not exist as representation. (5) In the CSL it may be said that it exists in some space and in a certain interval of time.

The appearance — an abreviated designation — as representation of things (6) is in the Critique the empirical object and its existence is no spatial in any way but in the unique dimension of time, the time of the corresponding experience in which is to be found. (7) For this species of the genus "repraesentatio" I will reserve the term object, and will not be used as synonymous of thing.

Absence of the Things in the Critique

In vain we will look for the things in the text of the Critique. This abscense constitutes a particularity that is specific of the Critique and diferentiates it from the others works of Kant, inclusive of The Prolegomena conceived by Kant himself in order to explain the Critique.

The important consequence of this difference consists of that if you do not consider it you can not apply in the interpretation of the Critique, concepts and definitions employed in other works of Kant

A good example of this abscense of the things can be found in the "Refutation of the idealism" where Kant announces that he is going to offer ademonstration of the existence of the things, but so incredible as it sounds, these things are not mentioned at all. Instead, the demonstration concerns the objects as appearances.

Another example of this abscence of the things is seen in the "Fourth paralogism of the pure reason" (First edition). In this text Kant demonstrates the advantages of his own system, the TI over the cartesian doubt about the existence of the things. (7a) But Kant and Descartes are not concerned with the same entities. Kant talks about the thing as appearances and Descartes about the things, the real things of the CS.

The thing as appearance (Erscheinung) is the external object, and as Kant says, is real in perception and in no other way real. In other words, this object is an species of the general genus "repraesentatio"(B 376), but confusion arrives because in the few examples we can find in the Critique, they are designated with the same names of the things they represent. This is the origin of the erroneous interpretation according to which, the objects as appearances are the physical things, but with the peculiar appearance they offer when we aprehend them.

The Problem of the Source of the Objects of the External Sense

Using the language of the CS this problem is enunciated in this wat: in the Critique it is not explicitly said that the empirical object briefly denominated thing as appearance is the representation in the conscience of the thing we are looking at Marking the mentioned difference, in the Prolegomena we can read "our representations are due to the influence of the things on us."

In consequence these two differences have to be explained: the one of the abscence of the things and the other of the origin of our external representations, though the latter is a direct consequence of the former: if the things are not mentioned, at least directly, we could not hope to be told that they are the source of the data in the subject.

It is possible to make the following observation about this: Kant proceeds in such a way that the reader is forced to consider the appearances as representations of the things the subject faced in experience. If this is Kant's proceeding, he is taking into account the complicity with the reader.

This interpretation avoids falling in the contradiction in which many authors incurred upon considering that the things in themselves are the sources of the external objects.

Indeed if things in themselves, considered making abstraction of the sensible conditions are for that abstraction not knowable, we can not consider them on the other hand like the sources of the appearances. (8)

Upon denominating to the empiric object "thing as appearance" on one hand it is said that the object is the representation of a thing and on the other that its reality is appearance. This last statement is accustomed to have a pejorative sense, according to which we do not capture the true reality of the things because their apprehension is mediated by the obliged intervention of the senses

But Kant's interpretation is just the opposite one: "by means of the external sense, a property of our Gemüt (subject) we represent us objects as outside us and all them in the space "(B 37). (9) The same in the CSL can be said so: just the mediation of the external senses is what makes possible our aprehension of the external world. Therefore, this mediation, far from being a limitation is condition of possibility.

The Dangers of the Conception of the Receptivity as Sensibility

Evidently Kant was not the discoverer of the intervention of the senses, but on the other hand he assigned a preponderant importance to the sensible receptivity as a system of structures elaborating in following steps the sensible data up to the object of perception.

Naturally this is no exactly what Kant says, he never spoke about structures, but this is the simplest way employing the CSL to explain his conception of the experience. Two consequences come out immediately of this conception, namely: [1] if the subject receptivity is sensibility, the subject will be only capable of receiving those objects conforming a priori with the form of this sensible receptivity, or as Kant himself says: in a very known formulation: "the conditions of possibility of experience are at the same time the conditions of the possibility of the objects of experience". [2] for those objects of a possible experience, the reliability and total security of the functioning of this system, the external receptivity, assures the certainty of the object that perception offers to the conscience, but on the other side, this certainty remains always restricted to this class of objects, the elaborated with the matter given in sensation.

Is there another class of objects besides those of a possible experience ? In the answer to this question resides the explanation of all the odd dispositions that Kant adopted in order to expose his system, the TI. As it is obviously supposed Kant's answer is affirmative in the sense that there are other objects of a quite different class. These are the problematic objects designated in the TI as the noumena in the negative sense. I will call them with their own names: God, the immortal soul and the freedom.

If nothing else is added to the exposed conditions, the doubts that could arise on the existence of God and the soul (I leave aside the topic of freedom) would indeed, carry painful consequences to the author of this doctrine. (10) Then the task of safeguarding these existences was an extreme necessity for him. (11)

The Intervention of the Thing in Itself

For thing in itself I refer both to the proceeding of thinking a thing making abstraction of all condicions of sensibility, and also the result of this proceeding, the thing thought in this way. In the first case the thing in itself is employed in singular, while in the second, the plural is adopted. This employment of the plural plays an important role in this exposition

Kant admits that I could think how it would be the perceived object if I make abstraction of the conditions of sensibility, although I can not in anyway represent it. This is what he calls "to think the thing in itself" or that the thing in itself must be thought indeed. But in spite of the fact that I can think it, if at the same time I make abstraction of sensibility, this abstraction deprives me of the only way I can have objects, because the other possible way, the intelectual intuition in the case of the human subject is absolutly forbiden at Kant's system But if I can not have the thing in itself as a represented object in conscience. it is impossible that I could know something of it in this problematic situation of being in itself.

I am going to stop me in this stage of my exposition of the concept of the thing in itself in order to pass to the next section

The Utility of the Employment of the Thing in Itself

Though it is true as it was said before, that Kant do not mention the things directly, he refers to them implicitly calling the empirical object, thing as appearance.

There is not a proof of the existence in general of the things and Kant is not so ingenuous as to look for such a proof. It is easy to demonstrate that Kant accepts the premise of the existence of the things, though this acceptance is only implicit. I reiterate that only of the things defined in the beginning of this paper. In the Prolegomena these things are explicitly designated as the sources of the representations in the subject, but nothing similar can be found in the Critique. It is also possible to demonstrate that Kant is thinking in these things in the inference from his theory, that all that is apprehended by the senses, is perceived and consequently known and this perception assures me the effective (wirklich) presence of the object of the external sense. In referring to this existence of the perceived object Kant employs the word Dasein to remember us the effective presence in external receptivity of the sensible data Through these data, characterized as "given", that is to say not created by the subject, the existence of the thing which representation is the object in the conscience is suggested to the reader, but it is important to say again that this relation is never mentioned by Kant, at least explicitly.

As a consequence of the exposed arguments, it follows that there is nothing in nature that we could not know. This statement, very useful for the first part of Kant's purpose, the foundation of science, on the other side is extremely inconvenient for his second purpose, that of safe-guarding the existence of God and the immortal soul, and even capable of being in serious danger these existences.

This danger is a direct and unavoidable consequence of Kant's conception of perception This consequence consists that according to this conception that plays an important role in the TI, we can not afirm the existence of those problematic things that can not be perceived directly or at least indirectly by sensible signs, and the same can be applied to the case of God and the immortal soul.

In order to avoid this inconvenient consequence, something in nature must be found that could not be known. This something unknown plays an important role in Kant's procedure to avoid the mentioned dangerous consequences. This role will be clearly understood in the exposition of the procedure followed by Kant.

This something in nature that can not be known are the things, the real things of the CS defined also as physical objects, but considered making a total abstraction of all sensible receptivity. These natural things considered in themselves are only a class of the things in themselves, because there are other things in themselves of a quite different class.

One of the differences consist that in the case of natural things considered in themselves, we know something of these things, precisely that they are natural things, so they are not absolutly unknowable.

Next I will expose the following steps of the procedure that Kant uses in order to avoid the danger to be accused of questioning the existence of God.

Alfa, not everything can be known in nature. The natural things in abstraction of the sensible receptivity of the subject are not known.

Beta. But from the fact that we can not known them, it must not be inferred that they not exist.

This result is of vital importance in the procedure designed by Kant for the foundation of the science and at the same time escaping to the danger of being accused for denying the existence of God.

Gama. it is this condition of being in itself when we consider the natural things that makes them unknowable

Delta. I make extensive to all classes of things this impossibility in the case of natural things of knowing them when considered in themselves

Epsilon. The concept that subsumes all the classes of things it is the concept of things in general. This concept in order to be able to subsume everything is nothing else that the mere concept of thing — thingness — and it could noy imply a determination inherent to only a single class of things, since in that case the things that do not belong to that class would remain excluded. Accordingly the determination of being intuible can not be inherent to the concept of thing in general (B 51/52) we can not say that all the things are in time because in this concept of thing in general we are making abstraction of all modes of intuition (von aller Art der Anschauung)

Zeta. Consequently the concept of thing in general implies that of being in itself, but we have already seen in Beta that of this condition could not be inferred that they do not exist.

Eta. The noumena in the negative sense belong to the class of things in general and these noumena are defined through the absolute impossibility of becoming an object for the sensible intuition of the subject, in this case the human subject If this is so, the only remaining possibility is to consider them as things in themselves, in accordance with the obliged abstraction of all sensible receptivity

Theta. Of the condition of being in itself it can no be inferred that it does not exist. This allows us to affirm that God and the immortal soul considered as noumena in the negative sense are for this reason things in themselves. If they are things in themselves, from this condition of being in themselves ìt can not be inferred that they do not exist

Iota. The existence of God and the immortal soul is then safeguarded through this procedure and they remain located in a realm to which can not reach the undesirable consequence originated in Kant's conception of the perception of the external objects.

In this way Kant reaches his aim of the necessity of assuring the certainty and confiability of experience — leaving aside the relativity of this affirmation — with the exclusion of everything implying the minor risk that his system may be considered as an atheism.

The Abscence in the Critique of Direct References to the Things

Which is the reason of this absence? The first answer is the necessity of assuring the coherence of the system. The TI as it is exposed in the Critique is perfect if we do not try to get out of the interiority of the subject. This interiority can be defined as the realm of the supreme genus, the repraesentatio (B 376), to which belong all the entities in the subject and especially the objects, called by Kant "things as appearances".

Employng the CSL it can be said that natural things are going to be found in space, but not the immortal soul and God. I could arrive to the same conclusion if I define the space as a condition of the possibility of the existence of the things, but in this case I ought to exclude explicitly God and the soul. I wonder if I can find some foundation for this exclusion

Concerning this question, let us see Kant's answer in the year 1792 after the second version of the Critique.

R 6317 once you have made space and time determinations of the things in themselves, no reason can be found to restrict these determinations to the finite beings.

If this restriction can not be made, and it is kept the concepcion of the space as condition of possibility of the things, then, contradiction is produced

R 5962 If time and space are considered as conditions of the world in itself.. in consequence God would belong to the world... and as a part of the totality of the world, He should be contingent.

The same argument can be found in the "Transcendental Esthetic", but in these reflexions it is reiterated after the publication of the second edition of the Critique.

The resource of Kant in order to solve this question consists in the appeal to one of the conditions of possibility of experience, that of the external sense whose form is the representation a priori of space. It is not very easy to differentiate if Kant's reference is to the external sense considered as the realm of spatiality or it concerns only to the pure form of external intuition. In any case he employs the term space, and this employment is the origin of the common supposition that Kant is denying the space outside the subject because what he calls space is only the pure form of external intuition.. I think inadequate this interpretation but in this paper I limit myself to mention it.

The space, an abbreviated designation of the pure form of external intuition will be charged with the role of distinguishing between noumena and phenomena, as it can be seen in the following text:

B 43 in consequence it can be said that the space comprehends all the things that can appear to us as external but not all the things in themselves that may be intuited or not.

Kant's Epoje in the Critique.

According to the exposed, Kant carries out a true phenomenological reduction, in the same way adopted many years after him by Husserl: Kant accepts the premise of the existence in general of the things, but he is not interested in them and this is why he in general does not mention them. I think this procedure is similar to Husserl's puting the things into brackets. After this procedure he can afterwards dedicate all his attention to the interiority of the subject

The description of Kant's employed system allows us a coherent reading of the Critique through the adequate interpretation of the role played by the thing in itself. On the other hand the restriction to the interiority of the subject does not imply either the negation of the existence of the things that in the CSL we say that they occupy places in space, nor the negation of this space. In other words: he does not affirm that there is no such thing as the space of the CS for the real reason that he is not at all concerned with this space.

Precisely for this restriction to the interiority of the subject, Kant is characterized as idealist. It may be argued that in that case, the actual physiology of the nervous system would also be idealist, because it describes the complex transformations in the interiority of the human body of the initial luminous stimulus until it arrives finally to the center of vision in the cerebral cortex and as consequence of this arrival an image of the object appears in conscience.

According to this, the eyes do not really see, but there are only the receptors of the external data, in this case the luminous stimulus. What we truly see is an image in conscience, and this description has no point in common with the idealism which negates the existence of the things in space or in any case considers very doubtful this existence.

The Translation of the German Word Gemüt as Subject

Gemüt is translated as spirit or as mind. None of this concepts are adequate to understand texts as this one: "by means of outer sense, a property of our Gemüt we represent us objects as external..."(B 37). The word spirit means something immaterial to which reason is immanent, and also rational soul. Neither to one nor to the other meaning we can attribute the property of an external sense. On the other hand this is possible for the Gemüt as subject. This translation as subject allows us to designate not only the realm of spontaneity, but also the other one, the external sense

Gemüt is then really the subject, but notwithstanding the spiritual component must always be present.

Before continuing with the topic of the subject a previous task is imposed, or as Kant would say, the "questio juris." Is it legitimate the employment in the Critique of the concept of subject? To give a correct answer we must first differentiate between two points of view: the transcendental and the metaphysical one. The first is that of the conditions of possibility of experience and in this standpoint experience is the foundation of all the rest of the building. In the other, the metaphysical, the properties of the subject explain the experience.

A good example of the latter is this: of the subject's faculty of representing objects in space may be predicted that the only objects we can have are those which can be represented in space. (14) If we adopt the other point of view, the transcendental one, it can be said that from the effective presence in conscience of external objects, spatialy represented, is deduced the spatial form of the external sensibility.

In fact, for the exposition to be correct we must not come out of the transcendental standpoint. Sometimes our necessity of a better understanding obliges us to leave this plane, and we can do it conditioned to an immediate return with the acquired understanding. (15) For instance, I know which is the meaning of the word conscience, only because I am myself a thinking subject conscious of my own conscience.

It is this requirement of a complete understanding of the "Transcendental deduction of the categories "of the first edition that carries me to the construction of the concept of a thinking subject, because that exposition being transcendental does not make use of the concept of subject.

Who is the Subject?

The deduction of the conditions of the possibility of experience demands necessarily to describe which is the experience from I am going to establish its conditions of possibility. This is what actually makes Kant, but describing the experience as reduced to the knowledge of its object, in the transcendental plane it is not mentioned the subject of this experience. We do not know explicitly who is the subject in which the experience takes place.

Indeed Kant tells us that "we, men, have experiences." So we refer to man as thinking and sentient being, terms like affection, sensation, intuition, perception, aperception, conscience. I understand the meaning of these terms because I am myself "a thing-that thinks, doubts, understands, affirms, negates, wants, does not want and also imagines and perceives " according to Descartes' "Second Meditation" (16)

The first step is to say that I am the subject because I think and feel and the second step consists in extending this restricted concept of subject to the human being in general. This is equivalent to affirm that all the individuals of the human genus are subjects.

With this procedure two important advantages are obtained: [1] I remit the signification of being subject to myself and this makes it easily comprehensible

[2] it allows me to define the subject as a model that I build representing the human being as a thinking one. So I arrive to a first ontological characterization of the subject: it is a construction, that I, the reader, taking myself as a model carry out in order to sustain the experience. This construction is realized starting from the texts in which that experience is described.

Experience is now the experience of a subject with faculties corresponding to the conditions of the possibility of this experience.

It is important to say that Kant's cognizant subject is a very restricted one: it is out of the sphere of feeling and consequently of that of faith. This subject also lacks of corporal activity, and these absences mark a considerable difference with what may be called the human being in his integrity.

I will limit my self to say which is the general characterization of this subject, such as can be abstracted from the corresponding texts of the Critique.

This subject can be defined as the inseparable and functioning unit of sensibility and spontaneity. It can be added that the receptivity does not think and the understanding does not intuit. (17)

A more detailed description of this subject can not be given in this paper, but should be made continuing the steps of Kant's description of experience.

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(1a) Critique Of Pure Reason is abbreviated CRITIQUE

(1b) Common sense language is abbreviated CSL CS = common sense

(1) Husserl L'idee De La Phenomenologie Ed Puf, Paris 1990. p 17

"in spirit's natural attitude we return by intuition and thought to the things, that in every case are given to us. That they are given is essentially evident...In perception, by example, a thing is found before our eyes -this is by essence evident-. It is there among other things, that is to say, in the world, which is in part, just as the individual things, under perception. To this world are referred our judgments"

(2) Aristote Fisica Book II p 192 b

(3) Heidegger La Pregunta Por La Cosa Ed. Alfa Argentina p 115 In the future we will synthesize the answer to Kant's question about the thing that is accessible to us in these two propositions: 1- The thing is the natural thing. 2- This thing is the object of a possible experience

(4) From Descartes this conception is called idealism. However from the scientific standpoint this conception is correct. True idealism considers that no foundation can be found in inferring existence of the things of the presence (Dasein) of the representation in conscionce (Kant's empirical objects)

(5) B 376 "repraesentatio", latin word is the genus. Representation, Vorstellung the species. For instance, sensation is repraesentatio because it is something in the subject, but not representation

(6) In this case are not pertinenent differences between things and states of things or the fact that the same thing may appear different in dependence with the spatial position of the observer.

(7) It is impossible to describe the particular way of existence of thoughts and representated objects because this existence plays in the unique dimension of time, it does not has spatial dimension though objects are spatially represented. (Looking at a film, the screen has only two spatial dimensions, there is not a third one )

(7a) Kant did not read Descartes but Wolf's transcription

(8) Paton Kant's Metaphysic of Experience I, p 62 "Kant never doubts that appearances are appearances of things in themselves"

(9) In the Critique, external sense has a technical meaning -though not exactly- the realm of external sensibility (affection, sensation, external intuition)

(10) Cf the letter from the king of Prussia to Kant

(11) Francois-Xavier Chenet Lássise De Lóntologie Critique. Presses Universitaires de Lille. p 11. This author adopts the extremely conception that the necessity of safeguarding God's existence is the fundamental purpose of Kant in the Critique. I do not consider correct this attitude.

(13) Cf Ref 11

(14) C.G. Moore Ethical Essays, Ed Paidos Iberica, Barcelona 1993, in a paper originally published in the Proceedings Of The Aristotelian Society, 1903, Moore in his critique to the transcendental idealism seems to completely un-know the transcendental point of view. For instance in p 123: "Kant says: from the fact that the mind is so constituted that it confers to every object a determinate form we can deduce that all the objects that could appear to the subject will have this form "

(15) Kant himself employs subject (subjekt)with the same meaning of Gemüt For instance, cf B 125. Also, when he refers "to we, the men" he implicitly remits to a subject

(16) The psychoanalysis does not require and in fact does not employ the concept of subject. But implicitly the references are always to the reader, that in that case acts as subject.

(17) E.Kant Oeuvres Philosophiques Bibliothece de la Pléiade, Gallimard 1980 p 1604 (Notes) Affirmation tres important: l'unité du sujet humaine, spontaneité et receptivité,est la clef de la reflexion trascendental.

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