Kant and Descartes

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 15 November 2016

Kant and Descartes

“Idealism is the assertion there are none but thinking thing beings. All other things, which we believe are perceived in intuitions, are nothing but presentations in the thinking things, to which no object external to them in fact corresponds. Everything we see is just a construction of the mind. ” (Prolegomena). Idealism maintains that there are no objects in the world, only minds. According to idealism, the existence of outer objects is uncertain and ambiguous. Idealism is the group of philosophies asserting that actuality is fundamentally mental, or otherwise intangible.

Kant holds the belief that objects only exist as perceptions is fundamentally idealist. The argument begins by making the point: our senses never enable us to experience things in themselves, but only know their appearances. This idea depicts space and time as empty forums to determine how things appear. Kant discusses how math consists of synthetic a priori cognitions, or the ability to provide new information that is necessarily true, and its relation to geometry. Kant believes there is some form of pure intuition innate within us.

This innate intuition is what allows us to identify different notions without reference to sense experience. In the opinion of Kant, the possibility of mathematics rests upon the possibility of “synthetic propositions a priori”. (Prolegomena). There is a priori certainty of geometry. A priori knowledge or justification is independent of all experience. A priori judgments are based upon reason alone, independently of all sensory experience, and therefore are applicable with universality. According to Kant, “Geometry is based upon the pure intuition of space.

” (Prolegomena). We cannot have any perceptions of objects if not in space and time. Kant declares, “it must first exhibit its concepts in intuition, and do so a priori, in an intuition that is not empirical, but pure. ” (Prolegomena). Geometry, as the innate intuition of space, derives from the sequential moments of our innate intuition of time. If space were not built into of our innate composition, two things with all of the same properties would be in every way identical. Space and time are not properties of the objects in things themselves, but rather, qualities of

our knowledge of the things. Space and time are referred by Kant as the “modes of representation”, or “forms of sensibility”, of objects. (Prolegomena). Kant believes inner experience is all that we can be certain of and that the e? ects can only conclude the existence of the external world has on us. If space and time are subjective, then everything in space and time are subjective. If space and time were things in themselves that we could only understand by reference to experience, geometry and math would not have the a priori certainty that makes them reliable.

If space and time do not belong to the things themselves, and we cannot know anything in space and time, then we don’t know the things in themselves. As a result of this, Kant says that appearances are “That is pure space is not at all a quality of things in themselves but a form of our sensuous faculty of representation, and that furthermore all objects in space are mere appearances”. (Prolegomena). This declaration regarding things being tangible reveals Kant’s view of transcendental idealism, faces the issue of things existing at all, directly. Immanuel Kant’s most influential contribution to philosophy is transcendental idealism.

Transcendental idealism is fundamentally a doctrine about space and time. The idea is we cannot perceive things in and of themselves directly; what we perceive must first be interpreted by our senses, then by our sensibility and understanding. Though Kant has argued that we cannot perceive things in themselves, but only appearances of things, Kant believes intuition, and the senses control our perception. And anything, which we may perceive, is made up entirely of appearances. Kant argues, subsequently, things themselves in some way cause these appearances.

Kant maintains that things in themselves, independent of our perception, exist, and that they are the source of what we do perceive. All other things, which we think are perceived in intuition, being nothing but representations in the thinking beings, to which no object external to them corresponds in fact. Representations of our sensibility can be said to be reflections of our mind. Kant makes this claim stating, “The understanding intuits nothing but only reflects. ” (Prolegomena). This proposes the question regarding idealism, because something cannot be fully understood, does it still exist?

Unlike Idealism, which generally manifests skepticism, the existence of things is crucial to Kant’s philosophy. However, Kant insists we cannot know anything about these things purely through their appearance. Kant asserts: “which is unknown to us but is not therefore less real. ” (Prolegomena). Kant is claiming this ideal is contrary to idealism. Descartes decided that he could throw all things into doubt except that he was thinking and doubting. This supports the concept of idealism because it emphasizes the centrality or importance of the mind.

Descartes, like Plato and Augustine divided his world into two areas. For Descartes the two areas were the cogito and the Deity. Rationalists, like Descartes, aim to escape the confines of the mind by constructing knowledge of the external world, the self, the soul, God, ethics, and science out of the simplest, indubitable ideas possessed innately by the mind. Descartes argued that knowledge came from the mind, or idealism. It was Descartes’s idealism that would force him to his separation of the mind and body. Descartes believes in the ability to deny the existence of the physical world.

Kant’s major disagreement with Descartes would be in postulating an existential reality outside of the mind. An object does not depend on a mind perceiving it for it to exist though the mind does depend on the transcendental categories to perceive of those objects in a meaningful way. “.. Desire this idealism of mine to be called critical. But if it be really an objectionable idealism to convert actual things into mere representations”. (Prolegomena) Kant expresses his impulse to change transcendental idealism to critical idealism at the end of this section.


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