Kant Metaphysical Exposition of Space

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 16 November 2016

Kant Metaphysical Exposition of Space

Kant: Explain and asses what you think to be the best argument Kant gives as his “Metaphysical Exposition of Space” (B37-40) that space cannot be either and actual entity (Newtonian concept) or any independent relation among real things (Leibnizian concepti be on). In other words, is he successful in arguing that space must be (at least) a form of intuition? Do any of his arguments further show that space must be ONLY a form of intuition and not ALSO something Newtonian or Leibnizian? In his Metaphysical Exposition of Space, Kant attempts to show that the experience of space is just a form of intuition.

Kant defines space as that of which we sense out side of us, in comparison to our mind, which is our inner sense. This outer sense of space, he claims, is known only to us because we have a intuitive sense of there being space in the first place. Kant asserts this argument in direct response to two other claims about the nature of space. The Newtonian concept of space holds that space is an entity existing in its own right, with objects merely being in it. The Leibnizian concept of space however holds the opposite, space doesn’t really exist and is just a relation created between existing objects.

Kant believes both concepts are wrong and claims that to first know about objects in space, we must have some deeper knowledge of space to put them in space. He further tries to claim that space is only a form of intuition and not just the foundation to support either of the other two concepts. Kant presents some strong points showing the faults in the other concepts and provides a reason alternative to what makes the nature of space. However his concept too, that space is known only through intuition, also isn’t as strong as it should be.

It appears that space may be known through intuition from an individual perspective, but on closer investigation, taking in all forms of life and evolution, where did this pre wired intuition of space have its start? Kant’s concept of space seems to be well grounded in some areas and not in others. Kant’s definition of space helps him prove that the concept of space is a form of intuition. Space, he holds, is everything that is sensed outside of us. The mind is the inner sense and everything else is in space.

We then represent objects in that space, where they are interpreted as having shape, magnitude and relationships to other objects in space. But then what is this space, Kant questions? Not satisfied with the current theories of the nature of time, Kant moves to show their faults through a set of arguments. The Newtonian concept of space claims that space exists as an entity in its own right. This concept is the most user friendly, and it is similar to the common sense view that most people grow up with. That is, we experience objects around us as exist in a void of space, where that void itself can exist on its own.

Objects exist in this space, which is an infinite entity. The theory claims that through our sense, sight, touch extra, we learn about the world. We learn from our senses about space and how it works. We start of in the world with no idea of space and through a trial and area type system of learning, we being to understand the nature of space and of objects in it. Space exists and we lean of its existence though life experience. Kant cannot accept the Newtonian concept of space. In his first argument, Kant claims that space is not a concept that has been drawn from our experiences.

His reasoning behind this is; how can we know to put the data that we gain from our senses into a world of space if we don’t know of space to begin with? That is, to know to put this sensory data into a thing called space, we must first have some idea of space. Kant does not think that it is possible to stumble across the idea of space just through trial and error. Space, he claims, must be an intuitive idea that we are born with, so we know to put the data we gain into some logical order. We can’t experience space without first having some idea of it being there.

We must know what we are looking for, before we can find it. Kant seems to be onto something with this argument. It does seem plausible to think that the idea of space is already programmed into our brain. For we are objects ourselves that did develop in this world. But then isn’t that learning about space through experience just over a few generations. So on a longer time scale we gradually learnt how to interact with space. The intuition of space is just another characteristic that we gain from our ancestors. The species, or life, learnt about space. But this is not what Kant is trying to claim.

He is claiming that it is intuition that we have always had, the entire human existence has always had. This on the biological level seems rather odd. Is it just humans that have this intuition? It doesn’t seem grounded to answer this question with a yes. But then back in early beings of life, do single cell organisms also have this intuition, do they even know they exist? So Kant must mean fully developed humans, or at least fairly intelligent animals. But this still suggests that having the intuition of space is something that is developed over evolution.

So in turn is something that is gain from the species evolutionary experience. It is an odd claim to say that just one day a higher level animal just suddenly experience space. Perhaps now we have some basic animal instinct of how space works, Kant does not justify how this come about. The intuition of space my have evolved, which is a from of long term experience. The Leibnizian concept claims that space is just the relationship between objects and cannot exist on its own. Unlike the Newtonian concept of space, this theory claims that space does not and could not exist without the presents of objects.

Space is just an attribute of objects, without them space is not present. If there was no objects there would be no need for space and it would not be present. We see objects all around us, and in order to understand the raw data presented by our senses we dream up relationships among them which we call space. Space is not an entity in its own right, it is simple the relation between existing objects. Kant can also not accept the Leibnizian concept of space. In his second argument, Kant claims that it is possible to have space without the presents of objects.

Using a thought experiment Kant tries to show that we can image an empty space, a space without objects in it. He uses the experiment as a direct attack on the Leibnizian concept that space is just an attribute of objects. Kant believes that it is possible to image empty space, free of any objects. He claims that since this is possible space must be more then just an attribute of existing objects. Kant’s argument here doesn’t seem as strong. He just seems to state that we can imagine empty, boundless space. It seems slightly more difficult to achieve then what he makes out.

At first it seems sure, we can think of empty space, but is it really empty space that we are imagining here? Maybe we can think of a void, but isn’t that just the space between objects? The depths of space, are just long distances from existing objects, not empty space. It seems every time we try to think of space it is in relation to objects or boundaries. Kant tries to make the thought experiment seem simple, but on closer inspection, imagining space total separate to objects is very difficult. Space might be its own existing thing, but it is not shown through this method of reasoning.

It still seems plausible that space in known by our intuition, however that intuition is just knowing to see that existing objects have the attribute, and relation to other objects, space. Kant does not strongly prove that space can exist on its own. Kant claims that space is an existing thing that we are born being aware of and nothing more. It can only be this and not a combination of intuition and the Newtonian and Leibnizian concepts of space. It can’t be, for example, that space is an intuition of a simple relationship between objects, or that we intuitively need to learn of its existence through experience.

Kant uses further arguments to show this. In his third argument Kant further shows that to understand space we must first have the framework set out to understand that space must exist. That is it must be known by pure intuition alone. For the Leibnizian concept to be correct, it would seem possible to think of separate spaces. That is, according to the theory, space only exists with resect to objects, or every object has its own space. It seems the concept is suggesting that there is lots of little spaces everywhere, that connect, or not connect, regarding if the objects are close or near.

Kant believes that is not a very reasonable way of seeing how the world or space works. Intuitively we seem to know that there is one infinite space, that maybe divided up by objects, but is still known to be part of the one big whole of space. Kant even seems to suggest that it is impossible for our minds to imagine no space at all. Our intuition of space is so strong, our minds cannot interpret the world without it. Space cannot be intuitive and a relation between objects, Kant believes it must only be known intuitively The mind experiment Kant uses here seems much more agreeable.

I does seem that we see space as one big infinite entity, in which all objects exists. The Leibnizian theory does seem to infer that there are lots of little independent spaces following the object they belong to. This seems to be a very strange way of seeing the world indeed, and one very hard to imagine. Kant’s argument against the Leibnizian concept is strong here, but does it prove that both space is an intuition and not at all an aspect of an object? It appears we can agree with Kant that space is not just a relation between objects, that it exists in its own right.

But what is not strong is that intuition is the way we can experience and not through learning from our senses. In his forth and finally argument on the nature of space, Kant tries to show that it is not something we intuitively know to look for, but that we are already born knowing of its existence. Kant believes that it is not possible to interpret the raw data given to us by our senses into any order without first knowing to put it into space. The data would simple not make any sense. And why would just having this data spore the idea of putting into an order of space. How do we know to link that sound with that vision?

Yes we learn other things about the world from experience, but this only possible by having the framework of knowing how space works in our heads to being with. All other knowledge is built on the bedrock of us knowing that things outside of us work in space. Kant claims that knowing space is through intuition alone, and through a combination of intuition and learning. Kant’s argument here is partly agreeable. He makes a strong point that linking to very different experience, like sight and sound, into one event, would be very difficult achieve, if at all, if they weren’t put into space.

From a person to person basis his concept of space is quiet agreeable. If each person was to learn in their life time about how space worked, wouldn’t there, by numbers, be some people they never stumble across its working, or even people taking different amounts of time to achieve this knowledge. It would seem that these people would behave very strange in the world. Babies seem to develop an idea of how space works in all about the same way and time frame. If it was up to each individual to learn, or to stumble across the truth, the world would probably be a very different place.

So yes, Kant seems to be on the right track that each person is pre wire to expect a world with space, this does not however explain how and when and for what level of life this pre wiring occurred. Kant’s theory of intuitive space needs to be more developed. Kant finally concludes that space can’t be known through trial and error, it can’t be an attribute of objects, and must be known through the intuition alone. The raw data that our eyes and ears gather would be useless if our mind didn’t have space to make sense of it all. But would space still exist even if it wasn’t an intuition?

Kant would seem to answer yes to this. So is the need to have the intuition of space to understand it just a human condition? Kant’s reply to this one does not seem as clear. Surely before humans there were living beings interacting in space. Did these living things need an intuition of space to survive? For humans it seems necessary that we understand the nature of space, otherwise I don’t think we would be able to survive. But then if we didn’t understand what our senses where telling us by putting them into the concept of space, why would we evolve senses at all?

Surely we wouldn’t have eyes and ears ect. If we evolved not needing or using them. So does every animal that has the same sensors as us have the same intuition of space as we do? This idea seems to be begging the question ? what came first the intuition of space, or the senses and the ability to perceive it? For one seems to be seems to be surely useless with out the other. Kant’s concept seems to work if we just look at a snap shot of the world functioning today, however it does not satisfy how the world got to be the way it is.

Perhaps this is not goal he was wanting to achieve, but for his concept to hold these questions of evolution need to be answered. Kant’s claims show the faults in past concepts, however his concepts is not total solid yet either. Kant resolves some issues, but then raises some more. It seems now that we can’t take for granted what we all assume that we learn about space through experience, and it seems too that space exists in its own right. Kant seems to make this clear, he does not however clearly prove that space is known by intuition alone.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 16 November 2016

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