Transcendental idealism

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Transcendental idealism is a doctrine founded by German philosopher Immanuel Kant in the 18th century. Kant's doctrine maintains that human experience of things is similar to the way they appear to us—implying a fundamentally subject-based component, rather than being an activity that directly (and therefore without any obvious causal link) comprehends to the things as they are in themselves. The doctrine is most commonly presented as the idea that time and space are just human perceptions; they are not necessarily real concepts, just a medium through which humans internalize the universe.

Philosophy intellectual and/or logical study of general and fundamental problems

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Immanuel Kant Prussian philosopher

Immanuel Kant was an influential German philosopher. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time and causation are mere sensibilities; "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited a priori ('beforehand'), and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.

Phenomenon philosophical concept

A phenomenon is any thing which manifests itself. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as "things that appear" or "experiences" for a sentient being, or in principle may be so.

Contents

Background

Although it influenced the course of subsequent German philosophy dramatically, exactly how to interpret this concept was a subject of some debate among 20th century philosophers. Kant first describes it in his Critique of Pure Reason , and distinguished his view from contemporary views of realism and idealism, but philosophers do not agree how sharply Kant differs from each of these positions.

German philosophy, here taken to mean either (1) philosophy in the German language or (2) philosophy by Germans, has been extremely diverse, and central to both the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy for centuries, from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz through Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein to contemporary philosophers. Søren Kierkegaard is frequently included in surveys of German philosophy due to his extensive engagement with German thinkers.

<i>Critique of Pure Reason</i> 1781 book by Immanuel Kant

The Critique of Pure Reason is a 1781 book by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, in which the author seeks to determine the limits and scope of metaphysics. A heavily-revised second edition was published in 1787. Also referred to as Kant's "First Critique", it was followed by the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and the Critique of Judgment (1790). In the preface to the first edition, Kant explains that by a "critique of pure reason" he means not "a critique of books and systems, but of the faculty of reason in general, in respect of all knowledge after which it may strive independently of all experience" and that he aims to reach a decision about "the possibility or impossibility of metaphysics". The First Critique is often viewed as culminating several centuries of early-modern philosophy, and inaugurating modern philosophy.

In metaphysics, realism about a given object is the view that this object exists in reality independently of our conceptual scheme. In philosophical terms, these objects are ontologically independent of someone's conceptual scheme, perceptions, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc.

Transcendental idealism is associated with formalistic idealism on the basis of passages from Kant's Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics , although recent research has tended to dispute this identification. Transcendental idealism was also adopted as a label by the subsequent German philosophers Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Arthur Schopenhauer, and in the early 20th century by Edmund Husserl in the novel form of transcendental-phenomenological idealism.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte German philosopher

Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher who became a founding figure of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, which developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant. Recently, philosophers and scholars have begun to appreciate Fichte as an important philosopher in his own right due to his original insights into the nature of self-consciousness or self-awareness. Fichte was also the originator of thesis–antithesis–synthesis, an idea that is often erroneously attributed to Hegel. Like Descartes and Kant before him, Fichte was motivated by the problem of subjectivity and consciousness. Fichte also wrote works of political philosophy; he has a reputation as one of the fathers of German nationalism.

Arthur Schopenhauer German philosopher

Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work The World as Will and Representation, wherein he characterizes the phenomenal world as the product of a blind and insatiable metaphysical will. Proceeding from the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant, Schopenhauer developed an atheistic metaphysical and ethical system that has been described as an exemplary manifestation of philosophical pessimism, rejecting the contemporaneous post-Kantian philosophies of German idealism. Schopenhauer was among the first thinkers in Western philosophy to share and affirm significant tenets of Eastern philosophy, having initially arrived at similar conclusions as the result of his own philosophical work.

Edmund Husserl German philosopher, known as the father of phenomenology

Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a German philosopher who established the school of phenomenology. In his early work, he elaborated critiques of historicism and of psychologism in logic based on analyses of intentionality. In his mature work, he sought to develop a systematic foundational science based on the so-called phenomenological reduction. Arguing that transcendental consciousness sets the limits of all possible knowledge, Husserl redefined phenomenology as a transcendental-idealist philosophy. Husserl's thought profoundly influenced the landscape of 20th-century philosophy, and he remains a notable figure in contemporary philosophy and beyond.

Kant

Kant presents an account of how we intuit (German : anschauen) objects and accounts of space and of time. Before Kant, some thinkers, such as Leibniz, had come to the conclusion that space and time were not things, but only the relations among things. Other thinkers, including Newton, maintained that space and time were real things or substances. Leibniz had arrived at a radically different understanding of the universe and the things found in it. According to his Monadology , all things that humans ordinarily understand as interactions between and relations among individuals (such as their relative positions in space and time) have their being in the mind of God but not in the Universe where we perceive them to be. In the view of realists, individual things interact by physical connection and the relations among things are mediated by physical processes that connect them to human brains and give humans a determinate chain of action to them and correct knowledge of them. Kant was aware of problems with both of these positions. He had been influenced by the physics of Newton and understood that there is a physical chain of interactions between things perceived and the one who perceives them. However, an important function of mind is to structure incoming data and to process it in ways that make it other than a simple mapping of outside data. [1]

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

The Monadology is one of Gottfried Leibniz's best known works representing his later philosophy. It is a short text which sketches in some 90 paragraphs a metaphysics of simple substances, or monads.

Isaac Newton Influential British physicist and mathematician

Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time, and a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, first published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.

If we try to keep within the framework of what can be proved by the Kantian argument, we can say that it is possible to demonstrate the empirical reality of space and time, that is to say, the objective validity of all spatial and temporal properties in mathematics and physics. But this empirical reality involves transcendental ideality; space and time are forms of human intuition, and they can only be proved valid for things as they appear to us and not for things as they are in themselves. [2]

The salient element here is that space and time, rather than being real things-in-themselves or empirically mediated appearances (German : Erscheinungen), are the very forms of intuition (German : Anschauung) by which we must perceive objects. They are hence neither to be considered properties that we may attribute to objects in perceiving them, nor substantial entities of themselves. They are in that sense subjective, yet necessary, preconditions of any given object insofar as this object is an appearance and not a thing-in-itself. Humans necessarily perceive objects as located in space and in time. This condition of experience is part of what it means for a human to cognize an object, to perceive and understand it as something both spatial and temporal: "By transcendental idealism I mean the doctrine that appearances are to be regarded as being, one and all, representations only, not things in themselves, and that time and space are therefore only sensible forms of our intuition" [3] Kant argues for these several claims in the section of the Critique of Pure Reason entitled the "Transcendental Aesthetic". That section is devoted to inquiry into the a priori conditions of human sensibility, i.e. the faculty by which humans intuit objects. The following section, the "Transcendental Logic", concerns itself with the manner in which objects are thought.

The Latin phrases a priori and a posteriori are philosophical terms popularized by Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, one of the most influential works in the history of philosophy. However, in their Latin forms they appear in Latin translations of Euclid's Elements, of about 300 BC, a work widely considered during the early European modern period as the model for precise thinking.

Historical parallels

Xenophanes of Colophon in 530 BC anticipated Kant's epistemology in his reflections on certainty. "And as for certain truth, no man has seen it, nor will there ever be a man who knows about the gods and about all the things I mention. For if he succeeds to the full in saying what is completely true, he himself is nevertheless unaware of it; and Opinion (seeming) is fixed by fate upon all things." [4] Certain interpretations of some of the medieval Buddhists of India, such as Dharmakirti, may reveal them to be transcendental idealists, since they seemed to hold the position of mereological nihilism but transcendental idealists who held that their minds were distinct from the atoms. Some Buddhists often attempt to maintain that the minds are equal to the atoms of mereological nihilist reality, but Buddhists seem to have no explanation of how this is the case, and much of the literature on the aforementioned Buddhists involves straightforward discussion of atoms and minds as if they are separate. This makes their position very similar to transcendental idealism, resembling Kant's philosophy where there are only things-in-themselves (which are very much like philosophical atoms), and phenomenal properties.

Schopenhauer

Briefly, Schopenhauer described transcendental idealism as a "distinction between the phenomenon and the thing in itself", and a recognition that only the phenomenon is accessible to us because "we know neither ourselves nor things as they are in themselves, but merely as they appear." [5] Some of Schopenhauer's comments on the definition of the word "transcendental" are as follows:

Transcendental is the philosophy that makes us aware of the fact that the first and essential laws of this world that are presented to us are rooted in our brain and are therefore known a priori . It is called transcendental because it goes beyond the whole given phantasmagoria to the origin thereof. Therefore, as I have said, only the Critique of Pure Reason and generally the critical (that is to say, Kantian) philosophy are transcendental.

Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. I, "Fragments for the History of Philosophy," § 13

Schopenhauer contrasted Kant's transcendental critical philosophy with Leibniz's dogmatic philosophy.

With Kant the critical philosophy appeared as the opponent of this entire method [of dogmatic philosophy]. It makes its problem just those eternal truths (principle of contradiction, principle of sufficient reason) that serve as the foundation of every such dogmatic structure, investigates their origin, and then finds this to be in man's head. Here they spring from the forms properly belonging to it, which it carries in itself for the purpose of perceiving and apprehending the objective world. Thus here in the brain is the quarry furnishing the material for that proud, dogmatic structure. Now because the critical philosophy, in order to reach this result, had to go beyond the eternal truths, on which all the previous dogmatism was based, so as to make these truths themselves the subject of investigation, it became transcendental philosophy. From this it follows also that the objective world as we know it does not belong to the true being of things-in-themselves, but is its mere phenomenon, conditioned by those very forms that lie a priori in the human intellect (i.e., the brain); hence the world cannot contain anything but phenomena.

P. F. Strawson

In The Bounds of Sense , P. F. Strawson suggests a reading of Kant's first Critique that, once accepted, forces rejection of most of the original arguments, including transcendental idealism. Strawson contends that, if Kant had followed out the implications of all that he said, he would have seen that there were many self-contradictions implicit in the whole.

Strawson views the analytic argument of the transcendental deduction as the most valuable idea in the text, and regards transcendental idealism as an unavoidable error in Kant's greatly productive system. In Strawson's traditional reading (also favored in the work of Paul Guyer and Rae Langton), the Kantian term phenomena (literally something that can be seen from the Greek word phainomenon, "observable") refers to the world of appearances, or the world of "things" sensed. They are tagged as "phenomena" to remind the reader that humans confuse these derivative appearances with whatever may be the forever unavailable "things in themselves" behind our perceptions. The necessary preconditions of experience, the components that humans bring to their apprehending of the world, the forms of perception such as space and time, are what make a priori judgments possible, but all of this process of comprehending what lies fundamental to human experience fails to bring anyone beyond the inherent limits of human sensibility. Kant's system requires the existence of noumena to prevent a rejection of external reality altogether, and it is this concept (senseless objects of which we can have no real understanding) to which Strawson objects in his book.

Henry E. Allison

In Kant's Transcendental Idealism, Henry E. Allison proposes a reading that opposes Strawson's interpretation. [6] Allison argues that Strawson and others misrepresent Kant by emphasising what has become known as the two-worlds reading (a view developed by Paul Guyer). This—according to Allison, false—reading of Kant's phenomena/noumena distinction suggests that phenomena and noumena are ontologically distinct from each other. It concludes on that basis that we somehow fall short of knowing the noumena due to the nature of the very means by which we comprehend them. On such a reading, Kant would himself commit the very fallacies he attributes to the transcendental realists. On Allison's reading, Kant's view is better characterized as a two-aspect theory, where noumena and phenomena refer to complementary ways of considering an object. It is the dialectic character of knowing, rather than epistemological insufficiency, that Kant wanted most to assert.

Opposing views: Realism

Opposing Kantian transcendental idealism is the doctrine of philosophical realism, that is, the proposition that the world is knowable as it really is, without any consideration of the knower's manner of knowing. This has been propounded by philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, Ralph Barton Perry, and Henry Babcock Veatch. Realism claims, contrary to idealism, that perceived objects exist in the way that they appear, in and of themselves, independent of a knowing spectator's mind.

See also

Related Research Articles

In philosophy, Idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, Idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to Materialism, Idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

In metaphysics, the noumenon is a posited object or event that exists independently of human sense and/or perception. The term noumenon is generally used when contrasted with, or in relation to, the term phenomenon, which refers to anything that can be apprehended by or is an object of the senses. Modern philosophy has generally been skeptical of the possibility of knowledge independent of the senses, and Immanuel Kant gave this point of view its canonical expression: that the noumenal world may exist, but it is completely unknowable through human sensation. In Kantian philosophy, the unknowable noumenon is often linked to the unknowable "thing-in-itself", although how to characterize the nature of the relationship is a question yet open to some controversy.

German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It began as a reaction to Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. German idealism was closely linked with both Romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment.

An ' is an entity whose existence, nature, properties, qualities or relations are not directly observable by humans. In philosophy of science, typical examples of "unobservables" are the force of gravity, causation and beliefs or desires.However, some philosophers also characterize all objects—trees, tables, other minds, microorganisms, every thing to which humans ascribe as the thing causing their perception—as unobservable.

Phenomenalism is the view that physical objects cannot justifiably be said to exist in themselves, but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli situated in time and in space. In particular, some forms of phenomenalism reduce talk about physical objects in the external world to talk about bundles of sense-data.

Kantianism Kantianism

Kantianism is the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher born in Königsberg, Prussia. The term "Kantianism" or "Kantian" is sometimes also used to describe contemporary positions in philosophy of mind, epistemology, and ethics.

Neo-Kantianism

In late modern continental philosophy, neo-Kantianism was a revival of the 18th-century philosophy of Immanuel Kant. More specifically, it was influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer's critique of the Kantian philosophy in his work The World as Will and Representation (1818), as well as by other post-Kantian philosophers such as Jakob Friedrich Fries and Johann Friedrich Herbart.

<i>The Bounds of Sense</i> book by Peter Frederick Strawson

The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is a 1966 book about Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1781) by the Oxford philosopher Peter Strawson, in which the author tries to separate what remains valuable in Kant's work from Kant's transcendental idealism, which he rejects. The work is widely admired, and has received praise from philosophers as an important discussion of the Critique of Pure Reason, although Strawson's treatment of transcendental idealism has been criticized.

In philosophy, transcendence conveys the basic ground concept from the word's literal meaning, of climbing or going beyond, albeit with varying connotations in its different historical and cultural stages. It includes philosophies, systems, and approaches that describe the fundamental structures of being, not as an ontology, but as the framework of emergence and validation of knowledge of being. "Transcendental" is a word derived from the scholastic, designating the extra-categorical attributes of beings.

<i>Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics</i> 1783 book by Immanuel Kant

Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Present Itself as a Science is a book by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, published in 1783, two years after the first edition of his Critique of Pure Reason. One of Kant's shorter works, it contains a summary of the Critique‘s main conclusions, sometimes by arguments Kant had not used in the Critique. Kant characterizes his more accessible approach here as an "analytic" one, as opposed to the Critique‘s "synthetic" examination of successive faculties of the mind and their principles.

"Critique of the Kantian philosophy" is a criticism Arthur Schopenhauer appended to the first volume of his The World as Will and Representation (1818). He wanted to show Immanuel Kant's errors so that Kant's merits would be appreciated and his achievements furthered.

Schema (Kant) Kantian term referring to how perceptions are matched to concepts

In Kantian philosophy, a transcendental schema is the procedural rule by which a category or pure, non-empirical concept is associated with a sense impression. A private, subjective intuition is thereby discursively thought to be a representation of an external object. Transcendental schemata are supposedly produced by the imagination in relation to time.

<i>On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason</i> book by Arthur Schopenhauer

On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason is an elaboration on the classical Principle of Sufficient Reason, written by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer as his doctoral dissertation in 1813. The principle of sufficient reason is a powerful and controversial philosophical principle stipulating that everything must have a reason or cause. Schopenhauer revised and re-published it in 1847. The work articulated the centerpiece of many of Schopenhauer's arguments, and throughout his later works he consistently refers his readers to it as the necessary beginning point for a full understanding of his further writings.

Aenesidemus is a German book published anonymously by Professor Gottlob Ernst Schulze of Helmstedt in 1792. Schulze attempted to refute the principles that Karl Leonhard Reinhold established in support of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1781). The title is a reference to Aenesidemus, an ancient Greek skeptical philosopher. Its complete title, in English translation, was Aenesidemus or Concerning the Foundations of the Philosophy of the Elements Issued by Professor Reinhold in Jena Together with a Defense of Skepticism against the Pretensions of the Critique of Reason.

Schopenhauer's criticism of Kant's schemata is part of Schopenhauer's criticism of the Kantian philosophy which was published in 1819. In the appendix to the first volume of his main work, Arthur Schopenhauer attempted to assign the psychological cause of Kant's doctrines of the categories and their schemata. Schopenhauer's analysis holds that Kant misused argument by analogy to connect abstract reasoning to empirical perception; Schopenhauer argues that this comparison is baseless, and that its conclusions are thus invalid.

The following is a list of the major events in the history of German idealism, along with related historical events.

Critique of the Schopenhaurian philosophy is a criticism of Mainländer appended to Die Philosophie der Erlösung. Mainländer saw the purification of Schopenhauer's philosophy as the task of his life. The criticism has had an important impact on Nietzsche's philosophical development.

References

  1. Gottfried Martin, Kant's Metaphysics and Theory of Science (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1955), p. 57.
  2. Gottfried Martin, Kant's Metaphysics and Theory of Science (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1955), p. 41.
  3. Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London: Macmillan, 1933), p. 345 (A 369).
  4. Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla to the Presocratic Philosophers, Xenophanes fragment 34.
  5. Parerga and Paralipomena , vol. 2, "Sketch of a History of the Doctrine of the Ideal and the Real."
  6. Allison, H. E., Kant's Transcendental Idealism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983); Revised and Enlarged Edition, 2004.