Immanuel Kant IV. – Kalam-Kant

Kant has thus far introduced, in detail, the faculty of sensibility, and its attendant form or rule which is time and space. Sensibility is the faculty that provides us with intuitions and and its representations must be ordered temporally and spatially. Now we will turn the lens upon the understanding. The understanding is that which thinks objects that are provided by sensibility and brings forth representations. Once you’re affected by something and receive an intuition, it is the faculty of understanding that thinks this object and from this encounter do we receive cognitions. The two basic things that are being produced here that we will want to categorize together will be intuitions and concepts. Intuitions and concepts can be both pure and empirical. Empirical intuitions are those that we are receiving constantly from the sensibility when we encounter things. Empirical cognitions are any cognitions that are reliant upon experience.

“Pure intuition contains merely the form under which something is intuited, and pure concept only the form of thinking an object in general.” We know that the form under which something is intuited is the form of space and time. But what is the form of thinking an object in general? Just as the Transcendental Aesthetic provided us with the rules of sensibility or the form under which things are intuited, so will the Transcendental Logic provide the rule and form of the understanding.

The understanding is also a faculty for judging, for the understanding is the faculty for thinking and thinking is cognition through concepts and concepts are predicates of judgements. “Judgment is therefore the mediate cognition of an object, hence the representation of a representation of it. In every judgment there is a concept that holds many, and that among this many also comprehends a given representation, which is then immediately related to the object.” Kant then gives an example of what he means:

So in the judgment, e.g., “All bodies are divisible,” the concept of the divisible is related to various other concepts; among these, however, it is here particularly related to the concept of body, this in turn is related to certain appearances that come before us. These objects are therefore mediate represented by the concept of divisibility. All judgments are accordingly functions of unity among our representations, since instead of an immediate representation a higher one, which comprehends this and other representations under itself, is used for the cognition of the object, and many possible cognitions are thereby drawn into one. We can, however, trace all actions of the understanding back to judgments, so that the understanding in general can be represented as a faculty for judging.

As logic provides the rules for understanding, transcendental logic will provide the rules for the location of and the use of the the form of understanding. For Kant, the ultimate rule and therefore the ends of a faculty are always internal to reason.

The part of transcendental logic, therefore, that expounds the elements of the pure cognition of the understanding and the principles without which no object can be thought at all, is the transcendental analytic, and at the same time a logic of truth. For no cognition can contradict it without at the same time losing all content, i.e., all relation to any object, hence all truth.

What Kant is introducing here are the universal predicates, or attributes, which he will call categories or pure concepts of the understanding. These are the predicates which, if they could not be said of something, then that something could not be said to be an object. These categories are the form of the understanding. As such these categories are a priori. It is with these predicates, Deleuze says, that the idea of the whole of possible existence achieves a sense for empirical experience alone will resist being totalized, as it is fragmented. With the categories we will be able to really conceive of an entirety of possible existence because an entirety of possible existence will be contained in the categories.

Now Kant is going to spend awhile talking about logic and then show us a table which he has called the functions of judgment. The linked display(s) is provided courtesy of Mr. Wolff who is doing one of the lecture series I linked at the beginning and to which I am indebted. The functions of judgment here are self self-explanatory and we are told by Mr. Wolff that they were simply cobbled together by Kant from what was at hand at the time, but that these had never been brought together before in this way. He wanted a system, so he made a system. I can understand that.

Then, a page or two over we get the table of categories. Remarkably similar in form, perhaps it is a part of some plan. Anyways, one can look at these and ponder on how they find applicability and whether or not they hold up and indeed what they might mean for the possibility of knowledge, of what can be known, and indeed what can’t be known. And if I now know that I am unable to know a thing that I, in fact, already knew, what do I do with this knowledge? This, for me, is a part of the complex nature of how could Kant possibly relate to the nature of revelation in the Islamic sense. In the Qur’an God is quite clear about His possession of attributes which are eventually systematized by scholars into a two sets of attributes, negative and positive, and which (as does all claims of knowledge about God) absolutely not qualify as something we can know if you look at knowledge as a specific term that Kant is defining here as anything that these categories are predicable of.

I would expect that it has a great deal to do with the fact that when you are trying to think about God you run into the fact that God is not locatable in time or space, which, if these are indeed the ground and form of all perception, would place the human being immediately at their limits as far as reason goes. I am not as pessimistic as Kant about the ability of man to have some knowledge and cognition of such things, but this is where the idea of revelation steps in and provides us with almost analogical and never fully encompassing notions that when gathered together help one embody an orientation towards God which then informs a kind of knowledge which doesn’t seem to be thinkable but it is communicable and livable.

But back to the categories. I’ll let Deleuze take it away momentarily, then onto some further considerations.

There is a whole of possible experience because there are predicates or pseudo-predicates which are attributed to all possible objects and these predicates are precisely what are called categories. I’ll cite some examples of categories according to Kant: unity, plurality, totality (with Kant they come in threes).
Reality, negation, limitation.
Substance, cause, reciprocity.
I’ll stop there. In what sense are these categories and not predicates of the type red, green, etc…? They are categories or conditions of possible experience for the simple reason that any object is only an object to the extent that it is conceived as one, but also as multiple, having the unit parts of a multiplicity, and in this forming a totality, any object whatever has a reality. On the other hand, it excludes what it is not: negation, and by virtue of this it has limits: limitation. Any object whatever is substance, any object whatever has a cause and is itself cause of other things.
That’s enough to be able to say that my notion of object is made in such a manner that if I encountered a something which did not allow the categories be attributed to it, I would say that it is not an object.
So there we have as a last determination of the a priori, they are the conditions of possible experience, which is to say universal predicates as opposed to empirical predicates or a posteriori predicates.

And to circle back for a moment to causality, its worth mentioning some summary of Dan Robinson’s formulations of Kant’s arguments, which take place in the third video in his lecture series. Specifically, Robinson’s deployment of one of Thomas Reed’s issues with Hume I found to be worthwhile. If Hume says that causality is a mere habit of the mind upon the encounter of conjuncture, then what can one say that been conjoined more in the history of man than night and day? And yet who has posited seriously that day causes night or that night causes day? And you might find this to be ridiculous, but therein lies the point! It is the result of some faculty of your understanding that allows you to find that to be ridiculous because in some way that is already the ground of your ability to understand phenomena you can distinguish between conjuncture and an apparent causal relationship. And in that sense, there is something greater going on than a mere conjoining of occurrences. And as has been pointed out, Kant is not arguing for causality as the true existing state of things in themselves but as the necessary condition for my understanding of representations.

We can all think beyond causality, but no human being operates beyond it. Can one affirm that God is the true cause of all things and source of all power and also affirm that it must be an a priori condition of my ability to think that I identify and place phenomena into causal relationships nearly spontaneously upon my perception of them? Or that I need causality as a heuristic in order to understand things in general, to operate effective on many different levels? In much the same way that you can’t get spatial relations from the perceptive apparatus that makes up the eye, that something is going to have to happen to the stimuli that is impinged upon you, this ordering process, that can’t be reasonably thought to belong to sensory experience full stop, the same line of thinking can apply to this notion of causality. Robinson presents it much more powerfully than did Kant, bringing with him something of a scientific background as well.

What does one make of all of this so far? As I was addressing earlier, its very clear that Kant’s existence in Prussia in the 18th century makes him both agreeable and disagreeable to an Islamic weltanshauung that’s eager to maintain it’s integrity and steer clear of disbelief (kufr). On the one hand, with Kant and certain Germans of the protestant sectors you find a certain kind of purity and austerity. Note the unadorned white walls of a typical Lutheran church, with the imagery of likenesses to men reduced to somewhere on a spectrum of nonexistent to very minimal. It’s just something in the air once Luther gets ahold of you. Now, Muslims can look at that and nod and agree.

Much the same, within Kant we find a similar lack of conceptual ornamentation. The entire nature of the project is Kant’s attempt to purify pure reason of what he takes to be a hubris. It would be premature to label his supposed antipathy to scholastic and rationalist attempts to gain and define knowledge of God and the soul as being any kind of antipathy towards God or the idea of the soul. I have some vague notion of his treatment of these subjects and I am eager to see what he does with them.

But in the mean time, I can only say that this particular construction and limitation of reason is interesting to me and even somewhat enticing. If one can, in fact, bring it in harmony with the Qur’an in some way, then it could be a useful arsenal. If Kant’s machine can be made to respect fully the glory and truth of revelation, then it could become so much more than what it is now. Where once stood a strange and terrible thinking machine in some German bog covered a thick fog could arise something even more tremendous. A walking philosophical battle-tank capable of affirming the truth of revelation, the proper limits of reason, and the correct frame from which to understand empirical information. It would be Kalam-Kant. This is the dream, and perhaps it can be real. God knows best.

 

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