Very Basic Notes on Kant

On Chapter 5, Section 4, of Velasquez, PHILOSOPHY

Originally for Students in Introduction to Philosophy
Rev. March 29, 2004

Section 5.4

1. What is transcendental idealism?

It is the view that both reason and sense-experience play a role in knowing. What Velasquez does not tell us right away is that reason for Kant is not limited to analyzing ideas and drawing conclusions; it is a mental activity by which the mind imposes order upon what would otherwise be a chaotic jumble of sense-impressions.
2. What did David Hume say about our sensations?
Our sensations, considered in themselves, flow through us in a chaotic and continuously changing stream. (We are not, strictly speaking aware of any enduring things, either material things or minds.)
3. What is Immanuel Kant's "remarkable insight"?
The mind organizes its sensations into the objects we see around us.
4. What is the most important of the "twelve relationships" or categories?

     Cause-Effect: All perceived events have causes.

5. What three things can we say "if Kant is right"?

1) The world we see or experience around us is a world that our own mind constructs.

2) Cause and effect are always a part of the world as we perceive it.

3) The world we observe around us might not be the way the world really is in itself.

(Kant speaks of the unknowable Thing in Itself, which stands behind the sensations that are available to us.)

6. Explain the distinction between the noumenal world and the phenomenal world in Kant's philosophy?

The phenomenal world is the world we are aware of; this is the world we construct out of the sensations that are present to our consciousness. The noumenal world consists of things we seem compelled to believe in, but which we can never know (because we lack sense-evidence of it). The noumenal world contains (1) the Ding an sich, which lies behind or beneath the sense-impressions that we receive; (2) the free will, of which we can never have a sense impression, although we have to believe in it in order to make sense of the moral life.

For Kant, the empiricists are right when they say that our knowledge depends upon our sensations. But the rationalists are right when they say we can know the basic laws that structure the world quite apart from any particular sense-data. We know, for example, that every event has a cause. But we know that because the mind interprets sense-data so that this is true.

7. For Kant, is space a reality independent of mind? Is time?

The answer to both of these questions is NO. Space, for Kant, is nothing other than a mental structure that the mind uses to order sensations, e.g., as alongside one another. Time is nothing but a mental structure that the mind uses to order sensations, e.g., in terms of before and after.

8. What fundamental assumption of (most) earlier philosophers does Kant reject?

     The objective world is independent of our mind.

What does he hold instead?

     Kant held that the objective world was, in significant part, a creation of the mind.