The Kant Song

A man could be satisfied with himself as a poet if he managed to construct a good rhyme for "innate subjective transcendental ideality."


Texan99 said...

Don't we all miss these simple old tunes, with their traditional rhyme schemes? Moon/June--glory/a priori.

douglas said...

A pleasant tune as well.

So, if you carry out Kant's logic, aren't I the only consciousness in my universe, and isn't everything (including my physical manifestation) just creations of my sentience?

Grim said...

You really can't know that one way or the other. It's kind of a serious problem. Everything you think you know is a product of your "transcendental apperception," meaning that you constructed whatever your senses are telling you into an experience you can understand. Naturally, that includes all other people you experience as well. They exist in space and time because you put them there.

They may possibly actually exist too: your senses are sensing something, after all. But it isn't what you experience, it's something you can't access in a way unfiltered by what your mind does in unifying and constructing the experience. The stuff your mind produces he calls "phenomena," and it's very specifically yours: your mind has ordered and edited it in ways you can't access, so you have no reason to believe anyone else experiences the same thing, or that reality really accords with it. Reality itself he calls 'numina,' and you have no direct access to any of it. Kant meant this to be helpful -- he was trying to solve some problems Hume raised about whether you could know anything at all. Kant says yes: you can know phenomena, and Hume's problems pertain to numina only.

So, is there more than one person? Well, if you're reading this, allow me to assure you that there is. :)

Kant doesn't himself fall prey to solipsism. He believes in other rational beings, in part because he recognizes that some of the things he encounters appear to be trying to put order to the world in the same way that he is. He's so impressed with that fact that it roots his moral philosophy, which insists on a perfect equality of respect for rational beings insofar as (and just because they) are rational. You don't end up respecting all people equally, but you do respect everyone according to the degree to which they live in accord with reason.

E Hines said...

Makes Tom Lehrer sound like a jingle singer.

Eric Hines

douglas said...

Ah, yes, that's right. I have been over that before. It's rather like the problem that those who are literalists in regards to religious texts have, isn't it? Can you have a "perfect" text if it's guaranteed that we each read it to some extent in our own way and through our own filters? It's one reason I've always shied away from any embrace of literalism (among others, but it's always to me been the most problematic).

Grim said...

Kant's problem is similar, but a little bigger. He would have to question whether you could have a direct experience of the divine. And maybe you can't: 'None can look on God and live' (Ex. 33:20) makes perfect sense if the only way you can 'look on' anything is via transcendental apperception, which must delimit the experience by ordering it in space and time (and, in the case of an unlimited divine, therefore alter it). A consequence of being the kind of being we are would be that you couldn't have that kind of experience.

And yet one of the things that even a non-literalist reader of religious texts probably believes is that it is possible to encounter the divine directly. Indeed, that's one standard answer to the problem of textual readings: it's the Sufi answer, for example.