Show

Kant

Week of: 
December 13, 2005
What is it: 

Immanuel Kant introduced the human mind as an active originator of experience rather than just a passive recipient of perception.  How has his philosophy influenced the world after him?  John and Ken dig into the brilliantly active mind of Kant.

Listening Notes: 

Kant thought that our minds had no perceptual access to the world as it but our perception was in a way warped by the limitations and idiosyncrasies of our minds. Kant calls the real world, independent of our minds, the noumenal world. The world we perceive is the phenomenal world. John claims that our total experience is a joint product of the noumenal world and the phenomenal.

Ken introduces the guest Peter Gilgen, a Professor from Cornell University. Peter Gilgen touches on the philosophical scene of Kant's time. In the mid 18th Century, rationalists (such as Leibniz and Descartes) defended a strict metaphysical system, which they claimed to build solely from reason. However, Kant's philosophy arose largely as a reaction to this tradition. Kant claimed that Humean skepticism awakened him "from his dogmatic slumbers" and that rationalists could not meet the skeptic's challenges. Inspired by Newton, Kant wanted to put "metaphysics on the secure footing of science", penning "The Critique of Reason" in the process.

Kant claimed that if an unnoticeable glass that distorted sight were put right in front of our eyes for all our life, we wouldn't be able to recognize that our sight was distorted. We can't know whether our perception as a whole is distorted by such "an invisible glass". Our perception apparatus contributes to our perception. John comments even though we see a solid desk, we know that the desk is made of atoms, atoms in turn by quarks and that the desk is mostly space. Is this the kind of perceptual distortion Kant had in mind? Peter Gilgen explains that according to Kant, our perceptual blockade is deeper than what science can reveal. Even time and space are categories our perception apparatus bring into this world.

Even though Kant thought that noumena weren't directly available, everybody had a common perceptual architecture that characterized the world. (For instance, everybody has a notion of space and time.) In a similar vein, he denied Humean skepticism about causality (which holds there is no evidence that indicates that causal laws should hold) and claimed that causality was a property of the phenomenal world.

Kant thought that even the idea that we are free is enough to grant us moral freedom and responsibility. Our intuition to judge something as not right deems morality a genuine possibility.

Get Philosophy Talk

Radio

Sunday at 10am, PST, KALW, 91.7 FM, Local Public Radio, San Francisco

Podcast

Individual Downloads  via CdBaby or Itunes.  Multipacks and The Complete Philosophy Talk via Iamplify

John Perry and Ken Taylor

Continue the Conversation

Sidebar Menu

Upcoming Shows

  • July 5 : The Psychology of Partisan Politics
    Are you a tax-raising, soy latte-drinking, Prius-driving, New York Times-reading, Daily Show-watching, corporation-hating liberal? Or a gun-toting,...
  • July 12 : Edward Snowden and the Ethics of Whistleblowing
    You might think we each have a moral duty to expose any serious misconduct, dishonesty, or illegal activity we discover in an organization,...
  • July 19 : Neuroscience and Free Will
    We like to think of ourselves as rational agents who exercise conscious control over most of our actions and decisions. Yet in recent years,...
  • July 26 : The Power and Perils of Satire
    Satire is everywhere – in conversations with friends, in books, on television, and online. When used effectively, it can be a very powerful form of...
  • August 2 : Summer Reading List 2015
    What philosophers, philosophies, or philosophical issues do you want to read up on this summer? Leibniz's Monadology not be the obvious choice to...

Support Philosophy Talk

DONATE TODAY

Philosophy Talk relies on the support of listeners like you to stay on the air and online. Any contribution, large or small, helps us produce intelligent, reflective radio that questions everything, including our most deeply-held beliefs about science, morality, culture, and the human condition. Make your tax-deductible contribution now through Stanford University's secure online donation page. Thank you for your support, and thank you for thinking!