Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Report on UEA Kant Workshop on Analogical Reasoning

I've recently returned from this workshop that was run on 20th November at the University of East Anglia and that was organised by Angela Breitenbach. The focus of the workshop was analogical reasoning and reflective judgment. Breitenbach gave the opening paper which broached the old topic of Kant and the "as if". In this paper Brietenbach looked at the different uses of "analogy" in Kant's work, contrasting the way he speaks about it in the Lectures on Logic with how it is discussed in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Judgment. In the first of these, according to Breitenbach, analogy is discussed as a "heuristic" or regulative guide for empirical enquiry, something quite different from the account of analogy in the Analogies of Experience. Both are also distinct from the notion of analogy used when Kant discusses the "symbol" in the Critique of Judgment.

The Lectures on Logic relate analogy to induction and present both as always revisable, associated with a regulative account of the unity of nature and as having purely subjective validity. In using analogy we say something about how we look at an object, not something about the object itself. By contrast, the Analogies of Experience of the Critique of Pure Reason belong to the systematic account of experience. Breitenbach referred here though to the intriguing question of why Kant refers to these analogies as, in one sense, "regulative" and, in another sense, "constitutive". Two kinds of relation are compared by Kant when he introduces these "analogies", one from mathematics in which if three relations are given the fourth can also be given, which means "constructed". By contrast, philosophy deals with qualitative relations in which if three relations are given only the relation to a fourth can be given, not the fourth member itself. Due to this difference the Analogies of Experience are "constitutive" of experience as such but not, Breitenbach suggested, of individual perceptions. This account leads Breitenbach towards a "weak" reading of the analogies suggesting that they contain no reference to causal laws. Empirical concepts of laws are taken, following the work of Gerd Buchdahl, to be analogous of the transcendental sense of laws.

Symbolic presentation, by contrast to the previous two forms of analogy, is one in which something is given that can only be presented indirectly. Breitenbach concluded by suggesting that the distinction between reflective and determinant judgment did not map on to that between regulative and constitutive as there are senses in which a reflecting judgment can be "constitutive" of the intuitive grasp of something.

A surprising and welcome aspect of this workshop was that each paper was followed by a structured response in the form of a "comment" by another speaker and Breitenbach's paper was responded to Fiona Roxburgh, a doctoral student at UEA. Roxburgh's comment focused on the relationship of Kant's use of analogy to the philosophy of science and she suggested that analogies are means by which the Regulative Idea of unity can both be applied and rendered comprehensible for us in the first place. The general conception Roxburgh presented was that the regulative idea of unity is the boundary notion of a unified or fully complete science.

John Callanan gave the next paper which focused on the view that transcendental idealism is best seen as a form of "meta-philosophy". The key to this paper's contribution to the workshop was the view that thinking is best viewed as analogous to cognising in a Kantian sense. Callanan is interested in the question of what is involved in providing a philosophical account of anything and suggests that this concern is central to the Critique of Pure Reason. Callanan discussed Henry Allison's contrast between theocentric and anthropocentric standpoints which connected the first to transcendental realism and the second to transcendental idealism. On Allison's view ontological interpretations of transcendental idealism have to involve a distinction between levels of reality and this distinction must lead to seeing phenomenal reality as not "really" real.

The notion of "objective" is viewed by Callanan as reached by starting from some judgments (such as those given in mathematics) and then moving to the conditions of them. Callanan regards Kant's Copernican Revolution as consisting in an inquiry into what makes some judgments "cognition-apt" as we inquire what it is for something to be cognition apt prior to investigating what kinds of things there are. On this view we can have no account of what really is that does not also tell us what the essence of things is so the collapse of the distinction between metaphysics and ontology is cardinal for transcendental idealism. The ways we have of presenting things-in-themselves is through symbolic constructions and talk of these "things-in-themselves" should only be seen as symbolic.

The "comment" on Callanan's paper was provided by John Collins. Collins argued that philosophy and the sciences should be seen as continuous. On Collins' view noumenal thinking is neither contradictory nor dialectical so long as we take it to be indeterminate. Since thought is not answerable to noumena there is no sense in which transcendental idealism is less than true. Collins pointed out that on Callanan's view transcendental philosophy becomes analogical thinking but that there is a problem with this which is that the type of analogy involved in thinking transcendental idealism would need to be distinguished from the type of analogy involved in thinking things-in-themselves.

The next paper was given by Ido Geiger who focused on reflective judgment and the problem of empirical knowledge. Geiger opened by pointing out that there are two distinct problems identified in the introduction to the Critique of Judgment, the problem of relating theoretical and practical reason (a "unity of reason" problem) and the separate problem of describing the transcendental conditions of our particular empirical experience of the world and knowledge of its laws. The second problem was the focus of Geiger's attention who also pointed out that a better title for the Third Critique would have been the "critique of reflective judgment". 

The second problem on which Geiger focused can be captured by saying that laws, for Kant, have to include necessity but that what is strictly "empirical" is not necessary so there seems a problem with describing empirical laws as "laws". Further we have no "experience" of the necessity of empirical laws. In response it was the burden of Geiger's argument to suggest that the assumptions of the aesthetic and the conceptual purposiveness of nature are jointly transcendental conditions of empirical experience and knowledge. This depends on the general view that the purposiveness of nature gives necessity to empirical laws.

Geiger briefly spoke about the specific principle of the logical or conceptual purposiveness of nature arguing that the point of the critique of teleological judgment was to argue that for discursive intellects teleological judgment is a necessary transcendental condition of any empirical experience and knowledge. However this did lead him to claim that the universality of empirical concepts and the necessity we attribute to empirical laws are, in an important sense, "assumptions". The origin of these "assumptions" was argued to rest on a "general" regulative idea that nature is made to be known by discursive intellects.

Geiger spent much more time on the principle of the aesthetic purposiveness of nature than he had on the logical or conceptual purposiveness of nature. Again, the aesthetic purposiveness of nature was presented by him as a transcendental condition of experience. Aesthetic judgments were taken to express a feeling of harmony or "fit" between understanding and imagination despite the fact that no concept is applied to a manifold in these judgments as they present no cognition of objects but, suggested Geiger, they do present conditions of cognition.

The fundamental problem Geiger tackled was that whilst aesthetic judgments are non-conceptual that experience and knowledge are conceptual for Kant. This creates the problem of how aesthetic judgments can, as Geiger had suggested, be part of the conditions of empirical experience when they don't seem to fit Kant's general conditions of such experience? In reply to this question Geiger pointed to Kant's statement in the "First Introduction" to the Critique of Judgment that the principle of reflection on "given objects of nature" is that for all things in nature "empirically determinate concepts" are available (Ak. 20: 211-212). This was taken by Geiger to entail that we sort nature into like objects and natural kinds according to their spatial form alone (hence in an aesthetic way).

Geiger subsequently argued that the "Appendix" to the Transcendental Dialectic of the Critique of Pure Reason importantly pre-figured the argument of the critique of teleological judgment. In the former Kant argued for an analogue of the schema that is given to intuition by means of reference to the maximum of division and unification of the understanding's cognition in one principle. By this reference Kant suggested that the idea of reason is an analogue of the schema of sensibility although the latter is only a rule of principle of the systematic unity of use of the understanding (A664-5/B692-3). The difference between this argument and that presented in the third Critique is that the latter work argues that the aesthetic purposiveness of nature supplies the sensible or aesthetic aspect that was missing from the notion of the analogue of a schema of sensibility. 

It follows from Geiger's reading that some philosophically interesting elements of the Critique of Judgment are not of high systematic importance with the accounts of the organism, art and the sublime being less important than is often suggested when seen from the standpoint of Kant's system. However Geiger argued that his reading enables us to view the third Critique as a single coherent work and that this should be the desideratum of any reading of the work. (For a similar conception, if argued rather differently, I could also refer here to my own first book, Kant and the Ends of Aesthetics.)

Sacha Golob presented the "comment" on Geiger's paper and stated that the key questions to ask where what did this paper "add" to our understanding and what was the status of what was being added? On Golob's view reflective judgment is an abstractive process, a conception he took from the Lectures on Logic to which Breitenbach had earlier referred. Golob presented a series of questions and problems for Geiger's view. Firstly, Golob asked why Geiger's solution was better than the view that what produced unity in space and time was nothing other than the schema of pure understanding? Golob also questioned whether the texts Geiger had cited were sufficient to reach the conclusion suggested.

Golob's second alternative to Geiger's view concerned the status of the necessity of empirical laws, suggesting, in contradistinction to Breitenbach as well as Geiger, that the status of the Second Analogy could be seen as relatively "strong" and justifying the principle of "same effect, same cause" (SCSE). Even on this reading you could still say that particular laws needed more determinate filling out and for this reflective judgment was required but this would be a more moderate use of reflective judgment. Golob also argued that Geiger's reference to "natural kinds" was far from equivalent to a notion of "basic" judgments as natural kinds are a pretty theoretical notion. Further, the notion of pre-conceptual "grouping" seems strange since the activity of grouping appears to involve consciousness. 

Another alternative to Geiger's view is presented, according to Golob by Beatrice Longuenesse's notion that there is a schema that is understood in such a way that there are no experiences available to us that do not involve concepts. Finally Golob also pointed to the fact that Geiger's notion of pre-discursive synthesis was indeterminate with regard to the models available for such a notion, models that range from Husserl's conception of passive synthesis to Hanna's idea of bodily synthesis and that articulating some notion of this level of synthesis should involve continuity between human and animal experience.

The last of the papers given was by Alix Cohen who spoke about Kant's view of moral feelings, a view that she mentioned, citing my book on practical philosophy, as a "well- kept secret amongst Kantian scholars". One of the reasons Kant's account of such feelings is such a "well-kept secret" is, she stated, due to the continuing lack of attention given by writers on Kant to the Metaphysics of Morals and, in particular, to the Doctrine of Virtue. A second reason why there might well be continuing reluctance to engage with the area could also be that Kant seems to use the term "feeling" in this area in more than one sense.

Cohen started by saying that the current consensus view is that feelings can't play a motivational role in actions done for the sake of duty as otherwise we will be led to a conception that is heteronomous. This leads to a problem, however, which is that Kant refers very specifically to the "feeling" of respect for the moral law and we need some account of what role this feeling plays in his view. Cohen argued that the feeling of respect is functionally equivalent to feelings of pleasure and pain and that it is a feeling as it is connected to the faculty of desire, is a subjective ground of activity and it produces an interest.

However this "feeling" of respect is a peculiar kind of feeling as it is rational, being produced solely by reason, being cognised a priori and giving rise to an intellectual pleasure. So the status of respect needs some work and Cohen provided a typology of the treatments of this feeling in contemporary readings of Kant, suggesting there are currently four models of how to view it. On the first model, which she associated with Andrews Reath, the agent's reason is viewed in terms of the law, as is their motivation, and the connection between respect and the law is simply that there is a phenomenological effect of the law in terms of respect. The second model, taken from Karl Ameriks, sees reason and motivation in the same way as Reath, but views the connection between respect and the law in terms of an affective accompaniment.

The problem with both these first two views is that respect has no proper function in them. By contrast, on the view of Thomas McCarthy, law and respect are operative in the agent's reason and respect in his motivation with the connection being that respect provides affective motivation for the law. Finally, a further view would take law to be operative in the agent's reason, law and respect in their motivation and the connection to be one in terms of the effective force of the law. These second two accounts provide a function for respect and explain how it is possible to be moved to act for the sake for the duty.

However, whilst the second two accounts appear better than the first, the problem with them, according to Cohen, is that motivation implies a kind of Humean picture as it gives a theoretical account of what it is to be practical. We should give, she stated, not an explanation of respect, but a transcendental argument concerning its role. By contrast to these accounts Cohen used the Doctrine of Virtue to suggest that what the notion of respect helps us to see are the conditions of receptivity to duty on us. In the Doctrine of Virtue respect, moral feeling and conscience are all discussed in terms of natural predispositions "for being affected" or being put under obligation. 

The more restricted sense of "moral feeling" that Kant discusses as a specific type of "feeling" in the generic sense is listed alongside conscience as a "subjective condition of receptiveness" to duty as they provide us with a practical interest in the law. The problem that might be thought to relate to this view is that, in stressing this idea of receptivity, it could subtract from our essentially autonomous and spontaneous relationship to morality. However, Cohen stressed, that instead this account preserved this notion of autonomy and made us aware of our awe of the moral law. On her view the agent's reason is governed by the law but we do not attempt to fill in their motivation and the connection between respect and the law is explained by stating that respect is the effect of the law on our sensibility and the cause of our awareness of the law. 

Cohen argued that the point of moral feelings was to make us aware of certain "objects" we ought to treat as persons from the practical standpoint rather than merely explain or experience as things from a theoretical standpoint. Practical spontaneity is enabled, on her account, by the transcendental conditions of an aesthetic of morals.

Sasha Mudd provided the "comment" on Cohen's paper and opened by asking the question whether the feelings all work together or are some feelings constitutively prior to others. She also asked how the feelings come together with the categorical imperative in synthesis (if that is how we are to take the analogy). Suggesting that the feelings make a moral demand on us could easily lead us back to heteronomy she cautioned. Mudd also had a problem with seeing what could be gained by thinking of persons as "objects" since Kant refers to ends that are constructed as "objects" and does not refer to persons in this way. The claim of the primacy of practical reason also puts pressure on the view that there is a cognitive role for feeling in practical reason.

The conference also included much lively discussion and marked an occasion when a set of topics that are routinely marginalised in Kantian study came out forcefully. It was a great occasion and produced, as I hope this report has shown, much food for thought!

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