Kantian Journal

2017 Vol. 36. No. 4

Kant: pro and contra

Some aspects of John Rawls’s first principle of justice

Abstract

The article considers the first of the two principles of justice proposed by the American philosopher John Rawls as universal principles that would be chosen by every reasonable and rational person in an ‘original position’. The work analyses the problematic aspects of the principle’s formulation (the vagueness of the list of key rights and freedoms and the value criterion for ranking them) and of the methods used by Rawls to overcome them in the works published after the acclaimed book A theory of Justice. The author addresses the problem of the correlation between freedom and security and argues that it was not studied sufficiently by Rawls. It is stressed that the absolute priority of the first principles of justice over the second one, which was declared by Rawls, is debatable. Disparate variations of the relative priority rule seem more convincing. The author gives a generally positive assessment of the improved formulation of the first principle of justice and emphasises that the principles of justice must take into account moral principles. Moreover, rights and freedoms should include those relating to personal and family lifestyle, childbirth and parenting and priority should be given to those freedoms that contribute to the development of the feeling of justice and the realisation of the moral ideal. It is concluded that Rawls demonstrated convincingly the relative value of democratic institutions.

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Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology and a cognitive-semantic interpretation of Kant’s transcendentalism

Abstract

This article analyses one of the recent realist interpretations of Kant — the one proposed by S. L. Katrechko. This interpretation is compared with the modern realistic understanding of Husserl’s phenomenology. Defined as cognitive-semantic, the interpretation is developed in several of S. L. Katrechko’s recent publications. According to S. L. Katrechko, Kant’s phenomenon (object) is a sign, whose referent is the thing in itself in the subjective and objective modes. The article considers two variants of the cognitive-semantic interpretation. The first one is based on Kant’s famous question as to how synthetic judgments are possible a priori. The variant defines the objective thing in itself as an empirical object that affects our sensibility. The second variant is based on the question ‘On what ground rests the relation of what we call representation in us to the object?’, as Kant put it in his letter to Herz. The subjective thing in itself is defined as a transcendental object and/or phenomenon. It is emphasised that, in a certain sense, the second variant of S. L. Katrechko’s interpretation antecedes Husserl’s phenomenology, which introduced a substantive a priori justification of human experience. This is a realist interpretation of Husserl’s philosophy. At its core is a fundamental principle of phenomenology — the validation of knowledge by a reflective examination of its premises and the everyday experience through which it is obtained. It is stressed that, unlike Kant, Husserl’s phenomenology rejects the existence of unknowable things in themselves and, unlike Katrechko, it rules out the interpretation of objects as signs. The latter makes it impossible to harmonise Husserl’s phenomenology with Katrechko’s semantic interpretation paradigm.

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Discussion

Analytic Work on Kant — Idealism, Things in Themselves, and the Object of Knowledge

Abstract

The article sketches the development of Kant interpretation in analytic philosophy. The author turns to Kant’s transcendental idealism and three well-known difficulties about things in themselves which Kant’s idealism generates: problems about unknowability, noumenal-affection and category-application, and the neglected-alternative. Building on the work “Things in Themselves: an Interim Report” (XI Kant Readings, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, Kaliningrad, 2014), the author questions how far Kant’s idealism can be accepted and these problems resolved in any way that (i) is reasonably faithful to Kant’s texts, (ii) renders his position consistent (and his major arguments valid), and (iii) does not rest on premises that are themselves philosophically implausible. The author argues that these three desiderata are not met in any strictly Kantian and philosophically satisfactory way in the interpretations given by P. F. Strawson, Rae Langton, Henry Allison, and Desmond Hogan, among other analytic Kant scholars. It is unlikely that one can find any strictly Kantian, philosophically satisfactory resolution of the above problems. However, looser but philosophically valuable reconstructions of Kant’s ideas are possible. The author also comments briefly on Robert Hanna’s, Maja Soboleva’s, and Sergey Katrechko’s views on things in themselves. Finally, the author suggests several avenues that Kant scholarship might take, given this discussion.

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Kant, Radical Agnosticism, and Methodological Eliminativism about Things-in-Themselves

Abstract

In his recent paper, “Things in Themselves: An Interim Report,” Robert Howell says that a philosophically satisfactory resolution of all-too-familiar problems about Kant’s views on the object of knowledge and the nature of things-in-themselves should meet three conditions: (1) it should be reasonably faithful to Kant’s views, (2) it must show that his views are internally consistent and his major arguments are valid, and (3) it must not rest on premises that are themselves philosophically implausible. Howell concludes that it would be philosophically good to find a satisfactory resolution of these problems, but also suspects that no such resolution will be found. The author fully agrees with Howell’s three conditions of adequacy on a philosophically satisfactory resolution of the problems, and holds that it would be philosophically good to find a resolution of them. However, the author sharply disagrees with the statement that no such resolution can be found. Indeed, he believes that such a resolution has been found. Kantian Radical Agnosticism (KRA) says that ‘we can and do know a priori that we cannot know either the nature of things in themselves or whether things in themselves exist or do not exist’. Kantian Methodological Eliminativism (KME) about things in themselves says that for the purposes of the theory of real (i. e., anthropocentric, “humanfaced”) transcendental idealism we can completely ignore things in themselves. In this paper the author unpacks and defends both KRA and KME.

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Kant’s transcendentalism and concept of the thing in itself

Abstract

This article analyses Kant’s transcendental philosophy (transcendentalism) and its central concept — the thing in itself is the kind of concept without which it is impossible to enter Kant’s philosophy (a paraphrase of Jacobi’s maxim). Methodologically, transcendentalism implies a transcendental turn from studying [empirical] objects to analysing the [transcendental] conditions of their cognition. Metaphysically, Kant’s transcendentalism rests on the crucial distinction between the thing in itself and the appearance. To give a more precise definition of Kant’s thing in itself, this article considers three theses. Firstly, Kant’s thing in itself is not an object in the usual sense. It is a methodological notion rather than an actual object. There are several possible conceptualisations of Kant’s thing in itself [that use the apparatus of contemporary logic]. Secondly, the thing in itself has two modes — the empirical and noumenal ones (B306). This should be taken into account in analysing the concept of transcendentalism. Thirdly, Kant introduces the concept of the thing in itself through a negation. Being a notion of the ‘family resemblance’ type, the concept comprises three dynamically connected elements — the object in general, the transcendental object, and the noumenon (sometimes, Kant uses them interchangeably). Each element represents a phase of Reduction- Realisation (Buchdahl) in the cognition of empirical data (Kant defines such phases as thingness, using the concept of ‘transcendental object’). The data are obtained through the transcendental analysis (reflection) of the process of cognition. The thesis (2) about the dual nature of the thing in itself suggests a solution to Kant’s problem of causality. The thing in itself serves as the referent of the phenomenon, whereas the noumenal thing-in-itself (or the ‘negative noumenon) serves as its meaning (Frege’s semiotic triangle).

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Analytical Kant studies, transcendental idealism, and the thing in itself

Abstract

In modern theoretical analytical philosophy, the interest in Kant is primarily due to discussions on the nature of sensory perceptions, on the epistemological status of experience, and on the so-called ‘constructivism’. The conflict of interpretations goes so far that some consider Kant to be a conceptualist, while others consider him an anti-conceptualist. For some, he is an internalist and, for others, an externalist. For some, he is a constructivist and, for others is a realist. This paper develops the main arguments pro and contra possible interpretations of Kant’s texts and presents the author’s interpretation of some key points of Kant’s theory of knowledge. Contrary to the analytical mainstream in Kant studies, the author argues that Kant’s ‘transcendental idealism’ in the field of the theoretical reason is completely compatible with epistemological realism. Hence, the term ‘thing in itself’ expresses neither ontological nor epistemological dualism. Rather it has a methodological function and it serves to indicate the possibility of different forms of discourses — religious, ethical, etc. The thesis is proven in three steps. First, the notion of ‘appearance’ is considered as ontologically identical to the thing in itself. Then, the author proposes her own reconstruction of Kant’s transcendental theory of experience and analyses the transcendental structure of experience to demonstrate the realistic status of Kant’s cognitive objects. In conclusion, the author stresses the significance of Kant’s project from the perspective of the contemporary theory of cognition.

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