Kantian Journal

2018 Vol. 37. No. 1

Editorial

Kant’s Philosophy

Kant and the Problem of Optimism: The Origin of the Debate

Abstract

Kant scholars have rarely addressed the notion of optimism as it was interpreted by the Königsbergian philosopher in the mid-18th century. The notion originates from Leibniz’s Theodi­cy and from debates over whether the actual world is the best of all possible worlds. The first of a two-part series, this article studies the historical context in which appeared Kant’s 1759 lecture advertisement leaflet entitled An Attempt at Some Reflections on Optimism. The study describes the requirements of the 1755 Berlin Academy of Sciences’ competition for a comparison of G. W. Leibniz’s and A. Pope’s systems and an assessment of optimism. Another focus is the philological difficulties of translating Pope’s proposition “Whatever is, is right” into the French language — which was part of the competition task. The author considers the ways the proposition was translated into the Russian and German languages. The article shows the contribution of Voltaire and his Poem on the Lisbon Disaster and Candide: or, Optimism to the post factum changes in the perception of the competition results and to the emergence of new shades of meaning in the concept of optimism. The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 had a profound effect on Europe and on the perception of optimism and of the idea that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds. However, Kant’s epistolary legacy leads one to the conclusion that the philosopher examined the problem in the framework of a polemic on Crusian philosophy. This article presents Crusius’s arguments against the theory that this is the best of all possible worlds and in favour of the theory that there are several good worlds. God’s choice of the actual world owes therefore to the freedom of contradiction (libertas contradictionis) and to the freedom of contrariety (libertas contrarietatis), which are eliminated in the teaching of optimism.

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Consequences and Design in General and Transcendental Logic

Abstract

In this article, I consider Kant’s dichotomy between general and transcendental logic in light of a retrospective reconstruction of two approaches originating in 14th century scholasticism that are used to demarcate formal and material consequences. The first approach (e. g., John Buridan, Albert of Saxony, Marsilius of Inghen) holds that a consequence is formal if it is valid — because of its form only — for any matter. Since the matter of a consequence is linked to categorematic terms, its formal validity is defined as being invariant under substitutions for such terms. According to the second approach (e. g., Richard Billingham, Robert Fland, Ralph Strode, Richard Lavenham), the validity of a formal consequence stems from the formal understanding of the consequent in the consequence’s antecedent. I put forward the hypothesis that in his logical taxo­nomy, Kant attempted to reconcile the substitutional interpretation of formal consequences and a formal analysis of the transcendental relations of objects of experience. However, if we interpret the limi­tations imposed by transcendental logic on the power of judgement in the spirit of the scholastic ontology of transcendental relations, it would contradict Kant’s critique of dogmatic ontology. Following in Luciano Floridi’s path, I thus propose to consider transcendental logic, not as a system of consequences equipped with ontologically grounded transcendental limitations, but rather as the logic of design. The logic of design has the benefit of enriching traditional logical tools with a series of notions borrowed primarily from computer programming. A conceptual system designer sets out feasibility requirements and defines a system’s functions that make it possible to achieve the desired outcome using available resources. Kant’s project forbids a dogmatic appeal to the transcendental relations and eternal truths of scholasticism. However, the constitutive nature of the rules of transcendental logic in regard to the power of judgement precludes the pluralism of conceptual systems that can be interpreted within possible experience. Thus, the optimisation problem of finding the best conceptual design from all feasible designs is beyond the competence of transcendental logic.

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The Philosophy of the Enlightenment and Its Relevance

Was heißt Fortschritt im Wissen? Gnoseoto­pi­sche Überlegungen zur Auf­klä­rung und ihren Folgen

Abstract

This article focuses on the question of what “progress in knowledge” (Fortschritt im Wissen) since the Enlightenment could mean. The answer is rooted in a shift in perspective in our understanding of the Enlightenment, and in an awareness of the gnoseotope at the center of this perspectival shift. Given the fact that human knowledge has always been considered li­mited, the axiom called gnoseotope (from Greek gnōsis: cognition, know­ledge and topos: place, area, field) can be defined as the area of re­latively secure knowledge, which is subject to both quantitative (cumulative) and qualitative (paradigmatic) histo­rical changes. Considering the further fact that human ignorance has been acknowledged since Antiquity and taken for granted for millennia of human history, the awareness of this ignorance becomes parti­cularly problematic during the Enlightenment when irreducible yet systematically repressed elements of human ignorance were integrated into the epistemology of 18th-century rationalism. This article discusses the development in the shift from ignorance as a given to ignorance as a systematically reflected part of the conditions of human knowledge from a historical point of view through the examples of Christian Wolff, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, and Johann Georg Sulzer. The argument does not focus on the ‘completion’ of the rationalist system of 18th-century philosophy, but rather on the subversive quality of the introduction of subrational elements into that system, resul­ting in the ultimate breakdown of the system and in the expansion of the horizon of the Enlightenment gnoseotope. In this sense, the Enlightenment can be seen as expanding from from an age (“Enlightenment” with an upper-case “E”) to a method (“enlightenment” with a lower-case “e”). The article concludes with recent debates (as initiated by Ulrich Beck, Rainer Specht, and contemporary natural scientists) about the effects that a gnoseotopical perspective has on globalization and ecological politics, and more broadly with reflections on the current need for core Enlightenment ideas in their full complexity.

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Interview

Kategorische Rechtsprinzipien in Zeiten der Postmoderne. Interview mit Prof. Dr Otfried Höffe

Abstract

This interview explores the extent to which Kant’s philosophy, which postulates certain moral principles categorically, has influenced the contemporary theory of justice. Many academics believe such principles to be relative and emphasise that justice lies beyond the remit of science. Otfried Höffe is convinced that categorical legal principles remain a valid subject for an academic discussion. In his works, he often appeals to Kantian philosophy. In the interview, Prof. Dr. О. Höffe refers to such famous German Neo-Kantian philosophers of law as R. Stammler and G. Radbruch. He also mentions J. Rawls and J. Habermas — self-confessed adherents of the Kantian tradition in moral philosophy. Prof. Dr. Höffe expounds his views on the problems discussed by these authors. He dismisses G. W. F. Hegel’s criticism of Kant and denies the dependence of the fundamental principles of justice on the Zeitgeist and the opinions of the masses. The interviewee calls freedom the supreme human value, advocates the idea of a democratic constitutional state (he considers the principles of a social state as a mission of the state rather than a subjective right of citizens), and argues that dictatorship and tyranny deserve resistance. Prof. Dr. Höffe gives detailed definitions of the notions of transcendental exchange, categorical legal principles, enlightened liberal democracy, and a world republic. This interview will supplement the body of Prof. Dr. Höffe’s works that have already been translated into Russian.

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Conference Reports

Kant and the Problem of Revolution. A Report of the International Conference (Kaliningrad, 9—10 November 2017)

Abstract

This report presents the features of the organisation and the main ideas of the international scientific conference “‘No Right of Sedition’. Kant and the Problem of Revolution in the 18th—21st Century Philosophy.” The conference was held at the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University (IKBFU) in Kaliningrad on November 9—10, 2017 and was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The event was organised by the Academia Kantiana — a research unit on comparative studies on Russian and Western philosophy at the IKBFU’s Institute for the Humanities. The reports presented at the conference focused on the analysis of the phenomenon of revolution from Kant to the present day as well as the conceptions of revolution that appeared around the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917. The report summarises all the presentations and discussions that took place at the confe­rence in accordance with the thematic clusters. The conference confirmed that Kant’s ideas on the state and the revolution are still relevant today.

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Report of the ‘Transcendental Turn in Contemporary Philo­sophy 2’ Inter­national Seminar (Moscow, 27—29 April 2017)

Abstract

This is a report of the international workshop «Transcendental Turn in Contemporary Philosophy 2: Kant’s Appearance, Its Ontological and Epistemic Status» (April 27—29, 2017, Moscow), the tasks of which was (1) to discuss the specificity of transcendental idealism, (2) to study the nature of one of Kant’s important concepts — that of appearance — within the framework of the essential conceptual triad of transcendentalism: thing in itself (Ding an sich) — appearance (Erscheinung) — representation (Vorstellung), (3) to analyse the distinction between Kant’s concepts of appearance and phenomenon, and (4) to examine the concepts of appearance and phenomenon in relation to Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology.

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