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- Kant and Hume on Morality
The above interpretations provide two different explanations for why this is the case.
Our judgments about responsibility entail judgments about the causal antecedents of action, and such judgments are consistent with determinism. On this view, the liberty of spontaneity is essential to morality because attributions of responsibility, which permeate morality as well as law and religion , are unjust and unreasonable without it.
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According to the naturalist approach, liberty is essential for a different reason. They are, in his terminology, impressions or sentiments rather than ideas. These sentiments are partially caused by beliefs about the source of the behavior to which we are responding. We would not feel approval or disapproval unless we had been led to think of the person as the cause of the action. If we believed that her action was either compelled or uncaused, we would neither approve nor disapprove of her.
Our responses or thoughts would be about something else. Hume does not argue that the latter justifies attributions of responsibility.
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His claim is that it causally contributes to such attributions. They are made by means of feelings of approval and disapproval, which are are a core feature of human morality as we know it. Therefore, the idea of liberty, properly reconciled with necessity, is essential to morality. Like Hume, Kant seeks to reconcile freedom with a commitment to causal determinism. Yet the two philosophers operate with different conceptions of causal necessity and very different ideas about the nature of freedom. For present purposes, it is important to focus on the main difference between their conceptions of freedom.
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His treatment looks downstream from the will to its execution in action. A person has liberty when her action is caused by her will, which Hume equates with an occurrent motive or desire T 2. The question of what ultimately moves the will is irrelevant. Both are concerned with the freedom of the person or agent, but Kant thinks the person is not truly free unless her will is free. This is the first point about the main difference between Kant and Hume. The second point is that Kant, unlike Hume, believes that the will is not free unless it can be determined by pure reason.
Imagination thus plays a central role in empirical cognition by serving as the basis for both memory and the creative arts. In addition it also plays a kind of mediating role between the faculties of sensibility and understanding. It mediates and transcends by being tied in its functioning to both faculties.
On one hand, it produces sensible representations, and is thus connected to sensibility. On the other hand, it is not a purely passive faculty but rather engages in the activity of bringing together various representations, as does memory, for example,. Kant explicitly connects understanding with this kind of active mental processing. Kant also goes so far as to claim that the activity of imagination is a necessary part of what makes perception, in his technical sense of a string of connected, conscious sensory experiences, possible A, note.
First, Kant belives imagination plays a crucial role in the generation of complex sensory representations of an object see Sellars for an influential example of this interpretation. It is imagination that makes it possible to have a sensory experience of a complex, three-dimensional, and geometric figure whose identity remains constant even as it is subject to translations and rotations in space. However, he spends comparatively little time discussing this faculty in the first Critique.
There, it seems to be discussed as an extension of the understanding in that it applies concepts to empirical objects. There Kant specifies two different ways it might function CJ ; cf. CJ First Introduction In one, judgment subsumes given objects under concepts, which are themselves already given. This role appears identical to the role he assigns judgment in the Critique of Pure Reason. The basic idea is that judgment functions to assign an intuited object—a dog—to the correct concept—such as domestic animals.
This concept is presumed to be one already possessed by the subject. Here, the subject exercises judgment in generating an appropriate concept for what is given by intuition CJ First Introduction ; JL —95; for discussion see Longuenesse , — and —; Ginsborg In addition to the generation of empirical concepts, Kant also describes reflective judgment as responsible for scientific inquiry. Kant also utilizes the notion of reflective judgment to unify the otherwise seemingly unrelated topics of the Critique of Judgment —aesthetic judgments and teleological judgments concerning the order of nature.
Both the faculty of imagination and that of judgment operate on representations given from sensibility and understanding. Synthesis is not something people are typically aware of doing.
Synthesis is carried out by the unitary subject of representation upon representations either given to the subject by sensibility or produced by the subject through thought. Intellectual synthesis occurs when synthesis is used on representations and forms the content of a concept or judgment.
Though Kant discusses these forms of synthesis as if they were discrete types of mental acts, it seems that the first two forms must occur together, while the third only may occur as well compare Brook ; Allais Roughly, conceptualism claims the capacity for conscious sensory experience of the objective world depends, at least in part, on the repertoire of concepts possessed by the experiencing subject, insofar as those concepts are exercised in acts of synthesis by understanding.
Association is primarily a passive process by which the mind comes to connect representations due to repeated exposure of the subject to certain kinds of regularities. One might, for example, associate thoughts of chicken soup with thoughts of being ill, if one only had chicken soup when one was ill. Consider, for example, the difference between the merely associative transition between holding a stone and feeling its weight compared to the judgment that the stone is heavy B The association of holding the stone and feeling its weight is not yet a judgment about the stone, but a kind of involuntary connection between two states of oneself.
What is required, he says, is a theory of mental processing by an active subject capable of acts of synthesis.
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Several of the important differences between synthesis and association can be summarized as follows Pereboom , :. However, both notions require some significant unpacking. Such qualitative features of consciousness have been of major concern to philosophers of the late 20th Century. However, the metaphysical issue of phenomenal consciousness is almost entirely ignored by Kant, perhaps because he is unconcerned with problems stemming from commitments to naturalism or physicalism.
Sensations indicate or present features of objects, distinct from the subject. Feelings, by contrast, present only states of the subject to consciousness. Despite that, he does not focus in any substantive or systematic way on the phenomenal aspects of sensory consciousness, nor does he focus on how exactly they aid in cognition of the empirical world.
According to Kant, any time a subject can discriminate one thing from another, the subject is, or can be, conscious of that one thing. Kant does seem to deny the Leibniz-Wolff tradition that clarity can simply be equated with consciousness B, note. In such cases, one does not have a fully clear representation. This connects him with the Leibniz-Wolff tradition of recognizing the existence of unconscious representations An Likening the mind to a map Kant goes so far as to say,.
The field of sensuous intuitions and sensations of which we are not conscious, even though we can undoubtedly conclude that we have them; that is, obscure representations in the human being and thus also in animals , is immense. Clear representations, on the other hand, contain only infinitely few points of this field which lie open to consciousness; so that as it were only a few places on the vast map of our mind are illuminated. Thus, obscure representations, have no direct or non-inferential awareness but must be posited to explain our fine-grained, differential, and discriminatory capacities.
They constitute the majority of the mental representations with which the mind busies itself.
Kant and Hume on Morality
Though Kant does not make it explicit in his discussion of discrimination and consciousness, it is clear that he takes the capacity to discriminate between objects and parts of objects to be ultimately based on sensory representation of those objects. His views on consciousness as differential discrimination intersect with his views on phenomenal consciousness.
Because humans are receptive through their sensibility, the ultimate basis on which we differentially discriminate between objects must be sensory. As the discussion of unconscious representation indicates, Kant believes we are not directly aware of most of our representations. Kant thinks the process of making a representation clear, or fully conscious, requires a higher-order representation of the relevant representation.
In other words, it requires that someone can have representations based on representations. The I think must be able to accompany all my representations; for otherwise something would be represented in me that could not be thought at all, which is as much as to say that the representation would either be impossible or else at least would be nothing for me.
B; emphasis in the original. Kant might give the impression here of saying that for representation to be possible for a subject, the subject must possess the capacity for self-ascribing her representations. If so, then representation, and thus the capacity for conscious representation would depend on the capacity for self-consciousness. However, there is little evidence to show that Kant endorses the self-ascription condition. Only the latter form of awareness seems to demand a capacity for self-ascription. Inner sense is, according to Kant, the means by which we are aware of alterations in our own state.
Hence all moods, feelings, and sensations, including such basic alterations as pleasure and pain, are the proper subject matter of inner sense. Thus, to be aware of something in inner sense is to be minimally, phenomenally conscious, at least in the case of awareness of sensations and feelings. To say a subject is aware of her own states via inner sense is to say that she has a temporally ordered series of mental states, and is phenomenally conscious of each, though she may not be conscious of the series as a whole. This could still count as a kind of self-awareness, as when an animal is aware of being in pain.
But it is not an awareness of subject as a self. Kant himself indicates such a position in a letter to his friend and former student Marcus Herz in This might be so without my cognizing the slightest thing thereby, not even what my own condition is C , May 26, For example, while a non-apperceptive animal is aware of its own pain and its awareness is partially explanatory of its behavior, like avoidance, Kant construes the animal as incapable of making any self-attribution of its pain.
Kant thinks of such a mind as incapable of construing itself as a subject of states, and it is thus unable to construe itself as persisting through changes of those states. This is not necessarily to say an animal incapable of apperception lacks any subject or self. But, at the very least, such an animal would be incapable of conceiving or representing itself in this way See Naragon ; McLear Those truths include one saying every event in the empirical world has a cause B This tradition tended to explain the possession of knowledge of such universal and necessary truths by appeal to innate concepts which could be analyzed to yield the relevant truths.
Kant importantly departs from the rationalist tradition, arguing that not all knowledge of universal and necessary truths is acquired via the analysis of concepts B Thus, according to Kant, the activity of pure reason achieves relatively little on its own. He then pursues the central question: how is knowledge of such synthetic a priori propositions possible? Kant thus engages in a two-part strategy for explaining the possibility of such synthetic a priori knowledge.
The first part consists of arguing that the pure forms of intuition provide the basis for our synthetic a priori knowledge of mathematical truths. Mathematical knowledge is synthetic because it goes beyond mere conceptual analysis to deal with the structure of, or our representation of, space itself.
It is a priori because the structure of space is accessible to us as it is merely the form of our intuition and not a real mind-independent thing. In addition to the representation of space and time, Kant also thinks that possession of a particular, privileged set of a priori concepts is necessary for knowledge of the empirical world.