Been super busy studying for the last few weeks and forgot all about writing on this thing.  It happens.  On the plus side I am becoming very knowledgeable about epistemology and the historical shifts in theories.  Here’s the first 350 pages of Kant’s first critique in one picture:

If only he were an artist, his book would have been so much shorter…

  1. spinoza1111 said:

    Terrific! That’s my “Evil Clown” diagram of last July 13 (I think) in which the children’s brains transform “a sensation of patterns and colors”, like an abstract painting, into “aieee! run for your lives! It’s an evil clown!”. Diagrams do help.

    But: the problem with both our visual representations is that we oversimplify. I had “the perception of the evil clown” tranformed by unexplained steps into its concept, where the immediate steps included the NEUTRAL perception of the evil clown transmogrified into the BAD perception by unexplained mechanisms, where you, in the above diagram, as applied to my “evil clown” example, seem to transform the “abstract clown painting” into something complex ((Ex)[clown(x) & evil(x)] in one magic step.

    This was the “clue” and we still have to get from, using the diagram or otherwise, the abstract painting of the clown that doesn’t look like the clown in >1 steps. My diagram had these steps being performed OUT of time and space as yours does, and no explanation of them is provided. This, I think, would be unsatisfactory to Kant.

    As would the alternative story: that concept formation (clown! evil! Run for your lives! Aiee!) occurs by means of physical mechanisms inside the brain while emotions (eek! run for your lives!) occur just outside the skull.

    Which means that diagrams can deceive. My favorite computer scientist (favorite because he didn’t whore himself out for corporations), Edsger Dijkstra, educated in Holland and Germany in the Kantian tradition, demonstrated this in math by showing that the diagrammatic proof of the Pythagorean Theorem blinds us to a far more interesting and general proof applying to all triangles of which the Pythagorean Theorem is a subcase.

    Dijkstra found this interesting because progress in software proceeds mostly by generalization, finding that a change to a software tool can make it apply to an order of magnitude more cases.

    Now the two diagrams: my “evil clown” which represents only the metaphysical deduction of the clue (“a judgement [singular] gets from a sensation to a concept) fails to get to the second part of the Transcendental Analytic, how we make >1 judgements that go, not from sensation to concept but from concept(x) to concept(x+1). The way I drew it had it occur in multiple steps OUTSIDE the brain in the air outside the head and this is nonsense.

    But the alternative is equally unsatisfactory, it is to presume that concept formation occurs fully inside the brain, and then the Concept kinda sorta pops out the bone surrounding my head into the world of the thing in itself as you show it. This is at best a neater formulation of the classic problem of consciousness, because the ontology that pops out of my epistemology violates Occam in either case.

    Excellent insights but there’s still work to be done, Mr. Sitdown Tragedy. Thank you.

    • Bill Liktor said:

      Good point about the process. To really get your brain around this process of noumena being transformed into phenomena it helps to keep in mind (in my opinion) that the human perceiver is also (in itself) noumena. This is how Kant is able to claim objective validity for empirical knowledge. He says as much with respect to time (inner sense). Objective time (as part of the thing in itself) is an omnipresent constant whereas our experience of time is contingent (whenever we are not conscious we are not experiencing time). This means (in an important way) that we do have some sort of access to noumena, though to be sure we cannot say the same thing about the nature of objects in themselves. So, as far as the process goes, I guess a good answer might be that we perceive objects as we do because we are hardwired to do so, and we can ground those bits of knowledge on the linkage between subjective and objective time.

      On a not completely unrelated note, have you ever checked out the work of Wilfrid Sellars and John McDowell? Basically knowledge comes from verbal agreements between people with respect to objects, and perception itself plays no direct role in the story of how we have knowledge. On the negative side knowledge doesn’t have the strong sort of foundation that Kant was looking for, but on the positive side many of the problems of trying to validate perceptions objectively are side-stepped.

  2. spinoza1111 said:

    I have not, sad to say, checked out Sellars or McDowell’s work – will do. Thanks.

  3. spinoza1111 said:

    Noumenal consciousness is presented with concepts, never pure phenomena. Concepts can be complex such as that which is a clown and which is evil. In fact, concepts as they emerge into noumenal space are never simple: I never see the pure Clown, but always at a bare minimum the evil or funny clown.

    Kant has distinguished “brain” and “mind” without having the scientific language that he himself inspired: it was his fate, as in the Whopper sentence of 180 words I’ve mentioned, to wrestle with angels without a language apart from verbose High German. In the brain we have phenomena (sensation) whereas the mind is the airy region around our head “where” we may fancy the truly metaphysical takes place. And…this must be solely the presentation of concepts, one succeeding another, to our noumenal selves, that “glassy essence” denied so vehemently by Richard Rorty but affirmed by Shakespeare:

    … but man, proud man,
    Drest in a little brief authority,
    Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
    His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
    Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
    As make the angels weep…

    Our essence is “glassy”: Shakespeare affirms what you and Kant seem to believe: our essence is noumenal, not empirical in Kant’s own language. We’re not a phenomenon, to ourselves or anyone else: people are strangely recognizable after the passage of time.

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