Kantian Introduction

Somewhere on the shelf behind me, I do have Critique of Pure Reason but I was pretty inexperienced in philosophy, 15 years or so ago, when I first (and last) tried to read it. I didn’t get very far. Which doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate Kant’s significance, just that I’ve formed my views on Kant from only second-hand readings (so far).

In “Five Books” Nigel Warburton interviews Adrian Moore on his 5 recommended Kant readings, four of which are Kant’s own writings. A seriously heavy-weight recommendation, but fortunately the interview style teases out some summary content.

It’s a good piece, recommended generally, but I wanted to capture this topical point:

We have knowledge only of phenomena ” ‘phenomena’ is Kant’s word for appearances ” and we [can never have any] knowledge of noumena … how things are in themselves.

Everything is completely causally determined in the phenomenal world. So how can there be freedom in the phenomenal world? The answer to that question is: there can’t be.

We have to regard our belief in our own freedom – [in our real noumenal selves] – as an article of faith.

I subscribe to the phenomenal / noumenal distinction – the world beyond our “experience” can never be “known”. Even though that boundary gets pushed back by prosthetic extensions to our experience of phenomenal properties all we are ever doing is building a better “model” of the noumenal according to the phenomenal and our Reasoning.

What bothers me is that causal determination is based on a Newtonian billiard-balls model, and the article of faith is a doubly convenient way to preserve faith in divine will too.

Whatever the value of what Kant has to say about limits to Reason – logical, ethical, categorical, the lot – what he has to say about free-will really cannot be taken seriously?

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