Kant’s Copernican Revolution

Here is a good philosophical course for you budding philosophers out there. This course is called “TTC – Modern Intellectual Tradition From Descartes to Derrida” it is taught by Professor Lawrence Cahoone of Stony Brook University.

Professor Lawrence Cahoone

Today we centre on lecture 8 called the “Kant’s Copernican Revolution”. Now Immanuel Kant’s philosophy is not the most easiest to understand, in fact some of his books are such a difficult read, they were revised constantly. Lets take a close look at how this lecture describes Immanuel Kant’s revolution.

Immanuel Kant is considered as one of the greatest western philosophers, but why? This lecture explores part of the reason why. Kant read one of David Hume’s books and was inspired by Hume’s theory that we cannot know anything without experience.

Kant wrote many books, one of the most famous is “The Critique of pure reason”. This lecture examines Kant’s idea of the transcendental dialect.

Immanuel Kant was born in east Prussia, he went on to teach at university of Koenigsberg. Kant is famous for being Known to be punctual, you could actually check your watch by him. One day he made a lot of people late because of reading one of Rousseau’s famous books

As mentioned, Kant wrote many books, the most famous are the 3 big books. Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of practical reason, Metaphysics of Morals. His whole philosophy almost centres on the following question

What the human mind can do?

Immanuel Kant

The lecture proposes this idea. If Hume was right, then science is in trouble. Immanuel Kant takes up the cause. Kant asks if We have necessary true knowledge about the world. How can we have truths about reality?

As noted before the Scottish philosopher David Hume is sceptical about all our knowledge, but Kant tries to break down what Hume describes. Kant tries to tackle Hume’s theory. The idea on how we Experience to know what is true.

The lecture moves on how Kant borrows from another philosopher Leibniz to make truth by definition. Then the lecture describes the use of kant’s theory in statements. Here is an example

“All bachelors are unmarried”, the statement in itself contains the truth.

but the above statement is different from the one below.

“There are bachelors in this room”, but this cannot be true by definition. We would have to ask the people in this room.

Unfortunately as usual, I only have the audio lecture, and the lecture goes on to describe a diagram shown.

The lecture talks about A Priori knowledge v a posteriori knowledge, which takes some getting your head around and getting used to. Kant now tries to classify Hume’s theory, but first he needs to break down Hume’s argument piece by piece.

Kant comes to a conclusion. He states You do not need experience to know that its true, plus new information not in the subject. David Hume feels this is not true, but Kant wants to disprove this. How?

Kant agrees that there are no initate ideas, but that does not mean ALL knowledge comes from experience. The revolution begins, what if the object of our experience conform to our cognition? What if the mind has a way of handling and organising experience?

The keyword here is organises.

The lecture now examines The transcendental activity of organising things.

Here the lecture gives us an example of when we wake up how the mind organises things in the room. What if cognition is active and not passive?

Throughout the history of philosophic thought, Kant feels that philosophers feel that the mind is passive, that the mind just soaks things up. Kant claims the mind grasps and organises experiences. Hence things are switched around, we organise objects, not just receive objects. This could mean we know how the world would be tomorrow, because our cognitive activity begins to experience the world by tomorrow.

The explains there is a problem of objective knowledge regarding the rose coloured glasses problem. Then the lecture discusses Transcendental activity, the stuff that the mind does to organise the world, before it experiences it.

Lecture describes the parallel line problem and how this idea can defeat Hume’s empiricist view.

Then the lecture moves on to describe Kant’s idea of 3 components of mental capacity. Two of the components are

intuition – space and time, all I am perceiving there are empirical facts, but other things are independent of experience.
understanding – concept of substances and properties are part of the “A Priori”, the mind structures into experience, it organises what it experiences.

Remember!! Hume says, no rational reason, we believe things on the basis of habit.

David Hume

Kant says it IS possible to know things without experiencing them, but there is a price to pay, there are problems.

What is the problem of this?

The lecture describes how Kant feels our minds are limited by the boundaries of experience. All of us are experiencing an objective world. We have objective true knowledge, but not of what caused it, but in a sense that at least SOMETHING caused it.

Kant splits things between the empiricists and the rationalists. Kant is a rationalist, he feels mind organises things from time and space. Kant feels we have objective knowledge as the world appears, but not as in things IN THEMSELVES. Notice the keyword is APPEARANCE.

A lot of philosophers feels Kant has caused some damage to Hume s scepticism of knowledge, but the lecture mentions this does come as a price.

This lecture is very tough and you would have to replay the lecture several times to get some ideas of what is going on, but this is beneficial, because you learn new things each time you replay the lecture. This lecture is not really for beginners, but it does explain things without sounding too dry.


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