Archive for the ‘critique of pure reason’ Tag

Quora answer: What are the most interesting ideas in Kant’s book The Critique of Pure Reason?

I have been listening to the Bernstein Tapes ( which are lectures on Critique of Pure Reason after previously listening to his Hegelian lectures. His Hegelian lectures allowed me my first real access to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind/Ghost/Spirit for the first time. I have spent a lifetime stating and failing to finish that book. Bernstein says it is the most complex book in Western philosophy, and I just could not get through it myself on my own, even though I managed to do so with many other long complicated and abstruse philosophical classics previously. I figured if Bernstein could finally give me access to Hegel in a way that made sense to me, then he might also have some things to say about Kant that would help me understand Critique of Pure Reason. To me one of the most interesting parts of Western Philosophy is Heidegger’s attempt to appropriate Kant, to his philosophy. It is interesting that the key word for Heidegger is Ereignis which has one meaning that is Appropriation, because Heidegger is famous for appropriating other philosophers to his own thought, like Aristotle, the Pre-socratics, Husserl’s later work (where appropriation here is tantamount to stealing). So listening to these lectures on Kant gave me a new appreciation for his thought. I kept worrying that my understanding of Kant would be wrong, but in the end it was merely greatly enhanced. I had a good idea of the Architectonic of Kant’s philosophy, but I did not really understand how important the arguments were in the book until I listened to these lectures. And without command of the arguments then one’s understanding remains very superficial, whereas from reading other commentaries I had the idea that the arguments were not really very important. That is because most authors attribute to Kant what Bernstein calls a progressive reading, i.e. assuming that Kant is claiming more than he has a right to claim, and then blaming him for not succeeding, and then subsituting their own thought for that of Kant. So Kant just is a jumping off point for their own ideas, which normally are pretty strange, and there are few attempts to try a minimal reading that tries to stay close to what Kant himself really meant, assuming that he was not claiming more than he could deliver. Bernstein calls this the regressive reading.

My own approach to philosophy is to try to understand what the philosopher himself had in mind before placing my own projections on their philosophy. I think this is a minimal threshold of intellectual honesty. And then one should always differentiate ones own thought from those of the philosopher one is basing what one is saying upon. I like to try to use other philosophies as a whole without appropriating them to my own philosophy. Because my greatest interest is in the differences between philosophers rather than subsuming them to my philosophy, or one philosophers ideas to another. Of course, this is very hard because it is almost impossible not to misunderstand the precursors. We have this map of misreading as Bloom says. For instance how Marx misread Hegel for instance, perfect example of a dumbed down reading of Hegel which some people really want.

So from Bernstein’s presentation I learned that the arguments themselves have substance. When commentators over claim what Kant is trying to achieve, and then point out how he fails, then one tends to discount the arguments, and concentrate on the architecture of his thought, because that is not affected by the discounted arguments. But Bernstein concentrates on the arguments and brings out their substance and shows how they are still relevant in light of his regressive reading.

So from Bersteins view point the major idea in Kant is that the only way to be a Transcendental Realist is via Transcendental Idealism, and thus realism is dependent on idealism. And that is why our tradition turned toward idealism and away from either rationalism or empiricism. This essentially makes Kant primarily into a precursor to Husserl’s phenomenology. This for me was very good because what I have been saying for years is that Kantian transcendentalism is the basis for understanding Husserlian Phenomenology. However, this devalues the idea of transcendentals being headlands above the world as Nietzsche calls them. To the regressive reading Kant is critiquing these headlands and pulling the carpet out from under them rather than establishing them as the progressive reading would have us believe.

To me this is a very important issue. In Badiou for instance we see the use of Cohen’s approach to set theory that establishes the independence of the continuum hypothesis. Basically Badiou says that Set theory is metaphysics of Being, to which he adds the Event and Multiple to complete it and give a full fledged ontological meaning to set theory. But what I learned from Badiou’s use of Cohen is that if you have a transcendental, i.e. an invisible assumed ground over a domain of a certain size, and you expand the territory it covers, if it does not create a difference in the larger scoped territory, then it is essentially irrelevant and does not have to be taken into account in our metaphysics.

Now if we take this insight back to Kant, we see that Kant has three transcendentals The Subject, The Object, and God. God maintains the coherence between the transcendental subject and the noumena, i.e. the transcendental object. This is an invisible scaffolding around our worldview. The Copernican turn from dogmatism is to offer a critique of the necessary preconditions for possible experience. As I listened to this phrase over and over in Bernstein I thought about the Unnecessary Impossibility as its opposite. The transcendental subject as the source of Apriori Synthesis (space, time, categories, schemas) and the Noumena, what is there beyond the appearances are the Unnecessary Impossibilities. They are impossibilities because we cannot know them. And they are unnecessary because no matter how we expand the scope of our inquiry the scaffolding does not make any difference in experience that makes a difference (Bateson). Implicit in Kant’s argument is the opposite of necessary conditions of possibility, which is the unnecessary and insufficient reasons of impossibility of experience of the T. Subject or the T. Object, or God that which retains the coherence between these inaccessible invisibles which are beyond all experience. I have not heard of any commentator who points out this duality between necessary possibilities and unnecessary impossibilities. And this kind of reminds me of Zizek and his argument that Kant glossed the possibility of Ethical Evil, in other words he suppressed that possibility, thinking it impossible. This makes us think that this limit the unnecessary and insufficient impossible is really the core of Kant’s thinking that is unthought. We normally say that what is impossible is the same as the negation of necessity. However, like a priori synthesis there must open up a gap between necessity and its opposite impossibility. Necessity is aligned with Actuality, and Possibility aligned with the Arbitrary. But in order for something to cross over from possibility to actuality there needs to be another moment of potential. For something to be denied the ability to cross over from necessary to the arbitrary there must be the impossible as a barrier. And that means there must be a middle ground between actuality and possibility as well which we can call sufficiency.

Now if we take this conceptual structure as given as the background set of modalities that allow Kant to talk about the necessity that grounds the possibility of experience, then we can discuss the unnecessary lacks grounding for the impossible. In other words the impossible is unmotivated. It is truly spontaneous and the limit of spontaneity from which experience arises. We can read Kant as a meditation on modality, where he wishes to get from the necessary grounds of actual experience by means of positing the transcendentals as the impossible but sufficient lack of grounds for the unknowability of invisibles beyond experience. The spark that jumps this abyss is the intuition of a priori synthesis which gives us the potential for framing experience based on what is absolutely prior to it, in a logical sense.

Kant is always searching for the third moment that can link unreconcilable opposites. So for example he posits a priori synthesis in order to get beyond a priori analysis of reason, and the a posteriori synthesis and analysis within experience. Pure concept is connected to percepts by way of a third moment that connects them the projection of a priori synthesis that we intuit via the imagination. Heidegger seizes on his change in the status of the imagination between the first and second editions of the critique to interpret Kant as a pre-Heideggarian. Heidegger sees the more basic form of the imagination as equivalent to his idea of Dasein as the ability to project Being. Subsumed faculty of the imagination placed under another faculty is imagination tamed, and a step back from the abyss suggested by the free ranging imagination as an independent faculty.

So from all this I opine that the most basic and interesting concept in Kant is the one he does not articulate which is the unnecessary and arbitrary impossibility of the inexperience-able (i.e. the transcendentals) that gives rise to the potentiality to cross over into the necessary conditions for the possibility of experience. This intermediate realm of potentiality allows the sufficient conditions for the actualization of experience.

As we know from Kubler’s Shape of Time actuality is a great mystery which is rooted in potentiality and sufficiency as a middle ground between impossibility and arbitrary on the one hand and necessity and possibility on the other. (

Kubler is the only one I know that has tried to delve into this area of how things become actual, i.e. cross over from possibility to actuality in any serious or deep way from the point of view of an Art Historian, i.e. one who is concerned with the shapes that well up from oblivion based on their first coming into Being as artifacts of a civilization, and then the subsequent loss of this civilization. He uses the metaphor of a light house, whose strobe lights up the darkness momentarily, so that we get a glimpse of what was lost in oblivion, through the relics that were preserved. We embed our experience of time within the things we shape, and we uncover the times of others so different from our own and glimpse other kinds of time when we dig up the artifacts from lost civilizations. Compressing our comprehension of time into shapes is a way to give others access to our own views of time from very different civilizations that have other embodied concepts of time that they embed into their artifacts.

See also
“Ultramoderne”: Or, How George Kubler Stole the Time in Sixties Art by Pamela M. Lee in Grey Room, No. 2. (Winter, 2001), pp. 46-77

But even as Bernstein in his critique of Kant, for not recognizing that there were many kinds of time, and Kubler who sees various civilizations experience of time embedded in their physical artifacts that we use to draw them back from the abyss of oblivion, there is little exploration of the exact mechanism by which things move over from possibility to actuality. I formulated an answer to this question as an addendum to my dissertation which is unpublished based on the work of Ian Thompson ( and the theory of dispositions. Design occurs in Hyper Being of possibilities, but for things to come into existence we need Wild Being of propensities. And the key concept that allows us to move between the extremes of Actuality and Possibility, or Arbitrary and Necessary is the ideas of Potential and Sufficiency. But this is based on understanding the Ultra Being of Unnecessary Impossibility as a limit. Kant skirts around this Impossible possibility and unnecessary adjunct (i.e. supplement) to his philosophy the same way he skirts around the idea of ethical evil as Zizek accuses him of doing. But it is from this hidden singularity in his thought that Hegel sees the French Revolution springing, the Irrational from the heart of critical reason. It is not a necessary condition for destructive chaos being unleashed by the French Revolution throwing off the oppression of sovereignty which ultimately only led back to Napoleonic sovereignty, i.e. from one nihilistic extreme to its opposite, and then back to the first, only with an intensification of nihilism. Hegel saw the advent of Napoleon as the dawning of a new age win which Absolute Spirit was embodied, but little did he imagine the death march of the troops into Russia. (

[Note: E. Tufte’s lecture on this map accessed through Intelligence^2 is brilliant.]

The terrible defeat by nature of the army of Napoleon, his first exile, his escape and defeat at Waterloo, and then second exile show how irrepressible Absolute Spirit can be when embodied in a single man who is the motive force behind historical changes. His reassertion of Sovereignty shaped his times. In him Hegel saw Absolute Reason working itself out in History re-establishing the state which represented Absolute Spirit as embodied by Absolute Monarchy. And this is the fundamental shift after Kant to the recognition that the intersubjective cohort was a horizon on which the individuals humanity was achieved. Absolute Spirit can be seen as an embodiment of that unnecessary Impossibility as Absolute.

Quora answer: Did Kant, in his work, give us a way to know reality, not know reality, or some mix of the two?

I have just listened to the tapes of the lectures of Bernstein ( on Kant that are available on the internet. Bernstein attempts a regressive or minimal reading of Kant and he supports in that reading the idea that Kant thought he had given us a direct connection to reality. The Cartesian view has as it did in early Husserl (Cartesian Meditations) has the problem of solipsism. Husserl confronted this problem and solved it by moving from Bracketing to the seeing of objects on a world horizon. Heidegger took advantage of this in Being and Time according to Walton who has been studying the later works of Husserl and sees the innovations of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty are in some sense just the exploitation of Husserls later generative phenomenology. But according to Bernstein in his lectures the innovation of Husserl is merely a return to the real meaning of Kant’s philosophy under the regressive reading. It is very difficult to see whether Bernsteins reading is an anachronism or whether that was the true meaning of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason from the beginning. The regressive reason makes this case that Kant was really a phenomenologist at heart.

The basic idea is that we only know about anything real through perception and consciousness. So what ever reality IS is filtered though that medium and nothing escapes the filter, and so there is nothing to compare our appearances to to see them as purely epiphenomenalism. This means that realism that posits a transcendental object is just as idealistic as the positing of the transcendental subject who is the source of our A priori syntheses. So in a sense, Kant is just saying that Transcendental Idealism is precisely the same as Transcendental Subjectivity (Idealism), i.e. merely a nihilistic dualism. And because of that identity ultimately they are antinomies that cancel out and so all that is left is the epiphenomenon of appearances, in which we discern reality by the involuntary simultaneity of the time streams of objects as opposed to the the serial voluntary ways of apprehension. If the transcendental structure cancels out, then we need another way of thinking about the world that is immanent and that is what Heidegger tries to develop in Being and Time based on the insights of the Later Husserl and his generative phenomenology, i.e. the phenomenology of time.

Quora answer: How do Kantian metaphysics and Kantian epistemology relate to each other?

I have just finished listening to the tapes of Bernstein on Kant’s Critique of Pure reason. (See So I feel like I am in a better position to answer this question now than I might have been earlier when I thought I knew something about Kant but had read it so long ago that it was hazy in my memory.

What Bernstein says is that for Kant Ontology is basically Epistemology. In other words the essence of the Copernican turn of Kant was to transform ontological questions into epidemiological ones about the necessary conditions for the possibility of experience. That makes all ontological experiences filtered though the lens of the Transcendental Subject, i.e. the one who produces the Apriori Syntheses that the empirical ego experiences, and that the Analytical philosophers analyze after the fact. Bernstein does a regressive reading of Kant, i.e. does not over inflate the claims about what Kant is trying to achieve. So he is giving us a minimalist Kantian interpretation, so that gives us a criteria by which to judge the progressive readings, i.e. the readings that see Kant as claiming too much compared to what he can deliver.

What is strange is that there are almost as many commentaries on Kant as there are on Plato, yet the Kantian commentaries are extremely weird for the most part because they all try to put their own philosophies in the mouth of Kant, my favorite example is that of Heidegger, which Bernstein dismisses but which I still find enlightening. But I searched and searched for a commentary on Kant that I could understand and which did the minimal permissible projection onto Kant of strange ideas. And the only one that I found that fit this bill back in the 1970s was that of Patton. Bernstein mentions Patton in a positive light, but points to other more recent commentaries that he likes, which I hope to read someday. Bernstein says that Kant is Transcendental Idealist who believes that you can only be a Transcendental Realist through Transcendental Idealism. And of course this is because we only experience the world via our consciousness and so what ever the world might be out there, we cannot escape our filtering it by our consciousness and need to take that into account. Basically this means that there are Apriori syntheses produced by our unconscious that appear to us in consciousness as if effortlessly generated, and so we do not notice the fact that these experiences are generated by our complex biological structures because they appear as given immediately and spontaneously. In a way we can see Kant’s breakthrough as the first glimmers of our understanding of the role of the unconscious as the part of the iceberg below the surface of consciousness which is merely a very thin veneer on the top of some very complex and incomprehensible processing of information that gives us our world and allows us to act seemingly effortlessly within it, for the most part. There were many subtleties of the arguments of Kant that I did not appreciate prior to listening to Bernstein’s lectures.But one thing that I can say to answer the question at hand is that ontology is completely mixed up with if not identical to epistemology in Kant. His stance is much closer to Husserlian Phenomenology than I imagined, and I thought that they were almost identical to begin with. Kant still has a dogmatic streak in him, and so he states his critique of dogma dogmatically. Husserl instead says this is a territory to be explored and opens it up to exploration and interpretation, and thus carries on the spirit of the critique further than Kant was able to do, as he was still dogmatic in his break with dogma in philosophy, i.e. positing final statements about the status of objects of experience rather than delving deeper into the phenomenology of those experiences themselves. I really listened to Bernstein in order to reset my understanding of Kant so I could connect it to the deflationary reading of Hegel that he presents in his other lectures. Kant represents a point of sophistication in philosophy that we may never achieve again. All philosophy after Kant is moving in his orbit. He thought he could show that Epistemology IS Ontology. And his arguments are pretty deep even if ultimately they fail even in the regressive reading of Bernstein.

Husserl attempted to solve some of these problems by looking in a more detailed way into the structures and processes of consciousness itself. But ultimately he came up against the same wall, i.e. the noumena, i.e. bracketing. Bernstein says for Kant appearances were the reality, but he still reserved the noumena which he believed had no remainder. But most interpreters believe that there is a remainder, that is there even though we cannot know it. What I did not realize that Bernstein emphasizes is that that Kant only brought up the term in order to define it so he could say there was no remainder. Bracketing takes that remainder what ever it is that we can never know out of play. But that same bracketing produces solipsism and the problem of intersubjectivity (i.e. the social). But according to Walton, Husserl in his later work discovered the idea of replacing bracketing with the horizon of the world, which Heidegger used with great effect in Being and Time stealing some of Husserl’s thunder. Bernstein said that Heidegger basically misunderstood Kant’s philosophy of time. But the philosophy of time that Heidegger took from Husserl is that of Internal Time Consciousness which was the one book that Heidegger edited of Husserl’s. In fact Bernstein’s final critique of Kant is that he thought Kant applied too monolithic a notion of time to phenomena. And Husserl’s internal time consciousness diagram is precisely an expansion of our notion of time beyond “Objective Time”. Kant’s argument about time hinges on the difference between serial and parallel time. Objective time for Kant is simultaneity of the systematization of objects. This difference revolves around the distinction between Freedom and Causality, and that revolves around the reversibility or irreversibility of our own action (house verses river boat analogies). Husserl instead uses a sedimentation analogy that hearkens back to the Orlog (cf Well and Tree by Bauschatz) of Indo-European fame. It is a model in which time has depth and so there is an extra dimension to resolve the problem that exists in the schematization of objects in time that Kant’s argument in the analogies runs into and which Bernstein criticizes. It is a better answer than the one that Bernstein answers which is evolutionary time, because Internal time Consciousness is a subjective time, rather than an objective time that encompasses the species. So this suggests that Heidegger was not far wrong by emphasizing the analysis of time in Being and Time, and seeing the equiprimodiality of the moments of time as the place to start, but instead of emphasizing memory as Husserl had done, Heidegger emphasizes the future instead.

At any rate I recommend listening to Bernstein’s lectures on tape for a more complete answer to this question, and a far more authoritative one than I can give.