26 May 2013: workout log and Kant reading

First thing 20 min workout included a walk to the hospital entrance and a fresh dawn, stair climbing, monkey bar and supine dance. Congee, the Egg, and a running start in the Critique to the deduction of the categories and Kant’s “ontological assay” of perception as a whole.

The Categories seem quite arbitrary where arbitrarily declaring that concepts exist, are useful, and are fundamental is even worse than arguing for them. To use Kant’s own metaphor, to establish a metaphysical ranch or farm and to cultivate it through argument and analysis is bad enough: to just declare a metaphysic is like sitting at home and getting income from Australia.

Kant’s ontological assay, not of perception (an English philosophical word, and an English philosophical concept) but of the WHOLE of perception, the “manifold” (the ever changing sequence of perceptions we experience when awake), is quite complex. There is the manifold, and there is “apperception” (our knowledge that we are perceiving the manifold) and apperception implies a unified Self.

This dismisses some interesting possibilities and examples raised in “Anarchy, State and Utopia” by Robert Nozick. Kant’s claim of a unified Self is refuted by truly “split” personalities who switch between different memories (or is it?).

Adorno’s commentary finds that Kant is over-invested in certainty and unity because that’s what the bourgeois needed in order to build estates which would then grow, and support descendants who then could pursue non-sordid careers…a central concern of Adorno, who couldn’t hack a day job in the US. This isn’t a criticism because I also had that difficulty. We all “stoop to conquer”. But our parents cannot support us because only the rich have estates large enough to support kids like George W Bush. Perhaps we should tax inheritances at 90% simply to avoid supporting wastrels like him.

Stability of philosophical concepts allays economic anxiety in Kant according to Adorno. This is a possibility but a bit of a stretch. Modernism, of which Adorno was a part, mocked personal and sexual stability such as Kant probably was seeking: cf. the in retrospect, remarkably intelligent film Cabaret in which the pursuit of a paradoxically permanent sexual instability created satiety in the “normal” Bohemians, each of whom had to wire home for money sooner or later.

Kant’s ontology is to modern philosophers ornate, and unlike Wittgenstein’s early fact ontology of the Tractatus, Kant starts out with simply enumerating the furniture of perception and the Self. But by now, we should realize the folly of the *modo geometrico* in ontology, tried seriously only by Spinoza and unconvincing.

Based on Rawls’ justification of his political philosophy as non-deductive but in a stable “reflective equilibrium” we might be more charitable towards Kant, and unlike 90% of his readers, and many American and British professors of philosophy, actually read Kant until the bitter end. This tends to convince since a philosophy in “reflective equilibrium” is a “general graph” (network) of claims in increasingly valid, deductive relationships, not just a tree structured like Euclid’s Elements, where a few small axioms imply the rest of Euclid’s geometry.

To make sure that “reflective equilibrium” applies to the Critique, we need to read it slowly, masticating it like a fine meal, and asking whether ontological assays are numerically minimal with respect to what we discover by introspection.

Kant is guessing that his learned listeners will know what he means by the manifold because perceiving a manifold is the only way you will learn about “perceiving a manifold”. Kant’s argument for the manifold is available in the lecture hall. And no serious counterexample seems to exist.

Hmm. Clearly a matter warranting further investigation for despite the apparent clap-trap being devised by Kant, much more metaphysical claptrap was produced by Logical Positivism without justification or even awareness; cf. Gustav Bergmann’s book “The Metaphysics of Logical Positivism”.


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