Chapter 3: A Rejoinder

[All the discussions related to Braver Reading Group are here]

The conventional wisdom about the relationship between Kant and Hegel is that Hegel aims to “complete” Kant.  This, of course, describes fairly Hegel’s self-professed intention and is probably a scandalous pronouncement for anyone who considers Kant’s work already complete enough.  Whatever the case may be, it is of course clear that Hegel is reacting to Kant and therefore it is impossible to understand his most immediate motivations without Kant and Kant’s “paradigm,” as Braver labels it.  I would like to put forth some observations/questions regarding the overal development of Braver’s argument and regarding some of the connections between Kant and Hegel, possibly “defending” Kant in couple of places, but generally trying to be “neutral” with an eye of the prize.  So this is more of a thinking aloud type of rejoinder, as I think Jon raised a number of issues, even if, of course, there is plenty more in the chapter itself (it’s a long one, maybe a bit too long).  I will primarily address 3 sets of problems – (and none of these directed at Braver as a demand to clarify, I hope that such a simplistic attitude can be avoided in this reading exercise, plus the author is dead, right?):

1) Kant’s Deductions.

There’s a sense, after reading Chapter 3, that Kant somehow failed with his business of “categories,” at least as far as Hegel in Braver’s interpretation is concerned.  That is, Kant’s transcendental deduction of categories in C1 is interpreted as  a sort of dogmatic assertion of the reality of categories: “there are twelve categories, take it or leave it!” which is not exactly so, I think, at least not as simple.  Braver writes, for example, that “Hegel’s philosophical mission is to overcome this chasm between thinking and being [opened up by Kant] without resorting to the mere dogmatic assertion of unity that Kant sought to overcome in the first place.” [60]  Kant, writes Braver, owes us an account of the specific table of categories he supplied.” [Ibid]  Kant’s categories are supplied in a dogmatic way that compromises our autonomy.  But wasn’t the Transcendental Deduction such account? I have a very strange feeling about these statements: on the one hand, I recall Braver say something about “saving Kant from accusations of stupidity” (here on the blog, not in the book), but on the other hand, it’s hard to see how Kant is not stupid, if C1 that is in a sense dedicated to this one task of deducing the pure concepts of understanding (“categories”) and fighting dogmatism somehow manages to simply state that there are categories dogmatically.  I think that it is one thing to suggest that Kant dogmatically asserts that there are categories and a completely different thing to suggest that Kant attempts to deduce them (justify their use, as Kant is explicit in his legal metaphor here and Dieter Henrich wrote a rather substantive essay demonstrative that Kant’s deduction is legal, not logical), but fails which is how I always thought of Fichte’s and Hegel’s objections.  Here I would like to be able to clarify this point a bit for myself – is Hegel accusing Kant of dogmatically asserting categories and how does Hegel explain all the effort that Kant puts into it in Transcendental Deduction?

Another question, not related to Hegel but still dealing with Kant’s project is a rather naive one: Assuming that Kant does rely on logic when he deduces categories, where does this logic come from?  Of course, Hegel will have a different account of logic and in fact complain that logic hasn’t moved forward since Aristotle, but as far as Kant’s categories are concerned, if they are “dogmatically asserted” and “compromise our autonomy,” then are the rules of logic not also dogmatically asserted?  What about simple mathematics or geometry? Before we move to Hegel, I wonder if Kant’s insistence on categories and his analysis of the transcendental self (as a set of forms that are changeless, something that Braver talks about quite a bit, especially once he gets to Hegel’s challenge of Kant’s view) is completely misguided considering that his examples are from mathematics?  This might sounds quite childish, but if there is no core to our organizing of intuition, then there is no organization as such, because there’s no stable principle according to which we organize.  Kant’s project then is not just flawed, if we take Hegel’s critique, it is incoherent and not a project at all.

What does all of that then do for Braver’s insistence that as an alternative to Kant’s R3 (Unique World) we have Hegel’s “vastly different phenomenal worlds”?  Does Kant suggest that we all form a picture of one phenomenal world? Certainly in some sense, but only very minimally as we use the same categories, but not in a sense that we all “see the same world.”  I am still confused about this point and my confusion started in the chapter on Kant – maybe this will become more clear in the future chapters, but I don’t see how Kantian view of categories prevents us from a model in which there are various views of the world possible – a religious person of some old pagan type sees the world as full of ghosts and magic, a secular scientifically informed person sees the world as full of energies, motion, electricity and x-rays, yet they both have the same sets of categories, where is the problem?

Last question concerning the categories: Is Kant’s innovation not a proposition that we do in fact actively organize our exprience and not so much how we do it precisely?  In this sense, whether it is 12 categories or 24, the Copernican revolution still stands, right?  Now, to say, again, that Kant is wrong in his deduction of categories is not to deny the insight that we do have categories, but if we do have certain forms that organize the exprience, then are noumena not just designating that which cannot be experienced?  I mean the favorite example here shouldn’t be something like “a table as it is in itself” but something like “the world” or “freedom” – one cannot ever experience “the world” or “freedom” – are these objects?

2) Hegel on Noumena.

So Hegel does not care for noumena – if we can’t know what they are, then why bother with them? Braver calls it “the erosion of noumena” [79].  In chapter 2 we got a range of possible interpretations of what Kant meant by “noumena,” including a notion that they are just a logical placeholder for that which cannot be known (and since humans are finite, there must be plenty of things they cannot know) – here however we get a picture of Kant’s noumena that is somehow stripped of all the complexity and is mocked as “a confusion” – Hegel “downgrades” Kant’s “nothing to us” to “nothing at all,” we are told, but how? It is apparently a long and complex process and one has to buy a lot of Hegelian analyses to arrive at it (no more, no less all the way to Absolute Knowing [81-82 and 525note31]).  My question is then why Fichte and Hegel are so opposed to “noumena”?  Is it really true that Kant is responsible for divorcing thought and being? Why is the idea that something is beyond our knowledge so troubling?

This is of course a very complex issue and I am probably simplifying it quite a bit, but if we take the issue of noumena away from all these discussions of realism/anti-realism for a bit and take a look at the following passage from Kant, I wonder if could help see the issue from a different perspective:

Every actual deed (fact) is an object in appearance (to the senses).  On the other hand, what can be represented only by pure reason and must be counted among ideas, to which no object given in experience can be adequate – and a perfectly rightful constitution among human beings is of this sort – is the thing in itself. [6:371]

This is a passage from an Appendix to the “Doctrine of Right” from Metaphysics of Morals. This appendix was written as a response to a review by Fredrich Bouterwek who criticized Kant for his refusal to grant the subjects the right to resist. But even without the historical context, the citation is a peculiar text and it does not talk about objects and so on.  Of course it’s easy to ridicule Kant’s idea of noumena if one imagines a sort of stripping of the object and seeing that nothing is left from it, but the real mileage of noumena is not that, but its practical use, I think.  So ideas of reason that can only be represented by pure reason are things in themselves – are they nothing to us? Is Hegel rejecting this sort of practical use of noumena?

3) From Kant to Hegel and Back.

It is well-known of course that Hegel’s vision of the history of philosophy as culminating in himself is pretty out there.  I mean if we step out of it for a second and just think about it, it’s outrageous (more outrageous, I would say than Kant’s noumena), yet we seemed to have gotten used to it by now.  Again, Hegel’s Kant is a Kant that not many Kantians like and Kantian Hegel is not a Hegel many Hegelians like (or so it seems, and I might be off here), so how are we to proceed with Braver’s project here without having to deal with these issues?  Hegel’s contribution to realism/anti-realism is his emphasis on historical context, as Braver notes at the end of the chapter, however I wonder if Hegel’s own history of philosophy (and its rather peculiar way of leading to a certain vision of philosophy) is discredited by the way he does it? Were Moore and Russell completely wrong in putting analytic philosophy on “anti-historical foundation”?

As a final thought I’d like to add that I am really enjoying the book and its development. I think the more I read it (sometimes again and again), the more questions I have and it’s a good thing. Again, my observations should not be taken as directed against Braver but against the common themes we are discussing.

8 thoughts on “Chapter 3: A Rejoinder

  1. Pingback: A Thing Of This World Reading Group. « Perverse Egalitarianism

  2. Lot’s of deep things here. I’ll be really interested to read Braver’s responses.

    I think your point about how we individuate conceptual schemes is important. I guess an answer is going to be relative to what conceptual schemes are doing for the philosopher in question.

    Is the following correct? For Kant the scheme part of the scheme/content distinction was provided by the categories (emphasizing here that the question of the existence of such categories is distinct from the correctness of one’s account of them). But then as you write, there are all sorts of radically different views consistent with the same set of categories.
    I kind of like Rorty’s take, where attribution of sameness or difference of conceptual scheme is importantly normative. As long as we find it profitable to discourse, we assume that our differences of opinion are commensurable and hence presuppose that we are operating in the same conceptual scheme. That does not mean that there is a descriptive fact of the matter such that we have “the same conceptual scheme”; all that’s going on descriptively is that we continue to discourse with one another, but in doing so we normatively presuppose, or act “as if” there is a common matrix.

    This ties to the Wittgensteinian and late Heideggerian quietist point that justification has to stop somewhere. But it does also raise the question of when it is licit to stop the conversation by claiming different conceptual scheme. I find it absolutely unacceptable when fideistic religious types use this kind of talk to get out of justifying their views. Can I defend this aminadversion while still accepting the broader point about justification having to stop somewhere?

    As far as Braver’s book, I wonder if Heidegger’s epochs are really different conceptual schemes. Heidegger does take himself to be able to describe what he takes to be the Greek way of thinking of being, the medieval way, and the Cartesian way. So difference in conceptual scheme can’t be incommensurability here. Or can it?

    • Thanks, Jon – are you sneaking some internet time at the library? To be honest, I found chapter 3 to be quite engaging and rather dense, so I just threw everything I had into one post without polishing it much. I do think that categories as Kant attempts to articulate them are pure forms and do the minimal job of organizing the perceived reality, but I never read it as suggesting that this organization is thorough enough, after all pure (a priori) is not the only way we acquire knowledge or have experience (to put it simply, of course), they simply guarantee certainty (and fight skepticism), they don’t guarantee complete uniformity, to use an example, just because we all use the same rules while counting does not mean we all count the same way or always correctly, and children still have to learn how to count. Plus Kant here is not in some philosophical vacuum and we have a whole tradition of “innate ideas”…

      I do like Rorty’s take, I don’t think it’s far from Kant in that sense that we are trying to figure out if science is possible, because if we all have different conceptual schemes (or they are different historically and develop as in Hegel), we have different realities that such conceptual schemes ultimately produce when they process the data of intuition – which is of course not that unimaginable if you think about various abnormalities (I think finished a book on plasticity of the brain where there were cases of people who could not easily establish causal relations between events and other interesting examples of brain damage), but is trying to deduce a necessary universal scheme – was he successful? I think in the general scheme of things, yes, but maybe not in the details. However, Fichte and Hegel are posing important questions, yet I feel as though they have completely different agendas and only think of themselves as completing Kant when in fact they are just going in a different direction (thus older Kant disavowing Fichte’s project completely)…

  3. This is great stuff, Mikhail. Thanks.

    I happen to be trying to work out something along the lines of the Kant-Hegel scheme content issue in ‘real life’ So I thought I would stick my head in the room and say a few things in response to a couple of your questions. Concerning your first question,

    is Hegel accusing Kant of dogmatically asserting categories and how does Hegel explain all the effort that Kant puts into it in Transcendental Deduction?

    As best I can tell (and William F Bristow has written a book on the matter, entitled Hegel and the Transformation of Philosophical Critique) Hegel’s criticism of the categories really amounts to the claim that they remain subjective, rather than objective. That is, the self-reflective process underwriting the critical project is presupposed rather than deduced or explained. So everything remains bound up within the circle or reflection — a circle to wit which remains unquestioned, etc. What’s really interesting, however, is the fact that Hegel essentially endorses the structure of the transcendnental deduction. I take it that the introduction of the Phenomenology outlines pretty much the same critical, regressive structure that you find between the metaphysical and Transcnedental deductions, etc. In fact, If you look at the beginning of the Subjective logic, in Hegel’s Science of Logic, you find him saying the following

    It is one of the profoundest and truest insights to be found in the Critique of Pure Reason that the unity which constitutes the nature of the Notion [i.e. the Begriff] is recognized as the original synthetic unity of apperception, as the unity of the I think, or self-consciousness. This proposition consitutes the so-called transcendental deduction of the categories (584)

    The passage continues with a criticism of the deduction based the fact that this original apperception, which constitutes the objective validity of the objects of experience, remains stubbornly non-objective. And that’s really the problem — not the categories per se and certainly not the deduction, which Hegel turns into the logic of the Notion in general. It’s also why Hegel (and Fichte) don’t like Noumenon — in effect, it presents the subjective limit of cognition, which is the truly unconditioned of Kant’s thought, and which makes metaphysics impossible as such. Or, more simply put, noumenon is the consequence of the subjective — even if objectively valid — character of representation and judgment itself. Personally, I’m fine with that, but the German Metaphysicians seem to think that it makes any system truly impossible (Paul Franks’ Book, All Or Nothin: Skepticism, Transcedental Arguments, and Systematicity makes the case for this in detail).

    The upshot of all this for Braver’s work seems to be that there isn’t a ‘multiverse’ for Hegel — There’s just R3 uniqueness variously misunderstood. Until we get to absolute knowing (the identity-in difference-between scheme and content, i.e. the fitness between intuition and concept/category that is presupposed by Kant, and so problematic for interpreters of him), we simply don’t know anything at all — There’s no Science, as Hegel would say. We could put the matter this way, maybe: Unless R1 Fixed totality of Objects is identical to R3 uniqueness (by way of a fancy theory of correspondence — Hegel’s dialectic and notion of Identity), then one is not actually warranted to say anything at all. Anyway, I’m not sure that one can really claim on Hegel’s behalf that the various shapes of consciousness, for example, have different phenomenal worlds, although they may experience ‘the world’ differently, since they take for granted different claims concerning its intelligibility. But that’s an anthropological claim, not a (meta)physical one. All of this hinges, I think, on the notion of bivalence. But to say anythign intelligent here I need to catch up with you guys.

    But this is a long enough comment. Hopefully it’s helpful.

    • Thanks, Alexei – it is helpful, I suppose maybe I didn’t get the sense/gist of Hegel’s objection in chapter 3 (of Braver) as it seems that in the end what Hegel was criticizing in Kant was what he also did on a much larger scheme, so if we did have to “buy it” in Kant, it didn’t seem like much a sacrifice, while in Hegel we have to go a long way until we get “the whole” to understand his position which seems like a lot of “trust me on this one”. Coincidentally, and this might be unrelated, I was wondering what you think of Hegel’s discussion of religion in such matters – Derrida says somewhere in “Faith and Knowledge” that when dealing with religion we have two temptations – Hegelian and Heideggerian – first one consists of determining Absolute Knowledge as the truth of religion, of “Religion der neuen Zeit” and all that fun stuff – I found several passages in Braver’s chapter 3 that in effect try to distance Hegel from accusations of being a Big Metaphysician and sort of marginalize all that stuff about Religion in the final sections of Phenonemology (in fact, since Phenomenology is the main text Braver uses in chapter 3, I find this perplexing a bit) – where do you see all this talk of Religion fit in realism/anti-realism discussion? I know this is a rather amorphous question…

      • Glad to help where I can, Mikhail.

        There is a certain sense in which Hegel’s Phenomenology may in fact be totally unmotivated (this is essentially Feuerbach’s criticism of Hegel’s approach in ‘Sense-Certainty’ — Hegel is not warranted in forced this shape of consciousness to speak), And I’ve never really bought the whole diatribe against the metatheoretical that Launches the PhG in the Intro either (So, you’re going to use Kant’s transcendental deductions and complain about not being in the water?). The standard account here usually involves how Hegel reconceptualizes the relationship between cognition and absolute via Spirit (cognition is neither a tool, nor a medium; the absolute is neither a distant force nor a ground), which rules out a certain Kantian problem space (think of the metaphor Kant uses to describe noumenon and phenomenon: the island surrounded by fog and water) The nitty-gritty problem, so far as I see it, is essentially twofold: the very distinction between scheme and content introduces a modal problem (experience implies the fitness or identity of concept and object, whereas the intelligibility of both conceptions entails their difference/non-identity — so ‘fitness’ is counterfactual, manifesting itself in an ought.), and this ‘metaphysical’ problem concerning the subjunctive (‘as if’) character of experience requires a distanced perspective. Now both Kant and Hegel turned into very notion of history (Kant’s foreward looking infinite approximation of the Ideal, which has yet to be instantiated, and Hegel’s backward looking perspective over the various responses to the failed coherence of concept and object) in order to make sense of both the perspectival problem and the modality problem. Long ramble in a nutshell: To answer your question about the ‘trust me’ character of Hegel’s approach, it’s more like Proust’s À la récherche du temps perdu, or Dante’s Commedia. The fact that we’re reading the text, entails that we’ve successfully completed the journey it chronicles — we’ve awoken from History, and hence are implicated within the structure of the text itself (Hegel’s solution to the problem of perspective and distance, viz. the modal problem of the ought).

        That’s the easy part. The Stuff on Hegel and Religion, however, is really tough. I’m not as Knowledgeable as I should be about it, and I don’t know the Derrida piece you’ve referred to. This said, I think that the Religion chapter in the PhG is ad hoc. Unlike the morality section, which precedes it, and Absolute knowing, which follows it, Hegel’s Religion chapter retells the whole development from the perspective of the absolute (as if it were there all along). He says something to this effect at the beginning of the chapter. So, I’m not sure what it really adds (save for the really interesting sketch of Art in Objective Spirit, and the absolutely bizarre claim that the Unhappy Consciousness is actually Happy, which seems to undercut his original discussion of it).

        This said, then, I think if one were to emphasize Religion, one by necessity ends up in a Realist position — indeed, a speculative realist one, where the ultimate significance, meaning, and authority derive from THE transcendent being, which is revealed to us, through some hypertrophied rationalist mode of intellectual labour (paradigmatically, through art and th social relations constituting the revealed religion). If you downplay the Religion stuff, you end up with a Lukacsian, or Brandomite reading that emphasizes the externalization of certain normative statuses variously interpreted, which I guess qualifies as anti-realist.

        Anyway, there are some really interesting ‘Religion as Hegelian Metaphysics’ interpretations of Hegel out there, like Cyril O’Regan’s The Heterodox Hegel and Glenn Magee’s Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, which seem to be consonant with what you said about Derrida, but again, I don’t know this tradition of interpetation that well. For the most part it’s ‘fringe’ work, since the contemporary approach to Hegel is normative and inferential instead of metaphysical, and it doesn’t get much public air time.

        Ok, that’s way too long. hopefully I’m still being helpful.

      • Thanks again – I’ve been eyeing that Magee book for some time now, it looks interesting but I’m afraid I’ll buy it and then will never read it.

      • Magee’s book is excellent, from what I recall. If your library has it, then definitely pick it up and fllip through it (or use ILL). these days I’m skeptical of buying anything that isn’t a ‘primary text,’ so I sympathize with your hesititation — there are simply too many awesome books that never get read….

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