[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.”  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” . 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.