The articles and essays in this website range from off-the-cuff blogs to worked-out pieces. They also range from the short to the long. Many of these pieces are introductory (i.e., educational) in nature; though, even when introductory, they still include additional commentary. Older material (dating back mainly to 2005) is being added to this blog over time.
Friday, 24 July 2015
Kantian Experience in Contemporary Jargon
are philosophers who claim that there's such a thing as
“non-conceptual experience”. Christopher Peacocke, for example,
says that there are experiences “with non-conceptual contents”
That is, concepts don't wholly or partly determine all mental
Kant was correct about experience. He argued that we apply certain
or “categories” automatically: i.e., non-cognitively. It can be
added here that we may also apply non-Kantian contingent concepts in
such a way. It may follow from this that there's no such thing as
may consequently ask what a baby experiences or sees. The Kantian
“manifold”? Not according to Kant himself. The reason being
that the baby’s “cognitive faculties” (in contemporary terms),
or its “transcendental a
structures” (in Kantian terms), are already determining the baby's
experience of the world according to necessary concepts or
Kantian scheme is broadly correct; although we shouldn’t adhere too
zealously to the letter.
this un-Kantian way of putting things.
innate neurophysiological structures determine the mental concepts
and the mental concepts (applied non-cognitively) determine both
perceptual experience and linguistic categories (such as
subject/object/substance, cause and effect, temporal sequence,
spatial ordering etc.).
if we aren’t a Kantian in the above sense?
the following as a piece of a
theorising about the experiences of a baby.
must have non-linguistic concepts and categories. That of an object
for a start (this is still a Kantian position).
the mothers of babies.
course babies don’t at first use the word “mama”,
for example; though they may well have a concept of the object they
will later call “mama”. That is, mama
individuated, differentiated and perhaps identified (somehow) as the
object that will be called “mama” in the future. Babies may even
have non-linguistic conceptual criteria of identity for mama.
Indeed they must have conceptual criteria of identity in order to
individuate mama from, say, the chair on which she sits. They don’t,
after all, smile at the chair.
babies must have the concept [mamma] before they can use the name
“mama” otherwise they couldn’t use “mama” to refer to mama.
The word 'mama' itself doesn’t individuate mama.
The word 'mama' refers as much to the concept [mama] as it does to
the object mama. Without all this, there would be an object to the
baby; though it wouldn’t be mama.
may, of course, be difficult to accept non-linguistic conceptual
criteria of identity. Can we make sense of non-linguistic concepts
and criteria of identity (therefore, non-linguistic individuation)?
Of course we can. Take the case of my parents’ dog.
dog, Joe, knows who I am. It doesn’t have a language. How does it
recognise me? By individuating me from other persons and objects by
applying conceptual criteria of identity to the object humans call
“Paul Murphy”. The possible conceptual criteria of identity Joe
applies to Paul Murphy may be [a particular smell], [particular
clothes], [facial features] and [a particular voice].
the dog, has also individuated and applied criteria of identity to
example, (my) picking up the dog chain must be a specific
individuated event for the dog. This event “means”, to Joe, that
it will be going for a walk (itself an individuated event). Possible
conceptual criteria of identity for the dog chain event for Joe could
be [the noise of the dog chain], [my picking it up] and [my going
into the hallway].
is a quasi-Kantian position on experience. Kant himself, in his
To Any Future Metaphysics,
which every perception must be first of all subsumed and then by
their means changed into experience.”
can never work as experience without the law that, wherever an event
is observed, it is always referred to some antecedent…”
passages are, of course, referring to a priori necessary
concepts of experience (e.g. [cause-effect], [substance] [object],
etc.), which are automatically or non-cognitively applied to
sensations. But the passages could equally apply to a posteriori
contingent concepts; which are also sometimes non-cognitively
“applied” - though often cognitively applied too.
example, I cognitively apply the new concept [lad] to a young man of
a certain kind; though I don’t always cognitively apply the concept
[crash] to a crash. Although the concept [crash] is a posteriori
and contingent, a crash is an [event], which is a Kantian
concept, and therefore a priori and necessary.
those of us with Kantian sympathies…it seems that a state…cannot
count as an ‘experience’…unless it is a certain way for, or to
as a subject.” (1995)
isn’t just a pedantic conceptual point that the word 'experience'
means what Kant says it means. It's to say that there's no such thing
as nonconceptual… whatever you want to call it.
can take a quasi-Kantian position on experience without using Kant’s
own terms or indeed philosophical terms at all. For example Michael
very early vision…categorisations are automatic [non-cognitive].
They do not demand that the creature have beliefs or thoughts…”
Tye goes on to say, about animals, that
categorizations…do so without the essential involvement of concepts
(understood as involving a public language or thought…”
Kantian a priori concepts wouldn’t need a “public
language”; and neither would the kind of animal concepts
Tye precludes such “categorisations” as conceptual because they
are “automatic”: i.e., non-cognitive and therefore a priori.
Though there's no antecedent reason why concepts shouldn’t be
automatic and non-cognitive. Indeed we even apply contingent
non-Kantian concepts non-cognitively, such as the concept [crash],
which is based on the Kantian concept [event]. In any case, an animal
is still seeing an object as a particular object or an event as a
particular event. And this is where Tye does indeed use a
near-Kantian term – “categorization”. Through the Kantian
categories, minds/persons individuate objects and events.
person could have experienced a murder and not experienced it as a
murder. This doesn’t mean that no concepts were applied to
that event or experience. He certainly experienced it as
something. A dog that experienced the murder wouldn't have
experienced it as a murder. It would, however, have applied concepts
to it. It would have experienced it as an individuated and therefore
a determinate event. (It may have been frightened by it.)
upshot is that (Kantian) experience needn't be propositional or
linguistic; though it must be conceptual.
to have a concept is to have mastered a bit of theory, that is, to
have acquired the characteristic uses of such expressions as... and
some key beliefs, expressed by sentences involving such expressions,
or equivalent symbolism.”
later he writes:
don't claim that all concepts are abilities to use symbolism; an
animal that expects the water to reach the same height when it is
poured from a pot back into the glass might be said to have a minimal
concept of conservation, but I claim that anything like the full
concept of conservation involves the ability to use symbolism with
the the complexity of language in certain ways.”