Some Thoughts About Different Approaches to Pragmatism (pt. 5)

 Some Thoughts About Different Approaches to Pragmatism (pt. 5)

           Not surprisingly, James’ pragmatism bears some resemblance to Nietzsche’s; after all, they were near contemporaries in time.  Both are interested in how the individual constructs his (or her) world, based at least in part on psychological needs and one’s personal agenda.  James does appear to put more emphasis on the empirical roots of pragmatic truth than does Nietzsche, whose emphasis on the will-to-power overshadows all other concerns.

In some ways, though, James seems to foreshadow Wittgenstein.  First, James roots his pragmatism not only in the individual’s experience, but also in the history of the race.  Today’s common sense is yesterday’s discovery, passed on through the culture and the conversation of the ages.  My new truths may be those I discover or invent to meet my own needs, but James says the new truths have to learn to live with the old ones, which are often community property.  This isn’t exactly a Wittgensteinian language-game, but it certainly is more communal than Nietzsche’s brand of pragmatism, which lauds the Superman who creates his own values by his own will alone.  Second, like Wittgenstein and unlike Nietzsche, James is tolerant and even supportive of religious belief for those who find it meaningful.  In Culture and Value, Wittgenstein writes of religion as a somewhat regretful outsider.   Religion is the live fire of passion; philosophy only poking around in the ashes to see what can be learned after the fire has burned out.  While he himself did not understand the religious language-game as an insider would, he accepted that it had meaning for believers.  Likewise, James accepted that some “tough-minded” sorts would never get the meaning of religion and never see any point in it, while some “tender-minded” would need it above all else, and many would seek a faith that had a foot on both sides of that stream.  Nietzsche, by contrast, rails against those who would embrace an other-worldly faith, urging us to “be true to the earth” and accept only material values and realities.

This may be more interesting and helpful to me as I sort through James than it is to you; but I enjoyed the exercise and I hope you gained something too.  It seems to me, then, that even such anti-Kantian thinkers as Nietzsche develop a pragmatism that owes more to transcendental idealism than to empiricism.  In Nietzsche’s case, this means his pragmatism is rooted in ontological theories about the will as both a psychological and cosmic force, theories that themselves are not really pragmatically founded.  For Wittgenstein, no such ontological assumption is necessary or even really conceivable; the structures of the mind are rooted only in human behavior, which is the real primordial reality, creator and justifier of the concepts of any particular language-game.  James dedicates his lectures on pragmatism to J.S. Mill, and his allegiance to empiricism is obvious in his philosophy.

One final observation:  as I pointed out, James relies on a form of the coherence theory of truth to rein in the wild flights of fancy that might otherwise propose any sort of “useful” fiction.  By contrast, Wittgenstein is only interested in showing how the concepts of a particular language-game follow their own grammar, their own rules, and are consistent within that language-game.  It is a subject of dispute among students of Wittgenstein just how permeable the boundaries are between language-games.  That is, some claim may make sense in the religious language-game that is simply nonsense in the science language-game.  Some would argue that there must be some overall language-game of my life that contains the others; but others would say that the language-games can be mutually independent, and a person may engage in multiple language-games that are irreconcilable.  In that sort of Wittgensteinian perspectivism, a claim could be both truth and false, depending on the context in which it was used; so long as the concept is used correctly in the particular context of the associated human activity, and everyone understands it well enough to act together according to the rules of the language-game, the concept is “true.”  Likewise, Nietzsche holds to a form of perspectivism, based even more fundamentally on a form of nihilism.  Nothing is true except the will to power, and the fact that the individual wants to live and thrive; so concepts are “true” if they are true for me and help me live a healthier, more creative and vigorous life.  My truths may not be your truths, and there is no way to reconcile them.  To James, the truth claims of another are at least a challenge to my own, and if there is a reason for me to do so I will try to reconcile them with my other beliefs; and always, I must reconcile my truths with one another.  Nietzsche would see the truth claims of another as a struggle of wills, and I should feel free to simply ignore them.  I don’t even have to try to reconcile them with each other, so long as they all help me to live:  as he writes, “the will to a system is a lack of integrity.”  If my life is integrated, I don’t have to concern myself with whether my ideas are logically consistent.  And for Wittgenstein, the idea that I should reconcile my ideas with one another is false; it is simply the decision to set one language-game over as judge of another.  If both language-games reflect human behaviors that serve a purpose for those who engage in them, there is no further reason to try to explain one in terms of another.  So both Nietzsche and Wittgenstein favor complete perspectivism and multiple, incompatible “truths.”  James holds out the possibility of one truth to which we could all agree, albeit a rather broad and vague pragmatic truth; and this final unity is more of an ultimate goal or ultimate hope rather than a present reality.  Still, even the possibility of finding a shared framework for the search for truth is more than Nietzsche or Wittgenstein think possible.

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30 Responses to “Some Thoughts About Different Approaches to Pragmatism (pt. 5)”

  1. Dandre Says:

    Nice reading some about approaches to pragmatism. The most important differences I see between Kant, James, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein is different attitudes and different personalities.

  2. Nemo Says:

    I’ve heard students of Wittgenstein speak of the “projectability of concepts”. If I understand the term correctly, it means concepts of any language-game can be translated into another. For example, translating a book from one language into another, adapting a book into a screenplay or music, transcription and translation of the genetic code, etc.

    Plato also wrote (albeit in the apocryphal Epinomis) that there is one bond naturally uniting all systems. So the many language-games are but specific instances of the one. However, we can arrive at it through abstraction only, not observation. It requires an exceptionally penetrating mind, which is why people think it is inconceivable.

    • philosophicalscraps Says:

      Nice to hear from you again! I’m enjoying your posts on Dante.

      I have not heard that term. I have not immersed myself as deeply in Wittgenstein as I have in some other philosophers. However, I am acquainted with the issue. There is a debate among Wittgenstein scholars and students about how permeable the boundaries between language=games are. Some would say you really can’t translate from one game to another, at least not without basically judging one game by the standards of another. They would seem to be saying that there is no “projectability of concepts.” For example, how would you translate the concepts of religion into science, without first eliminating most of what is lively about the religious concepts, and then condemning them for not being good science?

      The other school of thought would say that there is one world, one relatively universal human nature, and that this most give us a bridge between language games. Religion and science both purport to describe the world, so there should be some core on which they can agree.

      I think the problem is similar to the one faced when one translates not between language-games, but between languages. The Inuits have 12 different words for “snow.” You could translate an Inuit story into English, but when you come to one of those words, you will either lose something by simply saying “snow,” or you will have to include a longer description of the kind of snow, or you will have to use the Inuit word and try to teach me what it precisely means—in which case you would no longer be translating the word. When I teach Aristotle’s ethics to first-year students, I have to explain “eudaimonia” because simply calling it “happiness” is as deceptive as it is informative.

      I think that some understanding between language games is possible. For example, two different moral theories ought to be able to agree on some concepts, simply because they both attempt to prescribe human activity and all humans are mortal, feel pain (except for the leprous, etc.) need food and so on. If all humans have similar needs and thus similar goals, there exists some common framework within which we can all debate moral particulars. But when it comes to language-games with very different grammars, very different fundamental assumptions, I am not so optimistic. Science assumes materialism, the universality of causality, and so on, even when some of these assumptions don’t seem consistent with human experience. You may think you are wrestling with a choice, but the behavioral psychologist will tell you that you are simply mistaken; the choice is determined by forces beyond your control or knowledge, and your feeling of free will is an illusion. That would seem to moot ethics as a viable human activity. Religion generally contains some seed of mysticism, which would seem to be incompatible with science (though Spinoza might have something to say against that). I am hesitant to embrace a system that would ban a language-game that seems vital to human life, and I think Wittgenstein would share that hesitancy. So I would have to say that some language games are by their nature partial, and may be true within their limits but not capable of fully translating the concepts of some other language-games. And many other language games can partly translate one another, but something is lost (or added) in the translation. TTFN

  3. Nemo Says:

    For example, how would you translate the concepts of religion into science, without first eliminating most of what is lively about the religious concepts, and then condemning them for not being good science?

    Two of the founding principles of science are prediction and experimental proof. These can be and have been applied directly in religion. There are many examples in the Old Testament. Predicting future events (prophesying) and experimental proof (the fulfillment of prophesies) are said to be the only way to separate the true hypothesis from incorrect ones (i.e., separate the idols from the one true God).

    There are aspects of each language that will be lost in “direct” or “literal” translation, due to the uniqueness of each language, as you pointed out. However, if we consider the concepts in each language as projections themselves of the “original” concepts, then we can try to reconstruct the original concepts before re-projecting them onto another language, then the “spirit” of the concepts will be preserved, though the letters have changed.

    I am hesitant to embrace a system that would ban a language-game that seems vital to human life,

    I don’t follow you there.

    • philosophicalscraps Says:

      Well, it’s basically the same criticism William James had of empiricism: religion is a vital human activity, and the “tough-minded” atheist simply pronounces it impossible, delusion or nonsense. James argues that any concept that is “useful” has to be taken seriously, and the religious hypothesis is one that is useful for millions. James is one who aims for as much unity of knowledge as possible, but he also says that there may be a plurality of truths rather than a monism. Wittgenstein similarly was reluctant to allow philosophy to judge and dismiss; he saw philosophy’s job as untangling knots in our thought, but then leaving the strings where they were. So philosophy of religion would be about trying to understand the logic of religion, what the concepts mean in the context of religious language, what is a legal move in the religious language-game, or what is the grammar of religion; but it would not mean that philosophy should decide that religion was illegitimate because it doesn’t conform to the standards of scientific language and positivism.

      • Nemo Says:

        Freedom is observable in the present, though not in the past It’s observed in potentiality, uncertainty and unpredictability. If behavioral psychologist were right, they would be able to predict what one person would do at any moment. I doubt that they are wiling to share their track record of predictions.

        I wouldn’t accept creationism as science because it can’t make verifiable predictions, in the same way, I would not accept anyone who prophesies about the end of world as a true prophet. But the search for truth and some of the methodology used are common in both science and religion.

        To paraphrase what Kant wrote in Critique of Practical Reason in a completely different context: If scientists and theologians are allowed to proceed along their separate paths, they will both reach the truth independently and yet their results will corroborate each others’ findings.

        OTOH, I like the saying, “Science without religion is blind, religion without science is lame”. The power-play between the two may not be a bad thing, much like a check-and balance system in the US government. 🙂

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        Again, Kant said that he was seeking to limit reason in order to make room for faith. The Critique of Pure Reason is his attempt to show that natural science applies to the world of appearances only, and that we structure the world of appearances (the phenomenal world) by the activity of our minds; thus, we can never say we “proved” that God or freedom was impossible since the very tools we use to try to carry out the proof already filter our experience. Our experience as moral agents may provide us with all the evidence for freedom we need, but no amount of scientific investigation can do so, according to Kant.

      • Nemo Says:

        I’ll have to read the Critique of Pure Reason to make a proper response. At this point, it seems to me that there is a false dichotomy between phenomenon and noumenon:. If the noumenon world is truly unknowable, how can the structures of our mind make any consistently reliable predictions? There must be a “correspondence” between the two?

        Looking at it from a religious angel, Incarnation of the Word would be impossible, if the noumenon and phenomenon are so “decoupled”, for lack of a better word.

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        “If the noumenon world is truly unknowable, how can the structures of our mind make any consistently reliable predictions? There must be a “correspondence” between the two? ” I think you just summed up the agenda of European philosophy throughout the 1800’s.

        “Looking at it from a religious angel, Incarnation of the Word would be impossible, if the noumenon and phenomenon are so “decoupled”, for lack of a better word.” I think that is the crux of the criticism Hamann raised against Kant.

      • Nemo Says:

        To clarify, what I’m concerned with here is abstract reasoning and logic, not the experiential knowledge.though scientific observation. Am I right in thinking that the former belong to the noumenon world?

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        Quick version of Kant’s Transcendental Idealism:

        1. Yes, there is a real world. Knowledge starts with the senses. We receive sense data all the time.
        2. But we must organize that data. The way humans perceive the world is likely very different from the way a fruit fly perceives it, or God perceives it (if there is a God; I’m just offering that as an example here, since God is only theoretical in The Critique of Pure Reason).
        3. The first thing we do is organize our perceptions in linear time and three dimensions. If we learned about space and time empirically, it would never be certain; Hume has already proven that empirical knowledge cannot be certain and can give us only probability. But in fact, we know that any time we experience is going to be linear and unidirectional; and we know that any space we could possibly perceive will conform to Euclidean geometry (remember, this is pre-Einstein; let’s leave aside the question of more than three dimensions for now).
        4. The next step is more precisely human and rational. We take the information our senses give us, organized in space and time, and logically relate the various particulars we perceive by categories. Again, Kant argues that these are structures of the mind. God could perceive reality differently, for all we know; and that theoretical fruit fly I mentioned doesn’t perceive the world through categories at all. But humans do.
        5. The categories are roughly the same as the logical concepts Aristotle describes. click here for a good picture of Kant’s categories.
        6. All of this is basically about organizing our sense perceptions into higher unities. The transcendental aesthetic organized our perceptions into objects in space and time. The transcendental logic relates those objects to one another, as cause-effect, part-whole and so on. Finally, the third step, the transcendental dialectic, attempts to unify all of this into a single reality. It includes the Transcendental Ideas: God, Self and Cosmos. We can never prove that there is a God, that we have a self (remember Hume’s devastating refutation of the permanent self in empirical experience) or that there is a cosmos. We never experience God, we never experience our soul, and we never experience the world as a whole. When we attempt to prove any of these ideas, our minds fall into contradictions; it is possible to produce logical proofs for and against these ideas. But it is useful to assume them, since they allow us the possibility of completely unifying our experience. By assuming them, we give ourselves reason to keep looking for unity, and thus are more likely to find as much unity as there is in our experience.

        This probably is quite close to reality or this method of perceiving wouldn’t work very well; but Kant’s point is that we can never know what reality would look like apart from how our minds organize the information.

        SO, to answer your question: No, abstract logic is not part of the noumenal world. It is part of the phenomenal world. This is important to Kant, because he is trying to establish a philosophical basis for claiming both that all possible human experience must conform to the rules of natural science, and that such things as God and moral freedom can exist even though they seem to contradict the rules of natural science. Hume tried to root everything in sense experience alone. However, Hume showed that you could never have more than probability regarding the laws of nature, since experience can’t give certainty. And if we have to go on experience and probability, then we can never know anything about God and have no reason to believe we have moral freedom. Since (to give the most significant example) causality is part of the structure of the mind, Kant argues, we know that all human experience will conform to the laws of cause and effect; this makes science reliable in interpreting the world of experience. But we don’t know if the world apart from our sense experience conforms to the categories. And (Kant argues in the Critique of Practical Reason our experience as moral agents making choices reveals to us that we are in fact free. We thus have one experience of the noumenal world, and see that it does not follow the phenomenal rules.

        Since I experience myself as a moral agent, I experience myself as free. When I experience myself wrestling with the conflict between my desires and my moral duty, I know that I must be free; I could not have the experience of knowing I ought to resist my desires unless I could in fact sometimes do so. Even the ability to perceive a conflict between “ought” and “want” reveals that I can do something I don’t want to do. But I cannot experience others in any way other than as objects of perception. Thus, when I look at others (or look at myself from an outsider’s perspective) I see human action as part of the causal order.

      • Nemo Says:

        In short, reality is a construction of our mind?

        Sometimes Kantian idealism sounds like another form of escapism to me, except that latter escapes from reality into the unreal, wheres Kant makes reality itself unreal,

        All joking aside, what I’m really interested in knowing is this: What does Kant say about “self”? How does man see/know himself?

        If I understand it correctly, to put it in layman’s terms, man lives in the noumenon as an existing being, and in the phenomenon as a perceiving mind. So in a sense, man exists as a kind of disjointed unity between the two. But it’s unclear to me how man perceives himself.

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        The “escapism” charge sounds like something Hamann would have said. Hamann thought Kant was unwilling to deal with the fact that human knowledge is in fact uncertain, so he created a world where knowledge was certain (just unrelated to actual existing reality). Kant would say that, unlike Berkeley or even Leibniz, his own philosophy at least starts by assuming the reality of the material world and that we have sensory contact with it. He is just saying we never experience reality unfiltered by our own thought structures.

        That last observation seems to be what sent Fichte, Schelling and Hegel into their philosophical efforts. Kant does set up a sort of dualism, and that dualism does extend to how I experience myself as phenomenon versus myself as moral agent. Kant agrees with Hume that I never “perceive myself.” I perceive my thoughts, desires, and other mental occurrences, but no the “self” that is supposed to be “having” those thoughts and desires. Kant says we unite our separate experiences by a mental operation, and call them “my” thoughts, memories etc. (I think the Buddhist would agree here.) All I experience is that I have memories, etc. that appear unique to me, so I call them “my memories” and assume there is a permanent substance, “I,” that is the owner or repository of those memories, experiences etc. Hegel will later point out that the phenomenal self is thus a mental construct, and that we have no evidence for a noumenal individuality; perhaps the noumenal self is in some way a part of a unity that goes beyond the individual, like Spinoza’s theory that our minds are but modes of God’s mind. TTFN

      • Nemo Says:

        Kant agrees with Hume that I never “perceive myself.”

        Huh? Do we not perceive ourselves making choices? If so, “who” is making a choice as a moral agent, if not “I”?

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        I don’t perceive a permanent “I” that makes choices. I perceive the choices, sure; and grammar compels me to keep saying “I” perceive etc. But when you think about it, you never see the choice-maker. That was also the Buddha’s point, when he described the self as a “bundle” rather than a unified thing. And it’s a bit like Heraclitus’ observation that you can never step in the same river twice. Like the river, you are constantly in flux, a neverending stream of thoughts, memories, sensations and experiences. Is any one of them “you”? No, you say; I am the totality. But that totality changes. I learn and forget facts; emotions come and go. There is no permanent “I” in my experience; there is only the succession of mental acts which I take to indicate the unity, just as I say “the river” as if it was the same water today as it was yesterday. How’s that?

      • Nemo Says:

        Kant must be suffering from some kind of Schizophrenia if in one moment he agrees with Hume that there is no self, and in the next, he turns around and insists on morality and rational human beings as ends. What human being?

        More on identity later.

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        Kant would say that Hume is only discussing the phenomenal world and the phenomenal self. Hume’s mistake was to think he could draw conclusions about the thing in itself, the noumenal self, based solely on empirical observation. When we realize that Hume is only discussing appearances and not reality, we can then go on to investigate the moral reality that is revealed in our moral choices and the action of our pure practical reason.

        Yes, it does still leave a division, one which Hegel labored mightily to overcome; but it isn’t as insane as you suggest since he’s not agreeing with Hume and then disagreeing at the same time and in the same way. He’s saying Hume is right in what he says about our ability to come to knowledge of the world through our senses alone; Hume is wrong in thinking that is the only sort of knowledge there is, and that he has knowledge of the noumenal world in this way.

      • Nemo Says:

        I can envision a court case where a murderer pleads, “Your Honor, I’m not guilty of killing that innocent man, the person who killed him yesterday no longer exists, I’m a completely different person, it wasn’t I who killed him, it’s not my fault, I’m innocent. …”
        He might just get away with it… by a plea of insanity.

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        Yeah, but I don’t see your point. I think though that in court we judge the phenomenal self, and basically we look at the unity of memory. A killer who has no memory of the past crime could probably plead that “I’m not the same person” defense. On the other hand, prosecutors are likely to focus on physical identity, and not care about personal identity. Most prosecutors, and most people in general if the crime is sufficiently notorious, would only really care whether this was the same human being, physically, who committed the crime, regardless of whether the “personality” had changed. I think most prosecutors want to win and would be more afraid of being conned by a fake amnesiac than of convicting a person who truly has no memory or even has a totally different personality than when the crime was committed. I’m not sure this is really relevant though, since it isn’t quite what Kant is talking about in his distinction between the phenomenal and noumenal selves.

      • Nemo Says:

        No, I wasn’t talking about memory loss. I was using Hume’s “no-identity” argument for the defense.

        If there is no personal identity in the phenomenal (and the noumenal is unknowable), then there is no personal moral responsibility and no judgement is possible.

        The defendant could claim that he is totally different from the person who committed the crime, being “in a perpetual flux and movement”, and therefore he bears no responsibility for what the other person did.

        Kant should have known better than to give ground to Hume there.

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        Morally, Kant would say, there is identity. I take responsibility. Morally, we judge by intentions; and the ability to have moral intentions proves that we truly are free.

        What I am saying is that phenomenally, I experience you from the outside, and I see your actions as caused. I may believe you are an actual person, and that therefore you are as free as I know myself to be; but I don’t experience your freedom. From the outside, you look like another object in the causal nexus.

        Speaking more for myself, I don’t see that this is a problem, legally speaking. The legal definition of identity is not based exclusively based on noumenal identity or anything else. On the other hand, object permanence is one of those categories, so we do experience the other as having on ongoing identity—of the body, at least, which is what my senses reveal. In court, we generally try to infer whether the accused has that sort of permanent personhood. Since very few criminals try to claim amnesia or any other sort of disconnection with their own pasts, it really isn’t an issue.

        This is more of an issue for Buddhism than for Hume, since Buddhism teaches anatta, “no self,” and also teaches reincarnation. How can I be reincarnated, surviving even my physical existence, if there is no “I” to be reincarnated? The Buddha used several metaphors to describe this. One common image is the flame passed from one candle to another. It really isn’t the same flame, but the energy is passed along and the whole process is connected. More common is the image of the self as a bundle. Think of a bundle of sticks. If I take one stick out, is it the same bundle? Not exactly, but you would also say that it is mostly the same. If I said, “Go get the bundle of sticks I left in the garage,” and you went out and found someone had removed one stick, you wouldn’t come back in and tell me, “Your bundle is gone, so I couldn’t bring anything.” Even if several sticks were taken out and replaced, there would still be a sense in which you could say it is the same bundle. Eventually, you could replace the whole bundle, one by one. In the case of the self, as the Buddhists put it, there is the eye-consciousness, the ear-consciousness, the feeling-consciousness and so on. Each of these changes over time. What we call the “self” is really the constellation of these different elements.

        Hume says something very similar, although he doesn’t present the elements of the self in the same way. We have thoughts, feelings, memories and other mental processes. These are always related to each other. What we call the “self” is supposedly the soul, or mental substance, that “has” these thoughts and feelings; but we never experience that substance as even Locke admits. What we experience is only the fact that these particular feelings and thoughts and memories and experiences always exist together. The exact mix may be constantly in flux, but it doesn’t just completely change all at once. You change one stick in the bundle at a time, and there is still a sense that it is “the same” bundle since there is a continuous connection from this current bundle to its past. If they all were replaced at once, it would be like picking up a real bundle of sticks, walking out of the room and bringing back a bundle with all new sticks—it would clearly be different.

        I know you know your classics. Think of Heraclitus. He, too, denied the reality of physical object permanence. A stone constantly changes, and is not really the same from moment to moment. At the same time, the change is gradual and continuous enough that we still perceive a sense in which that is “the same rock” as it was yesterday or last year.

        I’m not sure, but I think you could say the self is like a song. There is no one note that lasts the whole song, but we see the continuity of note to note and still have a sense that this is “the same song” from beginning to end, even though what it really is is a collection of notes.

        Does that help?

      • Nemo Says:

        I’m not arguing against the discontinuity of the phenomenal world — you’ve made it abundantly clear. Rather I think this is another example where findings of philosophy and (quantum) physics corroborate one another.

        What I’m questioning is how Kant could reconcile the apparent lack of personal identity with morality. ” I take responsibility.” What is this “I” that takes responsibility? On the one hand, it cannot be the noumenal, because the noumenal is unknowable, and you can’t put it on the stand; OTOH, it cannot be the phenomenal, because the phenomenal is in a flux, like the defendant in my hypothetical farce, he is elusive to the grasp.

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        It is the noumenal self that is the moral self. Kant says that we don’t know the self through the senses. That is the “phenomenal self,” and it is more a function of the mind’s organizing experience than an object of experience itself. But when I stop theorizing and begin to morally act, I experience something else. I am not contemplating whether or not I am a free being or causally determined; instead, I am acting freely, and in acting freely I am demonstrating my freedom. One’s own freedom is the only fact about the noumenal world that one can really know. Kant lists three ideas which are essential to the pure practical reason: God, freedom and immortality. Whether one has an immortal soul or whether there is a God cannot be known. Kant argues that they must be assumed for morality to be rational; so it is rational to have faith that they exist, but they are not proven to be true. But without freedom, the whole experience of moral obligation and choice would be impossible; so Kant thinks we can know that we are free. (Of course, if you never actually act morally, but simply act from the causality of the stimuli of pleasure and pain, you might never actually experience your freedom or realize it exists. Or perhaps you will simply avoid letting yourself become really aware of it.)

      • Nemo Says:

        Acting freely is not the same as taking responsibility. The Latin root for responsibility is to “answer”. In order for the noumenal self to take responsibility, it must be able to “answer the call”, to present itself in a roll call, so to speak. A man can only answer a roll call if he knows that he is the one being called. How can the noumenal self answer, if it lacks self-reflection? Even the notion of freedom itself was not arrived at without reflection.

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        Who says the noumenal self lacks self-reflection? For Kant, to act freely is to consider one’s duty (which is not exactly easy, since determining one’s duty, for Kant, means looking inward and using one’s moral reason to determine the moral law and how it applies to your particular situation), and then to act for the sake of duty. The moral law is found in the practical reason of every rational being, and can be summed up as follows: Always act in such a way that one could wish that the maxim of one’s action were a universal law of nature. When you consider an act, you must reflect on what the principle of your action is. Kant uses the example of someone who needs money, and knows that the only way is to make a promise to pay back the loan—knowing all the time that he has no intention or means to do so. The principle then would be, “Whenever anyone needs money, he should lie to get it.” And this principle is logically inconsistent. Lying depends on the other person believing the lie; but if this principle were universal, no one would believe any such promise. So you are basically trying to cut a special deal for yourself; everyone else should keep promises, but you want to be allowed to lie. In other words, you want honesty to be the universal law, but you want to break that law. The other way Kant explains the moral duty is, “Always act in such a way that you treat rational being, whether in your own person or another, as an end in itself and never as a means only.” Or more simply, “Always treat others as ends in themselves and never as mere means to your own ends; and never allow yourself to be treated as a mere means.” Again, this takes reflection. And I think Kant’s notion of acting for the sake of duty is consistent with your notion of “answering the call.”

      • Nemo Says:

        If the noumenal self is capable of self-reflection, it would be knowable, wouldn’t it?

        To determine one’s duty, the “one” must be the phenomenal self, because otherwise the duty cannot be carried out in the phenomenal world. So by extension, the “moral reason” you mentioned above belongs to the phenomenal self, not the noumenal self

      • philosophicalscraps Says:

        “To determine one’s duty, the “one” must be the phenomenal self, because otherwise the duty cannot be carried out in the phenomenal world. ” Not really. The “noumenal world” is the world as it is; the “phenomenal world” is the world as it appears to us, through our senses and processed by our thought structures. It’s still one reality. It’s not like Plato’s dualism, where there is this nonspatial, nontemporal world of Forms separate from the material world. It’s not like Cartesian dualism, where there’s a spiritual substance and a material substance and somehow they interact. There’s only one reality.

      • Nemo Says:

        There is reality and there is perception. Only the latter is known to us, and we act according to it. The foundation of Kantian morality is still perception-based, ISTM.

        Thanks for the discussion. You’ve been very helpful, as usual.

    • philosophicalscraps Says:

      Actually, I often use this argument the other way around: to save science from being trampled by religion. I often have students who want to defend creationism, or creation science, or who want to “teach both sides” in high-school biology class. I try to explain to them that from the perspective of the vast majority of scientists, that just isn’t science. Science assumes that all events are caused by something in the known or knowable world. If science finds a “gap,” it immediately tries to fill that gap. That’s what science is. “4004 BC God created the world in six days, then left a world where everything appears to proceed according to set laws of causality; except that sometimes those principles seem to indicate that the world is much older because Satan interferes with the material world to create these deceptive fossils, etc.” is not science. If it were true, there would not be a way to prove it using the rules of scientific inquiry; once we run up against a non-material causality or miraculous event, scientific inquiry stops.

      I think that is part of the truth of Kierkegaard’s observation that life is understood backwards, but must be lived forwards. When we look back, we can always find an apparent cause for everything that happened, even our own choices. It is the nature of human objective reason to seek causal connections. Freedom is simply unobservable. Retrospection assumes that every event had a cause, and finds a cause; if it doesn’t, it assumes that there was one that just isn’t known.

      If I assume total projectability of concepts, then I would have to assume that religion can be translated into psychology or physics without loss. Anything that could not be translated would have to be tossed out. Then it just becomes a power play, with the fundamentalist believer attempting to throw out all scientific claims that conflict with his or her simplistic theology versus the militant atheist attempting to impose an atheistic materialism. James tries to reconcile the rival truth-claims where he can, lay down boundaries to keep rival approaches to truth from poaching on one another’s legitimate turf, and seeks to balance the apparent plurality of truth with the persistent hope for a final unity of all truth.

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