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Philosophy on LJ
EPISTEMIC CONDITIONS 
6th-Jul-2005 06:45 pm
mercury
Any number of things could be conditions of experience, e.g., the brain, the sense organs, the nervous system, etc., but none of these things have anything to do with the transcendental ideality of space and time, they have nothing to do with the categories, in fact they have nothing to do with anything that Kant was talking about -- at all. In order to show why this is the case, I'd like to provide a brief explanation of what Henry Allison terms an "epistemic condition."

An epistemic condition is a condition that is necessary for the representation of an object or an objective state of affairs, and thus it is in virtue of such conditions that our representations relate to objects. Epistemic conditions are different from logical conditions of thought, e.g., the principle of contradiction. While the latter serves as a condition of consistent thinking, the former serves as a condition of the representation of objects.

Epistemic conditions must also be sharply separated from physiological or so-called "psychological" conditions. Custom or habit, as used by Hume in his account of causality, is an example of a psychological condition. While physiological or psychological conditions may be necessary in order to explain the origin of our beliefs and perceptions, or even of our knowledge "in order of time," they cannot account for its objective validity.

But the question of the validity of our knowledge is nothing other than the fundamental issue raised by Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. If Kant can show that space, time, and the categories really are epistemic conditions -- and I have provided a strong argument that at least the first two really are epistemic conditions -- then transcendental idealism follows. If Kant cannot isolate and display our epistemic conditions, then our conditions of knowledge must be construed in psychological or subjectivistic terms. (In other words, there is no knowledge at all.)

But anyone who merely insists, without meeting Kant head-on, that our fundamental representations are psychological in nature, never really addresses this question at all. Facing up to the issue of epistemic conditions leads us to a more accurate interpretation of Kant, and it allows us to understand the true intent and nature of transcendental idealism. And I hope I have convinced many of you by now that when one does this, one finds it to be a powerful philosophical position indeed.
Comments 
8th-Jul-2005 03:43 pm (UTC)
well, first of all i never once gave an account of representation as being psychological in nature. if you think so, please point out where. you may be able to make the argument that my position is somewhat on the physiological side, but not the psychological. and i am not describing the origin of anything psychological at all (i.e. beliefs or perceptions, i am describing the origin of our faculty of representation.

space and time are (or appear) transcendentally ideal only because they are below the surface of what is presentable to us in the world. they are at the end of our knowledge by virtue of their being merely as far as we can see, so to speak, and are for that reason an epistemic condition.

if you please, i am interested to know how you would account for the fact that we have a faculty of representation. where did it come from?
8th-Jul-2005 04:08 pm (UTC)
I beg your pardon, but our physiology is not something "below the surface of what is presentable to us in the world." Last time I checked, our physiology was not only something visible in the world, something empirical, but it is also the object of rigorous scientific investigation.

Evidentally you think it's mysterious. There's something "hiding" there. It's "below the surface," in an arcane cove. Sort of like there's a leprechaun hiding in my amygdala.

I can assure you this isn't the case.

With regard to where our faculty of representation comes from, Kant says that it is impossible to say why we have these categories as opposed to others, just as it is impossible to say why space and time are our forms of sensibility rather than something else. There is no deeper, unified layer that one can go from which it is possible to deduce our forms of representation. But I don't see why this should be cause for anxiety. And certainly the idea of trying to deduce them from some kind of hidden (and "physical"??) source is patently idiotic.
8th-Jul-2005 05:35 pm (UTC)
please don't beg my pardon while misrepresenting what i've actually said. where did i say that our physiology is something below the surface? i said that space is below the surface, as in: it is not something that is (or has been) directly presentable to us. space as something empirical in itself is just now the subject of scientific investigation. this fact couldn't very well inform a discussion or argument about the development of a representational faculty over the course of past history now could it? it is perfectly conceivable to me that once we have explored space a little more we may find yet another layer of conditions.

and yes i think this is all horribly mysterious. as mysterious, in fact, as science and physics and neurobiology and quantum physics. surely you aren't naive enough to think that all that is knowable by empirical study is open to us at this point in our history of scientific enquiry? there are lots of things hiding out there.

philosophers are notorious for pronouncing something to be impossible that is proven quite possible indeed in the next generation. so you may want to take what kant said about the impossibility of our knowing certain things with a grain of salt. but, just to humor you, are you saying that there is the possibility that our faculty of representation is not physical?

and please, don’t castigate me for suggesting that something is hidden from us (as if that were a ridiculous idea) and then turn around and tell me what cannot be known (i.e. what is hidden from us).
8th-Jul-2005 06:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's right. If we explore space a little more, we'll find out it's really made out of ground chuck. Space is physical. It's made out of ham hock.
8th-Jul-2005 11:50 pm (UTC)
i sincerely hope so, because then i wouldn't have to spend as much on groceries.

but wouldn’t that make bovine an epistemological condition of space? maybe i’ll write a post on it…
8th-Jul-2005 08:40 pm (UTC)
I wonder if there are any who both (a) acknowledge the relevance of Kant's arguments and (b) because of their power, merely deny that objective knowledge is possible in order to refute his position. Do any of Kant's successors (in the idealist tradition) take that tack?
9th-Jul-2005 06:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah. Jacobi.
12th-Jul-2005 10:51 am (UTC)
the brain, the sense organs, the nervous system...none of these things have anything to do with...anything that Kant was talking about

You seem to allow that beings might exist with different epistemic conditions. What, other than those bits of us which do perception and cognition, could account for us having these? And if we can't account for us having them, why not? If we can understand our conditions of cognition through cognition, why can we not similarly understand their causes?

An epistemic condition is a condition that is necessary for the representation of an object or an objective state of affairs, and thus it is in virtue of such conditions that our representations relate to objects.

I fail to see how the architecture of our brain, especially that bit of it which acheives the representation of states of affairs, isn't necessary for their representation'.
You seem to say that the difference between epistemic and psychological conditions is that the former is involved in the objective validity of our knowledge. Here I suspect that my understanding of the whole Kantian system is faulty, but what kind of objective validity are space and time supposed to have? I was under the impression that they applied to the phenomenal but not the noumenal world, and so that they applied only to objects-as-we-perceive-them. Surely our perceptive and representational faculties will also always apply to things-as-we-perceive-them?
12th-Jul-2005 02:40 pm (UTC)
The apriority and intuition arguments are meant to demonstrate that the representation of space is both universal and necessary. What sort of a theory can account for our representation of space playing this sort of role in human experience? A physiological explanation cannot provide the requisite universality and necessity, and therefore it must be rejected. Space can't be an ontological condition either, as was demonstrated in my refutation of the the Newtonian (nonrelational) view. So our representation of space must be an epistemic condition.
12th-Jul-2005 07:01 pm (UTC)
space is both universal and necessary
Is space a universal property of real objects? Or is it universal in human experience, a necessary and universal property of human perception? I got the impression it was the latter.

A physiological explanation cannot provide the requisite universality and necessity
Why not? If what we mean is universal and necessary for us, I can quite easily imagine that the architecture of our perceptual and imaginative and cognitive faculties could produce universal and necessary conditions for us, and I can't imagine anything else that could.
12th-Jul-2005 07:25 pm (UTC)
Is space a universal property of real objects? Or is it universal in human experience, a necessary and universal property of human perception? I got the impression it was the latter.

You truncated the part where I said representation of space.

Space has epistemic necessity, i.e., it is a necessary condition of the possibility of knowledge. It is empirically real, because it applies to every object that can be presented as numerically distinct from the self and its states. So it's not "merely" subjective in the sense of belonging to the private content of one's mind. On the contrary, it is as real as anything else we encounter "out there" in the world.

Why not? If what we mean is universal and necessary for us, I can quite easily imagine that the architecture of our perceptual and imaginative and cognitive faculties could produce universal and necessary conditions for us, and I can't imagine anything else that could.

Because something that is a psychological condition can only have subjective necessity, in the sense of being part of one's own private realm. While a physiological condition of this type can tell us about the origin of our beliefs or about why things seem to be a certain way, such a condition cannot account for the necessity of our knowledge. It cannot account for why we have no choice but to represent objects as numerically distinct from us with space. The representation of space is a necessary and universal representation. Therefore, it cannot be a physiological or psychological condition.
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