Kant–Rationalism–Empiricism

The intro. to phil. class I’m teaching is going along well.  I guess I’ve taught it so many times that the lectures more or less come along naturally.  I think maybe I’m getting it simplified down, too. 

For Kant’s epist., e.g., they read the book (analytical style intro. book) and I had them discuss it and write a group summary (three students in each group), trying to show what Kant’s Copernican revolution was about.  They presented their findings–they sort of got what Kant is about.

After that, I more or less said in the lecture (which was fairly short) that the modern rationalists and empiricists (we went into detail about what they are last week and the week before) are trying to pin down the nature of ultimate reality in terms of knowledge–rationalists saying structures of the mind are more real while eschewing the senses, and empiricists saying sense data is more real while eschewing structures of the mind).  Kant dispenses with the whole issue by saying we can’t know what it’s really like (noumena).  I speculate that the five senses cut us off from reality rather than open reality up to us.  [I slipped a few times and said six senses, because I personally take feeling (specifically defined as a kind of intuitive feeling–akin to receiving guidance in Subud) as a sixth sense.] 

Trying to explain that we don’t know the nature of ultimate reality (a la Kant) is hard.  We don’t know that things happen in a temporal order, nor that one thing causes another.  More than this, we don’t know about the exitence or non-existence of any of the structures just mentioned because it would be completely apart from human experience–which makes little sense to us.  In terms of noumena, we don’t know what a “thing” is, we don’t know what a “happening” is, we don’t know about what relation time has to reality, or if the notion of “time” has anything to do with the way reality is…not that any of these structures do or don’t pertain to ultimate reality, but that we don’t know….. and because knowing is utterly tied up in the categories of understanding, if we could know, apart from human experience, we really wouldn’t know now would we?

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