18 July 2007

Kant and Monowittgensteinianism: A Junk Draft

I just finished Conant's "Moses and Monowittgensteinianism", which N. N. linked to a little while back. I'm just now at the "And suddenly our hero suspects there is something amiss with the colors red and green!" bit of P.M.S. Hacker's "Insight and Illusion", so it seemed apropos to try to write out some thoughts on the debate over the Tractatus (he said, as if there was a debate!).(1)

The debate between readings like Conants ("resolute" readers, AKA "The New Wittgensteinians") and more standard readings (of which Hacker's is certainly one of the better ones I've read, but also including folk like Anscombe and Hintikka) is over whether the Tractatus is supposed to be conveying "ineffable truths" (at least over things like reference, the logical form of our sentences, solipsism, idealism, the world-whole, the soul; possibly also ethics, aesthetics, religion, God, eternity, the afterlife etc., but I've not seen a standard reader try very hard to "eff" the ineffable truths in the later case, with the exception of Hintikka's hilariously implausible reading of Wittgenstein's ethical views as taken up wholesale from Moore), of if when Early Wittgenstein says that anyone who understands him sees the "propositions" of the Tractatus as nonsense, he means nonsense akin to "Iffly borgle prolf purple monkey dishwasher."

The way Conant spells out the resolute reading is via a series of lists: The First List is a list of doctrines which standard readings might attribute to Early Wittgenstein (because they think they see them conveyed, ineffably, in the Tractatus) which Early Wittgenstein actually regarded as nonsense, to be seen as nonsense via multiple readings of the Tractatus. The Second List is a list of doctrines which Early Wittgenstein really did hold, but unwittingly; Later Wittgenstein then pokes at "the author of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" because he can see that Early Wittgenstein had failed to achieve his goal of seeing nonsense for the nonsense it is. Both Early and Later Wittgenstein are devoted to the same goal, vis seeing nonsense for what it is rather than being befuddled by it ("befuddlement" being the beginning of metaphysics). The standard reading, as I understand it, agrees with Conant that this is the sort of thing Later Wittgenstein was concerned with, but claims that Early Wittgenstein was in a different business: He had seen The Truth, and knew it was Ineffable, and meant for us to also See The Truth by playing around with a logically precise notation -- if only we would spend some time tooling around with truth-tables and logically proper names we would see that there are sempiternal simple objects, indeed infinitely many such objects, that a name's meaning is an object, that "relations" and "properties" are themselves yet more simple objects, that these objects hang together in atomic facts as links in a chain, that these objects are determined by their possibilities for so linking up, that the relations which hold between elements in our logically-clean-cut formal script mirror the linking up of the simple objects, that everyday language has a "vital core" which is made clear by this formal script, that this will be shown by logical-philosophical analysis, that a thought is a picture of a possible fact, that nothing but sentences suited to natural science can possibly be analyzed so as to be rendered in this formal script, etc. etc. Standard Readers, then, claim that The First List contains a list of doctrines held by Early Wittgenstein; Resolute Readers claim that The First List contains a list of doctrines which Early Wittgenstein sees as nonsense. They are agreed that The Second List contains many doctrines which Later Wittgenstein sees as nonsense, but which Early Wittgenstein was befuddled by. So, if The First List really does contain (at least one) item which Early Wittgenstein meant to be viewed as "prorlu motyiv greakic" nonsense, then that is a problem for the Standard Readers.

Hacker claims that Early Wittgenstein held that time (and probably space) were transcendentally ideal(3), in addition to a quasi-Schopenhauerian commitment to the truth of solipsism (Insight & Illusion, p.99). 5.64 is taken to be a prooftext for Early Wittgenstein's transcendental idealism: "Here we see that solipsism strictly carried out coincides with pure realism. The I in solipsism shrinks to an extensionless point and there remains the reality co-ordinated with it." The idea is that from the transcendental/solipsistical point of view, time, space, and the world as a whole are part of my mind (which is the only mind, the unity of consciousness, the Will), while empirically there really are spatially and temporally extended objects and a world which is independent of the subject. This is supposed to be akin to Kant's notions of the relations between phenomena and noumena, especially as filtered through Schopenhauer. Since I suspect that Early Wittgenstein really did intend for "Solipsism (AKA subjective idealism) and Realism come to the same thing" to not end up saying that both idealism and realism are true, but in different ways, it seems like it might be helpful to give a serious look at what was involved in Kant's transcendental idealism, to see if the origins of transcendental idealism make it look any less likely that this was the sort of view Early Wittgenstein meant to ineffably communicate in the Tractatus.

I shall now digress for a bit on what exactly is involved in Kant's view, when it is poked at long enough: From an empirical point of view objects really do have temporal and spatial properties (most importantly, they stand in various causal relations to one another of the sort uncovered in physics), while as noumena ("objects of pure thought") all spatial and temporal properties (and with them the truths of all possible judgements we can form of said objects) do not adhere in the objects themselves, but are rather imputed to them by the manner in which we can intuit objects. For Kant, the "unity of consciousness" and "the transcendental unity of apperception" are requirements for the possibility of the formation of judgements -- if a being's conceptual faculties did not operate in tandem, then it would be impossible for that being to formulate any judgements, hence impossible for it to be capable of having judgements attributed to it, hence it could not be a subject; likewise if the subject was not self-conscious, it would be impossible for judgements to be attributed to it, as no one would bear the epistemic responsibility for making those judgements. The "schematism of the categories" is likewise a requirement for the formation of judgements -- for a subject to apply the logical forms of judgement to intuited objects requires that there be a middleman to "fit" the logical table of judgements (which is supposed to give all possible logical operations) to the forms of intuition of a given subject, as "intuitions without concepts are blind" and so provide no material which can be "fit into" the options provided by the logical table of judgements. The categories are supposed to be the guide to the use of all our understanding's concepts because the synthesis of intuitions in a concept is possible only by the use of said concept according to the categories of the understanding (a concept just is the role it plays in possible judgements (4) ). Hence if we can judge at all, we can judge only of spatio-temporal objects. (5) Now, this is not actually enough to entail transcendental idealism. The ideality of space and time is, for Kant, a matter which was settled by the Innagural Dissertation several years before his "Copernican turn"; much of Kant's notions of the interplay of intuition, concept, judgement, apperception etc. is novel with the first Critique, but the ideality of space and time is not. However, in his pre-critical writings Kant holds that pure knowledge of objects is possible (along basically Leibnizian-looking rationalist lines), and so there isn't the idea that our knowledge is restricted to spatio-temportal objects. Our (empirical) knowledge of physical laws is then genuine knowledge of how things are in themselves because we can move from our (ideal) knowledge of physical laws to the notion that these correspond to relations which obtain between monads (whose existence is established on a priori grounds), and this is enough to give our (ideal) knowledge of spatio-temporal happenings a role to play in our general theory of the universe. The argument for the ideality of space and of time, both in the dissertation and (in a more refined form) in the Transcendental Aesthetic runs through various possibilities for how we are able to intuit objects as extended in space and time, and (claims to) rule out all of them but the notion that space and time are forms enforced upon all matter given to us ab extra, and hence they do not apply to objects considered in themselves (as not necessarily intuited by us). I won't hash out the arguments of the Aesthetic here, since this post is already going to be plenty long, but a common objection to Kant's argument here is that he neglects an alternative: We are only able to intuit objects in space and time, and then only insofar as those objects are extended in space and time. (Kenneth Westphal's "Kant's Transcendental Proof of Realism" is the best treatment I've seen of the neglected alternative, and also works out the collapse of transcendental idealism in such a way as to keep admirably close to Kant's own texts, which also answers the question of why Kant never did write a book called "Metaphysics of Natural Science" like he'd planned to; the "Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science" doesn't do the work "Metaphysics of Natural Science" was supposed to do, and the Opus Postumum wasn't making much better progress when Kant died.) For Kant, then, transcendental idealism is only supposed to be true because of the ideality of space and time as the forms of our sensible intuition.

However, one of Kant's requirements for the possibility of judgement in his critical period (there are a lot, in case you haven't noticed) is the "transcendental affinity of the sensible manifold" -- for us to be able to judge anything, what is given to us as material to judge about has to have similarities/differences among it such that we can recognize some of these similarities and differences -- what is given to us can't be a "pure chaos" or "boomin' buzzin' confusion". However, this is a serious problem for Kant's transcendental idealism: If even the bare possibility of what we sense being intelligible is a matter of our mind imposing itself on what is given in sensation, then what is given to us in sensation doesn't matter at all epistemically: the mind will impose an order we can use on it, whatever it is. Hence if we are to hold that in sensation matter is given to us ab extra (that we do not bring into being the objects we think of by the act of thinking about them, and hence are able to be wrong about them in our judgements by failing to represent objects in our judgements the way they actually are presented), then the transcendental affinity of the sensible manifold can't be a matter of the mind imposing anything on what is given in sensation -- the variety sensed has to really be there in what is given to us for us to recognize, or we are unable to form any judgements at all -- owing to the utter lack of regularity (or patterned irregularity) in anything we come across, we are unable to so much as imagine whether or not particular similarities or differences in objects are being presented to us. Hence we must be able to sense some attributes of objects that are really there, if we are to be able to perceive objects at all. And if all our perception is spatiotemporal, then some objects must really be spatiotemporal. Hence the ideality of space and time is false -- space and time are not imposed by us on what is given to us, but is the form in which that which is given to us exists in itself. Much of the rest of Kant's system stays intact with the collapse on the ideality of space and time, however, or is at least salvageable; the relations between concept & intuition, the requirement that there be items in time and space which we are aware of for us to be self-conscious, the notion of a concept as simply being the role played in judgements etc. can be maintained, as can the "restriction thesis" in the narrow sense that our ordinary notions of substance, causation, duration etc. can only be applied to items within space and time and fall into abuse when we try to extend their use further than this. Transcendental idealism, the idea that the mind imposes on reality what is needed for us to have knowledge of it, can't do the work demanded of it. (6)

Now, practically nobody after Kant who calls themself a "transcendental idealist" has anything as worked-out in this in mind. Most of the time their idea of "transcendental idealism" is actually derived from Karl Reinhold's popularization of Kant's philosophy. (I was left quite convinced of this after reading Karl Ameriks' "The Fate of Autonomy: The Reception of Kant's Critical Philosophy.") Reinhold's argument for transcendental idealism is (by his own description) a "short argument": We have knowledge only of our representations, hence not of things as they are in themselves; but because we do have knowledge of representations, knowledge of representations counts for a lot. Hence our representations constitute the "phenomenal world" and there must be (unknowable) noumena because representations can't be things in themselves (because we just called them representations, see?). Our use of e.g. causation as applied to our representations is justified by the fact that that's the way in which we can represent things, and there can't be a question of whether our manner of representation "fits" the things themselves or not. Space and time are then ideal derivatively as being one of the ways in which we represent things. On Reinhold's view, we can know that the categories and the forms of space and time don't apply to things in themselves because these are merely the way in which we represent things; it makes no sense to speak of them outside of the domain of representations. We also know that there is a noumenal self, because a representation has to be someone's, and this someone can't be another representation on pain of vicious regress. (7) Schopenhauer, from what I know of him (which is not enough), argues for transcendental idealism along similar lines to Reinhold: The various forms of the principle of sufficient reason necessarily hold among phenomena, since they are knowable by us and we have no way of knowing without the principle of sufficient reason, but we can insure their knowability only by holding that they have no choice but to be submitted to the principle of sufficient reason, and this can only be done by holding that we force reasonableness upon an unknown, ineffable root (which must itself be independent of the principle of sufficient reason, as this can be merely the way in which we force phenomena to appear if we want to ensure that we are not mistaken about the principle itself). The self, on Schopenhauer's view, is as ineffable (and as independent of the principle of sufficient reason in all its forms) as any other noumena, and hence Schopenhauer has no use for Kant's practical writings, which were the reason folk like Reinhold got interested in Kant, and were of the highest importance for Fichte. Schopenhauer's ethics is based not on anything like Kant's duties, but upon a notion that the self is a non-thing (and so everyone is the same in their nothingness), and our apparent control of our "will" is mere appearance, and as subject to the principle of sufficient reason as any physical phenomena. "Ethics" is then the surrender of the desire to will for oneself (which is seen as a nonsensical end) and the end of desire itself (which is seen to be a mere shadow-play, whose end brings peace to we non-entities). Our knowledge of the self in the sense in which Schopenhauer's ethics cares about such a matter (the self as a non-thing, a nullity, lifeless striving towards nothing for no reason) is supposed to be something felt; all representations have nothing to do with ethics because of this, since ethics is what comes from spelling out the ramifications of the nullity of the self, which is not a representation but a consequence of the fact that there are representations (and nothing besides, with noumena being unthings and only mistakenly treated as being akin to objects like chairs or human bodies).

Early Wittgenstein has no use for Schopenhauer's idealism about the objects of the world: the various ways in which we can model objects do not tell us about the world, but that we sketch it out it this way rather than another if we model it in a certain way does tell us something about the world. Hence forcing our descriptions to, say, follow from Newton's axioms does not in any way limit the propositions of physics, and hence cannot be distorting the way things are in themselves. The thinking subject, when it finally comes up in the Notebooks, is said to be a superstition. But some of the Schopenhauerian ideas about the will stick around -- it is just no longer a will which is the subject of representations, but rather a "world soul" which is the soul of everyone, and through which alone everyone conceives of the souls of others. Wittgenstein pokes at Schopenhauer's suggested ethical doctrines (love of neighbor and the sole virtue being to not will), along with what he is himself inclined to say when he tries to come up with ethical propositions, and finds that they fall flat when you look at them hard enough: If I am supposed to not will, then neither can I will to love my neighbor; but if I do not love my neighbor, then this also appears to be a failure of the resolution of the will. I am supposed to be happy, but man cannot make himself happy without more ado, and the world is independent of my will. It is not clear why I am supposed to be happy, either; this seems to simply be something inexpressible: No statement along the lines of a statement of natural science says anything that inclines one to hold that happiness is good, nor does any incline one the contrary direction. "Ethics" vanishes into the realm of unintelligible mystery, where it used to be neighbors with noumena and a transcendental subject which was the witness of representations. So the (ethical) "truth" of solipsism hangs around, but sundered from Schopenhauer's "transcendental idealism." His idealism has no reason to keep up the idea of noumena once the idea that a thought is a mere representation (rather than a picture of how things are) falls away, and hence has no reason to claim that what is known is mere phenomena, and hence no reason to claim it's something other than simple realism: There is reality, and the "extensionless point" of the will coordinate with it. But this means that when "realism" takes itself to be somehow more than solipsism, it's simply not thinking about solipsism enough: The two collapse into each other. (If one failed to notice this, then there is the possibility of bothering about how we can know more than the solipsist claims to know. Which is of course responsible for a great deal of Cartesian-style metaphysics.)

Now, I am pretty sure I had a point at some point back in there: It seems more plausible to me to read 5.64 as being meant to dissolve possible worries about "veil of ideas"-style skepticism, and so as a candidate for membership on the (resolute) First List. I have no idea what the identification of realism and solipsism is supposed to be doing if it's expressing some ineffable insight; I can buy that the bits about the willing subject are supposed to be some sort of ineffable insight, and that paring down solipsism leads to realism, but I have no idea how the paring down of solipsism is supposed to be ineffable.

I will be honest: I reread the entire early Notebooks and a big chunk of the Tractatus to make this post, and now I am just muddled over what I was originally trying to say here; I'm really not sure what all that stuff about Kant in the middle is doing, except showing that I can get passive-aggressive over how many hours I wasted reading that stuff. But I wanted my blog to have some sort of content, and it's not like anyone will read this anyway. I suspect I am biting off more than I can chew at this point -- but I don't have any desire to take smaller bites, so to speak. Perhaps I shall either choke or starve.

1) An aside: I knew that reading "Moses and Monotheism" would pay off someday! I totally got the joke about the epigraph from Freud in Conant's piece. My original motive for reading that silly little essay was to put off the desire to read anything else from Freud; it served admirably at that task. (I've picked up some cheap paperbacks of several of his works, but they're just sitting on shelves for the foreseeable future.) As another aside: Why the hell does Peter Hacker sign his books with his initials? If he wants to set himself apart from other Peter Hackers, he could just use a middle name (which he apparently has two of). I suppose it does make his name more memorable....

2) At least, paying attention to the more interesting versions of the standard reading. The versions that just toss out the whole "There can be no theses in philosophy, for everyone would agree to them" bit think that the Later Wittgenstein has his own Standard First List of doctrines, which largely consist of taking the First List and adding negators. I admit I am more acquainted with secondary literature on the Tractatus than the Investigations, so I suppose resolute readers may be in a minority with their reading of the Investigations, too.

3) Attributing transcendental idealism to anyone is a problematic move, for if one can understand what one is doing thereby one must understand what it is for a view to constitute transcendental idealism. If transcendental idealism is actually an incoherent shuffling between "subjective idealism" (the "everything exists inside my mind" view) and realism sans modifier (the view that what exists is not dependent on what is "inside my mind"; Putnam calls it "natural realism," after James), then it is misleading to attribute transcendental idealism to anyone, since it is unintelligible. One would do better to point out the various incompatible views held by the thinker in question, such as "That things are thus and so is for that to be something I can think of, and so depends on my mind" and "The world is the way it is independent of whether or not I think about the way it happens to be, and so is independent of my mind". One may point out that the thinker views his notions as a sort of "transcendental idealism", but this is just a piece of trivia about how the thinker (falsely) views his own ideas, since there is no intelligible view such as "transcendental idealism" purports to be. If one thinks that there is a view that answers to transcendental idealism's self-description, then one (on Hegel's view, and my own) has simply not thought through the ramifications of the view enough: To truly understand transcendental idealism is to see that it is untenable. To be a "transcendental idealist" is merely to be confused about what one really believes about mind and world, taking a mere agglomeration of metaphysical confusions to be a system.

4) and any attempt to judge with the categories as applied to non-spatio-temporally-intuited objects (hypothetical entities such as God, the world-whole, and the soul) leads to contradictions, hence by modus tollens it is not possible to apply these categories to non-spatio-temporally-intuited objects.

5) Kant's "practical posits" of freedom, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of God and a final judgement are all "problematic judgements" in the sense that we don't have the slightest idea what any of them actually entail or "would be like if they were true"; we can licitly posit them because of the role they play in our use of practical reason, and when we do so all we can be understood as positing is that an object exists such that it fills thus-and-such a role that practical reason demands something play the role of. The various attributes of God -- His infinity, unity, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, offering of grace to radically evil beings, etc. are all justified as implicit in the need for a posit of "the existence of God" as an element in a subject's moral life, and not by anything which could warrant the theoretical judgement that there actually exists a Being with such properties, since we (spatio-temporal-forms-of-sensitive-intuition-having) beings cannot even understand whether or not such a Being's existence is possible. For it to make sense that such a Being's existence might be possible, though we can make no sense of the notion, Kant has to posit that there are other forms of intuition ("intellectual intuition") which allow that judgements which can only be problematic for us can be seen to be satisfied by what is intelligible to beings so minded as to have non-spatio-temporal forms of intuition, which may well include our "future selves" if we do have immortal souls. Hence what is incomprehensible for us, indeed what we cannot make the slightest headway in trying to understand, may be revealed to be true "in heaven." And this slim possibility for doing anything like thinking about what things would be like without space and time is enough to warrant the opinion that the demands of practical reason do not lead to contradiction, and this is to "make room for faith."

6) Hegel lays a good bit of the blame for this on Kant's table of categories, which he doesn't think is any more rigorous or complete than Aristotle's; the fact that Kant runs through the options he sees there and decides that e.g. space is merely phenomenal and non-mechanical causation unintelligible are blamed for Kant's overlooking possibilities such as that judgements about space are not judgements about some thing or other (and so the first antinomy rightly leads to contradictions, but not because "space is not a thing in itself" but because space is not a thing of which it makes sense to ask whether or not it is infinite in size), and there are many sorts of judgements which can be intelligibly viewed as related to causation, such that one hasn't exhausted the concept when one deals with physical-mechanical causation (and thus one doesn't need a story about the way noumena mysteriously affect the phenomenal world to go on describing behavior as being caused by desires, or by organic functions).

7) This sort of argument is also what's behind Fichte's idealism: in "The Vocation of Man" he practically argues for idealism by freaking out about Cartesian doubt about the external world, but tempering this with a practical demand to, you know, live, and thus claims that though all that we can know is our own thoughts, the fact that our consciousness of our duties demands we treat the objects we think we know about as objects that are leads us to posit the reality of the external world as we think we know of it; this is then called a form of transcendental idealism because we have "knowledge" of the world in one sense, while in another sense we don't know anything about how things stand among themselves.


N. N. said...


That was an interesting read, thanks. Not knowing that much about Kant and friends, I don't have much to say. In fact, I am a bit disturbed to learn that the Kant that I "know" (i.e., the Kant that I was taught as an undergraduate) is probably not Kant at all, but Reinhold.

Concerning Wittgenstein and Schopenhauer, here's a great quote from Philosophical Remarks (ca. 1930):

That it doesn’t strike us at all when we look around us, move about in space, feel our own bodies, etc., etc., shows how natural these things are to us. We do not notice that we see space perspectively or that our visual field is in some sense blurred towards the edges. It doesn’t strike us and never can strike us because it is the way we perceive. We never give it a thought and it’s impossible we should, since there is nothing that contrasts with the form of our world.
What I wanted to say is it’s strange that those who ascribe reality only to things and not to our ideas move about so unquestioningly in the world as idea [Vorstellungswelt] and never long to escape from it.
In other words, how much of a matter of course the given is. It would be the very devil if this were a tiny picture taken from an oblique, distorting angle.
This which we take as a matter of course, life, is supposed to be something accidental, subordinate; while something that normally never comes into my head, reality!
That is, what we neither can nor want to go beyond would not be the world.
Time and again the attempt is made to use language to limit the world and set it in relief—but it can’t be done.
The self-evidence of the world expresses itself in the very fact that language can and does only refer to it.
For since language only derives the way in which it means from its meaning, from the world, no language is conceivable which does not represent this world

That's quite a task rereading the Notebooks for this post. But since you've just done it, I think you're in a good position to evaluate the resolute reading. I think that the greatest evidence against it is that, when one reads Wittgenstein's writings immediately before and immediately after the Tractatus, there's no hint of the resolute reading. The Notebooks were Wittgenstein's private musings. He never intended them to be read. In fact, he instructed Russell to burn them, and it is only a happy stroke of fate that they survived. If Wittgenstein's aim was to be resolute, then surely there would be some mention of that approach in his early notebooks. But there is nothing. Instead, you get Wittgenstein seriously considering the positions that, according to Conant, are merely rungs on the ladder. When he returned to philosophy in 1929, it's more of the same. I challenge anyone to try and read "Some Remarks on Logical Form" resolutely. It can't be done. This, more than specific refutations (of which, I think there are many), makes it difficult (at least for me) to take the resolute reading seriously.


Daniel said...

Well, so much for my plan to keep this blog a secret until I had more content up. Not linking to individual posts was apparently not enough to keep things from being noticed.

Yeah, the resolute reading did start to seem less attractive as I reread the Notebooks. Part of why I just kinda abandoned the post towards the end was that I never did find what I was looking for in the notebooks; I recalled there being a bit that dealt more directly with Schopenhauerian views in epistemology (basically, the passage went from stating Schopenhauerian-sounding theses to trying to work out the repercussions of these theses to pointing out that the view developing wasn't distinguishable from realism). This passage, apparently, doesn't exist. I probably should've tried to find it before writing the first 2/3 of that post, and not just go hunting for it when I needed to "copy it out".

I'm not sure the Notebooks completely rule out a resolute reading of the Tractatus, though. What looks like the seriously considering positions on The First List could just be part of the way in which one moves up on the rungs; I don't think Conant would deny that there can be what is taken at the time to be discussions about "Whether a sentence has its meaning because of its constituent words, or whether words have their meaning because of the role they play in sentences" or what-not. It's just claimed that these discussions are actually so much gassing, and that when we understand ourselves a bit better we realize that what looked like Profound Thinking at the time was really so much stuff & nonsense, and so the "discussion" was likewise naught but wasted breath. It does seem that resolute readings should expect for the Notebooks to have something which clearly supported them (say, a reference to rungs or somesuch), and that's just not there. I've never actually read the Logical Form paper, come to think of it; that probably will be Yet More Of A Hint That Conant & Co. Are Reading Wittgenstein Wrong.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that misreading a philosopher is such a bad thing, when the misreading is interesting enough. For example: Hegel is a very bad reader of Kant in his later works; Kant's theoretical philosophy always ends up either being lumped in with Locke or with Fichte (except Kant wasn't clear on what he was doing, so it sometimes looks like he's not actually Locke nor Fichte -- this is when Kant becomes Locke or Fichte with Big Honking Errors). Hegel's just not fair to the text of the first & third Critiques by the time he writes his Encyclopedia. But Hegel was a pretty perceptive critic of Kant (in terms which are recognizable as being those Kant might've actually used) in some of the juvenilia (such as the "Faith & Knowledge" essay). For instance, Hegel was harshly critical of the way Kant holds apart intuitions & concepts, claiming that intuitions are already conceptual ("here" and "now" being concepts as well as any, and these being required to make sense of supposed "spatio-temporal" intuitions at all, even if we're supposed to be able to bracket out our "conceptualized" judgements on what it is we're intuiting). Which is a fine point; it's not clear just how intuitions are supposed to contribute anything of themselves (as opposed to concepts) to judgements on Kant's account. By the time of the Encyclopedia, though, Hegel writes as if he's just unaware of how Kant tried to make his distinction between intuitions and concepts (which is not at all the same as the distinction Hegel makes between intuitions and concepts in the Encyclopedia, despite the common names). So Karl Ameriks (in "The Fate of Autonomy") rightly notes that Hegel's criticisms of "the Kantian philosophy" in Hegel's later works are not anything Kant would recognize as directed towards his position. But reading the Encyclopedia in light of Hegel's earlier writings, it seems clear that Hegel came to think of "Kant's view" as being "everything Kant got wrong", or "Kant's views as adjusted so as to avoid some of Hegel's early criticisms" (so that Kant turns into either Just Another Empiricist or into Fichte), as opposed to "Things Kant actually argued for or said." A lot of authentically Kantian lines of thought end up reappearing in Hegel without it being noted that they aren't totally original with Hegel, and when Kant is mentioned by name he's treated as a punching-bag. So, Hegel is clearly a bad reader of Kant in one sense, since when Kant is called to attention he's manhandled, while in another he's not doing anything philosophically objectionable with Kant's thinking.

I think the main draw for Resolute readings of the Tractatus is that they let some folk who like the Investigations go back and decide that they also like the Tractatus. If the Tractatus that Resolute dudes like isn't the one Early Wittgenstein actually wrote, then, well, that's hermeneutics for you.

I'm still not quite comfortable with Hacker's claim that Early Wittgenstein was a transcendental idealist about space & time, even if the Resolute Readers are just pulling stuff out of thin air. I'll have to think some more about just what, exactly, is troubling me so much here; I think it's the lack of a parallel in Early Wittgenstein to Kantian or Schopenhauerian arguments that the objects of experience aren't (in themselves) as we experience them to be. We don't go wrong when we conceive of simple objects in a temporal space, or a spatial space (akin to color space, sound space etc.), on Early Wittgenstein's views. Sure, Early Wittgenstein does seem to have some notion that we're missing something Important when we only look at what's extended in space and endures through time (the "Will", at the least), but I don't see that he identifies this with some sort of noumenal object in the way that Kant & Schopenhauer do.

That quote from the Remarks is interesting. I really do need to read the middle works; I just skipped from the Tractatus to the Investigations because the school library's copy of the Blue & Brown Books was checked out when I wanted to read it, and then haven't bothered to go back and read most of what I skipped over.

The Kant I was "taught" as an undergraduate had two main categories, space and time, and was most notable for being a Deist. Space and time are not categories, nor was Kant a Deist -- he did not self-identify as a Deist, but as a Theist, and when the issue of Deism is brought up in the Religionbook Kant explicitly distinguishes their views from his own. (In short, Deists toss out all the personal attributes of God, such as knowledge and will, while retaining God as a "first cause" while for Kant the personish bits are fundamental to God's importance for us, while the "first cause" stuff is rubbish.) I don't even want to think about how Modern Philosophy was handled in my Church History course (it ended with Hume!), or how Hegel was handled by our analytic Chair of Philosophy ("A & ~A is false, not true, so Hegel is wrong!").

My undergraduate philosophy classes were, on the whole, attrocious; that's why I only got a minor in philosophy, taking theology for my major instead. I got to read Wittgenstein for my Systematic Theology class, since Wittgenstein was very important for the Yale School in the '60s, and my prof there was a fan; I was able to justify papers on Kant/Hegel for various historical research assignments, and I don't know how anyone gets into Heidegger without starting from Bultmann. So, theology wasn't really a bad way to go about justifying reading a bunch of stuff I wanted to read anyway, and it saved me from the Analytic Philosophy Of Religion Hell that I would've gotten if I took enough philosophy courses to get the major. At the least, given the school I was at, I don't think there was a better option for me, and everyone in my family has gone to that school.

N. N. said...

If you want to keep from being noticed for a while, I should probably take down the announcement of your blog that I posted on mine this morning. I found you because I have a blog search for "Wittgenstein" that RSS feeds into my Google Reader.

I agree that Early Wittgenstein is not a transcendental idealist about space and time. In the Remarks Wittgenstein states that "a phenomenon isn’t a symptom of something else: it is the reality." There is good reason to believe that the phenomena in question are Tractarian objects.

Daniel said...

Yeah, that'd be appreciated. It occurred to me this afternoon that the tags Blogger lets you put on posts might not just be for internal sorting.

J said...

"Hence we must be able to sense some attributes of objects that are really there, if we are to be able to perceive objects at all. And if all our perception is spatiotemporal, then some objects must really be spatiotemporal. Hence the ideality of space and time is false -- space and time are not imposed by us on what is given to us, but is the form in which that which is given to us exists in itself. Much of the rest of Kant's system stays intact with the collapse on the ideality of space and time, however, or is at least salvageable; the relations between concept & intuition, the requirement that there be items in time and space which we are aware of for us to be self-conscious, the notion of a concept as simply being the role played in judgements etc. can be maintained, as can the "restriction thesis" in the narrow sense that our ordinary notions of substance, causation, duration etc. can only be applied to items within space and time and fall into abuse when we try to extend their use further than this. Transcendental idealism, the idea that the mind imposes on reality what is needed for us to have knowledge of it, can't do the work demanded of it."

Or, instead, one reads Kant as cognitivist, and space and time, while perhaps not "ideal" in metaphysical sense, are givens of human perception, and, one might say, brain functions. Voila! How easy was that, S-Dan. Your preacher pals won't like it, but that's how to salvage Kant. A priori then become more akin to
biological innateness or something.

Besides, Kant rarely offers ontological proclamations (ok, perhaps some expert Kantian might disagree), as far as I recall (say the Deduction). He didn't really know much about the brain and nervous system, and transcendental idealism should not automatically be assumed to connote some immaterial realm. Indeed his suggestion that noumenal objects were more speculative than phenomena also indicates a certain skepticism, methinx, and provides a bit more support for empirical readings of 1st critique.