Zen Center of Los Angeles-011.jpg

Robert Paul Wolff

Kant Confessed His Suspicions about the Limitations of His System, but Persisted Anyway

Immanuel Kant

It is a mark of courage or at least bold if not heroic confidence that Kant forged ahead with his attempt to describe the mechanisms and functions of human cognition, even though he suspected that some of the descriptive ideas he invented would probably never be scientifically verified.

In a section of the Critique of Pure Reason, titled “The Schematism of the Pure Concepts of the Understanding” (chapter 1 of book 2 of the “Transcendental Analytic”) he wrote:

This schematism of our understanding, in its application to appearances and their mere form, is an art concealed in the depths of the human soul, whose real modes of activity nature is hardly likely ever to allow us to discover, and to have open to our gaze.

Preceding this pessimistic observation, Kant had been explaining his hypothesized “schema” as rules for how to conjoin or link an a priori concept that is not dependent on sensual experience with an object of perception obtained through the senses. He uses several examples to illustrate. With the example of a triangle he asserts that associating the concept of triangle with an empirically apprehend image of a triangle is effected by means of set of innate rules or instructions that he calls a schema. A “schematism” according to Kant is an application of a set of rules whereby a pure, a priori concept of understanding such as space, time, triangle, or number is correlated with an empirically constituted object or idea.

But in the interjected “aside” to the reader quoted above, Kant expresses his suspicion that “nature is hardly likely ever to allow us to discover” the “real modes of activity” that constitute the functioning of those schema, or rules for linking the inner, mental world of pure concepts with sensibly perceived objects or empirically derived ideas.

Kant may have been trying with his schema — sets of rules for linking a priori concepts with sensually perceived objects — to (among other things) heal the body/mind split of Descartes. If Kant was right about “nature” being likely to never allow us to “gaze” upon schema, then neuroscientists who today address the hard problem of consciousness by mapping the areas of the brain that correlate with subjectively reported states of consciousness (qualia), observed behavior, or visible correlates of autonomic nerve activity, these neuroscientists may then, like Kant, worry that they too will likely never succeed in actually “gazing” on the mechanisms (schema, rules) that link inner consciousness experience with the exterior world of things.

More than 230 years following the publication of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, many philosophers and cognitive scientists working with or following the ideas of philosophers like Daniel Dennett, prefer not to invent and use terms or ideas like Kant’s “schema” — the hypothesized (invisible, postulated, unverifiable) rules for how we link or associate inner concepts with perceived objects. They avoid and argue against using scientifically unverifiable ideas or hypotheses. They, like Dennett, will for the sake of argument deign to take up for discussion ideas that are not susceptible to empirical proof (cf. the ether and phlogiston hypotheses), but then, after discussing and exposing their vacuousness and unusability, summarily drop them, and urge others to do the same.

Daniel Dennett

Knowing what terms or ideas to avoid using in attempting scientifically to solve the riddle and mystery of consciousness is important. Knowing what not to do or think is progress. But the hard problem of consciousness (what is like to be somethingqualiaJohn Searle’s Chinese roomMary the color-blind super scientist) is still unsolved. Notwithstanding his occasional use of non-verifiable ideas like “schema” and “schematism,” Kant’s attempts in the Critique to heal the mind-body split deduced by René Descarte in his Meditations, argue against the empirical skepticism expressed by David Hume in his Treatise and Enquiry, and correct or balance the radical empiricism of John Locke’s Essay surely contain many useable ideas that can be “operationalized” by neuroscientists, cognitive researchers, and philosophers of consciousness in their attempt to solve, understand, and explain the “hard problem” of consciousness.

Robert Paul Wolff

Robert Paul Wolff

A book published many years ago by Robert Paul Wolff, Kant’s Theory of Mental Activity: A Commentary on the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason (Harvard University Press, 1963; Kindle [Society for Philosophy and Culture, 2013]) is the best commentary I have yet read on Kant’s Critique. Wolff has also recorded and published on YouTube a very helpful nine-part lecture series on the Critique.

 

Share
Calendar
June 2020
M T W T F S S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  
Archives
Politics, Culture, Philosophy
  • Rachel Maddow
  • Frank Schaeffer
  • Roberto Ruiz

Episcopal bishop cites Christian gospel in criticism of TrumpThe Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, talks with Rachel Maddow abou

Heavy criticism for Trump's hazy idea to use military on US soilRachel Maddow looks at the lack of clarity on how Donald Trump intends to assert his idea of using t

Rachel Maddow 6/2/20Watch the full episode of Tuesday night's The Rachel Maddow Show.

Rachel Maddow 6/2/20Watch the full episode of Tuesday night's The Rachel Maddow Show.

MN would reject Trump domestic military deployment: St. Paul...Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minnesota, tells Rachel Maddow that Governor Walz has told him that

Trump threat to send military to U.S. cities misses key detailsJeh Johnson, former secretary of Homeland Security, talks with Rachel Maddow about the logistics and

Trump considers Insurrection Act to deploy US troops domesticallyRachel Maddow explains that in order for Donald Trump to make good on his stated intention to deploy

Rachel Maddow 6/1/20Watch the full episode of Monday night's The Rachel Maddow Show.

Rachel Maddow 6/1/20Watch the full episode of Monday night's The Rachel Maddow Show.

Rachel Maddow 6/1/20Watch the full episode of Monday night's The Rachel Maddow Show.

  Want more political videos and commentary? Show your support. The post Donald Trump Wants a Race W

Honest Elections Project, part of network that pushed supreme court pick Brett Kavanaugh, is now foc

including handfuls of $100 bills – because she was a ‘symbol anti-abortion movement could not afford

For frail seniors Trump has made sure through his lies and ineptitude there simply is no safe haven.

The next generation’s terrible trio, and two we’ll leave alone. By Gail Collins Read at New York Tim

By —Daniel Bush By —Lisa Desjardins Read at PBS Over his decades-long career in the Senate, former V

Since 2017, so many events in U.S. politics that were previously unthinkable have come to pass. Don’

The attorney general is turning the Justice Department into a political weapon for the president. By

By David Von Drehle If ever a person should have a good B.S. detector, one might think it would be A

American Revolution 2.0, which presents itself as bipartisan, has been assisted by far-right individ

After having been unjustly convicted of the bogus charges brought against him in that most infamous

The Philosophy of Christopher NolanEver since I first watched Memento and its fascinating exploration of the philosophical question of

Voltaire - CandideThe philosophical problem of evil—the question of how the existence of unnecessary suffering is poss

Arrow - A Celebration of LoveLife is hard enough as it is. Existence, in many ways, is suffering. Obviously, some have it much wo

If 'Despacito' Were Written by an Evo-Devo BiologistIf you are a geek, you are likely to get excited over things others might find boring, laughable, la

James Baldwin Debates William F. BuckleyJames Baldwin, the great essayist, poet, civil rights activist, writer and orator, would have turned

Genius of the Ancient World - SocratesFew figures have been more important and influential in the history of civilization than the ancient

The PresocraticsAnyone who's ever contemplated Raphael's celebrated painting The School of Athens knows th

President Obama's Farewell AddressAs his presidency sadly comes to an end, President Obama delivered last night what is sure to become

John Berger - Ways of SeeingArt critic John Berger's recent death has left a huge void in the world of art appreciation. Wh

Right Living, Thinking, Etc
  • Two Truths News
  • Natural Living-Healthy Planet

If you're still holding up and trying to meditate right now, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel invites you

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by police in Minneapolis, dharma teache

As a dharma teacher, says Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, she’s told she shouldn’t feel or express rage, but

There are no ordinary eggs, says Elissa Altman, and when treated with respect and care, they just mi

There will only be justice in America, says Jan Willis, when we see all people as our equals. She of

As his brother’s mind deteriorates, Cary Groner grapples with troubling questions about the ephemera

Leading Christian writer Anne Lamott is married to Vipassana practitioner Neal Allen. Andrea Miller

We may be practicing social distancing, says Andrea Miller, but we’re still connected. Let’s be a li

How does a three-year-old make sense of viruses, social distancing, and talking pandas? Ira Sukrungr

In the world of fashion, there is no old age, sickness, and death. In the world of fashion, we are a

(Natural News) The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China is under worldwide scrutiny after a highly i

(Natural News) Arson and the destruction of property is not a legal form of protest. Vandalism and s

(Natural News) On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared that “all lives matter,” but they ce

(Natural News) The National Guard said Monday that it has stationed 12,000 additional Air and Army G

(Natural News) According to National Health data released last week, autism incidence among Irish ch

(Natural News) Somewhere along the road of America’s development, corporations were blessed with not

(Natural News) Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) charged that Twitter “ought to look” in the mirror when it com

(Natural News) Crying often indicates weakness or sadness in popular media, but according to a study

(Natural News) It is not uncommon for people to experience lower back pain every now and then. In fa

(Natural News) In this study, Greek researchers investigated the effects of the Mediterranean diet (

Science News
  • The Universe Today
  • Perimeter Institute
  • Science Daily
  • Sky and Telescope

One of the most pressing questions in astronomy concerns black holes. We know that massive stars tha

The first lunar maps consisted of simply the best images of the Moon from Earth-based telescopes, wh

The Chicxulub impact event was an enormous catastrophe that left a huge imprint on the Earth’s surfa

Eclipse season resumes on June 5th, with a fine penumbral lunar eclipse. The post How to See This Fr

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory has spotted a distant black hole shooting out jets of material, at clo

Westerlund 2 is a star cluster about 20,000 light years away. It’s young—only about one or two milli

Astronomers have discovered a collisional ring galaxy that existed when the Universe was just 3 bill

NASA and SpaceX made history today with the launch of second demonstration flight of the Crew Dragon

Oh Planet Nine, when will you stop toying with us? Whether you call it Planet Nine, Planet X, the Pe

SpaceX suffered yet another setback when their SN4 prototype exploded into a fireball during a stati

Kevin Costello admitted as Honorary Member of the Royal Irish AcademyWednesday May 27, 2020Perimeter

Flash of insight opens new paths for Luke Santi Award winnerThursday Mar 26, 2020Mackenzie Pereira,

PI-NRC partnership to fuel made-in-Canada breakthroughsTuesday Mar 03, 2020A new collaboration betwe

Introducing three new associate faculty at Perimeter InstituteFriday Feb 21, 2020Researchers in quan

Perimeter research recognized again by Buchalter Cosmology PrizeMonday Jan 06, 2020Perimeter Associa

2019: Perimeter’s Scientific Year in ReviewThursday Dec 19, 2019Perimeter reflects on a year of bold

Perimeter researcher wins prestigious AMS prizeFriday Nov 15, 2019Kevin Costello lauded for his effo

Giacomo Torlai receives APS prize for outstanding thesisWednesday Nov 06, 2019A Perimeter PhD gradua

Krembil Foundation elevates its commitment to Canadian-based breakthroughsTuesday Nov 05, 2019The Ca

Perimeter postdoc wins prestigious €1-million research grantThursday Oct 17, 2019Sebastian Steinhaus

For the first time in history, NASA astronauts have launched from American soil in a commercially bu

A team of scientists studying the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that has caused the COVID-19 pande

Analysis of two cosmic explosions indicates to astronomers that the pair, along with a puzzling blas

One in three women in Europe inherited the receptor for progesterone from Neanderthals -- a gene var

When pollen is in short supply, bumblebees damage plant leaves in a way that accelerates flower prod

With the help of Inuit hunters, geophysicists recently recorded the various calls, buzzes, clicks an

New simulations have revealed the asteroid that doomed the dinosaurs struck Earth at the 'deadl

Six-month old infants recognize when adults imitate them, and perceive imitators as more friendly, a

Researchers have discovered a new migration pattern (or lack of) at Pinnacle Point, a now-submerged

Tropical forests face an uncertain future under climate change, but new research suggests they can c

Galaxies swim in hot gas that extends much farther out than their stars — and plays an important rol

Among the wealth of exoplanets we’ve discovered beyond our solar system, some are temperate, some le

Our 10-minute Sky Tour astronomy podcast guides you to planets, stars, and constellations in the ear

Crewed spaceflight returns to U.S. soil, with the successful launch of Crew Dragon Demo 2. The post

Bright Capella is still up in the northwest in twilight, but it sets in the northwest fairly soon af

Jupiter has captured an icy comet from the outer solar system. The comet's bizarre orbit will b

Margaret Greenwood explores the changing location of sunrises throughout the year. The post 95 Sunri

And that makes three: Astronomers are beginning to understand what may be causing a special kind of

Find information on observing Jupiter during its 2020 apparition, including information on its moons

What do Venus and Jupiter have in common? Revisions to planets' magnitudes in this year's