[hist-analytic] Kantotelian Reflections
jlsperanza at aol.com
jlsperanza at aol.com
Mon Jan 31 13:20:27 EST 2011
D. Frederick and me are considering this neo-Kantian proposal of a
solution to something like R. B. Jones´s problem (are the statements of
descriptive metaphysics analytic?). I propose to comment on a review at
Strawson and Kant, Glock, H-J. (ed), Oxford, 2003, Mind Occasional
Papers). (A. Chignell).
"This book collects the proceedings of a 1999 UK Kant Society
conference held in honor of Sir Peter Strawson, who is heralded by the
editor (not implausibly) as “the leading proponent of analytic
Oddly, Grice was Kant lecturer at Stanford and Locke lecturer at
Oxford. No such thing as the Kant Society, then?
"Like most Festschriften, the book is a smorgasbord: while each of the
papers has something to do with either Strawson or Kant, there are
some—such as Robert Stern’s paper on Strawson’s naturalism or John
Hyman’s on the causal theory of perception—that don’t attempt to be
about both. A less wieldy but more accurate title for the book would be
Strawson and/or Kant."
But the implicatures of "and/or" are too technical to be true!
"Still, many of the contributions hang together nicely, and two in
particular (by H-J. Glock and P.M.S. Hacker) offer illuminating
accounts of Strawson’s place in the history of Kant interpretation and
analytic philosophy in general."
Hacker was of course Grice´s successor (skipping Baker) as philosophy
tutor at St. John´s.
"I will discuss those essays in more detail below. There are also two
essays (by Eckart Förster and Henry Allison) on the third Critique, and
two (by Tobias Rosefeldt and Maximilian de Gaynesford) on the Kantian
view of the self. Another pair (by Graham Bird and Barry Stroud)
compare the merits of Strawson’s “descriptive metaphysics” to those of
traditional “revisionary” metaphysics, taking as a focus Strawson’s
account of the synthetic a priori."
--- So it is this pair that dwells on Jones´´s problem. Bird is I think
a Scots. I met Stroud. He was close friends with Grice at Berkeley.
"Strawson’s own “A Bit of Intellectual Autobiography” picks up where he
left off in the Library of Living Philosophers volume (Hahn 1998),
although in this essay he focuses more on his relationship to Kant."
I did read the Schlipp peace. Of course I would have preferred "A book
in the living library of living philosophy" dedicated to Grice, but he
was dead by then.
He (Strawson) deals with the teachings of Grice at large. Strawson was
PPE, while Grice was Lit.Hum. Plus, Strawson got an infamous "second",
not the first Grice had gotten. Shame on Grice who was Strawson´s
(The other tutor at St. John´s that Strawson had was Mabbott, who
discusses how brilliant both Strawson and Grice were in the little
known "Oxford memories" -- a book published by a minor publishing house
"The method in The Bounds of Sense, he writes, was “to preserve and
present systematically what I took to be the major insights of Kant’s
work, while detaching them from those parts of the total doctrine that,
if they had any substantial import at all, I took to be at best false,
at worse mysterious to the point of being barely comprehensible” (8-9)."
"barely comprehensible" is a good one!
"My neighbour´s three-year old child is an adult and understand
Russell´s Theory of Types"
"I fail to see how that can be but just barely comprehensible".
"Strawson thus happily accepts the charge, often leveled by more
serious historians of philosophy, that his rational reconstructions
have as much to do with twentieth-century Oxford as they do with
--- Oddly, Kant was an expert on Oxford. He could drop all the names of
the ports on the Thames from the Estuary up to past the Isis. Genius!
"The rest of Strawson’s contribution is a pastiche (as its title
suggests), ranging over his own personal history, a short critique of
Rae Langton’s recent book on the first Critique, and a discussion of
his relationship to Wittgenstein. He includes a strikingly
non-Wittgensteinian brief on behalf of both the existence of “abstract
intensional objects” (like propositions) and “the reality of subjective
experience in all its richness and complexity,” concluding with a
provocative embrace of the “Platonism and Cartesianism” that these
Good for him!
"Like Strawson, some of the other contributors take a position on the
issue of appropriate methodology in Kant interpretation. Kenneth
Westphal, for instance, begins by explicitly rejecting Strawson’s
approach, described as the “somewhat ahistorical attempt to recruit
Kant to the ranks of the analytical metaphysicians, while discarding
those metaphysical elements that refused any such absorption” (9)."
This is good. Shame on Strawson. Of course, Strawson and Grice WERE
TEACHING Kant (as B. Aune has, also). So, in some respects, these are
paedagogical notes. It´s the originality of these people´s approaches
that should be especially focused. Not so much as attempts in exegesis
"Westphal retorts that Kant’s philosophy will only seem plausible if,
“instead of incorporating Kant’s transcendental proofs into present-day
philosophical attitudes…[we] reconsider some of our current
philosophical attitudes in order to understand and benefit from Kant’s
transcendental proofs” (127)."
------ "Transcendental proof" is a bit of a mouthful. Grice preferred
"metaphysical argument", simpliciter. These proofs may yield "weak"
statements (modal data). A transcendental argument or metaphysical
argument is weakly valid if it yields a weak statement about the
possibility of a "concept" or object, not about its actual existence.
"In this spirit, Westphal argues that the Refutation of Idealism can
succeed as an argument against external-world skepticism, but only if
we first accept Kant’s “non-Cartesian” picture of the mind. This
requires granting that any self-conscious experience involves both
receptivity to external objects on the part of sensibility and active
synthesis on the part of understanding.¨
Strawson´s title, "The bounds of sense", is of course, a pun. Kant,
even though he did not have one idea of cognitive psychology, would
distinguish between "sense", "sensibility", "undestanding", "reason",
qua faculties. The "bounds" are the limits. The limits of our
intelligibility lie in our perceptual abilities, as it were. Very
"One wonders, of course, whether presuming this substantive thesis
about our cognitive psychology doesn’t beg important questions against
the skeptic and against empiricists generally. But Westphal provides
some illuminating thought-experiments designed to give the thesis
independent, intuitive support."
---- And then Grice was criticised for HIS "thought-experiments": The
Martians in "Some remarks about the senses" being the first Martian
type of those.
"Quassim Cassam’s essay, by contrast, is classic Strawsonian (and thus
Revisionist = revisionary
"His stated goal is to salvage an important insight in Kant—that we can
justify some synthetic claims involving the categories without appeal
to experience—for the purposes of contemporary consumption."
As in Coca Cola?
"But in doing so he rejects as hopeless many of Kant’s own ideas about
the a priori, including the anti-empiricist claim that the categories
are not derived from experience."
THIS was Strawson´s and Grice´s main claim, and their return (via
Grice´s classicism, classy) to Aristotle. Hence the idea of Kantotle
(or Ariskant) as a greater philospher than both Aristotle and Kant.
"My sense is that most of the contributors would side with Cassam over
Westphal in preferring the Strawsonian methodology—naturally enough in
a volume honoring Strawson’s work."
"Although Stroud does not continue his famous controversy with Strawson
over the efficacy and scope of transcendental arguments (Stroud 1968),
Thomas Grundmann and Catrin Misselhorn do. In their co-written
contribution, they argue (pace Stroud) that some transcendental
arguments do have the capacity to prove something about
mind-independent reality, rather than merely proving something about
how we must conceive of it.¨
Grice (Reply to Richards, but I think also repr. in appendix to Grice,
Conception of Value) argues that transcendental argument or
metaphysical argument is PRACTICAL in nature (with the practical tag
deleted, as it were). As such it yields results about philosophical
"This claim is Strawsonian in spirit, even though Strawson himself has
now accepted Stroud’s criticisms and adopted a Humean-style naturalism
as the metaphysical realist’s only viable response to skepticism
(Strawson 1985). Grundmann and Misselhorn’s argument is flawed,
however, by its reliance on the extraordinary premise that,
“necessarily, our perceptual beliefs about the external world are
largely true” (207)."
Grice was charming about that. Consider a stimulus or trigger.
Sense-data do not challenge us. Objects do. Suppose someone is scared
by a sense-datum of a lion. Surely that´s otiose. Typically, people are
scared by a LION, not a sense-datum thereof. So, the epistemic status
of sense-data has a value as long as they are mirroring some
"ontological" status of the objects that are alleged to _cause_ those
"Later I will suggest that their defense of this premise—via an
externalism about content plus some overly strict rules about what it
would be for a skeptical scenario to count as worrisome—raises far more
questions than it answers."
Here, I would quote from Loar, who invented "externalism about content"
-- "social content" his field of expertise.
The reviewer goes on.
"As anyone familiar with these names will recognize, Glock has done a
nice job of bringing together authors hailing from the three main
regions of contemporary Kant scholarship (the UK, North America, and
Germany), and ranging in experience from the up-and-coming to the
world-famous. It is particularly significant that there are so many
Germans involved, since it is often assumed that the more
philologically and historically oriented scholars on the Continent turn
up their collective noses at the perceived crudities of Strawson-style
I think they get partially irritated that neither Grice nor Kant ever
cared to quote Kant in the vernacular. It´s good old Oxonian Abbott´s
Kant they care to analyse, mainly.
"The fourteen essays together comprise a manageable 250-page volume
which should be of interest to Kantians, Strawsonians, and many
historians of analytic philosophy as well. In what follows, I will
discuss the essays by Glock, Hacker, and Grundmann/Misselhorn in more
"Glock’s and Hacker’s essays recount the well-known story of the
emergence of analytic philosophy in Britain in the 20th-century, but
are unique in that they highlight that tradition’s complex and often
contested relationship to Kant."
This should interest Jones, as we´ve been discussing this. Consider
Ayer, and his sojourn in Vienna. Consider Carnap and his connection
with neo-Kantianism. Etc.
"The story starts with the rejection of neo-Kantianism and the
Hegelianism that was its heir in Britain, a rejection that (allegedly)
drove analytic philosophy to its anti-metaphysical extremes in the 20s
Sticking to OXFORD helps. Bradley and Bosanquet (neo-Hegelians) were
"FUN". It´s "Realism" alla Cook-Wilson etc. that set the trend. There
is less of a "linguistic turn" in the corridors of power that Oxford is
than Rorty would allow.
"It culminates with the collapse of the positivist program and the
return to a chastened form of speculation in the 50s and 60s, aided at
least in part by Strawson’s defense of descriptive metaphysics and his
appeal to Kant as its primary forebear."
----- Well, yes, Ayer was thought of as too schematic for the
"linguistic" types of the Austin generation. But there are more
complications. They were also reacting, generationally, to Ryle. Even
within the Play Group (Grice, Strawson), there WERE distinctions to be
made (Hare, Hampshire, Hart, Nowell-Smith, Urmson, etc.).
"Glock also releases a salvo on Strawson’s behalf in the ongoing battle
between idealist and non-idealist interpreters of Kant. The former
think Kant is committed to the claim that the existence of external
objects consists, at bottom, in facts about perceivers, and they appeal
in support of this thought to passages in which Kant enjoins us to
regard appearances “as being, one and all, mere representations”
Well. This is the ph-operator (phenomenon)
p-The cat is on the mat.
As opposed to a n-operator (noumenon)
n-The cat is on the mat.
Surely it is more complex than that!
"Strawson often sounds like such an idealist interpreter, although he
thinks of this as the “dark side” of the critical philosophy, and
rejects it as unworkable."
Good for him!
"On the other side are the non-idealist readers (Glock calls their view
“platitudinous”) who insist that Kant is merely saying something about
the “epistemic conditions” under which subjects with faculties like
ours can know something about mind-independent objects (29)."
Epistemic is a misnmer. This involves judgements, rather than knowledge
per se. The beliefs may turn out to be false. But epistemic is used
broadly in the lips of most philosophers.
"We have to cognize such objects, if we are to cognize them at all, as
being in spatio-temporal and causal relations, but they can also be
thought or considered in abstraction from such conditions."
Here we get to Strawsonianism. He would think of a "person" for example
(the concept of a person) as a primitive (in the mind-body polemic)
consisting of a spatio-temporal continuant. Grice favours such a view
in "Personal Identity" ("I was hit by a cricket ball": Surely "I" must
be a spatio-temporal continuant (rather than a mere thought) if a
cricket ball can hit me).
"These “double-aspect” interpreters include many of Strawson’s critics,
early and late—most notably Gerold Prauss and Henry Allison."
And my mother.
"Glock’s taxonomy here is rather simplistic, since there are any number
of middle positions and hybrids on the market (Langton’s non-Praussian
but still non-idealist interpretation is a case in point). The taxonomy
aids Glock dialectically, however, since he can then suggest that
Strawson has come to the rescue with a third position which is more
attractive than either of its alternatives. The “analytic
interpretation” is supposed to provide a way of thinking about Kant,
and especially about Kant’s claims regarding the synthetic a priori,
that is both historically respectable and philosophically superior."
If Kripkeanly ignorant!
"This claim is complicated, however, by the fact that “analytic
Kantianism” is used somewhat loosely in this collection. Sometimes it
refers broadly to the work of those like Strawson and Bennett who seek
not so much to be historical scholars but rather (in Bennett’s words)
to “fight Kant ’tooth and nail’“ as though Kant were a contemporary
analytic philosopher sitting with us at the seminar-room table (19)."
Treat those who are dead and great as if they were great and alive.
Grice´s motto. Introject into their shoes and do not fear to change the
idiom in the proceedings.
"At other times “analytic Kantianism” is used more narrowly as a rubric
covering those in the Kant industry who take Strawson’s descriptive
metaphysics to be a good model of what Kant was up to (at his best),
and reconstruct his philosophy accordingly. The latter is clearly what
Glock means to offer as a viable third way between idealism and
"But that leads, of course, to the question of what descriptive
metaphysics actually is."
"Strawson himself, in Individuals, says this."
“Descriptive metaphysics is content to describe the ACTUAL STRUCTURE of
our thought ABOUT THE WORLD, revisionary metaphysics is concerned to
produce a better structure” (9).
The reviewer goes on:
"Precisely what to make of this distinction is widely-discussed in the
Strawsonian tradition, and Glock, Hacker, and Bird provide detailed
accounts in their respective essays. They agree, very broadly, that
descriptive metaphysics involves the attempt to describe “the most
general and pervasive features of human thought
about the world”
by inquiring into our
“conceptual scheme, the connections between the fundamental concepts we
use to think about and describe the world” (18)."
The reviewer notes:
"If that is a fair characterization, then descriptive metaphysics is
not much different from classic conceptual analysis, except that the
concepts analyzed are, in Hacker’s words, “highly general, irreducible,
basic, and, in a special sense, non-contingent” (49).¨
I would have thought Hacker could have gone that "if that is a fair
characterisation", it was what Aristotle was up to!
"Examples include “experience,” “self-consciousness,” “objectivity,”
“space,” “time,” and “causation,” and Kant’s identification of them as
essential to our mode of cognition is praised by Glock as “the central
insight of the Critique” (20)."
Seeing Jones´s point, I would add the concept of "truth", above.
"It is also noted here that most analytic Kantians agree that the way
to exploit this insight is not to follow Kant over to the “dark side”
of genuine idealism."
"This last point raises the concern, however, that despite the calls in
this book to renew the enterprise of descriptive metaphysics, the old
Stroudian worry has not yet been put to rest. The worry is simply that
realism and descriptive metaphysics make excellent bedfellows with the
skeptic. For without a commitment to idealism, what grounds are there
for assuming that the empirical world conforms to the fundamental
categories that the descriptive metaphysicians describe?"
Precisely Jones´s point, as per his commentary on stone-age physics and
twentieth-century physics in connection with D. Frederick´s points.
"Again, even if a transcendental argument shows that we must conceive
of the empirical world in a certain way, it seems that there will
always be room for the skeptic to drive a wedge of doubt between that
conception of the world, and the world as it really is."
This is still different from the STRONGER point by Frederick that we do
not know what idea of "inconceivability" we are talking about here.
"As I noted earlier, Grundmann and Misselhorn address that problem in
their essay by suggesting that we can justifiably ignore the skeptic
because the scenarios he appeals to are not genuinely conceivable and
thus not demonstrably possible."
In the seminar room! You can play the sceptic (as I did) for three
weeks in academic philosophical circles. It gets boring any longer than
"This is a highly controversial claim, and it rests on the assumption
that for the world of a skeptical scenario to be conceivable, it must
be “explanatorily coherent.”"
This relates to Frederick´s excellent point about
"Material bodies exist" in Locke and
"Material bodies do not exist" in Berkeley.
Esse-est-percipi IS conceivable, I think. Cfr.
"Oh, I see what you mean that this bachelor is a married one. I CAN
CONCEIVE Your use of "bachelor". It´s just not mine. So, personally, I
cannot CONCEIVE such a thing, but I´m glad you can. It´s NOT a small
world, after all."
"A scenario fails that test if it appeals to “properties that are
unintelligible, mysterious, or unexplainable within this world” (212)."
"But, first, why think it obvious that this constraint on
conceivability holds? Can’t a world that is conceivable in the relevant
sense contain some properties that are mysterious to us? Surely we can
conceive of a world in which telepathy occurs, even though the
relational properties between the minds involved would be quite
True. We can also conceive of a NON-causal theory of perception! but
I´m glad nobody cared to expand on it in a treatise!
"There is a large debate in the background here, and no consensus on
the precise sort of conceivability that is a good guide to metaphysical
possibility (cf. Yablo 1993 and Gendler & Hawthorne 2002)."
I think M. Della Rocca (of "Essentialism and essentialism" fame) has
expanded on this too in an OUP collection on precisely this. It may
relate to Peacke on "intelligibility" in a couple of essays in Mind.
"But let’s set that aside and suppose that we accept this constraint on
the relevant sort of conceivability. It still isn’t clear why an appeal
to a Cartesian dreaming scenario or Putnam’s brain-in-a-vat scenario
fails the test. Grundmann and Misselhorn say that “explanations within
other [conceivable] worlds need not follow the laws of our actual
world, but there must be some laws that do the explanatory work within
these worlds” (212)."
I think we are getting closer to Kripke, or Lewis. But we may not.
"But in some of the nearby worlds in which we are dreaming or envatted,
surely there are such laws. In fact, in some of those worlds the laws
are presumably the same as the laws in this world (the evil scientists
in the nearest vat-worlds are simply much more advanced than we are in
their understanding of neurobiology). There is thus no obvious reason
to think that these worlds lack explanatory coherence."
So much talk on coherence reminds me of Bradley, who as a neo-Hegelian,
held a coherentist theory of truth!
"A third, related point: it is unclear why Grundmann and Misselhorn
think the skeptic has to accept the burden of showing that his
scenarios are metaphysically possible by showing that they are
conceivable in the relevant sense.¨
Is it conceivable that my neighbour´s three-year old is an adult? Not
for Strawson or Grice (¨Sorry we do not know what you mean"). On the
other hand (usually the right one), it IS mighty conceivable that this
three-year old does understand the theory of Types. For "understand" is
a vague notion, and surely my canary understands the principle of
aerodynamics, when I let her out of her golden cage.
"His arguments will still have traction if he remains neutral about
that, and simply highlights the epistemic possibility that, for all we
know, the world of a skeptical scenario is both metaphysically possible
This may relate to Frederick´s and Jones´s point about what sort of
necessity is otiosely appealed, say, by Kripke.
"Epistemic necessity". All those prolifferations of "necessity" remind
me of Grice when punning on "ichthyological necessity" in his Kant
Lectures ("It is a necessity for fish to get oxygen from water via
The reviewere goes on:
"Let me emphasize that the main worry here is not about whether we can
have justified beliefs on the basis of what descriptive metaphysicians
tell us. For if they can show that we must conceptualize the world in a
certain way, then no doubt we are justified in doing so on at least
some conceptions of justification. The worry is rather about whether
these inevitable, permissible, and in some sense justified beliefs
adequately track reality. A merely descriptive analysis of fundamental
categories cannot give us any assurance that they do. Kant puts the
point this way:"
"If [the mind] has to conform to the constitution of the objects, then
I do not see how we can know anything of them a priori; but if the
object (as an object of the senses) conforms to the constitution of our
faculty…, then I can very well represent this possibility to myself.
Please translate to the German! I Kant imagine Kant speaking English!
Kant we stick to GERMAN Kant?
"In sum: analytic Kantians (in the narrow sense) offer us nothing to
put in the place of what many readers take to be Kant’s own bona fide
idealism, and so despite the ambitions of their transcendental
arguments, they remain vulnerable to the skeptic. On this score, I
think Strawson himself has done a better job at seeing the deficiencies
of his early view than some of his followers."
"As should be clear from this discussion, there is much that is of
interest in this well-executed collection. The contributions are of a
very high standard, although their content is somewhat disparate.
Strawson and Kant is a fitting tribute to the man who has contributed
more than anyone else to the rehabilitation of Kant studies in
Bennett, J. (1966) Kant’s Analytic. New York: Cambridge.
Gendler, T. S. & Hawthorne, J. eds. (2002) Conceivability and
Possibility. New York: Oxford.
Hahn, L.E., ed. (1998) The Philosophy of P.F. Strawson, The Library of
Living Philosophers, xxvi. Peru, Ill.: Open Court.
Kant, I. (1998) Critique of Pure Reason, trans Guyer, P. and Wood, A.
New York: Cambridge.
Strawson, P.F. (1959) Individuals. London: Methuen.
--. (1966) Bounds of Sense. London: Methuen.
--. (1985) Skepticism and Naturalism. London: Methuen.
Stroud, B. (1968) “Transcendental Arguments,” Journal of Philosophy, 65.
Yablo, S. (1993) “Is Conceivability a Guide to Possibility?” Philosophy
and Phenomenological Research, 53.
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