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what is the difference between Kant's "things in themselves" and Locke's

what is the difference between Kant's "things in themselves" and Locke's secondary qualities? (I don't see the "real" difference other than semantics). thanks, Todd

Secondary qualities are properties that a thing appears topossess for certain observers of this thing. On reflection, however, secondaryqualities turn out to be ways in which certain observers are affected by thething in question. Colors are an example. Colors are not genuine propertiesinherent in things but rather ways in which human beings with normal eyesightare affected by certain things they encounter. Secondary qualities are thus to be explainedby reference to both: the object with its “primary” qualities and the perceptual apparatus of a specificobserver of this object.

The doctrine of secondary qualities brings with it thethought of the object as it is apart from whatever qualities it merely appearsto possess for certain observers. You can call this the thing it itself, thething considered apart from its merely apparent, observer-dependent properties.So the two expressions you query are not at all synonymous but rathercorrelative: “thing in itself” refers to an object as it is apart from whatever(secondary) qualities it possesses only for some or all of its observers.

Locke thought that paradigm primary properties of things aretheir geometrical shape and location in space. He took these properties to beinherent in things themselves, and thus to be independent of any and everyobserver – in Kant’s phrase, Locke considered the physical objects analyzed byphysics to be things in themselves. Kant, however, disagrees with thisassessment. His hypothesis is that even the spatial and temporal properties ofobjects are observer-dependent, that these are properties that physical objectsmerely appear to possess when we encounter them with our human sensibility. On Kant’saccount, the concept of a thing in itself refers then to things considered apartfrom their secondary qualities and fromtheir spatial and temporal features.

Secondary qualities are properties that a thing appears topossess for certain observers of this thing. On reflection, however, secondaryqualities turn out to be ways in which certain observers are affected by thething in question. Colors are an example. Colors are not genuine propertiesinherent in things but rather ways in which human beings with normal eyesightare affected by certain things they encounter. Secondary qualities are thus to be explainedby reference to both: the object with its “primary” qualities and the perceptual apparatus of a specificobserver of this object. The doctrine of secondary qualities brings with it thethought of the object as it is apart from whatever qualities it merely appearsto possess for certain observers. You can call this the thing it itself, thething considered apart from its merely apparent, observer-dependent properties.So the two expressions you query are not at all synonymous but rathercorrelative: “thing in itself” refers to an object as it is apart...

When a philosopher describes his or her work as a "critique" of something, what

When a philosopher describes his or her work as a "critique" of something, what exactly do they mean? Is there a general consensus among philosophers or are there different possibilities? I assume it means something different or more specific than what we ordinarily mean by "criticism", right? Thanks!

Indeed: the ordinary use of the term 'critique' ('criticism') means to evaluate something. So, a film critic doesn't just tell us how bad a film is, but also how good -- and thus whether certain types of viewers might wish to see it. The philosophical use of the term to analyse something so as to determine its grounds, implications or merit. Thus, a classic type of essay or examination question at University philosophy departments is to 'critically analyse' some idea or argument.

Kant's use is slightly different. A critique of pure reason, of practical reason, or of judgement is not a discussion of an idea or argument, so much as of a whole 'faculty' or 'ability' of the human mind. The three faculties I just listed come from the titles of Kant's three chief critical works, but arguably at least Kant should be understood as also offering critiques of many other 'faculties' such as imagination, understanding, sensibility, or will. In effect, by a 'critique of pure reason', Kant is asking 'what is pure reason good for? '. This involves not only determining what pure reason is (what are its principles, what are its modes of operation) but also how it relates to other mental faculties or achievements. For example, one of the big questions Kant is pursuing is 'Can pure reason, on its own, attain knowledge?'. Critique means to determine, on the basis of principles, the limits of reason -- what reason can and cannot do.

Immanuel Kant used this word in the titles of his most important books, and Kant's use has greatly influenced the sense this word has in later philosophy. By a critique Kant means a critical examination, which will sometimes criticize or undermine a view or method but sometimes also justify and vindicate it.

Do academics in particular have a moral responsibility to be outspokenly

Do academics in particular have a moral responsibility to be outspokenly critical of social injustice?

The journal Ethics and International Affairs had a symposium on this question very recently, see www.ethicsandinternationalaffairs.org/2012/summer-2012-issue-26-2/ -- focused mostly of the topic of world poverty as addressed by the new organization Academics Stand Against Poverty (www.academicsstand.org). <Fair disclosure, I have been involved with both ASAP and the E&IA symposium.>

Hi there, I'm 17 years old and currently reading the Critique of Pure Reason in

Hi there, I'm 17 years old and currently reading the Critique of Pure Reason in the German language (which happens to be my first language so that's no problem). While reading, one question has arised: How does Kant actually prove the existence of the thing in itself? He argues that the thing in itself stimulates the senses and thereby effects perception. This is an appliance of causality, which is -according to Kant himself- appropiate only in the realm of phenomena. Is this a mistake of Kant? Does he disprove idealism in another part of that book? Is it enough that the existence of the thing in itself is possible to think? Does this have something to do with existence being no predicate? I'm looking forward to an answer.

Kant's transcendental idealism explains the fact that experience presents us objects in a certain spatio-temporal order about which we can have some a priori knowledge by reference to a human capacity, our sensibility, through which alone we can become aware of objects. According to this explanation, space and time are then features only of objects as they appear to us. Confronted with this explanation, we are prone to ask what these objects are like apart from our sensibility, apart from how they appear to us (as spatio-temporal). Within Kant's own account, the concept of a thing in itself answers to this reflection: a thing in itself is any ordinary object (including event) considered apart from the spatio-temporal features it has by virtue of being an object for us (i.e. for beings with our human sensibility). Things in themselves are then the familiar objects of our experience, but considered in abstraction from their spatio-temporal features. And their existence is then no more problematic (if we accept Kant's explanation) than that of the objects of experience.

Moving beyond the Transcendental Aesthetic to the Transcendental Analytic, Kant also holds that the objects of our experience are products of mental synthesis performed by our faculty of understanding. This hypothesis is supposed to explain how we can have some a priori conceptual knowledge about the world of experience, for example the knowledge that every event has a cause. This explanation tells us what, according to Kant's account, things in themselves are: namely, products of the synthesizing activity of our understanding. We cannot be aware of this activity or its products as they are "in themselves", but only as they appear to us. On this reconstruction of Kant's view, things in themselves are then not wholly mind-independent entities that somehow affect the mind, but rather products of mental activity that appear to us a certain way. Here the relation of things in themselves to our experience of them as spatio-temporal is not a causal one.

Yes, Kant does disprove idealism elsewhere in the book: in the "Refutation of Idealism" added in the B edition. This Refutation seeks to show -- not: that there exist wholly mind-independent entities, but rather -- that we must take some of our experience to be of objects in space (which itself is "only" a form of human intuition).

Kant also uses the expression "thing in itself" in reference to various transcendental realist accounts he opposes. In those contexts the expression does refer to wholly mind-independent entities.

Kant's transcendental idealism explains the fact that experience presents us objects in a certain spatio-temporal order about which we can have some a priori knowledge by reference to a human capacity, our sensibility, through which alone we can become aware of objects. According to this explanation, space and time are then features only of objects as they appear to us. Confronted with this explanation, we are prone to ask what these objects are like apart from our sensibility, apart from how they appear to us (as spatio-temporal). Within Kant's own account, the concept of a thing in itself answers to this reflection: a thing in itself is any ordinary object (including event) considered apart from the spatio-temporal features it has by virtue of being an object for us (i.e. for beings with our human sensibility). Things in themselves are then the familiar objects of our experience, but considered in abstraction from their spatio-temporal features. And their existence is then no more problematic (if we...

Kant's contradiction of the will seems to suggest that it is inconsistent for us

Kant's contradiction of the will seems to suggest that it is inconsistent for us to allow abortion; that it is inconsistent to simultaneously will that we live and that allow that our mother could have had an abortion (meaning we wouldn't live...) However, I find this a little unconvincing but can't quite get it down. Is it not consistent to argue that the rights of me as a foetus are overridden by my mother's rights as an adult and that I will everybody to be treated according to the rights the can claim despite the consequences? Thanks a lot in advance!

Kant's contradiction in the will test suggests what you say it suggests only on the assumption that, as a rational agent, one necessarily wills one's own existence. Most human beings are happy to be alive, but it does not follow from this that any human (let alone any rational) being must will its own existence. Indeed, some philosophers have argued that, by giving birth to them, their parents violated their rights. So I think the best way to reject the Kantian argument you are suspicious about is to reject its premise that a rational being necessarily wills its own existence.

Something Kant did think rational beings necessarily will is the continued existence of rational life. Using this premise instead, we might get a moral rule against abortion when the survival of the human race hangs in the balance. Suppose rational beings found themselves in a world where, if they all took themselves to be permitted to act on the maxim to have an abortion whenever doing so promises a more pleasant life, rational life would go extinct. In that world, it would be impermissible to act on that maxim -- though a narrower maxim (e.g., "I will have an abortion if a scan reveals that my child would probably have some natural handicaps in regard to health or appearance") might still pass. In our actual world, survival of rational life is not endangered by a surplus of abortions (more likely the opposite!), so this premise does not look plausible as part of a Kantian argument against abortion.

Two more questions to think about. Suppose the permissibility of abortion did endanger the survival of the human race. And suppose we knew that there are other similarly evolved species living on other planets. Would abortion then be permissible? This question opens a possible individual-species analogy to the first paragraph above. Rational beings must will the continued existence of rational life, but not necessarily their own existence or that of their own species.

Second, what about the permissibility of sex-selective abortion when its universal permission does not threaten the survival of the human species? Are there other Kantian arguments -- related perhaps to the second formula of humanity as an end in itself -- that could support the impermissibility of aborting a fetus merely because it is female?

Kant's contradiction in the will test suggests what you say it suggests only on the assumption that, as a rational agent, one necessarily wills one's own existence. Most human beings are happy to be alive, but it does not follow from this that any human (let alone any rational) being must will its own existence. Indeed, some philosophers have argued that, by giving birth to them, their parents violated their rights. So I think the best way to reject the Kantian argument you are suspicious about is to reject its premise that a rational being necessarily wills its own existence. Something Kant did think rational beings necessarily will is the continued existence of rational life. Using this premise instead, we might get a moral rule against abortion when the survival of the human race hangs in the balance. Suppose rational beings found themselves in a world where, if they all took themselves to be permitted to act on the maxim to have an abortion whenever doing so promises a more pleasant life,...

Is Kant's Categorical imperative overly dependent on empirical considerations? I

Is Kant's Categorical imperative overly dependent on empirical considerations? I think it is since judging the morality of an action by asking what would happen if everybody did the same thing means that the morality of an action is dependent on the contingent features of the world that produce that effect. If everyone did a certain thing then there would be chaos so that is not good Kant seems to say. Well that chaos of course depends less on the nature of the action and it underlying intentions than on the world that action took place in. If everyone stole then society would fall apart but that seems to have more to do with principles of sociology than something that pertains to ethics.

You suggest that Kant's criterion of wrong conduct turns on this question: "If everyone acted the way I am proposing to act, would this have undesirable consequences?"

I think Kant's actual question differs in two respects. Kant is not asking whether the agent would like some fictional world (find it desirable), but whether the agent can will it and her own proposed conduct in it. And the world Kant envisioned is not one in which all act the way the agent is proposing to act, but one in which all are permitted (and take themselves to be permitted) so to act. So Kant's question is: "Can I will the action I am considering along with its universal permission?" The basic idea here is that I should not permit myself an action that I cannot permit all others at the same time.

Let's see how this plays out in Kant's promising example. The agent considers extricating himself from financial difficulty by making a false (lying) promise. He then asks himself whether, in a world in which all took themselves to be permitted to make such promises, he could still will to act in this way. Kant's answer is no: in that fictional world, such promises would not be believed and therefore refused; and agents could thus not will to offer them because they would be useless for their intended purpose.

Now your objection survives this clarification. Suppose the world were such that some nice fairy fulfilled any promises that the promisor fails to fulfill. In that world, it would seem, making false promises would be permissible. For in that world, even if all took themselves to be permitted to make false promises, such promises would (not be believed but) still be accepted. In that world, then, the agent can will his proposed action alongside its universal permission. So it would seem that, as you say, the permissibility of making a lying promise turns on a contingent empirical fact, namely on whether there is some third party ready to step in to ensure that even lying promises are fulfilled.

I am sure Kant and orthodox Kantians would not want morality to be like this. But ask yourself in conclusion whether such responsiveness to basic empirical facts about the world isn't actually an advantage in morality. Would it really be wrong falsely to promise repayment if such false promises were to hurt no one? And is it really implausible to hold (to give another example) that the question whether one is duty-bound to procreate depends on whether enough children would be born even without such a duty?

You suggest that Kant's criterion of wrong conduct turns on this question: "If everyone acted the way I am proposing to act, would this have undesirable consequences?" I think Kant's actual question differs in two respects. Kant is not asking whether the agent would like some fictional world (find it desirable), but whether the agent can will it and her own proposed conduct in it. And the world Kant envisioned is not one in which all act the way the agent is proposing to act, but one in which all are permitted (and take themselves to be permitted) so to act. So Kant's question is: "Can I will the action I am considering along with its universal permission?" The basic idea here is that I should not permit myself an action that I cannot permit all others at the same time. Let's see how this plays out in Kant's promising example. The agent considers extricating himself from financial difficulty by making a false (lying) promise. He then asks himself whether, in a world in which all took themselves to...

Have philosophers before the 20th century had anything good to say about women?

Have philosophers before the 20th century had anything good to say about women? Schopenhauer and Nietzsche obviously did not have very nice things to say and Kant said they were better for matters of beauty and Hegel compared them with plants but I don't know if that is a bad thing since he compared men with animals but I don't know if any philosopher ever said anything good. (I just remembered Mill said good things but I don't who else.)

Plato calls in his Republic for women to participate as equals in the activities of citizenship, saying that surely many women are more excellent than some men and that less excellent women should be disqualified from various roles (along with less excellent males) on account of their lesser excellence rather than on account of their gender.

Plato calls in his Republic for women to participate as equals in the activities of citizenship, saying that surely many women are more excellent than some men and that less excellent women should be disqualified from various roles (along with less excellent males) on account of their lesser excellence rather than on account of their gender.

It seems to me that Kant's categorical imperative implies that we all have a

It seems to me that Kant's categorical imperative implies that we all have a duty to procreate. Is this actually the case? I say this because it seems that any person choosing not having children would be forced to admit that, if their behavior was made a universal law, society would collapse, with a slowly aging and ailing population and nobody to take care of them. Society would die out, and the last generation before the end would be helpless geriatrics suffering the problems of old age with nobody younger to look after them. So do Kantian ethics actually demand that we have children? Or is there a subtler way of looking at the issue?

I used exactly this example in an essay published over 20 years ago as one of the arguments in support of a more subtle interpretation that had been first proposed by Tim Scanlon. On this reading, it is the permission one is claiming for oneself that is to be universalized. So instead of asking whether one can will that all people act on one's maxim of remaining childless, one is to ask instead whether one can will that all people be permitted to remain childless. In the world as it is, we can certainly will this universal permission (because enough others would decide to conceive even without a duty to do so), and therefore each of us is permitted to act on the maxim in question.

I used exactly this example in an essay published over 20 years ago as one of the arguments in support of a more subtle interpretation that had been first proposed by Tim Scanlon. On this reading, it is the permission one is claiming for oneself that is to be universalized. So instead of asking whether one can will that all people act on one's maxim of remaining childless, one is to ask instead whether one can will that all people be permitted to remain childless. In the world as it is, we can certainly will this universal permission (because enough others would decide to conceive even without a duty to do so), and therefore each of us is permitted to act on the maxim in question.

Was there any recorded case of Kant exercising his ethics and perhaps being put

Was there any recorded case of Kant exercising his ethics and perhaps being put in an awkward social situation (I will not lie, I do want to see Kant put in an awkward situation!)? In every day life, one must tell lies every now and then, and it is an accepted part of society (so I think). I find it really hard for Kant to exercise his ethics.

A case very similar to the one you imagine is found in Kant's writing. The case is so widespread in academic life that we can be pretty sure that Kant was speaking from experience.

An author comes up to you and asks: "How do you like my publication?". Well, you actually don't think much of it at all. So what to do? Kant considers that there may be some (perhaps humorous) way of avoiding a straight answer; but it must be found very quickly, because the author has his eyes firmly fixed on you and will be distraught at the slightest hesitation. So is it alright to mislead this poor author -- perhaps with adjectives such as "interesting", "amazing", "unexpected", "special", "solid", "painstaking", which, in his hunger for confirmation, he will understand as praise for the quality of his work? Is it alright to stretch words beyond ordinary vagueness, saying that it's a "good" book, or at least a "decent" one -- or that you "got a lot out of it" or "enjoyed reading it"? Kant doesn't answer his question. But this is significant. Had he been convinced that one must not lie to, or mislead, this poor author, then he would surely have said so.

The passage, by the way, is in Kant's Metaphysics of Morals, second book ("Doctrine of Virtue"), section 9 ("On Lying") near the end under the heading of "casuistical cases". The cases there at issue are "untruths solely for the sake of politeness." This label does not cover cases where the speaker is also motivated by personal gain (as when the author heads up a grant-making foundation). And this label presumably also does not cover a teacher's communications to her student, which ought not to be governed solely by politeness but rather ought prominently to include the end of developing the student's capacities. (Should the student turn out to be untalented in the relevant field, then the teacher has a responsibility to point this out so that the student can develop his capacities in some other directions.)

A case very similar to the one you imagine is found in Kant's writing. The case is so widespread in academic life that we can be pretty sure that Kant was speaking from experience. An author comes up to you and asks: "How do you like my publication?". Well, you actually don't think much of it at all. So what to do? Kant considers that there may be some (perhaps humorous) way of avoiding a straight answer; but it must be found very quickly, because the author has his eyes firmly fixed on you and will be distraught at the slightest hesitation. So is it alright to mislead this poor author -- perhaps with adjectives such as "interesting", "amazing", "unexpected", "special", "solid", "painstaking", which, in his hunger for confirmation, he will understand as praise for the quality of his work? Is it alright to stretch words beyond ordinary vagueness, saying that it's a "good" book, or at least a "decent" one -- or that you "got a lot out of it" or "enjoyed reading it"? Kant doesn't answer his question....

I guess Kant said that it is ALWAYS wrong to lie, even in the most extreme

I guess Kant said that it is ALWAYS wrong to lie, even in the most extreme circumstances (and not only Kant, see Jonathan Westphal's answer to question 2701). I do not want to discuss that. But would you explain me why did he think that? Why didn't he just say that "in normal circumstances" it's wrong to lie. Or that it is wrong to lie "when no other value is disregarded by not lying"? Or something like that... Why did Kant (and some modern philosophers) feel he should make such an extreme claim? It's just that Kant's opinion seems to be so contrary to common sense that there must have been a good reason for him to have it... What reason was (or is) that?

Kant believed that you should only permit yourself to do what you could will all others to be permitted to do as well. So you are to ask yourself: what if the maxim on which I am about to act were available to all others as well?

Here is an example. Hijackers are holding 200 passengers hostage in a plane. They are threatening to kill passengers one by one unless their demands are met. Being the designated police negotiator, you might be able to win time by telling them, falsely, that the government is making arrangements toward meeting some of their demands.

Here Kant would say: suppose your proposed maxim -- lie to hijackers to postpone the execution of hostages -- were universally available. Then everyone would understand that such lies are permissible. And then hijackers could not be influenced by such lies -- they, too, would know that in a situation like the present you are permitted to lie. So the lie you are about to permit to yourself can work only because this permission isn't universal.

Now why should it matter that what you are about to permit yourself wouldn't work as a universal permission? In first approximation, it matters because the reprieve you might get for the present hostages is bought at the expense of greater risks for other hostages. If lies are part of standard police practice in response to hijackings, then lies don't work: hostage takers will not take as evidence the words of police negotiators. Conversely, if police negotiators follow a policy of being truthful even to hijackers, then their words will be credible, and this could of course be quite helpful. By lying, you are free-riding on the truthfulness of other (previous) negotiators, who built up credibility; and you are undermining the efforts of other (future) negotiators, who will lack credibility.

The previous paragraph doesn't quite state Kant's argument. What I wrote is more empirical and so subject to all sorts of empirical issues that Kant would not have deemed relevant (e.g., do hostage takers research previous hostage takings?; are their decisions about whether to trust or not rational?; and so on). Still, what I wrote does get to Kant's central thought: in constructing a morality -- rules about what I may or must not do -- I should think of the sought morality as one that would be followed not merely by myself once, or even by myself always, but by all rational agents throughout all time. A morality so constructed could organize our common life: known by all and shared by all, its rules could successfully coordinate our interactions and lead us to enrich one another's lives.

Kant believed that you should only permit yourself to do what you could will all others to be permitted to do as well. So you are to ask yourself: what if the maxim on which I am about to act were available to all others as well? Here is an example. Hijackers are holding 200 passengers hostage in a plane. They are threatening to kill passengers one by one unless their demands are met. Being the designated police negotiator, you might be able to win time by telling them, falsely, that the government is making arrangements toward meeting some of their demands. Here Kant would say: suppose your proposed maxim -- lie to hijackers to postpone the execution of hostages -- were universally available. Then everyone would understand that such lies are permissible. And then hijackers could not be influenced by such lies -- they, too, would know that in a situation like the present you are permitted to lie. So the lie you are about to permit to yourself can work only because this permission isn't universal...

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