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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.

What is the difference between philosophical idealism, such as the idealism of

What is the difference between philosophical idealism, such as the idealism of Kant, and the meaning generally given to being an "idealist?"

It is perhaps worth pointing out, belatedly, that Kant's idealism (in the first sense) also includes idealism (in the second sense). For example, the ideas of pure reason (the topic of the 'Dialectic' chapters of the Critique of Pure Reason) have a role in our thoughts concerning the nature of reality. This is idealism in the first sense. However, that role functions by being something akin to an 'ideal' in the second sense. Specifically, the ideas of pure reason function 'regulatively', by guiding our thought towards something that is strictly speaking impossible, but the being guided is never-the-less important for us.

Is Kant's project of reconciling freedom with an apparently deterministic nature

Is Kant's project of reconciling freedom with an apparently deterministic nature still relevant given how Quantum mechanics does not (as I understand it) see nature as a deterministic totality?

In my opinion, it's no harder to reconcile freedom (free choice, responsible action) with determinism than to reconcile it with indeterminism. On the contrary, it may be easier; see, for example, this SEP entry. According to compatibilists, we can act freely even if determinism should turn out to be true and hence even if the indeterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics should turn out to be false. But no one thinks that the truth of indeterminism (whether quantum indeterminism or some other kind) by itself would suffice to give us freedom. The debate is about whether indeterminism is necessary for freedom. In my view, incompatibilists bear the burden of showing that it is and have failed to discharge that burden.

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?

Being an autodidact in philosophy, while academically undertaking a Major in

Being an autodidact in philosophy, while academically undertaking a Major in Political Science, can I be considered a philosopher? Not by entitlement, but by the notion that one creates and studies the philosophical world view, as anybody of such a field does regardless of academic degrees. I am so disturbed with some comments that it is only through credentials that one becomes a philosopher, that I would would like to defy and counter this confined notion by proving that it is, indeed, not the only means. Thus I require supporting views on this topic. So, once again, can I be considered a philosopher whilst also being an autodidact?

Philosophy is a love of wisdom and a philosopher is one who both loves wisdom and is possessed of some. There are plenty of people with philosophy degrees whom I would hesitate to call philosophers and there are plenty of folks who have never taken a course in philosophy whom I would be happy to recognize as part of the Socrates guild. Given this analysis, I don't believe a philosopher would worry about whether or not he or she could be considered a philosopher.

About a year and a half ago I read Henri Bergson's work Matter and Memory for

About a year and a half ago I read Henri Bergson's work Matter and Memory for one of my philosophy classes. I have begun to reread the his work and can not help but wonder: what is M. Bergson's place in the history of philosophy? I find many of his arguments to be convincing, but where do he, and his arguments, stand after the philosophical works that the analytic tradition produced? I have tried to learn more about M. Bergson as a person and thinker, but I have been unsuccessful in finding anything relevant after the advent of the analytic tradition. I do know that he won the Nobel Prize for literature for his work, Creative Evolution, but then it would seem as though his work became unimportant. So, I guess my general question is: does M. Bergson have any importance to philosophy today, and where does he stand in relation to present-day philosophy and the analytic tradition? Would a philosopher of the analytic tradition today think that M. Bergson's work is not useful to philosophy?

It is interesting how philosophers go completely out of fashion, and sometimes come back in, but this is quite rare. There is no reason why someone should not read Bergson and find some excellent arguments and ideas in it, but to continue arguing in the ways in which he did would be to invite being ignored. He is just not at the right set of problems for today nor does he use the appropriate conceptual vocabulary. This is not to criticize him, but for him the owl of Minerva has flown right away and is not likely to return, even at dusk!

What are your views on Slavoj Zizek's work? Too many fallacies of equivocation?

What are your views on Slavoj Zizek's work? Too many fallacies of equivocation? Or is he successful in what he claims to accomplish; that is, rehabilitate Hegel. I have talked to many who greatly disliked him and pointed out Slavoj's supposed 'play of words' that is aimed to confuse rather than clarify. According to them, Zizek ends up sounding profound precisely because of this equivocating word play. It'd be interesting to see what philosophers think of the matter.

I myself find Zizek to be very interesting, although I am not familiar enough with his work as a whole to assess it. One problem I find Zizek's work to pose is that he is operating outside the standard categories used by most analytic philosophers, especially because his work is so thoroughly soaked in a particular understanding of Freud deriving in large part from Lacan's rereading of Freud. However, in an article in the July 12, 2012 issue of The New York Review of Books, "The Violent Visions of Slavoj Zizek," John Gray argues Zizek's work, "achieving a deceptive substance by endless reiterating an essentially empty vision...amounts in the end to less than nothing." I recommend this article to you, but I also recommend that you keep reading Zizek's work in order to assess Gray's criticisms for yourself.

is Jungs' theory of synchronicity simply nonsense? I can make neither head nor

is Jungs' theory of synchronicity simply nonsense? I can make neither head nor tail of it. It is often quoted by 'new agers' as sign that we are all in a way "connected" (i.e networks for a higher consciousness, etc) and I feel that they have abused the original concept, but I myself can't even understand it.

Perhaps we might start with a distinction between two things the accusation of nonsense might mean. One is that it's patently false; the other is that there's no coherent idea. Your worry is pretty clearly the latter, and I'm sympathetic: whatever exactly Jung meant, it's hard to be sure that one has gotten hold of it. With that in mind, my sense is that there's an interesting idea behind the notion of synchronicity, though not one I'm inclined to believe.

Insofar as I understand it, synchronicity is meaningful coincidence. More particularly, it's meaningful coincidence between an inner state of mind and an occurrence in the outer world. By saying that synchronicities are coincidences, Jung meant that neither of the events causes the other. By saying that the coincidence is meaningful, Jung seems to mean two things. The first, and more obvious, is that the outer event corresponds in a meaningful way to the inner state. In one of Jung's well-known examples, a patient is recounting a dream about a golden scarab. At that moment, Jung heard a noise outside his window. He opened it, and a beetle flew in - one with an iridescent coloring that suggested the golden beetle of the woman's dream. Jung grabbed and and presented it to the patient, with the words "Here is your beetle." According to Jung, this led to a breakthrough in the woman's treatment. The apparently meaningful correspondence is clear enough. The second aspect of this meaningfulness is that such events are not accident or chance; not coincidence in the sense of what we might call mere coincidence.

This obviously raises a good many questions. One is why we should believe that cases like tjis are not mere coincidence. Jung seems to have thought that apparently meaningful coincidences happen more often than chance would predict. If that were true, it might provide some evidence for the existence of genuine synchronicities, though how one would go about collecting the evidence, let alone calculating the relevant probabilities is very hard to say. And even if we were able to establish that meaningful coincidences happen more often than chance would predict, it would take yet further argument to decide whether that such "connections" were cases of one event causing the other, or cases of both events having a common cause or yet some other sort of relationship.

Of course what Jung had in mind fits into a broader picture in which meaning is woven into the universe itself. In fact, Jung's outlook has more in common with the views of, say, Renaissance figures such as Marsilio Ficino or Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa than with the way those of us who admire science look at things. This is part of what makes it hard to get a grip on; we aren't used to thinking that way. For my own part, I don't share Jung's outlook, but I find the exercise of trying to grasp its outlines a fascinating one. I'm deeply skeptical of Jung's view, but I'm not prepared to say that the idea of synchronicity is simply unintelligible.

Frege said 'a fact is a thought that is true’. Does that mean truth is factual

Frege said 'a fact is a thought that is true’. Does that mean truth is factual thoughts?

Frege's views about truth are complex, and there is a great deal of controversy concerning their proper interpretation. (Robert May and I have recently written a paper trying to outline Frege's views.) So I won't try to go into this in detail. But the first point to remember is that, for Frege, a "thought" is not any kind of mental episode. Frege means by a a "thought" roughly what other philosophers mean by a "proposition". So "truth is factual thoughts" would have to mean something like "truth is factual propositions", which probably sounds rather less exciting.

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.

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