«DAVID T. LARSON University of Kansas Kant suggests that his contribution to philosophy is analogous to the contribution of Copernicus to as- ...»
Necessity in Kant;
Subjective and Objective
DAVID T. LARSON
University of Kansas
Kant suggests that his contribution to philosophy
is analogous to the contribution of Copernicus to as-
tronomy—each involves the revolutionary reorientation
of a discipline. Kant describes his revolution as the
move from taking objects to be determinative of know-
ledge to taking knowledge to be determinative of
objects. This revolution should be seen in its proper context; it is Kant's response to such philosophers as Descartes, Leibniz, Newton, and Hume. Descartes initi- ated a new approach to philosophy, a new method, where the central concern of this approach was epistemologi- cal. Descartes posed the questions about the possibil- ity and certainty of knowledge which philosophers through Kant regarded as fundamental. With respect to philosophy done within this epistemological context, Kant's contribution is revolutionary in showing the concept of an object to be dependent on the conditions for the knowledge of objects. Kant is, in a stronger way, also revolutionary with respect to philosophy which preceded the epistemological context. Kant makes the most of the new method he shares with Descartes; he does not only, with Descartes, take epistemology to be fundamental to philosophy, but he also recognizes that the notion of an object must itself be an epistemologi- cal notion.
I wish first to provide something of a characteri- zation of the epistemological method in philosophy. To the extent that the characterization is successful, it will support the claim that there is such a common method. Whether or not the method is fully shared with anyone else, however, I wish to explicate its role in Kant's critical philosophy.
Philosophy has long laid special claim to being rigorous. It has claimed a role comparable only to mathematics in developing consistent, if not certain, systems of thought. In reflecting upon itself, philo- sophy must reflect upon logic or logical reasoning, and in doing this it must provide an interpretation of nec- essary connection. The interpretation chosen affects to a very great degree the perception which philosophy has of itself, its task, and its method. There appear to be three sorts of interpretations which can be 481 Auslegung, Vol. X I, N o. 2 I S S N : 0733 4311 chosen. Aristotle, for example, finds the primary sort of necessity to be causal necessity between things in the world. Syllogistic necessity is interpreted as causal necessity. Descartes assumes a psychological interpretation of necessity. Reasoning should procede only by way of such connections as cannot be thought otherwise if one's conclusions are to be logically cer- tain. If two ideas can be thought other than as con- nected, that is, if their connection can be doubted, then necessary reasoning will not depend on the con- nection. Wittgenstein displays a third interpretation when he says that all necessity is linguistic.
Kant assumes a psychological interpretation of necessity. The interpretation is psychological in a broad sense, psychological as opposed to physical or linguistic. Something is necessary if it cannot be thought otherwise. This is subjective necessity. It has to do with what can or cannot be thought, not with what can or cannot be. If necessity is primarily psychological, then physical and linguistic necessity, if there be such, must be understood in terms of psychological necessity. If necessity is primarily subjective, then objective necessity, if there be such, must be understood in terms of subjective necessity.
It is in a methodological sense that psychological necessity is prior to any other necessity. To say that psychological necessity is primary is to claim that it must be first in the order of understanding, or at least, to suggest that it be taken as such. It is not in itself a claim that psychological necessity has other than subjective validity, although it must arguably lead to such a claim. The choice of a psychological interpretation is a beginning point of philosophy, a fundamental choice of method, not the sort of thing which can be argued for, although the choice is presumably dependent on the prospects for profitable employment of the method. With the choice of the psychological interpretation comes the epistemological problem as fundamental. This problem is the problem of the establishment of the objective necessity of subjectively necessary conclusions. Objective necessity must either be argued for from subjective necessity, or abandoned. Descartes offered a theistic version of such an argument; Hume abandoned objective necessity.
The epistemological problem must, in the Cartesian context, be dealt with before any other, because the way in which reason applies cannot be understood until objective necessity is either established or abandoned.
The psychological interpretation takes necessity to be first understandable as necessary connection between mental entities, or representations. Representations which cannot be separated in thought are necessarily connected. The thought of the one makes the thought of the other in some sense unavoidable. Necessary connection might not be immediately evident. It might well 482 be quite difficult to determine whether or not two representations are necessarily connected, and some sort of close introspective examination which methodically attempts the separation might well have to be undertaken. Necessary connection, however, does not depend on its recognition as such. Someone might well be mistaken in his judgements of necessary connection even though this judgement requires only introspective examination. Representations, it is assumed, are perfectly definite entities, and their inter-relations do not depend on being recognized. Another important assumption is that error can, with care, be avoided. The mind is open to its own inspection, and if it will only procede with all possible caution it will avoid introspective error.
Kant calls representations "modifications of the mind." Intuitions and concepts are both representa
tions. Intuitions are representations of objects; 2
concepts are representations of representations. A single concept subsumes many representations. Judgements subsume representations under concepts, and are the sorts of things which can be true or false, analytic or synthetic, a priori or a posteriori, necessary or contingent.
The notion of a necessary judgement is Kant's fundamental notion of necessity. It is this notion which is Kant*8 understanding or interpretation of logical necessity. Logical necessity is for Kant something psychological, or conceptual; it is neither substantial nor linguistic. Because the notion of a necessary judgement is fundamental, it is not very descriptive of necessary judgements to say that they are judgements which are logically necessary. Logical necessity must itself be understood either as substantial, psychological, or linguistic necessity; and Kant has chosen to understand it as psychological necessity. To say, then, that a necessary judgement is a judgement which is logically necessary is to seek to explain one notion by another which is dependent on it.
A necessary judgement is a judgement of a matter which cannot be thought otherwise. Said this simply, however, it sounds as though judgements contrary to necessary judgements are never made. Such judgements— that is, logical errors—are of course made regularly.
There is then a sense in which the matter of a necessary judgement can be thought otherwise. In another sense, however, it cannot be thought otherwise. This sense depends on the identification of a set of ideal conditions of judgement under which no judgements contrary to necessary judgements can be made. Logical errors, that is, could not be made under such ideal conditions. Descartes is suggestive of the sorts of conditions that would constitute ideal conditions. The conditions would surely include Descartes' criteria of certainty, namely clarity and distinctness of conception. Judgements concerning concepts the conceptions of which are recognizably unclear can easily be thought otherwise, that is, they are not necessary. Descartes seems to suggest that, if only we can get the appropriate concepts perfectly clear, we will not err in our judgements. Judgements made under ideal conditions are judgements made on the basis of concepts alone, for it is only with concepts that the requisite clarity can be hoped for.
All necessary judgements are a priori, and all a priori judgements are necessary. A priori judgements are such judgements as Kant calls pure, or free from any empirical element. These judgements are not made on the basis of any particular experience, nor do they depend on any other judgements so made. A judgement 1 which is not a priori is called a posteriori. Necessary judgements are judgements which cannot be thought otherwise, but any judgement made on the basis of experience can be thought otherwise. If on the basis of experience one representation is subsumed under another, the judgement could be otherwise because the empirical element can be thought otherwise. It is just in case a judgement is not based on experience that there is nothing about the judgement which can be thought otherwise and the judgement is necessary.
A judgement is analytic if it is explicative of a concept; synthetic, if it connects a representation with another which is not a part of it. Concepts are rules for the introduction of unity into a manifold.* They are rules according to which different representations are treated as identical in some respect. Concepts synthesize diversity into unity. Concepts may be quite complex; the sum total of a variety of distinguishable rules functioning together. As a more complex rule incorporates simpler rules, so a complex concept incorporates, or includes, simpler concepts.
The simpler are internal to the complex. A complex concept is dependent on those internal to it in a way in which they are not dependent on it. The use of the more simple does not involve the use of the more complex as its use does theirs. Saying that one concept is internal to another means only that the use of the latter involves the use of the former; it does not mean that the former can only be used in the latter. A concept can be confusedly thought; that is, the concepts internal to it might not be recognized as such.* One concept might not be recognized to depend on other concepts when it does in fact depend on them, just as it might not be recognized that the following of one rule involves the following of certain others. An analytic judgement is a clarification of a concept. It is the recognition that a certain predicate concept is internal to a subject concept. The subject concept incorporates, or depends on, the predicate concept.
Because an analytic judgement only recognizes this 484 dependence, it adds nothing to the subject concept.
That is, it does not further qualify or determine the subject. An analytic judgement does not mark off a limited use of the subject concept—a use restricted by the predicate concept—but recognizes an element of the subject concept which is common to its every possible use. An analytic judgement is a necessary judgement because the (clear) thought of the subject involves the thought of the predicate. An analytic judgement cannot be thought otherwise.
Judgements are either analytic or synthetic. Synthetic judgements, instead of discovering a second concept in a first, bring together two representations external to one-another. A predicate is not found in, but added to, a subject. A synthetic judgement makes a further qualification of the subject, which is thought to be, not just itself (as it would be in an analytic, or identical, judgement), but something else as well.
The use of the concept as so judged is a use restricted by the predicate concept.
Every judgement is either a priori or a posteriori and either analytic or sythetic. No judgement, can be analytic a posteriori.' Analytic judgements depend only on the clear recognition of concepts, but a posteriori judgements are based on experience. All analytic judgements are a priori. All a posteriori judgements are therefore synthetic. Both a priori analytic judgements and a posteriori synthetic judgements are possible, and the bases for making them are easily seen.
Analytic judgements are made when the understanding gives consideration to its own concepts. The basis of an analytic judgement is the clear thought of a concept, for an analytic judgement is a judgement only of what is internal to a concept. Synthetic judgements connect a subject with an external predicate, a concept not thought in the thought of the subject. Synthetic judgements cannot therefore be based simply on the thought, however clear, of the subject. The understanding must discover the connection somewhere else, in something other than the concepts judged. Experience can provide a basis for synthetic judgements, thus connecting concepts which are not internally connected, but judgements based on experience are a posteriori synthetic.
Analytic judgements are paradigms of necessary judgements. The thought of the subject cannot be separated from the thought of the predicate. Analytic judgements do not go beyond concepts; they are not judgements about experience, but judgements about the possibilities of thought. An analytic judgement simply points out that one concept is internal to another and that it is therefore unavoidable that any use of the latter concept involve the use of the former. The ground of an analytic judgement is the identity which a concept has with itself, and it is because no concept 485 can be thought as other than itself that an analytic judgement is a necessary judgement. The ground of an analytic judgement is a connection internal to a concept.
Concepts external to one-another can also be connected. When the connection is a matter of experie n c e — a matter, that is, of conjunctions of intuitions—the synthetic judgement of the connection is never necessary, because the various intuitions can always be imagined separate. A posteriori synthetic judgements are not necessary judgements because, as Hume shows, any two impressions, though conjoined in experience, can be separated in thought. Are there, however, any synthetic judgements which are necessary?
Are there any connections which cannot be thought otherwise between concepts external to one-another?
Since only a priori judgements can be necessary, the question concerns the possibility of a priori synthetic judgements.