What, according to Kant, is pure understanding

6.2.1 Theoretical philosophy

Theoretical philosophy - in a formulation by Kant - is about the question “What can I know?” Fundamental for this, as for all modern philosophy in general, is Kant's writing Critique of Pure Reason worked. (A comprehensive introduction to this work is neither possible here nor expedient at this point. However, dealing with Kant's philosophy requires a certain familiarity with the project and the vocabulary of his theoretical philosophy. This is therefore discussed below.)
At the beginning of Critique of Pure Reason stands the unconquered Contrast between rationalistswho believed a knowledge of pure thinking possible and proceeded from innate ideas, and Empiricistswho all traced knowledge back to experience. This opposition continues with the question of the possibility or impossibility of metaphysics: Kant submits both positions to his criticism, that of the rationalists (or - as Kant puts it - "dogmatists"), that of innate ideas, such as the existence of God, go out, and thus prematurely accept the possibility of metaphysics, and the position of the empiricists (or "skeptics") who consider metaphysics - that is, knowledge that transcends experience - to be impossible. Under metaphysics the “science of the first principles of human knowledge” was traditionally understood (KrV B 871). Traditional metaphysics is concerned with what lies behind appearances, the being and the reason for being, knowledge from mere concepts that rises above empiricism. The Critique of Pure Reason does away with this traditional metaphysics and explains why it is impossible.
At the same time, human reason does not escape the problems of metaphysics. This is the dilemma of (previous) metaphysics: Reason necessarily asks questions (about God, freedom and immortality), but in answering these questions it inevitably (by seeking knowledge independently of experience) becomes entangled in contradictions. Metaphysics has thus become a “battleground for endless disputes” (KrV A VII f.). Against this background, Kant's concern is in the Critique of Pure Reason understandable: His goal was to finally put metaphysics on a solid, scientific basis and put an end to the dispute. Programmatically, the project of his criticism is expressed in the following quote:

“But by this I mean [the Critique of Pure Reason, Ed.] Not a criticism of books and systems, but that of the faculty of reason in general, with regard to all knowledge to which it may strive, regardless of all experience, hence the decision of the possibility or impossibility of a metaphysics in general and the determination of both Sources, as the scope and limits of the same, but everything from principles ”(KrV A XII).

Under what conditions is Metaphysics as science possible? Kant formulates this problem as follows: Under what conditions are synthetic judgments "a priori" possible? A judgment "a priori" means knowledge independent of experience. Only this fulfills the conditions of scientific nature, namely universality and the necessity of knowledge (Ludwig 2007, p. 58).

“It depends on a characteristic by which we can safely distinguish pure knowledge from empirical knowledge. Experience teaches us that something is one way or another, but not that it cannot be otherwise. If a proposition is first found which is thought at the same time as its necessity, then it is an a priori judgment. Second: Experience never gives its judgments true or strict, but only assumed and comparative generality (by induction), so that it really has to mean: as far as we have perceived so far, there is no exception to this or that rule. So if a judgment is thought in strict generality, i.e. so that no exception is allowed as possible, it is not derived from experience, but absolutely valid a priori ”(KrV B 3f.).

Examples of a priori judgments are for example: “A circle is round” or “All changes have a cause”. Kant refers to mathematics in order to show that such analytical judgments with strict generality and necessity are possible (KrV B 4). A judgment "a posteriori“In contrast, refers to empirical knowledge; however, any empirical knowledge is necessarily incomplete (just because the sun rose yesterday and every day before, one cannot know whether this will also be the case tomorrow). Judgments a posteriori therefore do not fulfill the characteristic of strict generality.
Another pair of terms is fundamental to understanding the Critique of Pure Reason. A "analytical“Judgment refers to predicates already contained in the subject; these statements only explain to a certain extent (e.g. the circle is round). "Synthetic“Judgments add something to the subject of the sentence; they expand knowledge and not only explain. An example from mathematics is: “7 + 5 = 12”; because “12” is not included in either “7” or “5” (KrV B 15f.). The metaphysics with which Kant is concerned here contains synthetic judgments a priori; it is "synthetic" in that it aims not only at explanatory, but expanding knowledge and a priori, in that - as the term meta-physics (what is behind physics) already indicates - it wants to go beyond empiricism:

“First of all, as far as the sources of metaphysical knowledge are concerned, it is already in their concept that they cannot be empirical. The principles of the same (to which not only their principles, but also basic concepts belong) therefore never have to be taken from experience: for they should not be physical, but metaphysical, i.e. to be knowledge lying beyond experience. Hence neither external experience, which is the source of actual physics, nor internal experience, which constitutes the basis of empirical psychology, will be its basis. It is therefore knowledge a priori, or from pure understanding and pure reason ”(Proleg. § 1, 17).

The possibility of metaphysics depends on the possibility of synthetic judgments a priori.
Before Kant addresses this core question of the Critique of Pure Reason in the preface to the second edition, he clarifies why metaphysics could not be practiced as a science up to now. According to Kant, the mistake that metaphysics has made so far consists in the assumption that “all knowledge must be based on objects; but all attempts to find something a priori about them through terms, which would expand our knowledge, came to nothing under this assumption ”(KrV B XVI). Kant's solution, which reverses the perspective, is as "Copernican phrase"Entered the history of philosophy:

“One should therefore try to see whether we do not get on better with the tasks of metaphysics by assuming that the objects must conform to our knowledge, which in this way agrees better with the required possibility of knowledge of the same a priori, that of objects Before it is given to us, something should be fixed. It is just as concerned with this as with the first thought of Copernicus, who, after he did not want to go away with the explanation of the movements of the heavens, if he assumed that the whole host of stars revolved around the viewer, tried to see whether it might not work better, when he turns the spectator and, on the other hand, leaves the stars alone ”(KrV B XVI).

In other words, the knowledge should no longer be based on the object, but the object should be based on the knowledge. According to Kant, human knowledge proceeds “constructivistically”: We only recognize what our cognitive faculties have put into the objects beforehand. However, this thinking is not just arbitrary. Otfried Höffe explains this as follows:

“Kant's revolution of the way of thinking demands that human reason free itself from its bias in this natural perspective, from epistemological realism [which asserts that knowledge is dependent on the object, T.A.]. The necessity and universality belonging to objective knowledge, he maintains, do not originate, as we usually assume, from objects; they owe themselves to the knowing subject. However, Kant does not say that objective knowledge depends on the empirical constitution of the subject, on the structure of the brain, on the human race and on social experiences. Such an assertion would seem rather nonsensical to Kant. The experience-independent conditions of objective knowledge that lie in the pre-empirical constitution of the subject are examined ”(Höffe 1996, p. 53 f.).

The consequence of the Copernican turn is that metaphysics as ontology (as it was traditionally understood), as knowledge of beings independent of the subject, is no longer possible. A knowledge that concerns the “thing in itself” is no longer possible; our object-related knowledge can only relate to “appearances”. Here again Höffe:

“The punch line of the Critique of Pure Reason lies in the entanglement of both sides [epistemology and ontology, T.A.]; a philosophical theory of beings: according to Kant, what an (objective) object is can only be achieved as a theory of knowledge of beings and a theory of knowledge only as a determination of the concept of an objective object ”(Höffe 1996, p. 54).

The problem arises as to how the initial question, namely whether metaphysics as a science (with strict generality and necessity) can be clarified. What is the path that Kant is taking to achieve this? Kant names this path with the term “criticism”. The whole (later) philosophy of Kant is committed to the critical project. "Criticism" is here in the original sense of "distinguish, judge, bring to justice" (krinein) meant (Höffe 1996, p. 48). In his work the Critique of Pure Reason Theoretical reason, i.e. reason directed towards object knowledge, is brought to justice.
Kant's critical philosophy is Transcendental philosophyi.e., it aims at the conditions of knowledge in general which precede experience. “Transcendental” must not be confused with “transcendent”. While "transcendent" or "transcendence" refers to a supersensible "background world" (Nietzsche), Kant means with "transcendental", as it were, the "grammar" of knowledge, ie the structures that precede and shape every act of knowledge (cf. (Höffe 1996, P. 65)).
After these preliminaries, which are essentially in the “Preface” and in the “Introduction” to the Critique of Pure Reason are treated, Kant implements his program of investigation or criticism of reason: A transcendental philosophy asks about the conditions of the possibility of knowledge. Kant distinguishes between two "basic sources" from which our knowledge arises:

“Our knowledge arises from two basic sources of the mind, the first of which is to receive the representations (the receptivity of impressions), the second the ability to recognize an object through these representations (spontaneity of concepts); through the former we are given an object, through the latter we are thought of in relation to that idea (as a mere determination of the mind) ”(KrV A 50 = B 74).

For Kant, only the interaction of sensuality and understanding (the ability to think the object of sensual intuition) make knowledge possible. A famous phrase goes:

“Without sensuality, no object would be given to us, and without understanding no one would be thought. Thoughts without content are empty, views without concepts are blind. ... The mind cannot look at anything and the senses cannot think. Knowledge can only arise from the fact that they unite ”(KrV A 51 = B 75).

Question 30: Explain the following pairs of terms in Kantian philosophy: a) Judgment a priori - Judgment a posteriori, b) Analytical judgment - Synthetic judgment!

Answer (click here)

a) Judgment a priori - Judgment a posteriori: A posteriori judgment is only possible on the basis of experience, i.e. an empirical judgment, e.g. London is a city in England. An a priori judgment, on the other hand, is independent of experience and cannot be refuted by it, e.g. a circle is round, every change has a cause. The characteristics of a priori judgments are unconditional necessity and strict generality.
b) Analytical judgment - synthetic judgment: Analytical judgments explain the subject of a sentence, e.g. "A bachelor is an unmarried man". Synthetic judgments (extension judgments) add something to the subject. Kant's example is "All bodies are heavy".

Question 31: What is meant by the “Copernican phrase”? What is the consequence?

Answer (click here)

The "Copernican turn" in metaphysics refers to a change in the perspective of knowledge: Traditional metaphysics assumed that knowledge is based on the object (epistemological realism), while Kant's critical philosophy assumes that the object is based on knowledge judges, ie knowledge is constructive - we recognize in objects what we put into them. The consequence is that metaphysics as ontology (as it was traditionally understood), as knowledge of beings independent of the subject, is no longer possible.

Question 32: What is meant by Kant's “critical” project?

Answer (click here)

Kant uses the term "criticism" in the original sense of "distinguish, judge, bring to justice" (krinein). His work can be divided into a “pre-critical” and a “critical” period (from around 1770). The object of criticism must first of all be reason itself. So the previous question is: What can I know? This requires a self-examination of reason. Kant's metaphor for this approach is that the faculty of reason itself is subjected to a judicial process in which reason is "accused" and "judge" at the same time.

Question 33: What is “Transcendental Philosophy”?

Answer (click here)

“Transcendental philosophy” is another way of describing the project of the critique of reason.Kant is concerned with the conditions for the possibility of knowledge in general; the transcendental is that which precedes all knowledge. “Transcendental” must not be confused with “transcendent”: while “transcendent” means something that transcends experience (and therefore cannot be an object of certain knowledge according to Kant's epistemology), “transcendental” knowledge refers to the assumed structure of knowledge that first and foremost, individual knowledge