Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Videos on Kantian Ethics

Here are some very good videos on Kantian Ethics from a 2003 conference at the University of San Diego. The highlights include Allen Wood on Kant and Fichte and Property, Henry Allison on the Categorical Imperative, Stephen Darwall on Kant, Fichte and the Second-Person Standpoint, Robert Pippin on the Kantian State, and, what looks to be an interesting panel on the categorical imperative. These are not the only talks. There are actually 23 videos in total, all devoted to Kant and ethics. Unfortunately, it does not look like they have the papers online.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Kant's "Refutation of Idealism"

I am curious what people think about the argument of Kant’s “Refutation of Idealism” [B274]. I have been sitting in on a Kant course at NYU/Columbia, and recently we discussed Kant’s argument.

I am wondering to what extent people find the argument convincing. I think this must depend on to what degree one finds transcendental arguments (TAs) convincing and what one thinks such arguments can potentially show. If one does find TAs convincing, then with the “Refutation” we are left with questions about what the argument is meant to prove, what form it takes, and whether it is a TA.

I take it that the “Refutation” is meant to counter the external world skeptic. By arguing for the necessary conditions of a premise the skeptic accepts (that we are aware of ourselves as determined in time) Kant revels that the skeptic is committed to the existence of persisting external objects. Insofar as the argument relies on demonstrating the necessary conditions of a certain experience, the argument seems to be a transcendental argument in the sense people like Strawson [1] and Stroud [2] use the term. From some remarks in Paul Frank’s book All or Nothing it appears David Bell has argued that in some respect the “Refutation” is not a transcendental argument, but I have yet to get my hands on this article [3].

Here is how I see the argument running in its most simplistic form:

P1 I am aware of my existence as determined in time.

P2 A necessary condition of time determination or the determination of successive states is something persisting in perception.

P3 A necessary condition of the persisting thing functioning in time determination is that it is not inside me.

C1 A necessary condition of the persisting thing not being inside me is that it is outside me.

The way Kant puts the conclusion is as follows: “Consequently, the determination of my existence in time is possible only be means of the existence of actual things that I perceive outside myself” (B275).

This argument appears to prove Kant’s Theorem: “The mere, but empirically determined, consciousness of my own existence proves the existence of objects in space outside me” (B275).

If my formulation works then it should avoid the objection that that all the argument proves is that we must take ourselves as conscious or aware of objects, regardless of whether or not such objects do exist.

Here are some remarks about the premises of the argument. P1 the skeptic must accept and does accept if the skeptic is Descartes, Berkeley or Hume. P2 is based up the analogies which precede the “Refutation” and depends heavily on the First Analogy on substance. P3 seems to depend on a separate argument:

1. A persisting thing cannot be intuited through inner sense or as in me (i.e., not mental).

2. If the persisting thing were in me then it would be a representation.

3. If it is a representation then it is intuited as in time.

4. If the inner representation is intuited and determined in time then a persisting thing is required.

5. Appeal to a representation is circular. We are trying to determine our inner successive states as in time, so we cannot appeal to a representation as they are what require time determination.

6. The persisting thing cannot be a mere representation, but must be a thing outside me.

7. Therefore, the persisting thing must be external.

Allison thinks the argument of the "Refutation", which I take to have four steps, actually has a fifth step that says something about how consciousness of my own existence is at the same time an immediate consciousness of objects existing outside me [4]. Kant does makes this point, but it is a mere elucidation of the implications of C1, and not exactly the final conclusion of the argument. This fifth step is perhaps why the argument is sometimes thought to only show that we must take ourselves as aware of objects regardless of their existence. Robert Stern, in his helpful reconstruction of the argument, quotes Nicholas Rescher, who takes the argument to show that physical or external objects must be “assumed by minds” while “the issue of their actual mind-independent existence remain[s] unaddressed” [5].

Any thoughts?


[1] P.F. Strawson, “Skepticism, Naturalism and Transcendental Arguments” in Skepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985).

[2] Barry Stroud, “Transcendental Arguments,” Journal of Philosophy 65 (1968).

[3] Paul Franks, All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005) p. 202.

[4] Henry Allison, Kant’s Transcendental Idealism (New Haven: Yale, 2004/2nd Edition) p. 285-298.

[5] Robert Stern, Transcendental Arguments and Scepticism: Answering the Question of Justification (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000) p. 143.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Brandom Woodbridge Lectures

Update: The dates of Robert Brandom's Woodbridge Lectures at Columbia have changed:

Robert Brandom, University of Pittsburgh
"Animating Ideas of Idealism"

Lecture One: "Norms, Selves, and Concepts"
November 12th 2007, 6:15-8:00 PM, 301 Philosophy Hall, Reception to Follow

Lecture Two: "Autonomy, Community, and Freedom"
November 13th 2007, 6:15-8:00 PM, Heyman Center Common Room

Lecture Three: "History, Reason, and Reality"
November 14th 2007, 6:15-8:00 PM, Heyman Center Common Room

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bernstein Tapes

Todd over at Bernstein Tapes now has up Jay Bernstein's (New School) lectures on Kant's Critique of Judgment. The lectures are currently taking place, and so far the first four lectures have been posted. They are certainly worth listening to.

Friday, October 12, 2007

New York German Idealism Workshop

I'm excited to announce that Dietmar Heidemann (Hofstra) and I are starting up a new philosophy workshop series dedicated to research on German Idealism. The New York German Idealism Workshop Series will meet twice a semester at a New York college or university in order to provide the many philosophers, scholars, and graduate students in the New York vicinity an opportunity to meet and share their current research. In the last few years it has become more than evident that there is an increasing interest in German Idealism. We feel that the current philosophical climate is perfect for such a workshop series, and we hope it will further scholarship, intellectual bonds and a deeper understanding of the period.

The workshop series will focus on Kant and German Idealism, but is not at all limited to Fichte, Schelling and Hegel. At each workshop a paper will be presented (approx. 45 minutes), and after a 10-15 minute response paper, we will have a discussion period. Two weeks before the workshop the paper will be circulated by email. This will give us time to consider the work more thoroughly than if we were to only listen to a presentation, as is customary in department workshop series and conferences. Our hope is that such a format will bring about a deeper engagement with the each paper.

At the first meeting on Friday, November 30 Angelica Nuzzo (Brooklyn College) will present a paper titled, "Reason, Understanding, and the Necessity of Conflict for a Phenomenology of the Contemporary World".

This first meeting will be at 3:30 at the New School (79 5th ave) in room D1004 (10th floor). The entrance to the building is on 16th Street, just around the corner from the main entrance to 79 5th ave.

We strongly encourage you to pass this announcement on to other people interested in German Idealism, especially those people in and around the NY area. Although it is not necessary, RSVPs are welcome (please send them to gottg135@newschool.edu).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hegel and the Mental

In the spirit of my post about the revised translation of Hegel's Philosophy of Mind, I thought I would put up a link to the on-line edition of a book by Willem deVries (University of New Hampshire) about Hegel's Theory of Mental Action (Cornell, 1988). He also has some articles on Hegel and some on Sellars here.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Philosophy Job Market Blog

For those of you getting ready for the job market, here is a great blog dedicated to the philosophy job market that offers a dose of reality with a spoonful of comedy. Check out the series of posts on rejection letters that "rock the passive voice". I wish PSG and everyone the best of luck!

Hegel's Philosophy of Mind

Here is a review of Michael Inwood's revised translation of Hegel's Philosophy of Mind (Oxford). At a talk given at the New School, I vaguely remember Terry Pinkard remarking that he was working on a new translation of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Now with the translation of Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of Spirit 1827-8, which I mentioned here, and Yovel's translation of Hegel's "Preface" to the Phenomenology of Spirit, we are becoming overwhelmed with Hegel translations (which is not at all a bad thing). I only wish a press would do with Hegel what Cambridge has done with Kant--offer a standard translation of all his major works. One issue with the Inwood translation that Sebastain Rand mentions in his reivew is that Inwood translates 'Verstand' with 'Intellect' when many other translations go with 'understanding'. Rand mentions some other issues as well, but overall he finds the Inwood translation to be a significant improvement on the Wallace/Miller translation. When will someone revise the Heath/Lachs translation of Fichte's Science of Knowledge (1794/95 Wissenschaftslehre)?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Kant Yearbook (CFP)

Dietmar Heidemann (Hofstra) has issued a call for papers for the Kant Yearbook, a new journal he is editing. Unlike the Kantian Review and Kant-Studien, each issue of the Kant Yearbook will be thematically focused. The first issues will be on Kant's teleology, a theme in Kant studies that has yet to receive the attention it deserves.


The new KANT YEARBOOKis now accepting submissions for its first upcoming issue in 2009.

The KANT YEARBOOK is an international journal that publishes articles on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. It is the KANT YEARBOOK’s goal to intensify innovative research on Kant on the international scale. For that reason the KANT YEARBOOK prefers to publish articles in English, however also articles in German will be accepted. Each issue will be dedicated to a specific topic.

The first issue’s topic is KANT’S TELEOLOGY

All papers, historical or systematic, related to KANT’S TELEOLOGY are welcome though there is a preference for the following themes: The theory of organized beings and the concept of life (‘Critique of Judgment’, §§64-66), the antinomy of teleological judgment, the doctrine of the postulates, the final purpose, modalities (§76), intuitive understanding, archaeology of nature (§80), the problem of the two introductions, teleology in history, Kant’s teleology in German Idealism, Kant’s teleology and the theory of evolution/Darwinism, Kantian teleology and modern biology.

The KANT YEARBOOK practices double-blind review, i.e. the reviewers are not aware of the identity of a manuscript’s author, and the author is not aware of the reviewer’s identity. Submitted manuscripts must be anonymous; that is the authors’ names and references to their work capable of identifying them are not to appear in the manuscript. Detailed instructions and author guidelines will be available here.

For further information contact the editor:
dietmar.heidemann@hofstra.edu or the publisher Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/New York (http://www.degruyter.com/ ).

Deadline for submission is May 15, 2008.

Editor: Dietmar H. Heidemann (Hofstra University)
Editorial Board: Henry E. Allison (University of California at Davis), Karl Ameriks (Notre Dame), Gordon Brittan (Montana State University), Klaus Düsing (University of Cologne), Daniel O. Dahlstrom (Boston University), Kristina Engelhard (University of Cologne), Hannah Ginsborg (University of California at Berkeley), Michelle Grier (University of San Diego), Thomas Grundmann (University of Cologne), Paul Guyer (University of Pennsylvania), Robert Hanna (University of Colorado at Boulder), Georg Mohr (University of Bremen), Robert Stern (Sheffield University), Dieter Sturma (University of Bonn), Ken Westphal (University of Kent), Markus Willaschek (University of Frankfurt)

Publisher: De Gruyter Berlin/New York