Tuesday, December 23, 2014

José Pablo Feinmann on Kant and David Hume, Philosophy Here and Now (Temporada 1-5) (Spanish-language video)

This is Chapter 5 of the first season of Argentine philosopher José Pablo Feinmann's public TV series Filosofía aquí y ahora, “T1 CAP 5. Kant, la experiencia posible y la experiencia imposible” Encuentro n/d Filosofía y Praxis YouTube 02/05/20134:

Here Feinmann deals with Kant's basic theory of cognition. The core of it is that the ego, the individual Subject, receives perceptions through the senses. But the Subject cannot assume those perceptions constitute knowledge of the Object perceived. They are the Subject's impressions of the Object and the Subject can work with those perceptions. But the Subject can never assume that these perceptions provide knowledge of the Object as it is, i.e., the thing-in-itself in Kant's terms.

Kant argued that two categories of perception were attributes of the Subject, the human ego: Space and Time. And these qualities are imposed upon the perceptions of the external world.

Feinmann says that for Kant, "El sujeto constituye la realidad" ("The Subject constructs reality"). And, "El sujeto le da forma a las cosas" ("The Subject gives form to things").

Feinmann stresses that Kant was building on the work of the English empiricist and political economist David Hume. While this may seem strange for a core philosophy of the trend known as German Idealism. But it's true. Kant was trying to understand and describe how the individual consciousness organizes the information it receives from the empirical world. William Edward Morris and Charlotte Brown in their 2014 entry on Hume for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy note, "Kant reported that Hume's work woke him from his 'dogmatic slumbers.'"

But as Feinmann says, Kant's view of the ego puts him in close realtion to Descartes. One could say that Kant's theory of cognition was an attempt to solve the problem that Hume raised for Descartes' philosophy, in which Descartes had to depart from the cogito ergo sum methodology in order to explain the reality of the external world. Descartes deduced the existence of God from the self-awareness of the ego. But he had to invoke God in a deus ex machina argument to explain the existence of empirical reality outside the ego.

Kant based the reality of the external world, the res extensa, on the constituitive function of the ego. As Feinmann puts it, "El mundo que el sujeto conoce es el mundo que el sujeta construye" ("The world that the Subject knows is the world that the Subject constructs").

He jumps to the 20th century to mention Sigmund Freud's theory of the Unconscious and Jacques Lacan's (1901-1981) theory of reality as a world of symbols distinguished from the real, which is the world we don't see or know. Both of these have implications for Kant's theory and our understanding of it today.

Feinmann explains at this point (18:30ff) that his jumping around int time in his discription of philosopy is a way of incorporating the non-linearity of the subject matter. Around 23:40, he gives a definition of philosophical idealism:

Entonces, esto es el idealismo filosófico ... que entroniza al sujeto y, de algún modo, en realidad, subalterna a la materia porque la materia deviene objeto cuando el sujeto le da forma. En este sentido, van a ser muy distintas las filosofías materialistas.

[So, this is philosophical idealism ... that enthrones the Subject and, in some way, in reality, subordinates the material {empirical reality} because the material becomes an Object when the Subject gives it form. In this sense, the materialist philosophies will be very different.]

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