February 28, 2008

Kant’s method demonstrates a tacit dogmatism - assumptions smuggled in without proof

Science of Logic Reading Group: Not Adding Up from Roughtheory.org by N Pepperell

This extended close critique of Kant leads Hegel to a larger objection to Kant’s method - its self-restriction to appearances or phenomena, to what can be sensuously perceived. Contemplating objects as sensuously perceived, for Hegel, is never sufficient to grasp objects in their Notion. Kant’s conclusions are therefore restricted to what is available to sensuous perception - yet Kant extrapolates his conclusions to reason as a whole. Hegel argues that this amounts to an argumentative leap from:
all our visual, tactile and other experience shows us only what is composite; even the best microscopes and the keenest knives have not enabled us to come across anything simple (424)
Then neither should reason expect to come across anything simple. (424)
Close examination of Kant’s method, however, demonstrates a tacit dogmatism - assumptions smuggled in without proof, that composition (rather than continuity) is the mode of relation of substances, and that substances are therefore absolute and are related contingently. From the point of view of Hegel’s argument about quantity, Kant’s approach amounts to a separation of the two moments of quantity, that fixes each moment as absolutely separate. This approach results from treating substance, matter, space, time and similar categories as absolutely distinct and divided from one another - taking these categories as continuous, sublates this division. In Hegel’s words:
Since each of the two opposed sides contains the other within itself and neither can be thought without the other, it follows that neither of these determinations, taken alone, has truth; this belongs only to their unity. This is the true dialectical consideration of them and also the true result. (425)
Hegel’s move here is extremely interesting: this sublation in the category of the continuous, contains division - but as potential, as possibility (425). Hegel will develop from this an interesting critique of non-dialectical positions for confusing abstractions that grasp such potentials, with concrete or really existing entities. Hegel argues:
What is abstract has only an implicit or potential being; it only is as a moment of something real.
Such intellect commits the error of holding such mental fictions, such abstractions, as an infinite number of parts, to be something true and actual; but this sensuous consciousness does not let itself be brought beyond the empirical element to thought. (427) 1:09 PM

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