Logical and Spiritual REFLECTIONS
Book 2.A Short Critique of Kant’s Unreason
Chapter 1.Kant’s transcendental reality
Introduction. René Descartes and David Hume, and other enlightenment philosophers, both enriched and impoverished Western philosophy. They gave it increasing breadth and depth, but they also instituted many serious errors of thought, many of which have lingered and festered till today. Some of these errors were inevitable, being merely a surfacing of deep, ancient common problems; but many errors could have been avoided with a bit more effort.
The same can be said concerningImmanuel Kant. Even as he earnestly tried to fix some of the damage caused to philosophy by his predecessors, he caused further and more profound unnecessary havoc. For instance, his theory of reality has greatly exacerbated (although he denied it) the Cartesian mind-body dichotomy. What in Descartes’ philosophy was a not fully answered question becomes in Kant’s an institution. We will here first give some consideration to this philosophical legacy, namely his famous dichotomy between:
·Things as they appear, or “phenomena”, which constitute theimmanentworld of common experience, which (according to Kant) is illusion.
·Things in themselves, or “noumena”, which (according to Kant) constitute atranscendentalworld to which we have no empirical access, which is reality.
According to Kant, these two sets of things (or objects) are necessarily different, and so constitute separate worlds. We can ‘know’ the world of appearance, insofar as we have access to it through our senses and ordinary reasoning relative to them. But this is of necessity not the real world, since it is tainted by consciousness. The world of reality is by definition unknowable, since the senses have no access to it, and if they did it would not be independently real anymore. Hence, we have no true knowledge and can have none.
Kant followed Hume in believing man’s ‘knowledge’ to be necessarily limited and distorted, because (i.e. simply by the very fact that) it is mediated by the senses. We only perceive what the senses present to us, but have no knowledge of the way things beyond the impressions they give us really are. Kant attempted to mitigate or overcome such negative conclusions by laying claim to some knowledge by other means, i.e. by radically non-empirical means.
According to him, our perception and understanding of the world is a result of filtering or molding of our sensory impressions througha prioriintuitions (of space and time) anda prioriconcepts (such as causality). Such “pure forms of sensibility and of understanding” impose on us a certain basic view of the world, independently of (i.e. without regard to or appeal to) any content of sensation. They are structural preconditions of, respectively, any perception and any conceptual understanding, which therefore to a certain extentdetermineour thoughts without any reference to experience, which means effectively ‘subjectively’ (in one sense of the term, i.e. at least not objectively).
Kant referred to this upside-down approach to human knowledge (which reverses the traditional empiricist assumption that all ideas must derive from experience) as his “Copernican revolution”. But of course by attempting such a solution to the difficulty Hume had presented him with, Kant only all the more confirmed the problem.
But, I submit, all the above is based onarbitrary claims and misunderstandings.
All such claims of his are premises rather than conclusions. If we ask by what validated methodology Kant has justified these beliefs of his, one is hard put to give a cogent answer. Since Kant has (like Hume) essentially given up on the intricacies of inductive logic, or perhaps never known or understood them, the arguments he puts forward can only constitute window-dressing around what is simply an intuitive-declarative mode of philosophizing. Such an authoritarian approach (hetellsus what the truth is, from a privileged standpoint) is bound to lead to errors and inconsistencies.
Perhaps the best way to respond to such ideas is not to focus so much on their tangled and dubious genesis from doubtful premises, but rather to concentrate on identifying and evaluating the finished product. It would be foolish to reject all of Kant’s thought wholesale because of its imperfections, for it also contains a great many interesting new insights and perspectives, which do enrich philosophy. However, his thought is also rich in holes and contradictions; and these certainly can and should be highlighted.
Domains. It should be noted that although Kant, siding with Hume, officially denied our having any faculty of transcendental knowledge, the idea of transcendental reality remained central to his philosophy.
That is, although he did not officially advocate a human faculty with access to the noumenal domain, the simple fact that it was being at all considered and discussed (as something that may conceivably exist) gave it a sort of legitimacy. In this way Kant could eat his transcendental cake (de jure) and have it too (de facto). Of course, to conceive of something does not strictly imply that it exists. But to place that idea of possible existence at the center of one’s discourse does signify an effective belief in and approbation of it. The idea is used indirectly and in a concealed manner, and gradually seeps in.
Moreover, because Kant considers the world of appearances as co-extensive with the world commonly believed in and studied by natural science (i.e. the material world), he needs a transcendental world to justify and explain less materialistic beliefs like God, souls, mind, consciousness, freewill, ethics, aesthetics, and the like (i.e. spirituality). For, while paying lip service to Hume’s apparently scientific limitations on knowledge, Kant’s philosophical aim and ambition is to get beyond these limitations and reinvigorate the concerns of philosophy that they have seemingly invalidated. Thus, ultimately, though he is careful not to declare it too explicitly, Kant implicitly upholds a transcendental (i.e. otherworldly) reality.
Nevertheless, Kant’s philosophy is clearly, overall, a form of skepticism. For, although he (unlike more radical skeptics) does not deny outright, but rather tacitly (and sometimes somewhat explicitly, too) assumes, there are things in themselves behind things as they appear, he still does deny our ability to access them through our faculties of empirical knowledge (notably our sense organs and brains), and thus effectively condemns us forever to the limited and virtual world of appearances.
It follows, paradoxically, that what we are to call reality thenceforth (i.e.transcendentalreality) is of necessity something imaginary for us, since we have no empirical or extraordinary way to know it; and the world of appearances that we do know must be called illusory (since it is in principleother thansuch reality). Of course, this whole scenario is being claimed true, i.e. as reality, so we are fed a deep contradiction here.
It should be noted that this infelicitous quandary is a consequence of Hume’s rejection of inductive logic. If induction is doubted, hypothetical thought is an unacceptable form of human cognitive behavior, for in a purely deductive logic (if such a thing were at all conceivable), a thesis must either be true or false – no degrees of truth are admitted. A mere hypothesis, a thesis that has no special evidence going for it other than the meaning of its terms (if that), is in that context necessarily wrong.
If mere hypothesizing is illegitimate, all the more so isspeculation(be it metaphysical or otherwise). For a speculative thesis is not only hypothetical, but moreover we can think of no way that it might eventually be empirically reinforced or rejected. That is to say, it is not only not-yet verified or falsified, it is in principle neither verifiable nor falsifiable. In that context, the possibility that we might someday think of a way to test our speculation is not admitted as an argument, since only certainties one way or the other are given credence.
It must be stressed that the stated dichotomy between things-in-themselves and things-as-they-appear, however arrived at by Kant, is understood by him as implyingtwo antithetical domains. They are presented as essentially without relation to each other, or at least without demonstrable relation; therefore, discrepancy between them is inevitable (epistemologically if not ontologically). Since they are unrelated or of unknown relation, they are necessarily in part or in whole contradictory.
To refute Kant, we must first askhow he himself knows enoughabout this transcendental domain to know it is unrelated to, different from and contradictory to the domain of ordinary knowledge? If he denies humans any means to knowledge of such ‘true reality’, then he is contradicting himself in the very act of discussing the issue, since to do so even hypothetically is to claim a means to knowledge of it of sorts.
It is worth noting that Kant also, in some contexts, regards the phenomenal domain to be somehow and somewhatcaused bythe noumenal domain. But he would be hard put to explain how he got to know of such causation, given his belief system (about empirical knowledge and about knowledge of causation). By such illogical thinking, Kant imputes us with inextricable ignorance (which he of course is seemingly somehow exempt from, to some degree at least).
Evidently, Kant is functioning simultaneously on two planes. Like any ordinary man in practice, he considers himself in contact with external reality and able to know to some extent whether his ideas correspond or not to it, are caused by it or not. On the other hand, as a philosopher influenced by Hume’s argument that we only know our impressions and not the external facts that we believe caused them, he is intellectually forced to reject all such commonsense belief. His whole system of philosophy is an attempt to satisfy both of these tendencies in him; but he was not sufficiently logical a person to find a consistent solution.
How then, we may well ask, do we in fact ordinarily come to the distinction between reality and appearance? What answer can we propose instead of Kant’s? We need to explain how these concepts are understandable to both Kant and ourselves, for his ability to talk about these things and our ability to understand him must be taken into account and satisfactorily explained.
The truth is, we arrive at these conceptsin relation to each other. Reality is to us a characterizationofmost appearances,exceptthose few we class as illusory because of intractable empirical or logical problems they give rise to. Thus, appearance is thecommon characterof reality and illusion, rather than equal to illusion and opposed to reality. Conversely, appearance is an aspect of a larger reality, namely the fact that the latter is (at least in part) knowable through consciousness.
Hence, the two concepts are in fact related – each giving rise to the other, whether by an epistemological or by an ontological route. Things in themselves are known by an accumulation of appearances; we gradually perceiveaspects, parts or features ofthe things themselves, and (by means of comparisons and contrasts and other logical acts) form credible concepts of them. The concept of “things in themselves” does not spontaneously arise in our heads out of nowhere, as some sort of hearsay report of a world beyond our own; it first arises as a characterization of most elements of our world.
Therefore, in actual practice, reality emerges as buta subcategory ofappearance, and not as a phenomenological categoryopposed tothat of appearance. The two concepts are harmonious, not dissonant. Reality is sometimes legitimately opposed to illusion (illusory appearances), but never to appearance as such (quaappearance), note well. All appearances, whether real or illusory, are parts (however unequal in status) of the same one world. And anynon-apparent realitiesthere might eventually be (as we may by extrapolation suppose or speculate) are logically also part of that same one world.
This is the way those basic concepts can be logically reconciled. Kant failed to see it.
The notion of a mysterious “other reality” behind (or above or beneath or beyond) ordinary reality is a later construct, of shamans, religious mystics and philosophers. There may be some eventual truth in it, but it cannot displace the basic concept of real appearance as against illusory appearance. We may eventually establish a concept of “true reality” or “ultimate reality” as against ordinary reality, through some convincing mystical insight or at the end of a long inductive process, but this would extend or deepen rather than nullify ordinarily apparent reality.
If we label this presumed, ordinarily hidden domain as Kant did ‘the noumenal domain’, one thing is sure about it – it does not consist of ‘another set of phenomena’, existing somehow apart from the multiplicity of phenomena of ordinary experience. The ‘noumenon’ can thus safely be assumed to beunitary andnon-phenomenal. We can on the basis of this insight perhaps equate it to the underlying One of philosophical Monism, or the ‘original ground of being’ or ‘original mind’ of Buddhism, or again to the God of Monotheism.
Our faculties. To claim things are constitutionally not as they seem, is to claim that our faculties of cognition (whatever these be) make things seem other than they really are. By opposing reality and appearance to each other, Kant effectively asserts thatthe very fact that we have facultiesof perception and understanding invalidates them.He takes it for granted that such faculties of knowledgenecessarilydistort – just because they are faculties, i.e. structures of some sort through which knowledge has to be acquired.
Of course, Kant does not assault our faculties so frontally. He in fact claims to defend them, to widen their powers. But by assigningthemthe power to make sense of sensory impressions, he severely limitsourpowers of cognition and thus creates anunbridgeable gapbetween us and the world around us. It logically follows from his doctrine that our faculties are incapable of putting us in contact with true reality, and can only deliver to us a semblance of reality.
But that implied claim of his is quite unproven, deductively or inductively. It is based on Hume’s analysis of the issue; but if we examine that, we find it contains many factual errors and errors of reasoning. Moreover, by claiming to know what our faculties are or are not capable of, Kant is – within the framework of his own system of philosophy – engaged in transcendental knowledge. For if we can only know the cognitiveproducts ofour faculties, then not only external reality is unknowablebut also our facultiesare unknowable. Under his régime, to know our intermediaryfaculties would in principle be as impossible as to know what lies beyond them.
Kant’s fundamental doubt and the massive philosophical system he built around it are, in the last analysis, just arbitrary assertions arising out of utter personal confusion. However intelligent and well meaning he may have been, that is the bottom line. The whole thing seems credible to some people only because they have simply not sufficiently reflected on the implications involved – i.e. because they are still as confused as he was.
To give a physical analogy to Kant’s view of our faculties – it would be like saying that the very fact that water is sent through a pipe is proof that what comes out at the other end is not water, or is dirty water. Or again, it would be like saying that information processed by a computer is necessarily mixed up by it (i.e. sometimes you feed it a 1 and it spontaneously returns a 0, or vice versa). Some physical systems do significantly affect the things they process, but it does not follow that all do so.
Similarly for our sensory mechanisms and our brain. It is quite conceivable that our faculties convey information without twisting it out of shape. A filter does not necessarily function incorrectly. To claim it to always function incorrectly, one would have to demonstrate the fact specifically. We cannot just say-so, or generalize from some dysfunctions to others not like them. We cannot just assume that whatever stands in between us and the world necessarily blocks or distorts the view; some screens are effectively transparent.
Furthermore, we cannot assume that our faculties distortwithout being guilty of self-contradiction, for we are presumably using these very faculties to assert it.Therefore, some non-distortion must logically be admitted. This argument is acoup de graceagainst any idea of constitutional dysfunction of human knowledge faculties. If Kant counter-claims that his own assertion is the one exception to the rule, he is logically required to provide some convincing proof, which specifically for some credible reason exempts the facultiesheuses in making the assertion. The onus of proof is on him, if he wishes to exempt himself from his skepticism towards our faculties.
Moreover, contrary to Kant’s suggestion, we do not filter, mold, format or otherwise affect our experience of the world through “forms” like space and time or like causality. We rathermentally project “overlays”(i.e. transparent templates) on the field of appearance, mentally splitting it into parts and into distinct entities, of different sizes and various distances apart, assuming the outlines and depth of things, comparing and contrasting their measurements, mentally noting the sequences of events, their presences and absences, their frequencies.
It is on the basis of such primary observations and ratiocinations, that we proceed with conceptualization and draw many conclusions about the world. Though affected by the object, none of this affects the object.
For example, when we subsume all humans in the class of ‘humans’, we are in no way making any actual change in the objects we have called humans, but only affect (or express) our perception (or rather, conception) of these objects, implying the objects have a certain commonality and distinctiveness which justifies classing them under one head. Such classification counts asa mere inductive hypothesis, anyway, for it is not excluded that someday a different classification may seem more appropriate to us. The history of biology, for instance, is replete with such changes in classification.
More deeply, the senses do notmediatebetween us and the world seemingly beyond them (and thus screen the world from our view). We first experience the external world itselfdirectly. The senses play some role in triggering that experience and in memorizing it, but they do not hinder or obscure it.This is the only self-consistent hypothesiswith regard to perception of externals.To assert the opposite hypothesis (viz. that we do not perceive matter, but only mere images or other mental effects of matter) is self-contradictory; therefore the truth of our hypothesis is self-evident, logically incontrovertible.
It is important for philosophy to mature at last, and accept to be disciplined by inductive as well as deductive logic. Philosophers must understand and accept and internalize the fact thatanytheory that yields a contradiction must be abandoned and replaced by an alternative theory, or at least modified till it becomes consistent. If we evaluate Kant’s theory of knowledge with this indubitable and inescapable principle in mind, we are logically forced to reject it. Every philosophy isan inductive hypothesis, which must win and keep our respect in the same way as proposed theses do in other fields.
If we persist like Kant in following Hume’shypothesisthat we do not experience the world itself, but some impressions or ideas that may or may not reflect the world, we will never give ourselves the chance to investigatethe alternative hypothesisthat we do experience the world itself. Hume’s skeptical hypothesis is not consistent. The alternative hypothesis is admittedly difficult to flesh out, but at least it is consistent. If we remain eternally paralyzed by Hume’s perspective on things, we will never make an effort to imagine and test ways and means to flesh out the direct perception theory.
Our cognitive operations are in principle transparent; they do not in any way directly affect the objects that we observe or modify their appearance to us. At least, they do notif we are carefulnot to get carried away by our ideas without due attention to detail and to logic. If we observe and reason vaguely and loosely (or worse still, perversely), we of course may well expect distortions to occur. That constitutes misuse, improper use, of our faculties.
Humans are, to be sure,fallible. For a start, we are largely ignorant, simply due to the sheer immensity of the world around us. Moreover, we often falsely perceive (or more precisely, conceive) things, as we later discover. Many of our ideas and theories have turned out to be in error, though we adhered to them for very long. And of course, under the influence of such false beliefs, we are every day being misled in our perceptions and conceptions, in the sense that we may (a) fail to perceive certain things that are present because we do not expect them there, or (b) perceive things that are absent or perceive things incorrectly, by confusing our imaginations or expectations with observations; or (c) we may misinterpret what we perceive or do not perceive.
But the negative effects our acquired beliefs may have on our subsequent perceptions and conceptions should not be considered as blinding or distortion due to our cognitive faculties. It is true that we are not infallible; but that does not imply we arewhollyfallible. The problems in such cases are simply insufficient information and, more shamefully, imperfect logical practice, such as ignoring details, drawing hasty conclusions, and so forth. The proof that the faculties are not to be blamed is thatit is through those very same faculties that we occasionally uncover and correct the errors concerned.
Our conceptions and more largely our theories may of course also affect thingsindirectly, ex post facto, by influencing our actionsrelative to the objects concerned. For example, if some people classify members of another race as sub-human, this thought will cause them to engage in racist acts, harming and maybe killing those they hate. But such destruction of the object by acts based on wrong thoughts is not to be confused with cognitive distortion such as Kant suggests. It occurs, to repeat, after the fact.
Induction. The attack on our faculties by Hume, Kant and many other philosophers, is fundamentally due to a failure to take into account and understand inductive reasoning. Contrary to Hume’s belief, as I have shown elsewhere, there is no “problem of induction”. Hume just made major errors of induction and deduction when he put forward this problem and other related problems. As for Kant, he just took Hume’s view for granted, without any truly critical review.
The principle of induction validates human knowledge, simply by demanding from those who deny knowledge that they do more than just assert their skeptical claim – i.e. that they provide a relevant, consistent and sufficiently empirical hypothesis in support of their theoretical posture. If they cannot do so, then we can reasonably continue to rely on our senses and on our reason. If we examine their doubts closely, we find them to be hypotheses (or even speculations), which tightly or loosely refer to some real or imagined difficulties in traditional assumptions, but which are themselves not devoid of equal or worse weaknesses.
The principle of inductionis thatwhat appears may be taken as reality until and unless we have some experience or reason that suggests we are engaged in an illusion.Appearance is reality, except when otherwise proved. Blanket skepticism is logically impossible; skeptics must prove their case specifically. This principle underlies Aristotle’s laws of thought, and ties them together in a single and very powerful methodological formula.
We cannot sustain the contrary hypothesis that the very fact of appearance is proof of illusion – for such a claim would be self-denying. If all appearance is illusory, then the illusoriness of appearance is illusory. It follows that at least some appearance is real –has to be admitted asreal. To claim something, any thing, illusory, it is necessary to presentspecificevidence or argument to that effect. Illusion cannot but be exceptional; it cannot be taken as the rule. For illusion is by definition the denial of reality; therefore, to assert an illusion some reality must first be acknowledged. There is no way out of this logic, though sophists continue to ignore it.
By ‘appearance’ we refer to the common character of both ‘realities’ and ‘illusions’ – i.e. it is what these two contradictory characterizations of any ‘thing’ have in common. All three terms imply, when we use them, both being in existence and being a content of consciousness. Thus, an appearance is something, whether real or illusory,of which we are aware. Itexistsat least to that extent, i.e. as an object of consciousness, though not necessarily beyond consciousness. If it existsonlyin consciousness, it is illusory; if it existsbothin consciousness and outside it, it is real.
Note well that the concept of appearance is neutral with regard to the issue as to whether the current content of consciousness is ‘objective’ or ‘subjective’. Appearance is a level of consideration occurring before this issue is or needs to be resolved. Thus, appearance is ‘neither objective nor subjective’ – or, more precisely and less paradoxically put, it leaves that issue open for the time being .
We consider that many things also exist unbeknownst to us; i.e. we believe in things that arereal though not apparent. We do so on the basis that things in our experience do not all appear together, but some appear at one time, others at another time; also, some things disappear, and then maybe reappear. Moreover, different apparent people have different experiences. Thus, by extrapolation, in the way of a convincing inductive hypothesis that aimsto integrate all such data, we acknowledge a reality beyond appearance.
However, this assumption can only be consistently discussed with great caution. We cannot claim to know something outside consciousness, since the moment we make such claim we are including it within consciousness. We can, however, claim to knowofsomething conceptually and indirectly, without implying we have full consciousness of it, in the sense that direct experience confers. We can consistently claim hypothetical knowledge, without implying categorical finality. That is, in an inductive framework, there aredegreesbetween knowledge and ignorance.
Now, the point I wish to make here is that in criticizing Kant’s idea of a “transcendental” or “noumenal” reality, I am not like many philosophers before me denying him or us the right to metaphysical speculation (or even some sort of direct transcendental consciousness). It is not the conception (or even perception or apperception) of a reality beyond the one we ordinarily experience that I am contesting. In that case, what is wrong with Kant’s view? Simply this: that he pits the presumed transcendental domainagainstthe ordinary domain, both epistemologically and ontologically.
He maintains that such reality technically cannotat allbe known, yet he implies he knows it enough to affirm it somewhat. He considers it is radically different from and indeed opposed to appearance, yet he considers that our sensory faculties have access only to appearance. It is such internal contradictions, which give Kant’s theory its characteristic flavor of paradox (and therefore ‘depth’ in some silly people’s estimate), that need to be emphasized and challenged.
It would be logically quite acceptable to state that no matter how much we know, we will never be omniscient; i.e. that there is always more to know. It would even be quite acceptable to say that there are things out there of which we will never know, that we cannot ‘know’ except very speculatively. This is all consistent, if it is formulated in the way of inductive probability, i.e. as hypothetical projection from the given to the not-yet-known or the largely unknowable. But it cannot be proposed like Kant did as a categorical truth, known by totally “deductive” means.
To give a concrete example: we can imagine that our universe, the material universe of physicists and astronomers, is a mere speck of dust in a much larger material universe full of zillions more such specks of dust. Science might come to such a conclusion for some reason (some such idea is already somewhat suggested in the String theory, with its many new dimensions). Or we might conceive this as a forever-speculative possibility, arguing that our telescopes and other instruments of observation of necessity cannot take us beyond the 13.7 billion year old universe apparent to us.
Such eventual claims are very different from Kant’s claim of a transcendental reality. Not because of any mystical suggestions his theory might have – for we could formulate consistent speculations to that effect too. But simply because the larger universe they propose is presented asa further extensionof the apparent smaller universe, and not as its antithesis. In such non-Kantian perspective, experience remains the ultimate basis of all knowledge, however inductively remote and speculative it becomes. Even if such speculation is largely ultimately unverifiable and unfalsifiable, it is at least kept as consistent as possible with all experience.
In the Kantian perspective, on the other hand, experience is depreciated and ultimately nullified. First, experience is effectively discarded wholesale as incapableby itselfof informing us regarding any aspect of reality whatever; we must rely on non-empirical “forms of sensibility and understanding” to get any knowledge out of itat all. That is, in ordinary knowledge, experience is as good as nonexistent, before reason comes into play and creatively gives it shape. Secondly, as regards knowledge ofultimatereality, experience (and indeed, reason) is something devoid of any epistemological value or ontological significance whatsoever. That is, experience (and indeed, reason) is misleadingin principle, i.e. necessarily wrong.
It is this radical transcendental “idealism” (i.e. anti-realism) that distinguishes Kant’s philosophy, and makes it logically untenable. Many observers and commentators fail to spot this fundamental antinomy in Kant, because Kant’s discourse is very intricate and broad ranging, and it is full of outwardly reasonable lookingapproximationsof the human condition. Many other thinkers, of course, do realize the confusions Kant’s philosophy has sown.
Kant’sCritique of Pure Reason(1781; 2nded. 1787) can be read on the Net athttp://philosophy.eserver.org/kant/critique-of-pure-reason.txt. For a brief exposition of it, seehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critique_of_pure_reason(though keep in mind there are disagreements among commentators).
To call it a revolution was apt. To call it Copernican, I am not so sure, for the benefits or disadvantages were not comparable. This desire to imitate Copernicus, and find some ingenious new formula that would ‘turn things around’, and surprise and impress everyone, is sheer vanity. Philosophers and logicians must learn to overcome it within themselves, and be content with development or evolution instead of revolution. Kant, for all his breadth and genius, had a mind insufficiently disciplined by logic and too easily carried away by vague fantasies.
Using the word ‘intuitive’ here in its more pejorative sense.
For instance, when Kant speaks of a “transcendental deduction” he is in fact claiming “transcendental knowledge” of sorts for himself. He may dress it up as “deduction”, but it is the “transcendental” part that counts. Read his lips.
It is interesting to note the (not fortuitous) similarity between Kant and Wittgenstein in this respect. The latter invalidates ordinary language, and considers that the things that really count and are interesting to philosophy are therefore unattainable; but at the same time he holds onto a wistful interest in those faraway things. Of course, this was all pretentious posturing, since Wittgenstein communicates all of it to us through ordinary language (how else could he present his thesis to us?), which means that his actions are inconsistent with his thoughts, which means that the latter must be regarded as false (since the former are inevitable).
People who think thus forget that science is not certainty, but discipline in the midst of uncertainty (see Feynman pp. 15-28). Science progresses by imagination – which is of necessity at first, and in a sense forever, somewhat hypothetical. A thesis is hypothetical even if it is ‘only just conceivable’; i.e. even if its credibility is at the lower limit of truth, provided it has not been refuted by experience or logic. Such a thesis still has some epistemological status and value, even if it is not comparable in certainty to theses with more evidence to support them. At the other extreme of this range of truths, we have self-evident truths, i.e. pure empirical data or contradictions of self-contradictory statements.
One’s faculties of cognition are the physiological and psychological apparatuses which make possible one’s consciousness of things other than oneself, and also perhaps of oneself. We need not be able to define them much more precisely than that to discuss them, though of course we can say that they include (at least, most obviously) the sense organs and the brain.
Note well this reflexive thought, which many commentators on Kant have missed.
That would be a true “Copernican revolution” – or rather, evolution! To free philosophy from repeating the same mistakes again and again. To look beyond our mind-sets.
Though current science estimates the universe as 13.7 billion light years wide, it does not categorically exclude something beyond; as Feynman puts it: “but it just goes on, with its edge as unknown as the bottom of the bottomless sea” (p. 10).