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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Phenomenology Kitten—Kantian Turns

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On this day in Round and Square History 
28 September 2012—Academic Autobiography: Tristes Tropiques (b)
28 September 2011—Seinfeld Ethnography: The Alliance
[a] Appearing to consciousness RF
All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the 
understanding,and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.
                             —Immanuel Kant, 1781
Let's get one thing straight at the outset. 

[b] No-Noumena: "Sunset" RF
Although there are intellectual strains resembling phenomenology that course through the Western philosophical tradition, it really was Immanuel Kant and the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure Reason) that accelerated the process.

This is not to say that the Kant-ankerous Kant-inental philosopher was himself inclined toward the subject matter embraced by later phenomenologists. Far from it.

What Kant did was distinguish between noumena (things in themselves that only a God-like presence could comprehend, combining everything from the olfactory "skills" of cats or the environmental maneuverability of fish and the to the football-sized brains and opposable thumbs of humans) and phenomena. It is not difficult to see the roots of phenomenology from there.

Kant was no mushy "subjectivist," but he was a particularly rigorous one. From the elusive noumena that only God could comprehend, Kant emphasized the phenomena that we (or wonder-kittens, if he ever thought about them) are capable of apprehending, sometimes with superior technology. 
[c] "Clouds" RF

This means that Kant destabilized any easy notion that the world "really is" the way that we perceive it. Kant had other agendas, but his observation spurred a great deal of thinking about those phenomena. We will meet some of those thinkers this month.

And tomorrow we will consider why Western thinkers spent two thousand years avoiding this rather obvious topic...while thinkers all over the rest of the world found it quite unproblematic. 

Western philosophy—a spectacularly skillful set of thinkers...often utterly incapable of understanding two or three of the most basic themes in the world around us.

Never before have so many great minds been so dense about...what should be obvious.
[d] "Weather" and "terrain" RF
[Originally posted on September 3, 2014]

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