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Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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Old 08-17-2011, 09:11 PM   #16
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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What the article fails to accept or credit, however, is that the multitude of changes occurring in the sum total of reality just at the moment the ball leaves the pitcher's hand are simply "unperceivable" to anyone through those same senses that let us track the reality of the ball in order to strike it.
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As these realities are imperceptible they bear no relevance to the stated 'reality', surely?
They are imperceptible to the guy holding the bat. They are not impercebtible to the race of beings who's star just went supernova as the batter swings. Both are part of the reality of the universe.

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The enlightenment's faith in the believe that the universe could be "solved" through the use of our limited means to perceive it was, at best, naive.
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That was then, this is now. We have so many advances that allow us to measure the previously immmesurable that I think they can be considered correct-ish.
And that's what they thought during the Enlightenment, "We're so much smarter than those backwards Dark Age peons." With all our advances come many new and more difficult questions. In truth, the smarter we get the dumber we realize we are.

We are limited beings, the universe is infinite - to me those are two immutable truths. Bounded by those truths, the extent of our ability to perceive and understand the true "reality" of the universe - it's meaning and workings - is and will always be limited. We may expand incrementally our understanding, but in doing so, only highlight further our own minuteness in the vastness of reality. Game, set, match universe. When we achieve omniscience, I would agree, we should then grasp the infinite. Until then, all our reason and discoveries are but a drop in an infinite bucket.


Rereading the article, I truly missed the basic theme of both D'Souza and the critique. D'Souza is, essentially, attempting to prove the existence of God through reason (or, perhaps, use reason to attack reasons' attack on the existence of God). To me that is as foolish as those who try to use science ot prove that the miracles in the Bible could have happened. "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." As the author said, and as highlighted by saden1, using reason to attempt to undercut reason is simply sophistry.

Ultimately, reason and science only takes us so far. Those who see a pattern in the reason often chose, as I do, to believe that this pattern is not accidental. Many others either don't see a pattern or, if they see one, believe it to be either accidental or something that can ultimately be fully explainaed through science and reason. Generally, for those who care, it usually comes down to a leap of faith in some manner.
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Old 08-18-2011, 10:04 AM   #17
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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They are imperceptible to the guy holding the bat. They are not impercebtible to the race of beings who's star just went supernova as the batter swings. Both are part of the reality of the universe.
Dude, slow down, we're talking about people's comparative perception of reality not Quarg from the planet Xgrnarglth 7's existence being ended by a homer from Kemp (Go Dodgers!).


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Ultimately, reason and science only takes us so far. Those who see a pattern in the reason often chose, as I do, to believe that this pattern is not accidental.
I prefer 'random' to 'accidental'. The human brain is predisposed to look for patterns in life in order to make sense of disorder hence the eagerness for most to embrace organized religions, superstition and such. There are a lot of articles on the topic that are fascinating but I'm too lazy to link to them.
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Old 08-18-2011, 02:40 PM   #18
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

D'Souza is a terrible Kantian.

Kant's arguments very subtly explored the strengths of the use of reason in experience as well as the limits of reason in experience. Kant placed a limit on reason in recognizing that we cannot know the Ding An Sich, the "thing-in-itself," through reason. This is because reason approaches objects only as they are mediated by our senses. That is, right now I am not experiencing my coffee table, I am only experiencing my psycho-sensual perception of my coffee table. Therefore any reason which I apply to the coffee table, such as "The table is strong enough to hold up my cup of tea," is reason as mediated, not reason applied directly to the object itself.

This argument has led Kant to be deeply influential in today's world. Not only has Kant's theory of epistemology (how we know stuff) spawned important philosophical movements such as phenomenology (as typified by Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, etc.) and deconstruction (as typified by Derrida, De Certeau, etc.), his theory of knowledge is a baseline for method in many other disciplines. In psychology Jung taught that we only know our representations of reality, not reality itself, and psychotherapy of all stripes would be impossible if things were otherwise. In history we find Foucault, in anthropology Michael Jackson, in sociology Alfred Schutz, and this list goes on. This paragraph is just a minor sampling of the major effects of Kant's theory of reason and knowledge.

Kant's theory has been so influential because his argument was very subtle and precise. Although Kant did temper the Enlightenment's overblown reliance on reason, Kant did not in the end conclude that reason was worthless. Kant said that reason was worthwhile as long as its limits were respected. As well, Kant and later Kantians talk about the consensual nature of knowledge. That is, your reason and my reason may be limited, but by joining forces we can make reliable statements about the world which we consensually perceive. In other words, the pitch is real because pitcher, batter, other players, and fans perceive it that way, although each individual may perceive the reality of the pitch slightly differently.

D'Souza illicitly exploits Kant with his attack on reason. Again, Kant was never willing to make the philosophic move that reason is bankrupt, as his argument was more subtle. And Kant certainly was not willing to say, "Hey, reason is mediated, therefore we all need to be Christian." Kant would tell D'Souza that his faith in the Bible and in Jesus is just as mediated, just as limited, as reason is. That is, in the Kantian critique, there is not one Bible and one Jesus. Instead, there is the Bible as you read and understand it, and Jesus as you perceive and understand him. My perceptions may be different. If D'Souza were less partisan and coarse in his application of Kant, he would argue the opposite of what he normally argues. That is, if he were a faithful Kantian D'Souza would argue that we each have our own religious (and political) paths, and we each must navigate our own ways without having D'Souza tell us what to think.
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Old 08-18-2011, 03:42 PM   #19
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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Therefore any reason which I apply to the coffee table, such as "The table is strong enough to hold up my cup of tea," is reason as mediated, not reason applied directly to the object itself.
Using a coffee table for tea? Heresy!

A finely crafted response apart from that small point.
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:03 PM   #20
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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Dude, slow down, we're talking about people's comparative perception of reality not Quarg from the planet Xgrnarglth 7's existence being ended by a homer from Kemp (Go Dodgers!).
No. The article discusses, critiques and compares perceptual reality v. actual reality. As I understand it, the point of the article is to refute D'Souza's claim that it is impossible for humans to understand actual reality due to our limited senses. Instead, all we have is perceptual reality. The author counters: "Of course we can understand actual reality. Otherwise, Kemp couldn't hit the ball." The author acknowledges that Kemp and the first basemen may perceive the reality of the ball differently and, through "naive realism", each may erroneously assert that their point of view is actual reality. Acknowledging naive realism to be a false reality, the author then asserts that humans can appropriately use our senses, get past naive realism, and discover actual reality. As a further, example, the author uses sonar to demonstrate the lack of limitations asserted by D'Souza. I agree with the author to a point. Where we differ is the author's failure to account for the unfortunately vaporized Quarg.

I juxtaposed Quarg's Death and Kemp's Homer to demonstrate that, at any point in time, actual reality- not perceived reality or reality as asserted through naive realism - consists of infinite causes and effects. It is this infiniteness that is reality and which we, as finite beings, cannot and never will be able to fully understand. Actual reality consists of both Quarg's Death and Kemp's Homer I would humbly suggest that we will never be able to explain why they both occurred yesterday at 3:12 p.m.

[By the way, I did not assert that Kemp's homer caused Quarg to be vaporized, only that both events occurred. They may or may not have had some linked causaulity beyond their mutual occurrence - that, however, really wasn't the point of referencing the poor and unfortunate pile of spacedust formerly known as Quarg].

We can, and have, expanded on the limitations of our 5 senses and invented things, such as sonar, in order to perceive things that would otherwise be imperceivable to us. We have gained knowledge into the sub-atomic world which creates questions as to whether there is any thing "solid" in universe. We improved our "vision" so that we can see further than and on more levels into space only to find that it is even more vast and varied than we had imagined.

Obviously, these expansions on our ability to perceive nature have, in turn, given us a deeper understanding of the actual reality of the Universe. At the same time, our advanced perceptions have also raised deeper and more complex questions to explore about that reality. Ultimately, we are limited beings and, until and unless we acheive omniscience, a complete understanding of actual reality is denied to us. Every reality asserted as true and based on something short of omniscience is just a form of "naive realism". Through science, exploration and reasoned analysis, it may be a well informed naive realism with some good actual reality mixed in, but naive realism nonetheless.

It seems to me that D'Souza says "Because we are limited to perceptual reality, we can never grasp any aspect of actual reality". That's just dumb and is faulty for all the reasons stated in the article. At the same time, the author's implicit assertion that "Because we can grasp some aspects of actual reality, we are - or will be - able to grasp all aspects of the actual reality" is equally faulty and does not logically follow. The author's assertion is, essentially, the age old cry of hubris "We can be as God".

Quarg is dead and Kemp hit a homer - and then came 3:13 p.m.

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I prefer 'random' to 'accidental'. The human brain is predisposed to look for patterns in life in order to make sense of disorder hence the eagerness for most to embrace organized religions, superstition and such. There are a lot of articles on the topic that are fascinating but I'm too lazy to link to them.
Random/accidental, potatoe/patoto. I (and others) believe a pattern exists and that it did not "just happen". Further, I do not doubt that the human brain is predisposed to look for patterns. The human brain is also hard-wired with certain "fight or flight" tendencies. Part of our development as individuals and as a species, however, has been to identify what are our instinctual responses (individually & corporately), to understand the purpose of those instinctual responses, and to determine when (or if) the instinctual responses are the correct response to a given situation. The mere fact, however, that a tendency exists as a built-in instinctual response does not automatically mean that the response is invalid to a given situation. Thus, the fact that we instinctually perceive patterns does not necessarily mean the patterns perceived are merely a product of instinct and nothing more.
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:06 PM   #21
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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D'Souza is a terrible Kantian.

Kant's arguments very subtly explored the strengths of the use of reason in experience as well as the limits of reason in experience. Kant placed a limit on reason in recognizing that we cannot know the Ding An Sich, the "thing-in-itself," through reason. This is because reason approaches objects only as they are mediated by our senses. That is, right now I am not experiencing my coffee table, I am only experiencing my psycho-sensual perception of my coffee table. Therefore any reason which I apply to the coffee table, such as "The table is strong enough to hold up my cup of tea," is reason as mediated, not reason applied directly to the object itself.

This argument has led Kant to be deeply influential in today's world. Not only has Kant's theory of epistemology (how we know stuff) spawned important philosophical movements such as phenomenology (as typified by Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, etc.) and deconstruction (as typified by Derrida, De Certeau, etc.), his theory of knowledge is a baseline for method in many other disciplines. In psychology Jung taught that we only know our representations of reality, not reality itself, and psychotherapy of all stripes would be impossible if things were otherwise. In history we find Foucault, in anthropology Michael Jackson, in sociology Alfred Schutz, and this list goes on. This paragraph is just a minor sampling of the major effects of Kant's theory of reason and knowledge.

Kant's theory has been so influential because his argument was very subtle and precise. Although Kant did temper the Enlightenment's overblown reliance on reason, Kant did not in the end conclude that reason was worthless. Kant said that reason was worthwhile as long as its limits were respected. As well, Kant and later Kantians talk about the consensual nature of knowledge. That is, your reason and my reason may be limited, but by joining forces we can make reliable statements about the world which we consensually perceive. In other words, the pitch is real because pitcher, batter, other players, and fans perceive it that way, although each individual may perceive the reality of the pitch slightly differently.

D'Souza illicitly exploits Kant with his attack on reason. Again, Kant was never willing to make the philosophic move that reason is bankrupt, as his argument was more subtle. And Kant certainly was not willing to say, "Hey, reason is mediated, therefore we all need to be Christian." Kant would tell D'Souza that his faith in the Bible and in Jesus is just as mediated, just as limited, as reason is. That is, in the Kantian critique, there is not one Bible and one Jesus. Instead, there is the Bible as you read and understand it, and Jesus as you perceive and understand him. My perceptions may be different. If D'Souza were less partisan and coarse in his application of Kant, he would argue the opposite of what he normally argues. That is, if he were a faithful Kantian D'Souza would argue that we each have our own religious (and political) paths, and we each must navigate our own ways without having D'Souza tell us what to think.
I need to read me some Kant.
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:16 PM   #22
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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This is because reason approaches objects only as they are mediated by our senses. That is, right now I am not experiencing my coffee table, I am only experiencing my psycho-sensual perception of my coffee table. Therefore any reason which I apply to the coffee table, such as "The table is strong enough to hold up my cup of tea," is reason as mediated, not reason applied directly to the object itself.
Sorry, I don't understand the distinction. I get "reason mediated through our perceptions" but how would one apply reason directly to an object?
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:34 PM   #23
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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I need to read me some Kant.
You might try Kant's Critique of Pure Reason for this argument.


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Sorry, I don't understand the distinction. I get "reason mediated through our perceptions" but how would one apply reason directly to an object?
Try two different claims:
1) The coffee table is strong enough to hold my cup of tea
2) The coffee table, as I perceive it, is strong enough to hold my cup of tea

Please note that the second claim is softer. It does not imply that my reasoning abilities are as direct, objective, and solid as the first claim does.

Note that either way I'm going to put my cup on the table. Or, returning to the baseball scenario, either way the batter is going to hit the baseball he perceives. But with the second claim the faculty of reason is more limited in terms of scope.

Here we can understand that Kant did not deny reason completely. He just wanted to soften its claims on reality.

Does this make sense?
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:35 PM   #24
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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Using a coffee table for tea? Heresy!

A finely crafted response apart from that small point.
Here in the deep south iced tea is a way of life.
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:49 PM   #25
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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Try two different claims:
1) The coffee table is strong enough to hold my cup of tea
2) The coffee table, as I perceive it, is strong enough to hold my cup of tea

Please note that the second claim is softer. It does not imply that my reasoning abilities are as direct, objective, and solid as the first claim does.

Note that either way I'm going to put my cup on the table. Or, returning to the baseball scenario, either way the batter is going to hit the baseball he perceives. But with the second claim the faculty of reason is more limited in terms of scope.

Here we can understand that Kant did not deny reason completely. He just wanted to soften its claims on reality.

Does this make sense?
Yes. I think. In the first example, the statement is made as an assertion of truth about the table's attributes - in of itself, by itself and without any perception by me needed, it is a truth that the table is strong enough to hold your cup of tea. In the second, you make no assertion as to the table's innate characteristics; rather, you simply state your perception of the table's attributes.
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:50 PM   #26
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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If man makes himself a worm he must not complain when he is trodden on.
Immanuel Kant
If a man makes himself a worm he can fish for a day. Make himself a lure he can fish for a life time.
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Old 08-18-2011, 05:28 PM   #27
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

Owwwww, my head hurts. Give me my guns and bible and I'm good.
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Old 08-18-2011, 05:48 PM   #28
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

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Owwwww, my head hurts. Give me my guns and bible and I'm good.
Wait - Do you want the bible as I perceive it, Lotus perceives it, Rat perceives it or as Quarg perceives it?

And does your head really hurt or is it just a perception that it hurts? Isn't your statement simply an attempt to foist your naive realism on the rest of us? As it isn't real Ding-An-Sich, shouldn't you just tell it to Quarg instead?
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Old 08-19-2011, 09:59 AM   #29
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Re: Arguing against the validity of reason - D'Souza - Kant

Kant's critique is not criticism (unlike D'Souza) but critical analyses of reason. Kant is not attacking pure reason except to show its limitations. Above all else he hopes to show its possibility and to exult it above impure knowledge which comes to us through distorted sensory channel. Thus pure reason is to mean knowledge that does not come to us through our senses but is independent of all sense experience. Knowledge belonging to us by inherent nature and structure of the mind.

This explains his take quite well:

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In the Critique Kant thus rejects the insight into an intelligible world that he defended in the Inaugural Dissertation, and he now claims that rejecting knowledge about things in themselves is necessary for reconciling science with traditional morality and religion. This is because he claims that belief in God, freedom, and immortality have a strictly moral basis, and yet adopting these beliefs on moral grounds would be unjustified if we could know that they were false. “Thus,” Kant says, “I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith” (Bxxx). Restricting knowledge to appearances and relegating God and the soul to an unknowable realm of things in themselves guarantees that it is impossible to disprove claims about God and the freedom or immortality of the soul, which moral arguments may therefore justify us in believing. Moreover, the determinism of modern science no longer threatens the freedom required by traditional morality, because science and therefore determinism apply only to appearances, and there is room for freedom in the realm of things in themselves, where the self or soul is located. We cannot know (theoretically) that we are free, because we cannot know anything about things in themselves. But there are especially strong moral grounds for the belief in human freedom, which acts as “the keystone” supporting other morally grounded beliefs (5:3–4). In this way, Kant replaces transcendent metaphysics with a new practical science that he calls the metaphysics of morals. It thus turns out that two kinds of metaphysics are possible: the metaphysics of experience (or nature) and the metaphysics of morals, both of which depend on Kant's Copernican revolution in philosophy.

BTW, don't try to read Critique of Pure Reason by Kant himself...that's shit damn near impossible to read.
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