Kant International Relations

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How "realistic" is Kantian "empirical realism"? Mainly by way of commentary on passages from the Analytic of Principles and Appendix to the Dialectic of the Critique of Pure Reason, Abela offers, first, the "priority-of-judgment" view: "Kant...banish[es] the idea of any epistemic intermediary between belief and the world" (35); "there is nothing outside judgment...that informs, constrains, or ultimately grounds objectively valid judgment" (139-40). The ultimate ground is simply the totality of one's judgments. Second, representation of empirical reality presupposes a grasp of realistic truth-conditions, i.e., conditions construable neither pragmatically nor as mere assertion-conditions (230-49). On several occasions Abela weakens the first claim, speaking rather only of Kant's rejection of a determinate "given" or a determinate "subjective foundation" for judgment (e.g., 60, 99, 151). But that must be an understatement. One might think to connect it with Abela's reading of the Axioms of Intuition and Anticipations of Perception (115-39). There, Kant is said to be concerned with highly "indeterminate" judgments – which Abela equates with empirical intuitions – regarding the extensive and intensive magnitude of sensations (viewed as modifications of one's sense organs). But there is no epistemic priority here: "the product of these judgments is not, in my estimation, the first line of conscious, cognitive engagement with the world....They do not offer an informative or evidential basis for objective representation" (115). Since Abela formulates the point (a bit misleadingly, to be sure, since the judgments involve concepts) with reference to Kant's talk about the "blindness" of intuitions, I take it that this is supposed to be Kant's view as well. Chapter 1 divides contemporary efforts to honor Kantian realism into attempts to promote whatever degree of realism might be compatible with pragmatic or assertion-condition approaches (Epistemic Humanism) and appeals to "noumenal ‘inputs'" as ultimate sources of sensation, or at least such as are aimed at some sort of account of "regularity" in sensory appearance (Ultimate Realism). Whatever one thinks about the latter, it seems to me misleading to suggest any particular connection with a desire to do justice to Kant's empirical realism. In any case, it seems to me compatible with the main tenets of Abela's own reading. The case against Epistemic Humanism is reserved for Chapter 4, which it somewhat artificially shares with the First Antinomy. (Except for the Appendix, the latter is the only part of the Dialectic specifically discussed.) Here and throughout the book, several references to Graham Bird seem to identify him as the only reliable ally in the debate. But one might wish for more of a sense of how his reading relates to Abela's. Henry Allison gets a separate section, as an "object lesson." Though his heart is apparently on the whole in the right place, his distinction between "looser" and "weightier" objects is – I'm not clear why – taken to suggest overfriendliness to a "Cartesian epistemic model" (33). Mainly by way of attention to Quine, Davidson, and McDowell, the chapter concludes with anticipation of Abela's reading of Kant. Chapter 2 contains additional stage-setting (Evans, McDowell, Davidson), plus what seems to me unconvincing critique (89-95) of "the causal theory of perception" for at least tacit hostility to the priority-of-judgment view. About half the chapter concerns the Axioms and (mainly) Anticipations, and the role of sensation in relation to empirical "intuition." At a couple of points Abela seems to identify them: "sensation (empirical intuition)" (50); sensations "obtain" only through the very forms of judging that are constitutive of empirical intuitions (53). But elsewhere he refers to a certain sort of "cognitive structure" in which – by way of indeterminate judgments of magnitude – sensations get "realized as" (126; cf. 127) intuitions. And just...
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