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HKBU - Glossary of Kant's Technical Terms
Category: Sciences > Kants Technical Terms
Date & country: 17/11/2008, HK
Words: 74


a priori
a way of gaining knowledge without appealing to any particular experience(s). This method is used to establish transcendental and logical truths. (Cf. a posteriori.)

a posteriori
a way of gaining knowledge by appealing to some particular experience(s). This method is used to establish empirical and hypothetical truths. (Cf. a priori.)

will
the manifestation of reason in its practical form (see practical). The two German words, 'Willkür' and 'Wille' can both be translated in English as 'will'. Willkür refers to the faculty of choice, which for Kant is just one (empirical) function of the more fundamental faculty of practical reason (= Wille).

understanding
in the first Critique, the faculty concerned with actively producing knowledge by means of concepts. This is quite similar to what is normally called the mind. It gives rise to the logical perspective, which en¬ables us to compare concepts with each other, and to the empirical perspective (where it is also called judgment), which enables us to combine concepts with intuitions in order to produce e...

transcendental object
an object considered transcendentally insofar as it has been presented to a subject, but is not yet represented in any determined way-i.e., not yet influenced by space and time or by the categories. Also called an 'object in general'.

transcendental
one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge which is both synthetic and a priori. It is a special type of philosophical knowledge, concerned with the necessary conditions for the possibility of experience. However, Kant believes all knowing subjects assume certain transcendental truths, whether or not they are aware of it. Transcendental knowledge defines the bou...

time
see space and time.

transcendent
the realm of thought which lies beyond the boundary of pos¬sible knowledge, because it consists of objects which cannot be presented to us in intuition-i.e., objects which we can never experience with our senses (sometimes called noumena). The closest we can get to gaining knowledge of the transcendent realm is to think about it by means of ideas. (The opposite of 'transcendent' is 'immanent'....

thing in itself
an object considered transcendentally apart from all the conditions under which a subject can gain knowledge of it. Hence the thing in itself is, by definition, unknowable. Sometimes used loosely as a synonym of noumenon. (Cf. appearance.)

theoretical
one of Kant's three main standpoints, relating primarily to cognition-i.e., to what we know as opposed to what we feel or desire to do. Theoretical reason is concerned with questions about our knowledge of the ordinary world (the world science seeks to understand). Finding the source of such knowledge is the task of the first Critique, which would best be entitled the Critique of Pure 'Theoretic...

teleological
having to do with purposes or ends. The second half of the third Critique examines the objective purposiveness in our perception of natural organisms in order to construct a system of teleological judgment.

system
a set of basic facts or arguments (called 'elements') arranged accord¬ing to the order of their logical relationships, as determined by the architec¬ton¬ic patterns of reason. Kant's Critical philosophy is a System made up of three sub¬ordinate systems, each defined by a distinct standpoint, and each made up of the same four perspectives.

synthetic
a statement or item of knowledge which is known to be true because of its connection with some intuition. (Cf. analytic.)

synthesis
integration of two opposing representations into one new repre¬sentation, with a view towards constructing a new level of the object's real¬ity. Philosophy as Critique employs synthesis more than analysis. On the operation of synthesis in the first Critique, see imagination. (Cf. analysis.)

supersensible
see intelligible and transcendent.

summum bonum
Latin for highest good. This is the ultimate goal of the moral system presented in the second Critique; it involves the ideal distribu¬tion of happiness in exact proportion to each person's virtue. In order to con¬ceive of its possibility, we must postulate the existence of God and human immortality, thus giving these ideas practical reality.

subjective
related more to the subject than to the object or representation out of which knowledge is constructed. Considered transcendentally, subjec¬tive knowledge is more certain that objective knowledge; considered empiri¬cally, subjective knowledge is less certain. (Cf. objective.)

subject
a general term for any rational person who is capable of having knowledge. (Cf. object; see also representation.)

standpoint
the special type of perspective which determines the point from which a whole system of perspectives is viewed. The main Critical stand¬points are the theoretical, practical and judicial.

speculative
the illusory perspective which wrongly uses reason in a hope¬less attempt to gain knowledge about something transcendent. Sometimes used loosely as a synonym of theoretical.

sensible
presented to the subject by means of sensibility. (Cf. intelligible.)

space and time
considered from the empirical perspective, they form the context in which objects interact outside of us; considered from the transcen¬dental perspective, they are pure, so they exist inside of us as conditions of knowledge. (Cf. categories.)

sensibility
the faculty concerned with passively receiving objects. This is accomplished primarily in the form of physical and mental sensations (via 'outer sense' and 'inner sense', respectively). However, such sensations are possible only if the objects are intuited, and intuition depends on space and time existing in their pure form as well. (Cf. understanding.)

representation
the most general word for an object at any stage in its de¬termination by the subject, or for the subjective act of forming the object at that level. The main types of representations are intuitions, concepts and ideas. In the first Critique, the understanding is the dominant faculty in processing representations, while in the third Critique the faculty of imagination is dominant. Sometimes transl...

schematism
the function of the faculty of imagination, through which concepts and intuitions are combined, or synthesized, according to a rule (called a schema). In the first Critique, this function is presented as one of the steps required in order for the understanding to produce empirical knowledge.

religion
the way of acting, or perspective, according to which we interpret all our duties as divine commands.

regulative
providing important guidelines for how knowledge should be used, yet not itself playing any fundamental role in making up that knowl¬edge. (Cf. constitutive.)

reason
in the first Critique, the highest faculty of the human subject, to which all other faculties are subordinated. It abstracts completely from the conditions of sensibility. The second Critique examines the form of our de¬sires in order to construct a system based on the faculty of reason (= the prac¬tical standpoint). Reason's primary function is practical; its theoretical func¬tion, though often ...

rational
grounded in the faculty of reason rather than in sensibility. (See also intelligible.)

reality
if regarded from the empirical perspective, this refers to the ordinary world of nature; if regarded from the transcendental perspective, it refers to the transcendent realm of the noumenon.

predisposition
the natural tendency a person has, apart from (or before having) any experience, to be morally good or evil. (Cf. disposition.)

pure
not mixed with anything sensible. Although its proper opposite is 'impure', Kant normally opposes 'pure' to 'empirical'.

practical
one of Kant's three main standpoints, relating primarily to action -i.e., to what we desire to do as opposed to what we know or feel. Practical reason is a synonym for will; and these two terms are concerned with ques¬tions of morality. Finding the sources of such action is the task of the second Critique. (Cf. theoretical and judicial.)

phenomenon
the object of knowledge, viewed empirically, in its fully knowable state (i.e., conditioned by space and time and the categories). (Cf. noumenon.)

perspective
a way of thinking about or considering something; or a set of assumptions from which an object can be viewed. Knowing which perspec¬tive is assumed is important because the same question can have different an¬swers if different perspectives are assumed. Kant himself does not use this word, but he uses a number of other expressions (such as standpoint, way of thinking, employment of understanding, ...

objective
related more to the object or representation out of which knowl¬edge is constructed than to the subject possessing the knowledge. Considered transcendentally, objective knowledge is less certain than subjective knowl¬edge; considered empirically, objective knowledge is more certain. (Cf. sub¬jective.)

object
a general term for any 'thing' which is conditioned by the subject's representation, and so is capable of being known. The thing in itself is a thing which cannot become an object. (Cf. subject; see thing in itself.)

noumenon
the name given to a thing when it is viewed as a transcendent object. The term 'negative noumenon' refers only to the recognition of some¬thing which is not an object of sensible intuition, while 'positive noumenon' refers to the (quite mistaken) attempt to know such a thing as an empirical object. These two terms are sometimes used loosely as synonyms for 'transcendental object' and 'thing...

moral law
the one 'fact' of practical reason, which is in every rational per¬son, though some people are more aware of it than others. The moral law, in essence, is our knowledge of the difference between good and evil, and our in¬ner conviction that we ought to do what is good. (See categorical impera¬tive.)

metaphysics
the highest form of philosophy, which attempts to gain knowledge of the ideas. Because the traditional, speculative perspective fails to succeed in this task, Kant suggests a new, hypothetical perspective for metaphysics. Metaphysics can succeed only when it is preceded by Critique. (Cf. Critique.)

maxim
the material rule or principle used to guide a person in a particular situation about what to do (e.g., 'I should never tell a lie'). It thus provides a kind of bridge between a persons inner disposition and outer actions.

material
the passive or objective aspect of something-that is, the aspect which is based on the experience a subject has, or on the objects given in such an experience. (Cf. formal.)

logical
one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge which is both analytic and a priori. Hence it is concerned with nothing but the relationships between concepts. The law of noncontradiction (A is not -A) is the fundamental law of traditional, Aristotelian logic. (If we call this 'analytic' logic, then 'synthetic' logic would be based on the oppo¬site law of 'contr...

knowledge
the final goal of the understanding in combining intuitions and concepts. If they are pure, the knowledge will be transcendental; if they are impure, the knowledge will be empirical. In a looser sense, 'knowledge' also refers to that which arises out adopting any legitimate perspective.

judicial
one of Kant's three main standpoints, relating primarily to experi¬ence-i.e., to what we feel, as opposed to what we know or desire to do. Judicial reason is virtually synonymous with 'Critique' itself, and is con¬cerned with questions about the most profound ways in which we experience the world. Finding the source of two examples of such experiences is the task of the third Critique. (Cf. the...

judgment
in the first Critique, the use of the understanding by which an object is determined to be empirically real, through a synthesis of intuitions and concepts. The third Critique examines the form of our feelings of pleasure and displeasure in order to construct a system based on the faculty of judg¬ment (= the judicial standpoint) in its aesthetic and teleological manifesta¬tions. (Cf. reason.)

intuition
the passive species of representation, by means of which our sen¬sibility enables to have sensations. By requiring appearances to be given in space and time, intuitions allow us to perceive particular relations between representations, thereby limiting empirical knowledge to the sensible realm. (Cf. concept.)

intelligible
presented to the subject without any material being provided by sensibility. It is more or less equivalent to the terms supersensible and transcendent. (Cf. sensible.)

inclination
the faculty or object which motivates a person to act in a heteronomous way. Following inclinations is neither morally good nor morally bad, except when doing so directly prevents a person from acting ac¬cording to duty-i.e., only when choosing to obey an inclination results in disobedience to the moral law.

imagination
the faculty responsible for forming concepts out of the 'manifold of intuition' and for synthesizing intuitions with concepts to form objects which are ready to be judged.

ideas
the species of representation which gives rise to metaphysical beliefs. Ideas are special concepts which arise out of our knowledge of the empirical world, yet seem to point beyond nature to some transcendent realm. The three most important metaphysical ideas are God, freedom and immortality.

hypothetical
one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge which is both analytic and a posteriori (though Kant him¬self wrongly identified it as synthetic and a priori). Most metaphysical knowledge is properly viewed from this perspective, instead of from the spec¬ulative perspective of traditional metaphysics. 'There is a God' is a typical hypothetical statement. (Cf. logic...

heteronomy
an action which is determined by some outside influence (i.e., some force other than the freedom given by practical reason, such as inclina¬tion) impelling the subject to act in a certain way. Such action is nonmoral (i.e., neither moral nor immoral). (Cf. autonomy.)

formal
the active or subjective aspect of something-that is, the aspect which is based on the rational activity of the subject. (Cf. material.)

faculty
a fundamental power of human subjects to do something or perform some rational function.

faith
a rational attitude towards a potential object of knowledge which arises when we are subjectively certain it is true even though we are unable to gain theo¬retical or objective certainty. By contrast, knowledge implies objective and subjective certainty, while opinion is the state of having neither objective nor subjective certainty. Kant encouraged a more humble approach to philoso¬phy by claimin...

experience
the combination of an intuition with a concept in the form of a judgment. 'Experience' in this 'mediate' sense is a synonym for 'empirical knowledge'. The phrase 'possible experience' refers to a representation which is presented to our sensibility through intuition, but is not yet known, because it has not been presented to our understanding through concepts. 'Experience' in this sense ...

disposition
the tendency a person has at a given point in time to act in one way or another (i.e., to obey the moral law or to disobey it). (Cf. predis¬position.)

duty
an action which we are obligated to perform out of respect for the moral law.

empirical
one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge which is both synthetic and a posteriori. Most of the knowledge we gain through ordinary experience, or through science, is empirical. 'This table is brown' is a typical empirical statement. (Cf. transcendental).

Critique
to use the method of synthesis together with a critical approach to doing philosophy. This term appears in the titles of the three main books in Kant's Critical philosophy, which adopt the theoretical, practical and judicial standpoints, respectively. The purpose of Critical philosophy is to prepare a secure foundation for metaphysics. (Cf. metaphysics.)

Critical
Kant's lifelong approach to philosophy which distinguishes be¬tween different perspectives and then uses such distinctions to settle otherwise unresolvable disputes. The Critical approach is not primarily negative, but is an attempt to adjudicate quarrels by showing the ways in which both sides have a measure of validity, once their perspective is properly understood. Kant's system of Critical p...

Copernican revolution
in astronomy, the theory that the earth revolves around the sun; in philosophy, the (analogous) theory that the subject of knowledge does not remain at rest, but revolves around (i.e., actively deter¬mines certain aspects of) the object. Thus, the formal characteristics of the empirical world (i.e., space and time and the categories) are there only because the subject's mind puts them there, tran...

conscience
the faculty of the human subject which enforces the moral law in a particular way for each individual by providing an awareness of what is right and wrong in each situation.

constitutive
playing a fundamental role in making up some type of knowledge. (Cf. regulative.)

concept
the active species of representation, by means of which our under¬standing enables us to think. By requiring perceptions to conform to the categories, concepts serve as 'rules' allowing us to perceive general relations be¬tween representations. (Cf. intuition.)

categories
the most general concepts, in terms of which every object must be viewed in order for it to become an object of empirical knowledge. The four main categories (quantity, quality, relation and modality) each have three sub-categories, forming a typical example of a twelvefold, architectonic pattern. (Cf. space and time.)

autonomy
an action which is determined by the subject's own free choice (see will). In the second Critique, moral action is defined as being au¬tono¬mous. (Cf. heteronomy.)

categorical imperative
a command which expresses a general, unavoid¬able requirement of the moral law. Its three forms express the requirements of universalizability, respect and autonomy. Together they establish that an action is properly called 'morally good' only if (1) we can will all persons to do it, (2) it enables us to treat other persons as ends and not merely as the means to our own selfish ends, and (3) it ...

analytic
a statement or an item of knowledge which is true solely because of its conformity to some logical laws. (Cf. synthetic.)

appearance
an object of experience, when viewed from the transcendental perspective. Though often used as a synonym for phenomenon, it technically refers to an object considered to be conditioned by space and time, but not by the categories. (Cf. thing in itself.)

architectonic
the logical structure given by reason (especially through the use of twofold and threefold divisions), which the philosopher should use as a plan to organize the contents of any system.

analysis
division of a representation into two opposing representations, with a view towards clarifying the original representation. Philosophy as metaphysics employs analysis more than synthesis. (Cf. synthesis.)

aesthetic
having to do with sense-perception. In the first Critique this word refers to space and time as the necessary conditions for sense-perception. The first half of the third Critique examines the subjective purposiveness in our perception of beautiful or sublime objects in order to construct a system of aesthetic judgment. (Cf. teleological.)