Monday, 12 October 2009

Kant's Antinomies

Back to The History of Western Philosophy again, and within is written of Immanuel Kant's antinomies, of which Kant alleges four principal ones, which are imagined to be examples of mutually contradictory statements being simultaneously true; and this being known by the method of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, which is apparently of prime importance for the thought of Hegel also, and onwards to Karl Marx amongst others. What Kant's particular antinomies are is irrelevant; it is the principal or notion of mutually contradictory statements being true that is the essence of the matter. So to look at what this involves.

Two plus two equals four.
Two plus two does not equal four.

The first statement we describe as true, because meaningful language rests upon a foundation of being true, a foundation which does not even need formulating since it is the necessary and natural faith inescapably bound up with the use of language. And so the second statement is false. The two statements cannot both exist as truths. However Kant and his successors claim otherwise; that statements can contradict each other. How is this possible? Upon what would this idea of language rest?

It rests upon language and truth not being inseparable, and so the "contradictions" are not in fact contradictions but equally valid, since there is no truth which they contradict. It is to treat words as lumps of matter which can be placed in whatever order one wishes and the results are equally valid, all equally sensible or senseless. This would imply and necessitate the demolition of the entire notion of language as meaningful, since something and its contrary are alleged to both be capable of meaningful co-existence. But this meaningful co-existence is dependent on language not being meaningful but meaningless, since if it is meaningful then one cannot have coherent contradictions within that language. Language cannot be used in a self-contradictory manner and remain an instrument of truth. Such contradictions are violations of the nature of language, and will be found to be merely an erroneous use of that language. Also Kant's whole notion of the antinomy is entirely self-contradictory: an attempt to be a true statement of language, while the very statement inescapably implies that language is not true. If the antinomy is true then language is not true, and so the antinomy is not true. It is a perfectly senseless, and so unreal, use of language.

The notion of building a philosophy of truth upon the notion of the non-existence of truth is clearly ludicrous, where according to the implied logic of any sequence of words being as good or bad as any other, one could build this entire philosophy and then with a final flourish claim that the contrary to all this is also true, i.e. that it is not true - gibberish having been sanctified. However for this notion of language's meaninglessness to be sensibly be formulated in the first place requires the acceptance that language is meaningful; one is trying to use language meaningfully. So all in all Kant and his successors are trying to build an edifice upon completely self-contradictory and delusional grounds. How one could use the truth tool of language all one's life while remaining ignorant as to its essence is particularly lamentable for a philosopher.

I look at Kant's first antinomy, The World Has a Beginning in Time, here.


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Andrew said...

Thanks very much. The stuff a good while back I was writing was often very much off-hand stuff, just a break from other more demanding mental efforts, but in time this changed; though I'm afraid the impetus to post here has faded as I've gotten to take the writing more serious again, writing longer pieces which might hopefully find their way into the wider world

Anonymous said...

Nice post and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Gratefulness you on your information.

Andrew said...

Glad you found it helpful. Might ruffle a few academic feathers this debunking of Kant's vital 'notion.' Sorry bout delay in response.

Anonymous said...

Two plus two equals four. This is true not because of the nature of language but because of an agreement as to what "two" should denote and what "four" should denote denote in the natural world.therefore 'two plus two does not equal four' is false. unless the reader does not know of the agreement as to what the words "two" and "four" should denote.

Andrew said...

Before any other considerations, Its being true is inseparably because of the nature of language. If language did not rest upon a foundation of its truthfulness then there could be no true statements within it. Without such a foundation then there are no true statements, and so the notion of the antinomy is a false notion, which imagines that language can be violated. The very fact of stating the antinomy as a possibility of language is to accept its own falseness as one is accepting language's intrinsic meaningfulness; & therefore that contradictions within language are simply wrong or bad uses of language.

Andrew said...

Also you will not find 'two' in the natural world, you will find objects, which you can label two distinct ones. However mathematics is a language which does not involve the natural world; it is a matter of its own language. The language term of 'two' or specifically '2' does not require clarification as to meaning two pineapples or two bicycles. It is in the question of addition a matter of the language of mathematics, not of observation of the natural world.

That the conclusions of hte most abstract, complex mathematics leads inseparably on into the natural world is a question of the mind & its cognitive processes when used correctly a perfect extension of the natural world & its intrinsic intelligent nature.

Anonymous said...

Well, turns out I got a C on my assingment. The professor said whatever my source was had nothing to do with Kant, but was only a "naive misreading of Hegel."

Andrew said...

Much as one would expect. 'A naive misreading' because even though they do nothing but immerse themselves in words, such people fail to actually take the words seriously in the sense of what tehy actually mean; and so any criticism of the meaningless use of language by their demigods such as Hegel is for them rather than an accurate summation of that language a naive misreading. And of course the worshipped deity - such as Hegel - is granted infallibility & beyond any criticism, otherwise the relevant academics might be forced into the unwelcome realisation that they are spending their intellectual life up some non-existent liguistic arse.

Matt said...

While I share some of your dismay at the implications of the Antinomies, I think that you're operating under some mistaken beliefs as to what Kant thought they were and what they proved. First of all, Kant does not think that each of the contradictories are true. Assuming that the concepts used are meaningful (and there seem to be no compelling reasons to think otherwise), only one of the two statements will be the correct way of describing the world and hence true. What Kant thought was that equally sound arguments (i.e. valid arguments with true premises) could be constructed in favor of each contradictory. Typically, we would take the conclusion of a sound argument to be true simply in virtue of the fact that it is the conclusion of a sound argument. That is part of why the Antinomies are so unsettling: our hallowed methods of reasoning seem to founder, producing absurd results. You are quite right in saying that both contradictories cannot be true. This is not, however, because of the nature of language. It is because of the nature of reality.

What Kant concluded from all of this is that reason is not up to the task of conceiving the transcendent. There is a fact of the matter about, e.g., whether there is a necessary being, but us humans with our measly faculties don't (and can't) have much to say on the issue.

Andrew Kenneally said...

But Matt, that is the essential point, ie about the nature of language, that language is a truth tool that if used correctly is necessarily true. It is inescapable and intrinsic to the very use of language the same as reasoning in mathematics cannot be separated from the truthfulness of the language of mathematics. And so an argument cannot be sound for a false proposition the same as sound use of mathematics cannot end in a wrong answer. The argument if it leads to a false result must have not in truth be a sound argument. An error has to have been made. Also you cannot talk about 'the nature of reality' as if that were not a language statement.
I've an earlier piece below about this:

Includes the line:" To say anything is to involve oneself necessarily in an acceptance that the language one is using is real and imbued with meaning; that the words one is using- if used correctly, ie meaningfully- are meaningful. This is the necessary ground from which one can say anything.
Thanks for filling me in a little on Kant's position. There's a later post again below on the Antinomies, which goes a little deeper into teh issue.

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