Debating Space Through the Göttingen Review: Why Kant's Transcendental Ideality of Space Exceeds Berkeley's Subjective Idealist Interpretation
IN THIS ARTICLE
It is not often that one questions the nature of space, in fact, most people understand extension as independent of their mind as well as the objects that appear in their surrounding world. However, in a radical twist, fitting for the revolutionary epoch of the Enlightenment, Königsberg scholar, philosopher Immanuel Kant forwarded a strikingly new hypothesis. To Kant, although the representations of objects rely on space for their subsistence, minds are independent of it, since they alone impose space onto the world of appearance. Despite his view not being readily defendable by all his peers, this paper will secure Kant’s thesis of the transcendental ideality of space, as a pure form of intuition, against those of whom this author believes is its most formidable opponents, subjective idealists. First, this piece will outline Kant’s understanding of space as well as the subjective idealist theory of extension through its chief proponent, George Berkeley. Afterward, this piece will argue against Berkeley’s view of space, as free from needing objects or minds for its persistence, to help display why Kant’s epistemically driven idealism takes precedence over Berkeley’s ontological one. Lastly, to distinguish Kant’s transcendental idealism from charges of merely rehashing Berkeley’s theory, this essay will draw readers to Johann Feder’s challenges to the transcendental exposition of space, and while doing so further demonstrate why Kant’s treatment of space is more justifiable than Berkeley’s account.
Could it be the case that minds are exempt from having to rely on space whereas appearances must depend on it? Alternatively, is it more justifiable to assert that space is independent of all that it seems to house? Although startling to some, Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that the mind does not rely space, since it alone projects spatiality onto the sensible world, whereas the representations that that space intelligibly frames, rely on that immaterial spatial field produced by the mind’s ordering for their persistence.1 Against this view stands the philosophy of subjective idealism, particularly of Berkeley’s brand, which maintains that space, as the gaze of an all-perceiving deity, is free from the minds and appearances residing in it.2 This essay will commence with an overview and summary of Kant’s understanding of space. Next, this piece will surmise Berkeley’s subjective idealist theory of space, to set the stage for challenging Kant’s position via Johann Feder’s Göttingen Review, which accuses Kant of little more than reworking Berkeley’s thesis. Finally, this essay will assert not only how Kant’s transcendental treatment of space is distinct from Berkeley’s view, but it will also respond to Feder’s challenges, to help justify why Kant’s account of space outdoes Berkeley’s subjective idealist position.
Kant’s Transcendental Treatment of SpaceFor 18th-century Königsberg academic and philosopher, Immanuel Kant, the mind imposes space, or an immaterial paradigm onto the world of appearances, and by doing so renders all experience possible.3 That is, Kant believes space to be the product of minds alone, implying that it would collapse without them, and without space, no appearance could extend, and no experience attainable.4 By experience, Kant understands an individual’s power to intake sense-data while simultaneously confirming the reality of those perceptual impressions by the coherency they display to one’s mind, as unified manifolds.5 To validate his view, Kant draws his readers to his critical analysis of the rational faculties of understanding, reason, sense, and empirical intuition, and why space cannot be a result of any of these capacities, but instead a necessary, transcendental, or pure intuition.6
One way in which Kant asserts that space is only a pure intuition of the mind is by denying that it is of the understanding.7 Kant believes this to be so since the capacity to understand deals with concepts, or collections of ideas, and involves intellectually interpreting those notions to clarify their content, drawn from sense-data, to precisely judge the outside world.8 However, a pure intuition, like space does not involve processes of consideration, and instead, it is immediately present to the mind, and as such one may claim that spatial awareness is more instinctual than understanding.9
That is because without spatial intuition one could never exercise his/her power to comprehend since the representational stimuli available in the sensible world he/she would be unable to perceive.10 As such, no content for one’s understanding to operate could be ownable, if space were not antecedent to comprehension, for it is space which enables appearances or those potentially intelligible phenomenal impressions people judge as other than themselves, to show and subsist.11
Moreover, Kant uncovers space to be a pure intuition by negating the chance of it being an output of reason.12 First, Kant adheres to the view that the faculty of reason deals with ideas per formal standards, such as those found in logical discourse, and by canceling ideas or affirming them, one can discover new truths or form concepts.13 Now, to relate this to space, Kant would claim, that though one can reason about space's nature one can only do so through a spatial lens, and as such one may argue that he/she does not uncover space through reasoning.14 That is because reasoning about space can only lead to unanswerable antinomies showing that space is not a product of reason since reasoning would be able to solve such questions if it were the causal root of space.15
Kant displays how reasoning about space can only lead to logical conundrums by submitting his readers to analyze how they go about observing any parcel of space in the first place.16 Aside from one having first to acknowledge and assume space before he/she can investigate it, one must also know that to be analyzable each space must always belong to a larger space.17 That is, Kant believes for one to observe and study a fraction of space, one must acknowledge a more significant magnitude that houses and bounds it.18 This reality leads to a problem because attempting to find an unbounded space, on purely logical grounds, is impossible because to investigate a portion of it one must never fail to include parameters on that space, to examine it as such.19 Hence, since the faculty of reason itself can only generate this spatial problem, but never solve it, helps to display that spatiality is not a derivative of reason, because reason alone can only posit questionable claims concerning its origins.20
Next, Kant asserts that space cannot spring from the senses since space appears unified and as such one does not have to experience it, to gaze at the sensible world in an apperceptive way.21 Evidence for this claim is in the shared fact that people do not learn their spatial intuition through trial and error.22 Also, one may claim that because people are never aghast by their spatial gaze, it is declarable that no new experiences or fresh sense-data are requisite for anyone to grow accustomed to spatial awareness.23 Instead, since experience can only pose these problems to the nature of spatiality, Kant asserts that one should not ascribe to the view that sensory information is at the core of spatial intuition.24
Another Kantian claim is that empirical intuition also fails to capture the nature of space and as such Kant denies that spatial awareness is of this faculty.25 First, an empirical intuition is that intellectual “click,” or that feeling of inner justification which accompanies a cognition, or that immediate sense of the agreeableness between the thought of a thing and its actual appearance.26 Though it may surprise some that Kant does not assert space to be an empirical intuition, for space is indeed immediate, he nevertheless still argues against this understanding of it.27 That is because space can only supply one with an immaterial framework which gives an ideal outline to the experiential world.28 Accordingly, since no intuition based on sensory stimuli is requisite to provide anyone with their spatial intuition, one may adhere to the view that space is more immediate to the mind than empirical intuitions.29
By eliminating all other possibilities of space’s root, or negating all other claims as to the origin of space in either the understanding, reason, the senses, or empirical intuition, Kant concludes that space must be a pure intuition of the mind.30 By pure, Kant believes that spatial intuition is immediate since it is unlearnable, unteachable, not ascertainable by reason, and not a result of the judging nature of the understanding.31 That is, if spatial intuition were not primordial to the mind, one would be unable to intake sense-data, supply abstract ideas to reason, form concepts for the understanding, and thus, nil the possibility of intuitively judging an experience as one’s own.32 However, one can register sensory information, translate it into an idea, shape ideas into general notions which the understanding can then pass to one’s power of judgment, uncovering that each stage in the series of rational mechanisms leading to the conditions for a valid cognition relies on its preceding link.33 Finally, this also shows that this very series itself begins with spatial intuition because one would be unable to sense appearances without spatial awareness, let alone activate the abilities to exercise reason, understanding, or judgments based on empirical intuition.34
Furthermore, Kant argues that the discipline of geometry also assists in expositing why space is solely a pure intuition of the mind.35 First, Kant asserts that geometry is only possible by one presupposing space, which then enables one to study figures in the external world.36 This presupposition, or implicit assumption that one acknowledges spatiality as prime, renders geometry doable because without this recognition one would be unable to study appearances in space.37 Accordingly, without one’s spatial intuition allowing one’s perception of geometric shapes this canon could never be, making it more convincing that the mind imposes space onto the world of sensibility for the showing of geometric appearances can only be noticeable if space is default to consciousness.38 Finally, Kant continues to claim that because space derives from the mind it is more accurate to believe that, as a necessarily pure intuition, geometry is only sustainable due to that intuition being a universal ability shared by rational consciousnesses, like human minds.39
Moreover, Kant claims that geometry can also display why space relies on the mind, and cannot subsist without it.40 To illustrate Kant’s point, one may consider something such as a triangular shaped object that one notices in his/her visual field.41 To Kant, though one may choose to close his/her eyes to that object, it will still subsist which may seem to indicate that space is absent from the mind.42 However, Kant would claim that it is because of the community of minds and their ability to form a consensus that agrees with the appearance of that triangle, which proceeds from the conditions inhering in its noumenon, or unknowable, formulaic, immaterial substratum.43 That is because though unknowable, it is still only that noumenon which enables that triangle to be possibly noticeable, and as to why it will continue to remain.44 Hence, from a Kantian perspective, minds, by being able to acknowledge and agree that a geometric shape is what it is due to their spatial intuition of separation between themselves and figures, answers why that shape’s appearance will subsist if not all cease to view it.45
Additionally, Kant’s outlook on geometry also reveals that space is solely dependent on minds, for it is only aware rational intellects that can infer the existence of noumenon independent from theirs, because of their spatial awareness.46 Take for example a circle. As understood by Kant, one beauty of mathematics is that it provides one with universality, such as with the idea of a circle being extricable from the objective representation of any circle occurring anywhere in the sensible world, always.47 For Kant, because rational minds have the power to abstract ideas, to form universal claims, like a circle’s area, or “A=πr^2” helps to show that there is a separateness between rational minds and circles, which both spatial awareness and geometric formulas help to elucidate.
That is, Kant would assert that the formula for a circle’s area implies that rational minds take precedence, or it is only they who have access to discover that they exist as distinct from other representations, like circles.48 Consequently, one may affirm that one’s pure intuition of space is an intuitive way to cognize the experience of other appearances in one’s visual field, for it implies that external representations are distinct from one’s self.49 Hence, if one’s spatial intuition did not exist one would not perceive different appearances.50 However, due to the perceptions of the sensible world providing one with the experiential validity of different representational figures as subsisting apart from one’s self, the conclusion that mind-dependent spatial intuition, as illusory, is unsound.51 That is because, the mind by discovering geometric universals, like the area of all circles being “A=πr^2” shows that reason can peer, or intuit that it is unique from other appearances, like circles.52 Accordingly, one may claim that the conditions needed for formulaic innovations in geometry rely on the mind projecting, or imposing space onto the sensible world.53 Finally, that is due to those geometric theorems revealing that those things exist in an unaware way since their appearances do not provide one to think otherwise, for it is not the case that geometric shapes can intuit or project space onto people.54
Another way to exposit Kant’s claim that space relies on the mind is to imagine two people trying to solve the perimeter of a square. First, for the sake of example, readers should begin by assigning the letter “P,” to serve as that variable representing this square’s perimeter. Second, both solvers already possess the definition of a square as that equilateral four-sided figure enclosed by four right angles. So, if one solver attempts to find the perimeter of this square and uses a ruler to find that one side is “3cm,” and because that solver knows that a square has four equal sides, that person may assert “3cm+3cm+3cm+3cm=P.” On the other hand, if another solver also focused on a square’s equilaterality, although now on its four right angles too, that solver may recognize that a square’s angular sum is 360°. Accordingly, if this solver was also to measure one side, and thus find that it is “3cm” as well, that person could construct an equation other than the first solver. Proof of this would be the equation “(P)=[(90°/360°)/(P(cm))/(3cm)],” and it would still be equivalent to the first solver’s “3cm+3cm+3cm+3cm=P.”
From a Kantian gaze, the transcendental exposition of space would be akin to these two different approaches nonetheless producing the same answer concerning the square’s perimeter.55 That is because although people can theorize about space differently, their abilities to problematize it, Kant would believe, could only lead them to the same claim that space is a pure intuition.56 That is because no other rational faculty provides one with spatiality except the immediacy of spatial awareness itself.57 Hence, like the two solvers, attempting to find the perimeter of their square, Kant would assert the knowledge given to them before they attempted to formulate it, is much like one’s default spatial gaze.58 That is due to that gaze only being explainable from the lens of spatial intuition, which upon an investigation into spatial awareness, will only result in one being unable to claim that it is of other rational faculties, thus leading to the universal conclusion of space’s dependence on the mind as a pure intuition alone.59 Lastly, with this summarization and explication of Kant’s view of why space is a pure intuition, generated by the mind, and free of being dependent on appearances, comes another view of extension, pre-dating Kant, however, no less influential, and no less convincing.
Berkeley’s Subjective Idealist Account of Space
According to the 17th-18th-century Anglican clergyman and Irish philosopher, George Berkeley, space cannot be innate to objects, and instead, it is an idea projected by the mind.60 That is, Berkeley ascribed to the view that nothing material indeed exists, rendering what one commonly regards as “objects” to be immaterial appearances, thus reconciling the problem of how consciousness can interact with so-called matter.61 From this, because all is phenomenal, or holographic, everything lacks the sturdiness as understood by the use and sense of the term “objectivity,” opening the field for Berkeley to attack the belief that properties of any sort, including spatiality, are innate to anything.62
First, aside from invoking a likeness principle stating that only things of the same type can interact, to solve the problem of how immaterial minds can even notice supposed material objects, Berkeley asserts that the qualities one usually regards as emitting from “objects” are not of those “things.”63 One reason why Berkeley ascribes to this outlook is that if attributes like color, taste, smell, and texture were stable aspects of an independent object, the sensation produced by those qualities would never be different to anybody.64 However, because individuals can, for instance, disagree about the type of smell an object gives off, or feel of its surface, shows that those qualities cannot be innate of any so-called object in question.65
Now, take for example the smell of perfume. Moreover, suppose that that perfume smelt appetizing to one, however repugnant to another.66 To Berkeley, this disparity would be a prime example of why smell is not inherent to perfume.67 That is because, Berkeley would state that if perfume genuinely possessed a makeup constituting the conditions for what its actual chemical composition appears to be, then that smell would be the same, to everyone, everywhere, and always.68 Unfortunately, since it is possible that two people can experience the same fragrance differently, provides evidence for Berkeley not only to doubt the independent existence of affective qualities, it also supplies him with a way to doubt the independent existence of the actual composition of “objects” themselves, including their assumed spatiality.69
Berkeley’s barrage on the composition of what appears as material objects helps to assert that nothing possesses a grounded existence, and as only phenomena, an object’s so-called extension cannot be its own at all.70 To demonstrate the justifiableness of his hypothesis, Berkeley focuses his readers on the fact that an object very far away can appear miniature, while up close, much more extensive.71 Like his attack on affective qualities, Berkeley claims that because the size of an object is relative at various distances, no surety of its magnitude is declarable, unless one claims that extension is a projection of the mind, and size an idea.72 Consequently, Berkeley’s solution is viable, since it disposes of the problem concerning why the appearances of supposed self-subsisting objects are malleable.73 That is, by asserting that even the compositions of what one usually regards as material things, such as their size in space, depends on the mind, due to their appearances being plastic, successfully allows Berkeley to deflect issues arising from claims stating that mind-independent “things” are material and subsistent without consciousness.74
Also, Berkeley employs language as a device to continue to show the lack of inherent stability “objects” possess, and hence the shakiness of believing they are spatial.75 An example to portray how Berkeley uses language as an instrument for challenging the mistaken notion of objectivity, one may envision someone encountering something with four wheels, headlights, a windshield, engine, and transmission, which he/she will almost certainly refer to as a “car.”76 However, Berkeley asserts that the word “car” denotes no more than a collection of parts conforming to what one habitually associates with the word “car."77
From this, Berkeley claims that because nothing would stop the mind from thinking “airplane” upon seeing a “car,” demonstrates that an automobile does not arouse the thought of itself in the psyche.78 Therefore, because “objects” do not determine minds to necessarily think of them by their names, shows that consciousness labels “things,” and people, as conscious beings, could only be able to do so if those “things” were ideational.79 Finally, because the mind can, in fact, give titles to “things,” shows that it takes precedence over non-conscious ideas, or the real ontological status of all “objects,” and as such space beams through awareness and does not inhere in “objects,” or unminding ideas.80
Akin to Berkeley’s conclusion that unminding ideas, or what one commonly refers to as “objects,” are dependent on the mind for their subsistence, he illuminates why it is the case that the mind plays a dominant role in the analysis of geometric figures and space.81 First, Berkeley asserts that when one encounters four parallel lines connected to one another in such a way that forms a two-dimensional image, it is safe to assume that that person is envisioning a square.82 Despite the appearance of that square as distinct from that individual’s mind, Berkeley would not concur.83
One reason for Berkeley’s disagreement would be that the mind can strip away the lines of any square via the imagination, and in the process, show that that shape is not free from the manipulating powers of consciousness.84 Hence, in theory, because the mind can pretend to visualize geometric shapes, without any of their defining characteristics, shows that not even mathematical figures have independent being, rendering them to be at a lesser level of existence than the mind.85 That is because geometric “objects” cannot act on the mind in the same way the mind can act on them, and since this indicates that the mind takes precedence over these “objects,” the space that enables their existence cannot be of them either.86 Lastly, Berkeley asserts this claim, for geometric shapes by not being of the same ideational powers as consciousness displays the two as unalike in capabilities, rendering the chance of space being a product of consciousness to be higher than it is inherent to those figures.87
Moreover, Berkeley uses simple logic to show the absurdity of the notion that one has the power to extract ideas from “objects," further asserting that his immaterialism is sound, and space ideal.88 One point, Berkeley invites his readers to consider is that if all existence is just ideational, then extracting an idea from what is already ideal, is, in fact, impossible.89 That is because when one supposedly removes an idea from an idea he/she still entertains an idea, and as such he/she is not drawing out anything unique from the result of his/her so-called abstraction.90 From this, Berkeley states that because abstracting ideas is a futile process, the surest route to exact knowledge of a “thing” is to acknowledge it as just an idea.91
Hence, when applied to space, Berkeley’s strict idealist assertion uncovers that one cannot logically divorce the idea of space from space since space is ideational too.92 To Berkeley, this reveals that space is necessarily dependent on subjectivity, consciousness, or a mind whose glance is omnipotent, and thus fitting for a deity.93 That omnipotent gazer, Berkeley refers to as God, and this turn or ontological understanding of space spares his system not only from complaints of solipsism but also allows it to maintain that space is mind and “object,” independent.94
Berkeley’s God is that being who is omnipotent, optimal, and free, and as such the only form of existence that could possess the power to perceive reality, perfectly continually, and by the surest mental act.95 First, by God’s omnipotence Berkeley understands the Deity as having the power to perform all that is possible.96 Second, by optimal, Berkeley points to the constant activity of life as indicative that God is all-good, for all life can only continue due to him/her being necessarily eternal and continuously looking at the universe to secure, or care for it.97
In other words, Berkeley concludes that since all is ideational, and because the ultimate perceiver must be a supremely powerful subjectivity or God, then “esse est percipi,” or “to be is to be perceived” is the foundation of the continuity of existence.98 Accordingly, space and all that resides in it, are the ideas of an “ens realissimum,” or a “most real being,” God, since without him/her life would collapse, which the persistence of existence seems to disprove.99 Lastly, Berkeley focuses his readers’ attention on why it is the case that God, who is most free, will never cease to perceive existence, further liberating space from any dependence on the mind or “objects.”100
Per Berkeley, God is the freest subjectivity, and as all-good, it only fits that he/she would never turn his/her gaze away from the cosmos.101 To Berkeley, this is so because if God is all-powerful, as well as most benevolent, he/she would only choose to perform what is the most difficult and righteous, such as maintaining all that is alive, for the strength of the Divine alone can handle this duty.102 Thus, minds, “objects,” and the space projected by consciousness marches on, since God’s free-will reveals securing life is good, and always watching the universe not only approvable but also impossible for anything else to handle.103
From this, one may claim that it is not impossible for God to dislocate his/her stare from existence; however, it is not of his/her nature, leading Berkeley to conclude that he/she will never turn his/her back on life.104 Finally, because there is a constant subjectivity perceiving reality ceaselessly, Berkeley claims that space and minds are secure from falling into non-existence, and as such, that watcher, or God, and no other, is requisite for the persistence of space, the minds channeling him/her, and all “things” housed by him/her.105
Debunking Berkeley’s Treatment of Space Through Kant
Kant’s assertion that space is unfree of minds imposing it onto the representational world, and Berkeley’s claim that space is independent of all minds and appearances illuminates an exciting debate. To Kant, Berkeley fails at justifying his theory of spatial awareness as reliant only on an all-perceiving deity for a plethora of reasons. First, Kant posits a challenge to Berkeley’s view of God as omnipotent.106 To Kant, because omnipotence includes the assertion that it is only proper of an omnipotent being, like Berkeley’s Deity, to maintain the continuity of the natural order, is to also presuppose that God is logically necessary.107 By logical necessity, Kant understands that which cannot be otherwise than what it is.108
That is, take for example the impossibility of genuinely thinking that a three-sided square, a four-sided circle, or a spherical rectangle exists.109 Thus, the logical necessity of three-sided triangles, spherical circles, and four-sided rectangles are sturdier truths than the supposed logical necessity of God, for it is not the case that one is unable to demonstrate other ways of explaining existence’s cause.110 Hence, if God were almighty, no one would be able to doubt his/her logical necessity.111 However, because one can think of other causes aside from God as the root of all nature, helps to display that the fixity of God, as an idea, is not of the same degree of surety as the impossibility of a four-sided circle.112 Applied to Berkeley’s foundational claim that God alone is requisite for the continuity of space, as doubtable through Kant’s critical lens, displays that it may be best to abandon Berkeley’s theory.113 Lastly, Kant continues to attack the subjective idealist hypothesis of space as free of the mind and appearances, by exposing the problematic nature of Berkeley’s assertion that God is all-free while ceaselessly all-good.114
Furthermore, Berkeley’s belief that God is utterly free while always true to his/her entirely benevolent nature, Kant uncovers to be issuable.115 To Kant, this problem as to how God can exist both freely while of a nature that tacitly compels him/her inclines Kant to debunk Berkeley on both a priori and a posteriori grounds.116 For him, if God possessed a sturdy nature, it would imply that he/she exists limitedly, like all other natural entities, and thus he/she would be natural.117 As such, if God is equitable to Nature itself, then Nature, or that totality of possible experience, would provide one with the prospect of having an objective experience of God.118 However, Kant would assert that experience itself provides no evidence that God is in the natural order, and as supernatural he/she would have no predispositions commanding him/her.119 Lastly, though this leaves open that God exists in a purely transcendent way, and is free, Kant show’s how pure reason itself cannot provide one with indubitable knowledge of God’s freedom.120
Next, strict a priori reasoning also leads to a problematic view of a deity like Berkeley’s all-free God.121 First, Kant asserts that if God were equivalent to the universe and was thus its cause, as natural he/she would have to be the most real being.122 Accordingly, one would think that asserting God as the only subject who can contain all predicts of existence, including freedom, would not defy logic. However, Kant asserts that it would, since if God contains all aspects of all that is, was, and will be, the Deity must also encompass those predicts of existence that negate the reality of being, such as “limit,” “condition,” and “boundary.”123
As such, Berkeley’s belief that God is all-free, cannot logically pan out, for by being most real, God would have to entail all qualities of being, even those that are contradictory to freedom.124 Hence, “free and unfree,” “infinite and finite,” all would be part of God, showing that God’s freedom exists problematically when one tries to demonstrate it in an exclusively a priori fashion.125 Finally, Kant asserts that because experience and reason cannot ground the existence of God, and due to it neither being able to resolve Berkeley’s view of God as free while always bound to his/her unending benevolence, makes Berkeley’s view of the Deity’s gaze, or space itself, epistemically nil.126
Another aspect of Kant’s philosophy which helps to debase Berkeley’s treatment of space is his understanding of synthetic a priori knowledge.127 To Kant, one may use an analytic proposition, such as “all bachelors are unmarried,” and then link it a premise that relies on experience, such as “all single men are bachelors.”128 From this, one can then deduce these claims to find “all single men are unmarried,” which happens to be logically valid and observable in the sensible world.129 One reason why this is so is that the definition or analytic meaning of the word “bachelor” falls under the genera of “unmarried,” and as such one may claim that the word “unmarried,” logically contains “bachelor,” rendering them logically compatible.130
Moreover, one may claim that to know “all single men are bachelors,” is justifiable by experience but not of the same surety as an analytic definition.131 That is because it would take only one exception to show that an experiential claim is not universally valid.132 For instance, the word “bachelor” does not always have to translate to all single men, since “bachelor” analytically defines as only a man who is “unmarried.”133 That is, experience shows that if “bachelor” strictly meant “unmarried man,” then it would be the case that one can still be a bachelor, or unwed, while also not being single, such as an engaged man.134 Accordingly, only Kant’s transcendental claim, that “all single men are unmarried” analytically satisfies that the subject term “single men,” falls under the umbrella of the predicate “unmarried,” which one can indeed affirm by experience.135 Lastly, the power to fuse analytic definitions with empirically rooted propositions helps Kant to assert why Berkeley’s pure phenomenalism is invalid, since by denying the reality of empirical propositions or extricated ideas from experience, Berkeley’s spatial conclusion mistakenly interprets the very logical roots of its author’s theory.136
One reason why Kant believes synthetic a priori reasoning can help deflate Berkeley’s belief in space’s independence is that Berkeley’s claims concerning the nature of representations, as merely ideas of the mind, mistakes the nature of those appearances since they are not ideas, but instead abstractions from experience.137 Accordingly, one may claim that Berkeley mistook his theory, for Kant displays why Berkeley’s logic is shaky.
Now, to Kant, Berkeley’s claim that the inability of extricating ideas from what is already an idea cannot be indubitably sure.138 First, synthetic a priori knowledge can be ampliative, showing that it is not solely a play of ideas.139 Take for instance the fact that every semi-circle and all triangles always result to 180°.140 To Kant, this shows that when one analyzes the representational aspects of semi-circles and triangles, such as their arcs, in the case of the former figure, or their hypotenuses in the case of the latter shape, one can additionally find more profound knowledge that adds to one’s understanding of the sensible world.141 At the same time, one finding the sure immaterial aspect of every semi-circle and triangle, like both shapes always equaling 180°, displays that the representational aspects of both figures can lead one to additional knowledge, despite both seeming to be different.142
Accordingly, Kant would assert that Berkeley’s claim that all is phenomena, is uncertain, for although the immaterial aspects of figures may be the same, their representations may still entirely differ.143 As such, one would only be able to find that 180° is both of semi-circles and triangles only through experience with both figures.144 Consequently, this reveals that space as just an idea of the mind, sustained by God alone, is unsure, for the nature of space’s status as a mere idea is doubtable.145 Lastly, when coupled with Kant’s debasing of Berkeley’s claim that all space relies on God’s power alone, supplies one with further reason to adhere to Kant’s critique of subjective idealism’s favorite son.
Distinguishing and Defending Kant’s Transcendental Ideality of Space from Berkeley’s Subjective Idealist Account Via Feder’s Review
Thus far, this essay presented readers with an in-depth investigation into how Kant and Berkeley envisioned space. That is, by explicating Kant’s view of space as mind-dependent, while free of representations, and Berkeley’s understanding of space as free of all minds and appearances, set the stage for the next phase of this piece. That next movement was to deny Berkeley’s view of space, as faulty on both ontological and logical grounds via Kant’s critical gaze. Now, this piece will ask the reader to enter Johann Feder, a contemporary of Kant, and the reasons why he challenges Kant’s spatial hypothesis, while also accusing Kant of merely repackaging Berkeley’s theory of extension.146 Lastly, this article will continue to assert the justifiability of Kant’s exposition of space, against Feder, and in doing so, further, distinguish the Kantian project from that of Berkeley’s subjective idealism.
One of Feder’s attacks on the Kantian project is that if minds alone project space onto the world of appearances, and if geometric truths, like the universality of all circles equaling 360° exists noumenally, then how can Kant differentiate his brand of idealism from Berkeley’s immaterialism.147 That is, to Feder, since both phenomena and noumena are representational at their core, how can Kant indeed distinguish one from the other.148 Now, to Kant, though Feder would be right to assert that noumena and phenomena must be ideational so that one can take notice of them, Kant would assert that there is an active/passive distinction between the two.149 In other words, to Kant, noumenal inferences, or the inability to know what it is to be another thing-in-itself, differs from the type of way one apprehends the knowledge of phenomena.150
Now, space itself, which, as default to people’s minds, is inescapable and Kant would assert that the persistence of phenomena available to gaze upon provides one with evidence to judge that there is something different about them.151 However, to discover noumenal archetypes people must use their active powers to first acknowledge and conceive of an object as bound by an external space.152 They must then, as akin to the process of finding the formulaic aspects of geometric figures, actively work with those phenomenal dimensions of that enclosed object, which their mind framed, to uncover its universal quality, as that reason why they can infer representations are other than themselves.153 However, one should note that it is only if unified minds with the powers to actively deal with phenomena to infer noumenal things-in-themselves, remain, that those truths can stay accessible.154 That is because experience shows nothing other than rational consciousnesses able to investigate phenomena, and thus, Kant would assert that this form of cognitive activity is unique to rational beings.155 Lastly, this helps to move Kant away from charges of being a pure immaterialist, since Feder cannot fully claim that Kant’s views are a remix of Berkeley’s dogmatic phenomenalism, which, another challenge made by Feder further attempts to complicate.
Another issue that Feder raises regarding Kant’s treatment of space is that how can space itself be mind-dependent, if all people themselves may be just representational.156 To Kant, the difference in people’s appearances would be impossible even to infer if space were not a precondition of experience, and native to consciousness.157 One reason why Kant would assert this claim is that inferring any noumenon starts with one’s mind recognizing that no two appearances are exactly alike, which without spatial awareness, no one would never be able to notice or hypothesize.158 Thus, because one can justifiably assert that both perception and conception rely on spatial awareness for the beginning and continuity of either’s functionality, Feder’s charge is open to rebuttal.159
Moreover, Kant would also reply to Feder that because it is not the case that no one alone is requisite for space’s continuity, may oddly be further evidence to believe that space is mind-reliant.160 First, Kant would make this claim because it is never the case that when only one person turns his/her back to something, another individual cannot vouch that that object remained.161 As such, if space were indeed independent of the mind, no possibility for agreement, regarding an appearance’s persistence could result.162 However, since people can form consensus and because the reality of any phenomenal appearance as being independent of one but not all, is verifiable, reveals more about the abilities of rational consciousness than meets the eye.163
In other words, Kant believes that rational intellects are special, insofar that it is only they who can assert terms such as “universality,” “community,” and “commonality,” while also being able to derive and assign meaning to those words.164 That is because it is only together that rational beings can notice the steadiness of phenomena and communally assert that those appearances remain since they can come to agree about any of those representations in their shared space.165
From this, Kant believes people can confirm the validity of the community of minds sustaining space, by merely placing a representational object on a table with other people in the room, leaving, and then returning to find it untouched.166 Expanded to the worldly scale, Kant would believe, against Feder’s charge, and Berkeley’s theory of extension that together rational beings sustain space because it is only their gaze that can participate in justifying universalities.167 Lastly, experience displays the ability to confirm universal claims since all that is requisite is the experience of agreement between one and another on something such as the world of sensibility remaining as seeable, regardless if either closes his/her eyes.168
Now, if one juxtaposes Berkeley’s assertion that space is the ever-gazing view of an all-good and all-powerful mind, or God, with Kant’s claim that space is a product of rational minds imposing their spatial intuition onto the representational world, he/she may begin to find where both philosophers differ.169 In other words, both Kant and Berkeley, despite believing that appearances depend on space, are nevertheless different, for it is not the case that Kant grants the need for any deity projecting space onto existence, and instead he grounds spatial awareness in rational minds alone.170
Moreover, Kant’s belief in the active powers of the mind, to theorize differences between one’s self and things inhabiting one’s spatial field of awareness, not only assists in untangling Kant’s transcendental idealism from Berkeley’s subjective idealism, but it also deflects Feder’s charge that Kant is a disguised phenomenalist.171 Also, the ability to find universal truths and apply them to the world of appearances is only doable by rational minds, since it is they alone who impose, and as a community, maintain spatiality in the representational realm they help generate.172 Lastly, regarding this power to agree, made possible by people’s spatial awareness, further helped to demonstrate not only that Feder’s subjectivist interpretation of Kant is not entirely accurate, but also that transcendental idealism is indeed of a different brand than Berkeley’s dogmatic immaterialism.
The purpose of this piece was to accomplish two tasks. First, by asserting Kant’s transcendental account of space, followed by Berkeley’s subjective idealist interpretation of it, this essay presented the reader with two similar while also fundamentally different outlooks on the nature and relation between the mind, appearances, and space. Afterward, by demonstrating why Kant’s theory of space, as unable to subsists without the community of minds imposing it onto the phenomenal world, rather than resorting to Berkeley’s ontological solution, this paper hoped to achieve its first goal.173 That goal was to exposit why Kant was correct about spatiality and not Berkeley, due to Kant’s ability to critically find the latter’s ontological grounding for space’s independence from minds and appearances as unsound.174 Next, to fulfill the second goal of this piece, this author focused the reader’s attention on the Feder Review, to argue how Kant’s transcendental ideality of space is not a remix of Berkeley’s comprehension of extension. As such, this paper attempted to display this distinction not only by pointing out the unique aspects of Kant’s perspective but also by further explaining why it is accurate. Concludingly, this writer hopes that this essay was not only successful in achieving the two issues it attempted to address, it additionally invites the reader to judge that success for himself/herself.
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