Bennett's Kant's Analytic is one of the two great Kant books of the 1960s, the other being Strawson's The Bounds of Sense. These books cast new light on Kant's doctrines and arguments in the Critique of Pure Reason and set several generations of philosophers to grappling with Kant.
Not everyone agreed with Bennett's approach to Kant, which he continued to pursue in subsequent works on the early modern philosophers. He said in the 1966 preface that he was going to fight Kant tooth and nail, and so he did. He treated Kant as someone to tilt with in the journals, demanding clarification on some points, offering clarification on others (perhaps using contemporary diction or distinctions), setting forth his arguments more explicitly than the master himself had, and subjecting the results to dispassionate evaluation. It was philosophy of a high order, so good that some of his critics refused to accept it as history of philosophy, apparently believing that no one could do both things at once.
There can be no going back on some of the distinctions and expository memes Bennett introduced. There is the observation that while for Locke and Hume, to have a concept is to harbour an introspectable mental item, for Kant it is to have the ability to recognize certain things, draw certain inferences, and answer certain questions. There is the capsule description of the Transcendental Deduction as showing that we cannot have experience without employing concepts and the Metaphysical Deduction as showing that to use any concepts we must use Kant's favoured dozen. There is the distinction between the genetic (bad) and the analytic (good) forms in which a thesis may be propounded. What Hume offered as an account of the causal conditions that make us believe in the existence of bodies is better seen as an analysis of what it means for bodies to exist; what Kant offered as a transcendental psychological theory of the operations that produce unity of consciousness is more profitably construed as an account of the criteria representations must satisfy to belong to a single self.
The most exciting parts of Bennett's book are those in which he analyses the notion of objectivity and advances Kant-inspired arguments for the existence of an objective realm.
Perception bulks large in Reid's published writings. Nearly all of the Inquiry into the Human Mind is devoted to it, with chapters allotted to each of the senses of Smelling, Hearing, Tasting, Touch, and Seeing. And in the Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, by far the longest essay is Essay II, “Of the Powers we Have by Means of our External Senses” The main theme of this chapter is Reid's attack on the reigning “way of ideas” and his attempt to put in its place a direct realist theory of perception. Also covered are Reid's distinction between sensation and perception, his views on primary and secondary qualities, his nativism about our conceptions of hardness and extension, and his treatment of the phenomenon of acquired perception.
I. CRITIQUE OF THE THEORY OF IDEAS
Almost alone among the great modern philosophers, Reid sought to uphold a direct realist theory of perception. He repudiated the theory of ideas, the central tenet of which is that the object immediately present to the mind is never an external thing, but only an internal image, sense datum, representation, or (to use the most common eighteenth-century term) idea. Ideas were conceived of as mental entities that existed only as long as there was awareness of them. Some proponents of the theory of ideas (such as Descartes and Locke) were realists, conceiving of physical objects as things distinct from ideas that cause ideas of them to arise in our minds.
A characteristic principle of much contemporary antirealism is this: truth supervenes on evidence, in the sense that there can be no difference in truth value (between two statements, theories, worldviews, etc.) unless there is also a difference in epistemic value. In the first part of this essay, I will demonstrate this principle at work in the writings of two leading antirealists, Hilary Putnam and Nelson Goodman. In the remainder of the essay, I will argue that the principle is self-refuting in much the same way as the logical positivists' criterion of meaningfulness is: it fails to satisfy the requirements it seeks to impose on other views. There are ways of construing the principle to save it from selfrefutation, but they all have the effect of undermining its intended applications.
The Principle Exposed
Though never explicitly formulated, the supervenience principle plays a critical role in the arguments of Putnam and Goodman. Both writers make much of the fact that there are theories or descriptions of the world that are logically incompatible if taken at face value but that, at the same time, are in some sense equivalent. The equivalence in question is clearly supposed to be some sort of epistemic equivalence. It is not, however, to be understood in narrow empiricist fashion; it involves not merely covering equally well any relevant empirical data, but also fulfilling to the same degree any further constraints that reason may impose.
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