Wednesday, 2 January 2013

V is for.....!

Hi everyone! Happy New...ton's third law of physics! (as a friend of mine said the other day....)!
I hope your Festive seasons have been going well, look what I found down the back of the sofa.....

yes, it's that old advent calendar that I forgot to open all the windows to! Let's have a look!

V is for....Visual Trickery!

Is it obvious that the shape Tim is holding is an impossible figure? I'm not sure if I drew it affectively enough, but it took awhile to get the hang of it so in the end I just settled with this...

I like the idea that Being is truly disturbed by the shape anyway, it reminds me of the old debate between the Kantian Transcendental Aesthetic on the one hand and the people who say 'ah but we can make a mobius strip therefore we can really conceive of infinity' or 'ah, but we can imagine 4 dimensions so we are not mentally restrained by 3 Dimensional space.....' (I wish I could remember the reference but there's an article I read in my second year that basically does this...anyone know who it is?)

I have to say that I have never, ever, been able to imagine 4 spatial dimensions. If someone would like to enlighten me then I would be very interested to know more, but I still think, that in the same way the impossible figure in this cartoon is, despite appearances, represented in the 2 dimensions of the page, that all the thought experiments that people throw up as attempts to critique the Transcendental Aesthetic do remain constrained within space and time. It's been a long time since I studied Kant, but I do generally think that representation requires certain things just to make sense. (Kant talks about the boat going down the river: we couldn't make sense of that happening without a presupposed notion of causality, of one event following the other, otherwise we'd just have crazy mad hallucinationary sensations) Of course have we then just pre-defined representation as 3-dimensional and causal? I think that's where some of the confusion of these thought experiments comes in, what would it mean to imagine 4 spatial dimensions? What would be the criteria of testing that we had successfully done it? The words stop making sense in the way we want them to I think, which reminds me of the famous Kant quote:

'The light dove, cleaving the air in her free flight, and feeling its resistance, might imagine that its flight would be still easier in empty space' (erm, in the critique somewhere)

Kant's not talking about a semantic issue here but I think the point can be transferred. There comes a point where the lack of empirical facts/criteria of meaning (resistance) makes the concept affectively empty, so thought can no longer proceed clearly. How this manifests in these thought experiments is critics saying 'well Kant is wrong because we just can imagine in 4 dimensions...just try this....[enter thought experiment of choice]' I never knew what they meant when they said that.....
In my head this has parallels with the problematic nature of the relationship between the infamous noumenal realm and the phenomenal realm. (Questions like 'how does the thing in itself actually relate to the appearance?' This is particularly problematic when you think that the Transcendental Self is really supposed to be noumenal, which begs the question - do i have 2 selves?! What does that mean?!) At what point do you decide that the concept has become empty?! Is it when you get to 4 D shapes, or do we then just end up with a sort of consensus view, rather than the sort of truth Kant himself was keen to establish? (At this point I remember reading the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and my exasperated tutor trying to explain that building one's moral thought on the pre-suppositions of rationality was not the same as building it on consensus. Still there's room for exploration I think....)

I'm sure I'm running some terms together here (as I'm basically just typing off the top of my head) and  with Kant it's important not to do that, especially when it comes to the Pure Concepts of Space and Time.  Someone was good enough to point out how easy it is to run terms together in our discussion of the apriori/aposteriori (See this earlier post) But the reason it's so important to be conceptually precise when it comes to Kant, is I think, that it's very easy to simply say 'oh well that's just beyond our understanding' or 'noumenal' when perhaps the issue needs more interrogation. So despite the fact I once chuckled at the thought experiments I mentioned above, I now have more respect for what these authors were trying to achieve. But not to the point where I actually want to read the whole Critique ;-)

Anyway, I'm sure you lot could put me straight, care to share?


ps. Oh, and despite the fact I'm running late, I'm going to wait til later in the week for the rest of the alphabet, I just love building the suspense!

1 comment:

  1. Dude, that was awesome. I don't know much philosophy but I'd like to learn.