Example research essay topic: A Critique Of The Works Of Immanuel Kant – 755 words

But if the mind actively generates perception,
this raises the question whether the result has
anything to do with the world, or if so, how much.
The answer to the question, unusual, ambiguous, or
confusing as it was, made for endless trouble both
in Kant’s thought and for a posterity trying to
figure him out. To the extent that knowledge
depends on the structure of the mind and not on
the world, knowledge would have no connection to
the world and is not even true representation,
just a solipsistic or intersubjective fantasy.
Kantianism seems threatened with “psychologism,”
the doctrine that what we know is our own
psychology, not external things. Kant did say,
consistent with psychologism, that basically we
don’t know about “things-in-themselves,” objects
as they exist apart from perception. But at the
same time Kant thought he was vindicating both a
scientific realism, where science really knows the
world, and a moral realism, where there is
objective moral obligation, for both of which a
connection to external existence is essential. And
there were also terribly important features of
things-in-themselves that we do have some notion
about and that are of fundamental importance to
human life, not just morality but what he called
the three “Ideas” of reason: God, freedom, and
immortality. Kant always believed that the
rational structure of the mind reflected the
rational structure of the world, even of
things-in-themselves — that the “operating
system” of the processor, by modern analogy,
matched the operating system of reality.

But Kant
had no real argument for this — the “Ideas” of
reason just become “postulates” of morality — and
his system leaves it as something unprovable. The
paradoxes of Kant’s efforts to reconcile his
conflicting approaches and requirements made it
very difficult for most later philosophers to take
the overall system seriously. Nevertheless, Kant’s
theory does all sorts of things that seem
appropriate for a non-reductionistic philosophical
system and that later philosophy has had trouble
doing at all. Kant managed to provide, in
phenomenal reality (phaenomena=”appearances”), for
a sphere for science that was distinct and
separate from anything that would relate to
morality or religion. The endless confusion and
conflict that still results from people trying to
figure out whether or how science and religion
should fit together is deftly avoided by Kant, who
can say, for instance, that God and divine
creation cannot be part of any truly scientific
theory because both involve “unconditioned”
realities, while science can only deal with
conditioned realities. In the world, everything
affects everything else, but the traditional view,
found even in Spinoza, is that God is free of any
external causal influences.

Similarly, Kant can be
a phenomenal determinist with science yet
simultaneously allow for free will, and that in a
way that will not be entirely explicable to us —
a virtue when the very idea of a rational and
purposive free will, and not just arbitrary
choices, has involved obscurities that no one has
been able to illuminate. Kant’s theory prevents
psychological explanations for behavior, however
illuminating, being used to excuse moral
responsibility and accountability. Thus, the
tragic childhood of the defendant, however
touching and understandable, cannot excuse crimes
commited in full knowledge of their significance.
Kant’s approach is also of comparative interest
because of the similar ancient Buddhist
philosophical distinction between conditioned
realities, which mostly means the world of
experience, and unconditioned realities
(“unconditioned dharmas”), which interestingly
include, not only the sphere of salvation,
Nirvana, but also space, which of course for Kant
was a form imposed a priori on experience by the
mind. The problems that must be sorted out with
Kant are at the same time formidable. Most
important is the confusion that results from Kant
mixing together two entirely different theories in
the Critique of Pure Reason (1781). The first
theory is that the fundamental activity of the
mind, called “synthesis,” is an activity of
thought that applies certain concepts to a
previously given perceptual datum from experience.
It is upon this theory that the Critique of Pure
Reason was planned with its fundamental division
between the “Transcendental Aesthetic,” about the
conditions of perception (what Kant called
empirical “intuition”), and the “Transcendental
Logic,” about the conditions of thought.

Kant still says, as late as page 91 of the first
edition (“A”), “But since intuition [Anschauung]
stands in no need whatsoever of the functions of
thought, appearances [Erscheinungen] would none
the less present objects to our intuition” (A
90-91, Norman Kemp Smith translation, 1929, St.
Martin’s, 1965), without, that is, any need for
mental synthesis..

Research essay sample on A Critique Of The Works Of Immanuel Kant