Brian Smith

Kant and Truth

9 posts in this topic

I am currently trying to identify the proper categorization for certain philosophers in regard to their ideas of truth - specifically in relation to the correspondence and the coherence theory of truth. In his lecture on Hegel, Dr. P indicates that, prior to Hegel, philosophy had traditionally defined truth as correspondence between a mind's ideas and reality. In other words, philosophy held that there was a reality 'out there' and a mind 'in here' - and the function of the mind is to know reality. And when the mind's ideas correspond to reality they are true - and when they depart from reality, they are false. That, he said, is called the Correspondence Theory of Truth.

Dr. P goes on to say that because Hegel discarded the notion of a reality 'out there' ie outside the mind, there was thus nothing outside the mind for ideas to conform to any longer. Yet there still needed to be some standard of truth. And so Hegel said that truth is a logical relationship of ideas to other ideas - not to reality. This is called the Coherence Theory of Truth. An idea is 'coherent' - true - if it fits logically into a system of ideas. It is true if it is necessitated by those other ideas and it in turn necessitates them.

Now I can understand how Plato, Aristotle, and even Augustine can properly be identified as adherents of the Correspondence Theory of Truth. And I understand how Hegel can be identified as an adherent of the Coherence Theory of Truth. Where I get a bit confused is Kant. Kant is definitely a philosopher prior to Hegel. And he certainly held there was a reality 'out there' - ie separate from the mind. But he also held the mind could not know that reality. So technically it could not be said Kant was appealing to reality 'out there' to identify the truth or falsehood of his ideas.

As I understand it, truth for Kant would be correspondence, not to an external reality, but to innate structures built into the mind which automatically organize the data of external reality into experience. So a man's ideas do not simply cohere to other ideas he holds. But neither do they correspond to external reality. They correspond to a universal structure of the human mind. That being the case, which category does Kant properly fall under - and why?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’m quite busy and don’t have much time to engage in this discussion but I can offer this lead to your question:

Because the Kantian innate structures of the human mind are supposedly universal to all people, he redefined objective reality as collective subjectivity.

This was the only standard of “truth” left for him since he cut the human mind off from external reality. The only other alternative would have been personal subjectivity, which is no standard at all.

I think that is why certain elements in the culture are so hung up on consensus. They may not realize it, but they ultimately got it from Kant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While I don't know what Kant wrote specifically on the concept of truth, he held that we can only hope that our ideas of the phenomenal world correspond to the facts of the noumenal world. So he did acknowledge the notion of correspondence, only he added that we can never find out whether our ideas actually correspond to reality. The phenomena we experience may all be true, or they may all be false, or some of them may be true and some of them false, but we will never know which of these is the case.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Because the Kantian innate structures of the human mind are supposedly universal to all people, he redefined objective reality as collective subjectivity.

This was the only standard of “truth” left for him since he cut the human mind off from external reality. The only other alternative would have been personal subjectivity, which is no standard at all.

I think that is why certain elements in the culture are so hung up on consensus. They may not realize it, but they ultimately got it from Kant.

And yet Kant was not a proponent of democracy. Kantian collective subjectivism, as you indicate, appeals to innate structures of the mind, It appeals to something unchanging and prior to awareness. And it is to this something that ideas are supposed to correspond. In other words, ideas are supposed to be related, not to other ideas, but to a structure which exists prior to awareness - prior to consciousness.

Concensus, on the other hand, is essentially an undiluted form of democracy. As such, it can't even be characterized as an example of the coherence theory, because democratically determined ideas do not have to necessitate any other ideas. The ideas of a consensus do not have cohere to one another. They do not have to have any relation to other ideas at all. In other words, coherence and consensus are not synonymous.

What causes my problem here is the fact that the Kantian appeal is to an unchanging, pre-conscious structure. If 'in here' means consciousness, then Kant seems to be appealing to something not 'in here'. He is explicitly appealing to something prior to experience - prior to our awareness - prior to consciousness. In other words, Kant appears to be appealing to something 'out there'.

Hegel, on the other hand, appeals only to our experience. There is nothing else for us to reference beyond experience - beyond awareness - beyond consciousness. There is no 'out there'. There is only 'in here'. As such, we cannot relate our ideas to something beyond or prior to our consciousness. Therefore we are left in a position where we can only relate our ideas to themselves - to other ideas in consciousness. That seems to be the essence of the Coherence Theory. And that does not appear to be what Kant is practicing.

...he held that we can only hope that our ideas of the phenomenal world correspond to the facts of the noumenal world. So he did acknowledge the notion of correspondence, only he added that we can never find out whether our ideas actually correspond to reality. The phenomena we experience may all be true, or they may all be false, or some of them may be true and some of them false, but we will never know which of these is the case.
Yes. As I previously indicated, because the 'real' world is unknowable - because the structures of the mind stand in the way of and alter the data of reality (think rose-colored glasses) - man's ideas cannot correspond to that reality. However, Kant's point is that they can correspond to something prior to the phenomenal world - prior to consciousness (ie to the glasses). In other words, ideas can correspond to something outside the phenomenal world which is in fact responsible for the phenomenal world.

Thus, if 'in here' references awareness - ie consciousness - then Kant's appeal is not to something 'in here'. It is to something prior to 'in here' which is, in fact, responsible for the 'form' of what is 'in here'.

It is for such reasons I lean toward the idea that Kant practices a form of the Correspondence Theory of Truth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
-----------

It is for such reasons I lean toward the idea that Kant practices a form of the Correspondence Theory of Truth.

I'm not sure I understand how you reach this conclusion from what you've said about Kant's theory. The correspondence theory also holds that one must know that the ideas represent reality. It is not just that A corresponds with B, but that the mind knows that it does so. Kant's categories prevent man from knowing that his ideas correspond to reality, even if they in fact did correspond. It would be like someone from ancient Greece saying that there are nine planets*, even if he were aware of only six. The Greek doesn't know that that are nine because the nature of his sensory apparatus (the ability to resolve small objects) is limited.

* (I'm including Pluto here!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not sure I understand how you reach this conclusion from what you've said about Kant's theory.
Note that I said I am leaning toward that conclusion - not that I have 'reached' that conclusion. And I currently lean toward it because, as I indicated, Kant appears to be appealing to something apart from and prior to consciousness. It is this something to which our ideas are supposed to correspond. And it is something we can supposedly know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not sure I understand how you reach this conclusion from what you've said about Kant's theory.
Note that I said I am leaning toward that conclusion - not that I have 'reached' that conclusion. And I currently lean toward it because, as I indicated, Kant appears to be appealing to something apart from and prior to consciousness. It is this something to which our ideas are supposed to correspond. And it is something we can supposedly know.

That was the conclusion I was referring to, that you were leaning toward that interpretation of Kant view. I'm not familiar enough with Kant, but I've never seen an interpretation of Kant that implied we could know what the actual categories were. As I understand him, he created his "categories" out of thin air in order to explain how the mind creates this phenomenal world in light of his assumption that there is an unknowable noumenal world (among other issues). Is there anything in Kant's fundamental ideas (on this issue) that you hold correspond to reality?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That was the conclusion I was referring to, that you were leaning toward that interpretation of Kant view.
Instead of debating your use of the term 'conclusion' in this context (ie leanings), I will simply reiterate the fact that I have yet to come to a conclusion about Kant in relation to the Correspondence or Coherence Theories of Truth.
I'm not familiar enough with Kant, but I've never seen an interpretation of Kant that implied we could know what the actual categories were.
It depends upon what you mean by "know" here. If you mean 'come into direct contact with' then you are correct, we cannot "know" the categories. But such direct contact is not a requirement of the Correspondence Theory. Otherwise, to take one example, Plato could not be considered a proponent of the Correspondence Theory. And yet he is considered just such a proponent.

My understanding of Kant is that we supposedly "know" his categories essentially the same way we supposedly "know" Plato's Forms - through deduction.

Thus, while I still have not reached a conclusion concerning the question of Kant and truth, observations like this continue to provide more and more evidence in support of the idea of Correspondence rather than in support of Coherence.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My understanding of Kant is that we supposedly "know" his categories essentially the same way we supposedly "know" Plato's Forms - through deduction.
To add to my previous point here, not only does Kant indicate we may know the categories by such 'rational' means, but I now recall that Kant indicates man may "know" the noumenal world - he may know 'true' reality. He just can't know it by means of reason. The Kantian may know his 'true' reality the same way the Augustinians 'knew' their 'true' reality. And Augustinians were indeed practitioners of the Correspondence Theory of Truth. Truth for the Augustinians was the correspondence of man's ideas to true reality - ie to the ideas of God. And the ideas of God were established not by reason but by faith. Kant proceeds along the same lines. As he said: "I have found it necessary to limit knowledge in order to make room for faith." In other words, he has limited reason to knowing the phenomenal world, so that faith may be free to know the noumenal world. To this end, Kant provided arguments to indicate how man can have an a priori faith in "God, freedom, and immortality" in the noumenal world.

Thus, while reason has no access to the noumenal world, that does not mean man has no access to the noumenal world at all. Like the Augustinians, the Kantians have non-rational access to, and thus knowledge of, the noumenal world.

Having recalled these facts, the evidence would now seem to favor the Correspondence Theory of Truth quite heavily. Does anyone have evidence which would contradict this premise?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites