Kant's three questions

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Jul 15, 2015.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    "All the interests of my reason, speculative as well as practical, combine in the three following questions: 1. What can I know? 2. What ought I to do? 3. What may I hope?=====Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. 1781-1789.

    How do you answer these questions, if at all?
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  3. rpenner Fully Wired Registered Senior Member

    1. Is bounded by the best summaries of the best evidence.
    2. Is bounded by my personal capabilities which grow throughout youth and diminish in old age (except for the rich).
    3. Is bounded by my imagination which consists of my optimism, my dreams and my fears.
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  5. river

    1) use your intellect

    2) be good to Humanity

    3) that Humanity believes in themselves more than any other being. That our future is the longest of any living thinking ; mature being in the Universe.
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  7. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    The answer to the first is limited by your own senses, scientific instruments, and the sum of all the recorded knowledge of the human race limited by the time and discretion a mortal being has to assimilate and remember such knowledge. This must be all be accomplished with considerable abridgment, and what you can know is not known best by limiting yourself to a knowledge of symbolic works, oral or written. These are tools of finite minds incapable of knowing the entire truth about anything.

    The answer to the second is related to individual talents and abilities on the one hand, and the golden rule on the other. Do what you are good at, but if what you think you are good at is philosophy, you may safely skip doing anything with that and no one will miss it, including and especially expanding on any ideas from Kant.

    The answer to the third is to try and live a long and prosperous life that is diverse and rich in both experience and sensation, and also use your talents and abilities in a manner that affords enjoyment to others trying to do the same with their own lives. Hope you should not bore anyone as badly as someone like Kant did.

    That about covers it, and without all the boring and long winded philosophy that Kant put into his labored and tedious answers.
  8. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    The scope of what the first two can have seems to pivot around the third, if they both don't outright reduce to "What may I hope?".

    Expectation-wise, mitigated optimism (that is, with caution added) has had more survival value than "giving-up", "expecting only the worst", and inventive imagination / discovery urges being confined to the pessimistic limitations of a current situation. So the attitude at work in the "hope" context, or the range of territory in which hope is allowed to breach and expand into, does much to determine what will be carved-out concerning the boundaries of knowledge and formulation of a prescription for doing.

    Curiously, endorsing the idea that complete knowledge is possible can have negative results. If presently enjoying a fine life, a sense of epistemic security that everything possible has been arranged so that the good times will continue could be one's eventual downfall. If presently suffering a miserable life, a sense of certainty that the dice are loaded with only gloom and doom helps ensure the bad times continue with far less productivity. Thus, epistemic humility seems the better option (by leaving the basket unfilled, there is thereby the anticipation of "more" lurking as potential resource or backup [or even threat] in the unknown).

    A sole person on an uninhabited island or land throws a monkey-wrench into the conception that there's a scheme of "ought" which can be applicable to all contingent circumstances. Or at least, many traditional tenets like "Do not murder", "Do not steal", "Do not lie", "Do not rape or molest", "Do not bully", etc, suddenly become junk components which serve no function in whatever program of obligation / duty / behavior / goals. Nevertheless, in theory there is the possibility of encountering other humans, in which the Omega Man or Woman may transcend its bare isolation and enter a realm of social order. Suddenly finding need of civilizing himself/herself, of "getting along" with other primate agents.

    Should that happen, the loner from Solitude might find himself/herself embedded in a system of societal regulation whose finer rules sprout from at least three basic, general options as foundation: Is it the collective organization that deserves rights or priority of rights? Is it the individual that deserves rights or priority of rights? Is it a mixture of both? If the cultural entity the feral or naive "ought" newcomer enters has chosen a particular plan that s/he feels turns it into an undesirable monster, then "room" for other formulations must be posited which the Monster Society or its authority denies the possibility or feasibility of. Hope must engender the room, hope must allow it to be conceived, hope must deliver the impetus to break down the barriers and deliver a territory formerly thought to be unknown or impossible.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2015
  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    What can I know?

    If that refers to specific items of knowledge, I have no way of answering. The unknown is an unbounded set and there's an undetermined number of things that I don't currently know but conceivably might.

    If the question is really seeking to define what the ultimate theoretical boundaries of human knowledge are in principle (and that's what Kant addressed in his 'Critique of Pure Reason') again I feel unable to answer. I don't share Kant's confidence that I have that nailed down. There may be whole realms of potential knowledge whose existence nobody today even suspects, like quantum mechanics to the ancient Greeks or topology to paleolithic hunters. There may be totally unsuspected ways of acquiring knowledge that we as yet know nothing about.

    I guess that I would agree with Kant that the limits of our human cognitive capacity probably do represent the ultimate boundaries on what humans can know. But unlike Kant, I don't believe that I already know what those boundaries are. Nor do I know whether they can be expanded by genetic engineering, cooperation with AI, or whatever.

    What ought I to do?

    If that means specific courses of action, I don't think that there is any single answer. I don't believe that human life has any single purpose or goal. So there isn't any single thing that all human beings should be doing. There are any number of valuable (not necessarily the same kind of value) things that people might choose to do.

    If the question means what theory of metaethics should I adhere to, again I have no final answer, apart from saying that I'm not persuaded by Kantian deontology. I kind of go with my social instincts and perhaps tend towards evolutionary ethics. I also tend to like consequentialism. But both of those ideas raise more questions than they answer.

    What may I hope?

    The realm of hope is where Kant tucked his own religious faith. I'm not religious in the same way, so the question doesn't hold the same importance or interest for me that it held for him.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2015
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  10. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    "The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep". -- Kenny Rogers (The Gambler)

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