The Loxbridge Kant Series aims to connect three of the largest academic centres of excellence in the UK in a growing community of analytic Kant scholars. The plan is to run three one-day workshops a year, with one in London, one in Cambridge, and one in Oxford. For each of the three workshops, we invite two speakers from each department: one faculty member and one graduate student.
Nicholas Currie (University College London) Christopher Benzenberg (St Edmund's College, Cambridge) Maya Krishnan (All Souls College, Oxford)
Saturday, 30th of November 2019
Dr John Callanan (KCL), Kant on Signs In Concreto in Geometry
I argue for a new interpretation of the question of the method of metaphysics in Kant’s Pre-Critical intellectual development. I argue that Kant’s pessimism regarding metaphysics in the Inquiry into the Distinctness of the Principles of Natural Theology and Morality was motivated by familiar early modern concerns regarding the expressive limitations of natural language as the appropriate representational medium for philosophical inquiry. The contrasting representational efficacy of ‘signs in concreto’ in geometry, first articulated in the Inquiry, is key to this account. The central difference concerned the manner in which types of representation secure reference. Signs in concreto offered a model of how representational vehicles might themselves be sufficient to secure reference to their objects. I suggest that Kant saw signs in concreto in geometry as cases of autological representation, cases where the representational vehicle is itself a token of the type expressed in the representational content. That metaphysical concepts lack such representational aids is crucial to understanding both Kant’s lowered hopes for such inquiries in the 1760s and his subsequent demand in later works that such concepts be supplemented with intuitions of the relevant type.
Samuel Matthews (Royal Holloway), Kant’s Argument for Conceptualism
This paper will suggest that Kant’s account of the threefold synthesis in the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason offers an independent ground for conceptualism. Unlike many contemporary accounts that rely on the so-called ‘Myth of the Given’ to motivate a conceptualist account of perceptual experience, Kant’s argument is made in terms of the conditions of the possibility of perceptual awareness. The key thought is that an awareness of an object as an object requires the recognition of it as in some sense ‘the same’ over time. To the extent that this consciousness of identity must unite a manifold of acts, it will be argued that such perceptual awareness must have a conceptual form. The advantage of such an account is that it is able to offer a direct response to the relationalist critique of conceptualism, undercutting the possibility of the existence of a contentless ‘visual awareness’ of objects in our environment that the relationalist position relies on. Being independent of the Myth of the Given, it is also able to avoid the relationalist concern that a conceptualist account presupposes the form that perceptual judgement must take.
Light lunch will be available for all.
Dr Angela Breitenbach (Cambridge), Kant’s Conceptions of Science
Kant is well-known for his strict, even restrictive, conception of science. ‘Proper science’, as he calls it in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, is a body of cognition that is systematically unified, ordered by rational principles, and known with apodictic certainty. But not all science is proper science on Kant’s account. I show that, throughout his work, Kant also employs a broader, less-examined but equally well-developed, conception of science. I argue that we must understand Kant’s broad conception in normative terms: to qualify as science in the broad sense, a discipline must seek proper scientific status. Not all science is, but all science aims at, proper science. I show that making sense of the relation between these two conceptions brings out the teleological, practical, and pluralist dimensions of science on Kant’s account.
Senthuran Bhuvanendra (Cambridge), Feeling for Empirical Concepts
I argue that Kant sees feeling as part of the process of empirical cognition, more specifically the formation of new empirical concepts. I make this argument through three interpretative claims about the Introductions to the Third Critique. First, I show that Kant introduces “aesthetic judgements of reflection” in §VII of the First Introduction specifically to address an epistemic question. This question is about how we perceive “purposiveness” in natural objects, which we do in seeking systematic order in nature. Second, I claim that underlying this epistemic question is a problem about how we select and unify the correct components of our phenomenal experience, when we do not yet have the empirical concept that we are trying to form. For support, I appeal to Kant’s discussion of the transcendental status of the principle of purposiveness in §V of the Published Introduction, and to his discussion of grasping perfection in the Remark to §VIII of the First Introduction. Finally, I argue that in both Introductions Kant directs us towards aesthetic feeling as the solution to this problem, which sets the reader up to explore the Critique of the Power of Aesthetic Judgement itself for the full account.
Dr Robert Watt (Oxford), Did Bergson Refute Kant's Theory of Freedom?
Henri Bergson, the dominant figure in early twentieth century French philosophy, was not a fan of Kant's theory of freedom. In a series of lectures that he delivered at the Collège de France in 1904-05, he argued that if Kant had succeeded in making room for freedom, this was not the freedom of any particular human being - the freedom of Pierre or Paul - but rather the freedom of the 'moi en général'. I begin this talk by explaining why it mattered to Bergson to refute Kant's theory of freedom. I then introduce Bergson's objection to Kant's theory, and briefly compare it to some more familiar concerns. I end by arguing that Bergson's objection is based on a failure to appreciate the importance of Kant's idea that there are two distinct species of causality, each with its own laws.
Sabina Bremner (Oxford/Columbia), Kant on Autonomy as Self-Making
Recent scholarship has challenged the prevailing view that the Kantian principle of autonomy given in the Groundwork is indispensable to Kant’s mature moral philosophy, suggesting that autonomy instead “virtually disappears” (Kleingeld 2017: 61). In this paper, I show that this literature has so far failed to take into consideration that Kant does continue to invoke autonomy in his mature views—but in the Opus Postumum. Autonomy, as it is presented in OP, is newly conceived as a unified principle of ‘self-making’ that straddles both theoretical and practical spheres. Although it ultimately aims at morality, autonomy as self-making therefore does not take an exclusively moral form. Moreover, it explicitly pertains to the empirically situated human subject, characterizing her active process of self-constitution through the ‘self-making’, or reflexively oriented normativity, of her judgment. I present evidence that in the Doctrine of Virtue, Kant explicitly notes the influence of the Opus Postumum, acknowledging the need for a parallel ‘transition’ in both texts between pure principles (metaphysical and practical) and empirical cases. On this basis, I argue for a broader conception of Kant’s considered view of autonomy, incorporating ‘self-making’, or the self-referential normativity of practical judgment.