Monday, February 26, 2007

Knowledge and experience: Plato vs Kant

The notion of reality - what really is apart from what we think is- presents problems. Plato , regarding the amount of error in what we perceive as real, asserted the notion that our perceived world is a flawed and limited image of the "real" world of "Ideas". These ideas constitute a true essence of everything we see, in Plato's system. What we see however, is not real, because it can change, as do our perceptions. This notion of the possibility of erroneous perceptions also informs Emmanuel Kant's thesis, that there are three realms of reality- the subjective, which we know but cannot share(I can feel pain, and know that I feel pain, but you can only speculate that I feel pain); the objective, which is that which we can agree upon(Fred over there is in pain because he's screwed up his eyes, is rolling on the floor and moaning while clutching his bloodied knee) and the nuomenal, which is really what's going on (indeed, Fred is in pain, and not playing an elaborate joke on us; or fred is a really good actor; or fred comes from a culture which expresses pleasure that way; or.....).

Which concept better represents the more accurate representation of reality?

Both Plato and Kant attempt to explain the interaction of knowledge and experience. Plato's theory posits a metaphysical realm of "Ideas". In these "Ideas" the true essence of things lies. There are problems with the concept of his Idealism; there are an infinite possible number of ideas( an Idea for man, and idea for blogger an idea for adam, and idea for Adam as blogger, an idea for someone reading Adam's blog.........). Secondly there is the lack of explanation how these "Ideas", however imperfectly, touch our conciousness.

Kant's idealism has the advantage, in terms of coherence, of saying the noumenal realm is probably beyond our understanding. Indeed, much of kant's work is based on creating criteria to judge whether a system of knowledge actually reveals the noumenal. The nature, the ontology, of the noumenal is really not asserted.


Anonymous said...

IS this going on the assumption that there is only one reality?
Is reality not unique to the individual?
If perception is unique to each and every one of us, how then can there be one reality that fits all?

adamvs said...

handily, kant adresses this issue. there is only one noumenal reality- that is what is really going on. The limits of human reason, sense and experience trap us within our own experience. If everyone has their own unique reality(and I smell a semantic issue here) then why bother discussing competing ontologies? But I would assert no one can go through life saying everyone has a right to their own reality, when another declares that their particular reality involves taking away the first individuals livelihood, for example.

Anonymous said...

Ooh...that is a very good point.
Although everyone IS entitled to their own "opinion" of reality (and sadly, there are MANY versions of what's really going on, depending on that very same experience) there should then, at least, be a universal code of conduct and behaviour.
And that is a whole other help line.

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster