Friday, September 19, 2008

A Kantian Benacerraf

Might a Kantian improve the argument:

1) The forms of human experience are space and time
2) If abstracta / noumena exist, they exist entirely outside of space and time
3) ( (1) & (2) ) → (4)
4) Humans cannot have knowledge of abstracta / noumena because they are situated outside of human experience
5) If Platonism / noumenal realism is true, then ~(4)
6) Platonism / noumenal realism is not true.

It seems that we might conclude that transcendental idealism is the best we can do. This leaves open a heavy instrumentalism for AE, or a pragmatic justifications of AE.

Now, an obvious Sellarsean move is to deny (4) because it equates knowledge to some sort of empirical conception of knowledge. Just because noumena are located outside of human experience doesn't mean that we cannot know about them. An ABE or hypothetico-deductive argumentation might fit the bill. We then would still have room for a transcendental realism about noumenal entities, given that our scientific realism is radical and critical enough to allow it.

But, this being said, if we move to a transcendental realism which is sufficiently radical and critical, we may well face something like the original Benacerraf Dilemma, since such a critical and radical scientific realism presumably wants to still be in some sense physicalist about events and things. I certainly would want to resist Platonism, even if I deny the empiricism Kant uses to motivate (4). Platonic realism just seems to be plain old idealism to me.


1 comment:

Wes McPherson said...

Another issue:

Perhaps when I speak of space, I can only speak of a here. But I can speak of past heres, present heres, and future heres. So a there which is not here currently may be potentially.

And then perhaps with regards to time, I can only speak of a present. But I can speak of of past presents, and future presents. So a now which is currently not present may nonetheless be a now which was or will be then.

Maybe we can only speak of here-nows that are possible or actual. So then I could in principle know about distant or near times, or distant or near spaces. But to claim that a Platonic entity existed outside of time or space would be to claim that it is not near or distant from me. So it would seem to be inaccessible or nonexistent.

At least against Platonism perhaps we should adopt the Kantian spirit of Wittgenstein: "A nothing would do as well as a something of which we could say nothing", or "Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we should remain silent."