Wherein our intrepid hero talks about two pairwise families of methodological or heuristic principle. In the last post we settled on the unhappy, but mercifully brief labels “Blind Forces Family” and “Guidance Family.” So, sticking to our guns, we will use ‘em (and a couple more).
In this post, Para-Kant explicates these two families, and their members while re-re-re-reminding us that we should not take him to be taking them in an ontological fashion.
“OK K-Man we got the message. Chill.”
What say you Para-Kant? (Please note, this is an extra-snarky post in this series, taking very many liberties. I can’t help it. Kant does this to you if you read him too much. If you don’t like it, turn the channel. No one dragged you in here Myrtle.)
If we talk about explanatory systems which explain NOOPs in terms of final causes, these will controvert each other ONLY on the ontological reading. If we read them as merely heuristic or “subjective”( saying more about our cognitive limitations, or how we ‘must’ go about explaining things like animals and plants), than about ‘things out there’, then they don’t controvert. Just in case you haven’t got that message, I’m saying it again. Ya read me?
So, now that we’ve got that straight, I’m now going to introduce you to one more of my incredibly informative yet crystalline terms. Ready for it?
“Technic of Nature” Nice eh?
O good gracious, you can’t do better than that Kant? But wait, maybe he’ll give us some helpful tips as to why he thought this was such a good phrase for what he had in mind..
There are two sorts of hypothetical systems as to the Technic of Nature, that is; the productive power in nature which brings about entities that are in apparent accordance with the ‘rule of purposes.’ One hypothesis type is “idealism” (or, ‘it ain’t really real’). The other is “realism” (do I have to explain that one)? In other words, we have the Blind Forces Family (BFF) and the Guidance Family (GF).
The first maintains that all the apparent purposiveness in nature is brought about by; you guessed it, unguided processes (thus is not designed). The second maintains that some apparent purposiveness in nature is in fact not merely apparent, but brought about by intelligent guidance. [Taking the latter supposition as granted it can be deduced, that the Technic of Nature, as regards nature as a whole (that is, including everything including the freaking plants and animals) is also something that involves design and guidance.]
Once again, this latter claim is not argued. Earlier, I supplied a possible argument for this position, relying on the fact that organism are part and parcel of the physical world, with which they must interact.
So apparently by “Technic of Nature” Kant means to be saying something about the productive forces that have nature as the end result. Another way to put it: ”How nature does its thing”? So, he here is introducing us to the two families, each of which has two members. Continuing:
In the BFF (it ain’t really out there) family there are two members: the causal determination thesis, and the fatalist thesis.
The causal thesis explains the forms of the various material things it sets out to explain (NOOPs that is), in terms of the physical laws that govern the motion of their constituent parts. The fatalist thesis explains NOOPs in terms of a hyperphysical basis, something that stands as a sort of substrate to the physical universe.
The causal thesis which is ascribed to the atomists Epicurus and Democritus, is, if taken literally, absurd, and we needn’t allow it to detain us further
Phil Harris butts in: “Hold up Clyde. Why is it absurd? What exactly is this literal reading? The mechanistic reading of atoms as little billiard balls that bounce around, some adhering to one another? Why is this absurd? Why does it not merit further discussion? It seems logically possible that such an explanation could work. Sure, that ain’t sayin’ much, but even Remley here could see that it’s logically possible. So, if you’re meaning that it’s absurd in the sense of being logically contradictory, then, you are wrong.
Remley interrupts: Curley. Don’t you think you are being rather Churlish with our slight and wigged Prussian friend? Maybe he’s just saying that it seems so incredibly unlikely, on the model proposed by the ancient atomist, that anything like an organism, let alone a world full of them, could come about, that it’s as good as a logical absurdity, when you get down to the mathematics of it..
Phil: Remley, you might have something there. Mr. Kant, please accept my sincere apologies for my churlish ways.
Remley: Still, Curley, you do have a point. He don’t even argue the point. He just claims it, and moves on. Mr. Kant, would you care to elucidate?
(Ed., He won’t.) Anyway, back to ParaKant:
The fatalist thesis is developed by Spinoza, but is much older. (Ed.: See, I told you he’d just move on as if nothing had happened.) Because this thesis essentially appeals to something (an original being) that is a substrate of all that we perceive, yet distinct from the appearances, it is not easy to controvert. But, this is only because we cannot possibly understand its notion of an original being.
Even if you claim to understand what this original being is, because the fatalist thesis undertakes to explain the appearance of NOOPs (and indeed the whole universe) as somehow occurring, sans intelligent guidance, as products following of necessity from the nature or essence of this unknowable substrate, one cannot make any use (analogical or otherwise) of the notion of a being with understanding somehow or another taking steps to construct these entities. Instead the entire universe just somehow unthinkingly ‘emanates’ from the original being. This isn't much of an explanation, just because it can explain anything. A universal everything explainer, that takes no effort to make, nor investigation to corroborate. A poor substitute for true understanding.
OK, so we now have the two “idealist” or “it ain’t really out there” theses: the causal determinism thesis and the fatalistic thesis. Kant declares the first absurd, without argument (at least here in section 72) and the second as unintelligible as well as being useless as an explanation. He will next move on to the two “realistic” or “it’s really out there, honest, I ain't makin' it up” or “Guidance Family” theses:
That’s next on the big hit parade of Para-Kantian snark.