- Congedarsi da Kant?: Interventi sul Goodbye Kant di Ferraris
Maurizio Ferraris’ Goodbye Kant! Cosa resta oggi della Critica della ragion pura (Milan 2004) has been a notable success in the field of popular philosophical writing in Italy. With refreshing irreverence and wit, the book mounts a sustained attack on the supposed confusions of Kant’s first Critique, and bemoans their influence on later philosophy. In particular, Ferraris [End Page 328] argues that by attempting to found the necessary features of experience on physics, Kant confuses experience and ontology with science and epistemology and arrives at the implausible conclusion that our experience and knowledge, and perhaps even the existence, of things depend on how our minds are structured. Unsurprisingly, Goodbye Kant! has provoked strong reactions from Kant scholars. Alfredo Ferrarin’s Congedarsi da Kant? collects four particularly considered responses, along with a reply from Ferraris himself.
The book begins with Ferrarin’s contribution, which focuses on Ferraris’ claim that, for Kant, the sensible experience of an object necessarily requires a concept of that object. With reference to spatial intuition, the three-fold synthesis, and Kant’s example of a savage seeing a house for the first time, Ferrarin argues that Kant in fact defends the independence of intuition from concepts, such that intuition is possible and can provide certain cognitive results without our having any particular concept of what the object of intuition is. Ferrarin also insists that, in claiming that “[t]he I think must be able to accompany all my representations,” Kant considers having an experience to imply only the possibility—and not, as Ferraris claims, the necessity—of the experience being consciously thought, and that Kant considers imagination not as a “creative” psychological activity within experience, as Ferraris implies, but rather as a certain normative activity that experience presupposes. Instead of basing experience on physics, then, Ferrarin argues that Kant distinguishes experience from science and considers both to be made possible by certain general a priori forms of sensing and conceiving of objects.
In the following article, Claudio La Rocca takes issue with Ferraris’ understanding of Kant’s basic project in the Critique. For La Rocca, Kant is concerned with the conditions under which discourses or experiences have sense for a subject, and, specifically, with how referring to empirical objects differs from referring to the objects of, say, hallucinations, aesthetic experiences, or moral reasoning. On La Rocca’s account, referring meaningfully to an object presupposes shared rules which identify that kind of object and distinguish it from others, and which are “spelled out” in experience even before being “read” conceptually. However, unlike the distinctions between kinds of empirical objects, the general distinction between empirical objects and objects of other discourses or experiences cannot itself be derived from experience, since experience presupposes it. Thus La Rocca presents Kant’s basic project as the identification of the a priori rules which distinguish empirical objects as such, rather than the idealist project attributed to him by Ferraris, that of showing how the existence or properties of such objects depend on the mind or how our experience of them depends on the concepts or scientific theories we have of them.
Paolo Parrini adopts a slightly different approach by arguing that it is Ferraris, and not Kant, who fails to distinguish adequately between experience, ontology, and epistemology. In particular, Parrini insists that, rather than basing experience or ontology on science, as Ferraris claims, Kant aims to show that a priori concepts are necessary to distinguish the objective from the subjective in ordinary experience, and that Ferraris’ own realism naively ignores certain crucial distinctions between what is experienced, what exists, and what we know. Parrini thus undertakes to defend not only Kant, but also certain post-Kantians—and the logical empiricists in particular—against Ferraris’ criticisms.
In the final response to Ferraris, Massimo Barale further questions Ferraris’ understanding of Kant’s basic project. By considering only the Transcendental Aesthetic and the Transcendental Analytic of the first Critique, Barale insists that Ferraris treats the most elementary, and even preliminary, parts of Kant...