transcendental empiricism


transcendental empiricism
  ---- by Cliff Stagoll
  Empiricism refers to the view that the intelligible derives always from the sensible, whilst transcendentalism assumes that experience must rest upon some logically necessary foundation. The former position is typified by the work of David Hume, who argued that ideas of consciousness are derived just from sensory impressions, and that any test of sound reasoning should refer to the nature of the connection between the two. On this view, ideas and philosophical concepts can never found or logically precede sense perceptions.
  In theorising the human subject, Immanuel Kant developed perhaps the best known form of transcendentalism. He sought to identify all of the conditions of the possibility of attaining distinctively human knowledge. It is only because humans possess particular cognitive capabilities, he argues, that we experience the world as we do and are able to make claims about the world as it appears a priori. This set of capabilities - the 'forms' of sensibility, understanding and reason - is universal and logically necessary for human knowledge. On Kant's account, without time and space, a range of basic concepts of reason (such as modality, quantity and quality), and 'Ideas' founding a kind of rational faith, there would be no knowledge of the kind evident in the human experience of the world. As such, the categories and conditions uncovered by Kant are claimed to be true of all selves.
  According to Deleuze, this argument fails on two counts. First, it does not account for differences between whatever one knows of a phenomenon in advance and what one learns about it a posteriori. Second, Kant conceives of experience only in terms of re-presentation and consistencies in mental functioning from time to time and person to person. As such, Deleuze argues, transcendental deduction reproduces the empirical in transcendental form and then shields it from further critique. The Kantian subject, for instance, is constructed as an explanation for how diverse experiences are synthesised and unified, and then employed as the essential precondition for any human experience whatsoever.
  Deleuze's description of his philosophy as a transcendental empiricism is a challenge to these positions rather than a unified counter-theory. In contrast to transcendentalism, Deleuze seeks after the conditions of actual rather than all possible experience. These conditions are not logically necessary, but contingent upon the nature of experience as it is lived. Therefore, for Deleuze as for Hume, philosophy must begin with the immediate given - real conscious awareness - without presupposing any categories, concepts or axioms. Only then should it begin to develop concepts that might refer to objects and their relations, perceptions and their causes, or any of a range of psychological or physiological relations evident in consciousness. It is precisely the actuality of the empirical and the priority accorded real experience that, for Deleuze, are ways of avoiding transcendentalism's imprecision and universalising abstractions.
  Deleuze's approach is a transcendental empiricism because it is an attempt to deduce the conditions of the possibility of conscious experience (such as the apparent conscious immediacy to which one refers when saying 'I'). Reality as it is experienced does not reveal the preconditions of experience and, because such elements are inaccessible to consciousness, they necessitate transcendental, deductive study of their implicit conditions. Unlike Kant, Deleuze does not conceive of these unthought conditions as abstract or necessary philosophical entities, but as contingent tendencies beyond the reach of empirical consciousness. As such, he presumes no being or subject who experiences. Deleuze finds that the 'I' only ever refers to contingent effects of interactions between events, responses, memory functions, social forces, chance happenings, belief systems, economic conditions, and so on that together make up a life. By taking a different approach to the transcendental philosophers and moving beyond a view of empiricism based upon just the epistemological relationship between ideas and sense impressions, Deleuze shifts the philosophical focus from determining a foundation of likeness amongst humans to revealing and celebrating the contingency, dissimilarity and variety of each individual life.
  Connectives
   § actuality
   § Hume, David
   § real
   § virtual / virtuality

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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