Kant, Immanuel


Kant, Immanuel
(1724-1804)
  ---- by Alison Ross
  Immanuel Kant's critical philosophy marks a turning point in modern thought. Kant distinguishes the 'critical' inquiry he conducts into reason from the 'fanaticism' that afflicts the 'dogmatic' philosophy of his competitors. Against both the excesses of rationalism - which confuses what it is possible to think with what it is possible to know - and empiricism, which scuttle the possibility of systematic knowledge altogether, Kant's self-described Copernican revolution in philosophy follows a language of 'moderation'.
  Deleuze rejects the self-conception of Kantian philosophy on two fronts: first, as his own pantheon of selected influences in the history of philosophy indicates, his practice of philosophy undermines Kant's claim to have consigned rationalism and empiricism to history; second, he disputes the style of Kant's philosophy in which thinking is guided by the moderating influence of 'common sense'. The central task of Kantian philosophy is the 'critique' of the faculties of the subject. For Deleuze, Kantian 'critique' does not extend to the orientating moral values of the Kantian philosophy, and it is Friedrich Nietzsche's pursuit of the critique against moral ideals that makes him, in Deleuze's eyes, the truly critical philosopher. At the same time that Deleuze rejects the false limits that Kant places on 'critique' he also adapts the Kantian project of a critique of the faculties of the subject for his own project of 'transcendental empiricism'.
  Kant's importance for Deleuze can be described in terms of the way he alters Kant's language of the 'faculties' to cater for the primacy of affect. Deleuze's revision of the language of the 'faculties' calls into question the dualist structure of Kant's thought according to which a juridical conception of reason regulates the field of experience.
  In Kantian philosophy the subject occupies the position of an interface between nature and experience. The subject's categories of understanding constitute the organising structure for sensation and form the condition of possibility for experience. According to Kant, the coherence and form of experience are the work of the mind rather than the 'givens' of sensible experience. Further, the condition of possibility for the cognition of objects is the mind's own activity. Hence Kant's famous dictum that 'the conditions of the possibility of experience in general are also the conditions of the possibility of the objects of experience.' But if Kant views experience as a compound of the data of impressions and what our faculty of knowledge supplies itself, he also conceives of the task of philosophy as a critique of the categories that redeem experience from the irreducible particularity of sensible perceptions. The adjunct of this critique is the revival of the pursuit of knowledge outside of sensibility and the field of possible experience. Critical philosophy aims to secure the ground of this extension by its investigation into the faculty of reason. In stark contrast, Deleuze uses the language of the faculties to demolish the position of the subject as the pivot between nature and experience and to overturn philosophy's role as a court that adjudicates on the proper limits of reason. Instead of a subject with predetermined faculties ordering the field of experience, Deleuze uses the language of the faculties to describe a register of affect. The Deleuzian force of affect drives the faculties constantly to surpass their accepted limits. This is a transcendental project because, like Kant, Deleuze thinks that philosophy should create concepts that do not merely trace the 'givens' of sensible experience.
  Although Deleuze's transcendental empiricism adapts elements of Kant's thought, specifically his conception of the faculties, it does so in order to critique the implacable dualism of Kantian philosophy. Kant's first two Critiques establish a division between freedom and the sensible world. In the Critique of Pure Reason, the task of critical philosophy is to restrain reason from the illusory use that consists in confusing what it is possible to think with what may be known according to the sensible conditions of thought (K 1996: 8). The risk of such a confusion of ideas and objects of possible experience is that a fabrication of reason may be confused for something that exists in the domain of experience. The Critique of Practical Reason, on the other hand, locates a danger in the influence on moral action of circumstance. Here the sensible world and the subject's feelings do not provide a necessary orientation for ideas of reason, so much as threaten to lead it astray. Accordingly, the formalism of the moral law guards the possibility of a moral action in the world of sensibility, defining such action as a strict adherence to the principles of reason. Whether it is reason's tendency to fanaticism - an error that follows the hubris of limitlessness - or the claim circumstances make upon it and constrain it under a false limitation, critical restraint in either case follows a juridical model. Kant's texts reinforce the sense of renunciation - of desires or of errant speculation - in the recurrent references to 'the court of reason' which legislates the proper use and safe extension of reason's ideas. Hence the 'revolution' that proceeds by pleas for moderation is fought on two fronts: against the illusions of a reason 'independent of all experience', as well as against the claim of circumstance on action. The final work of the critical trilogy, the Critique of Judgement, tries to mediate this split between experience and freedom through the faculty of judgement. It is in this work that Kant's positive influence over Deleuze is strongest. In Deleuze and Guattari's What is Philosophy? they argue that Kant's final Critique marks a significant departure from the terms of the first and second Critiques: the Critique of Judgement is '. . . an unrestrained work of old age which [Kant's] successors have still not caught up with: all the mind's faculties overcome their limits, the very limits that Kant had so carefully laid down in the works of his prime' (D&G 1994: 2).
  The juridical conception of the faculties and the legislative role it gives philosophy to establish the limits of reason unravels, according to Deleuze, in Kant's conception of the sublime. It is important to point out that Deleuze's reading of Kant's appendix on the sublime is an idiosyncratic account. Within Kant's thought the sublime is used to confirm the subject's faculty of reason as that which surpasses any natural form, and is arguably the jewel of Kant's metaphysics. Arguing against Kant's attempt to confine the faculties to their proper limits - to their nth power - Deleuze's account of this appendix argues that in the case of the sublime the faculties enter into unregulated relations and this is what drives the faculties (see D 1983, D 1984, and D 1994).
  Aside from these points of direct influence over Deleuze's project, Kant's position within Deleuze's topography of philosophers is highly unusual. Deleuze describes his Kant book as an attempt to know his 'enemy' and this book is the only book that Deleuze devotes to a thinker who is not part of his pantheon of selected influences. Kant's peculiar position needs to be seen as a consequence of Deleuze's description of his own project as 'transcendental empiricism'. Deleuze returns to the very rationalist and empiricist thinkers that Kant believed his critical philosophy had consigned to the past. Deleuze's return, however, is conducted through the Kantian language of 'faculties' and 'transcendental' thinking.
  Connectives
   § desire

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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