Thursday, May 28, 2009

A clearer explanation of the merger between free will and critical judgment in Kant

It involves linking the ideas contained in the regular critical evaluation of things that makes up general judgment to the particular features of free will and decision making.

Critical evaluation, critical thinking, in this sense is the merger of creativity with a general set of concepts about how the world functions, used to evaluate particular facts in the world. Kant uses the example of art. Creative evaluation of a work of art through the application of learned concepts to the work in question can produce an informed, considered, critique of a work.

If you use that same critical evaluation not just to passively examine facts in the world but to evaluate potential actions by you in the world, or to reflect on actions already taken by you, you are merging the idea of free will under the direction of reason with an aesthetic, conceptual, way of evaluating things.

The substance of the critique in this case would be a critique of potential action by the individual or a critique of actions previously taken by the individual. Hopefully, as in the case of critiques made of general facts in the outside world, the product of these evaluations will be more than just the quirky output of one person's worldview. Here Kant, in the establishing of partially learned, partially sensed and intuited, rules of thumb, smuggles the Platonic ideal into things.

If any sort of learned rule of thumb that describes the world in a way that rises beyond a completely individualistic standard is valid to one degree or another, what happens when you compare two or more different rules of thumb? By comparing the two or more with each other you would start a dialectical process reminiscent of Plato's reasoning, which would almost necessarily come up with ideas of rightness reminiscent of the Platonic Archetypes. Indeed, Kant ascribes the rightness of these rules to the connection between the reasoning involved and the Transcendental ground of existence, meaning that there's an apriori connection of some kind to these rules as well as an empirical, observed rule.

If the archetypes are back, then a completely new, transcendental, area of thought is opened up where we can still approach the unknown through Platonic dialectic, even though the faculties of the mind have been demystified by the various critiques of reason, practical reason, and possibly judgment.

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