Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Conference report: Amsterdam

Last week I attended the Graduate Conference on Kant at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, where I presented my paper "Time-determination and Outer Permanence".

The keynote speakers were Dieter Schönecker and Dina Emundts. Dieter Schönecker talked about methodological issues of Kant interpretation, arguing that we should distinguish much more clearly between interpreting Kant and assessing Kant's arguments. Interpretation for him consists of highly detailed textual analysis that proceeds by analysing a text sentence by sentence. Schönecker claims that this kind of textual analysis has not been performed by Kant scholars and that it is crucial for a proper understanding of Kant. A lively debate ensued.

The talk by Emundts focused on the primary and secondary quality distinction that can be drawn within the phenomenal realm. She suggested that the distinction is an empirical distinction that can be identified by means of the criterion whether a quality is dependent upon the particular constitution of a sense or not.

Most papers by graduate students were concerned with theoretical philosophy and there were surprisingly many that focused on the relation between Kant and Fichte. Two of the papers were of particular interest to me since they were closely related to topics I have been working on recently.

Alberto Vanzo gave a paper about Kant's nominal definition of truth (cf. A58/B82), discussing Kant's understanding of the distinctions between logical and real essences, as well as nominal and real definitions. He argued that the nominal definition of truth should be understood as identifying the meaning of 'is true', which features in the ordinary conception of truth. Accordingly, it would seem that appealing to the nominal definition of truth does not settle whether or not Kant held a correspondence theory of truth. In the discussion Dieter Schönecker suggested that the nominal definition of truth should not be understood in contrast with a real definition in this context, but rather in contrast with a material definition that provides a criterion for truth. Consequently, the 'nominal' definition of truth at A58/B82 is nominal not in Kant's technical sense and hence strongly supports a correspondence theory interpretation.

Samuel Kahn gave the only paper concerned with Kant's practical philosophy. He assessed the postulate for the immortality of the soul in the Critique of Practical Reason, arguing that it was flawed due to internal incoherence, resulting from Kant's conception of the highest good. He also pointing out several important variances between the argument for immortality in the first Critique and the argument in the second Critique. In the discussion we touched upon the rather puzzling question as to what the postulates are intended to show, which is closely related to the difficult distinction between logical and real possibility that Kant makes.


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