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Astell and Kant Correspondence

Liz Rossman’s First Letter

Herr Kant, 

I hope all is well. I am writing after having read several sections of your work Critique of Pure Reason. Which by first, before pinpointing several portions of your arguments, would like a further explanation to what you term as distinctiveness in your Preface, by means to elevate my confusion.  

At the moment, I understand discursive (logical) distinctness as means of arriving by at concept through reason and argument. But how would you describe your term intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness apart from the definition you have given? You write “intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness arising through intuitions, i.e., if we do not present the object through concepts at all.” From what do our intuitions arise from if not concepts learned from out experience? Are intuitions a correlate of our self-immaturity?   And for what purpose does separating your definition of distinctiveness from the Cartesian notions of clarity and distinctness serve your philosophy? 

With much admiration,  Mary Astell 

December 6, 2015

Michael Braverman’s First Reply

Dear Astell,

The argument that you have pointed out is indeed worth clarifying since it can serve as the basis of my Critique of Pure Reason. If I understand correctly, your argument implies that intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness must be a prerequisite for discursive (logical) distinctness. I may argue that both of these types of distinctnesses rely on each other’s coexistence, however, if I were to assert in accordance to my work, I would argue the contrary, namely, that discursive (logical) distinctness must be a prerequisite for intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness

I argue that pure reason achieves distinctness through discursive (logical) reasoning. Intuitive (aesthetic) on the other hand, is a kind of distinctness that relies on a finite reference. Discursive (logical) is a type of distinctness that allows to reason and inquire about the undefined and the unexperienced. Aesthetic distinctness relies on the judgment based on intuitions from a finite past. 

As I mentioned myself, “a work of metaphysics is nothing but the inventory, put in systematic order, of all the possessions that we have through pure reason.” Not having this inventory will not allow discursive (logical) distinctness, which may prove your point. But doesn’t having an inventory of discursive (logical) makes the distinctness aesthetic? In other words, it is our limited “inventory” that transforms something logical and fundamental into something limited and aesthetic. Which may be supporting your claim that “intuitions are a correlate of our self-immaturity”. 

With all my reason, Immanuel Kant

December 7, 2015

Liz Rossman’s Reply

Dear Immanuel, 

You have indeed clarified your argument over discursive (logical) distinctness and intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness. But I would argue, once again, with your definition of intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness on the terms on a textual argument, which may also be philosophical. Either way, I shall ask, if our intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness relies on a finite reference, i.e. judgments based on intuitions from a finite past, are these judgments mind-dependent or mind-independent. This is so to ask, are the judgments that make up intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness self-cultivating or externally influenced (or rather the “exteriority within”)? 

In addition, how can we apply discursive (logical) distinctness to the unexperienced? May our logical distinctness when applied to the unexperienced (not the undefined) be as prone to error as our judgments when applied to our subjective past? Can we ever escape our own subjectiveness and intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness with regards to the unexperienced, and to that which we can not logically, scientifically, or mathematically concur? 

I have yet to devise a confident answer to your question “doesn’t having an inventory of discursive (logical) makes the distinctness aesthetic?” but will attempt to mediate on the issue…

We may employ our own aesthetic distinctness in our definition of inventory, on a systematic order that is concurred without scientific or mathematical axioms. Even then, we must know with full brevity the possessions which you purpose we catalog. But I do not believe that fully answers your question. To implement an inventory, however temporal and delicate against metaphysical inquiries, would, as you say, allow us to apply a discursive (logical) distinctness. By employing an inventory we can employ discursive (logical) distinctness, which without an inventory, we would be left with just our intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness. I believe it would be, as you say “self-immature”, to go about living having only employed our intuitive (aesthetic) distinctness when our minds are capable of so much more, as you say which is by nature. But I argue it our “inventory” transforms something limited and aesthetic into the logical and fundamental. By cataloging our judgments and experience, we can employ reason and logic to them. With this I once again agree with your statement, that these distinctness’ rely on each other for coexistence. And the climatic arc to this coexistence is that we can employ them both as means of arising out of our “self-immaturity” to more enlightened beings. 

My, what a profound impact your work has on me! 

Best,  Mary

P.S.: Hume is not happy with you.  December 7, 2015

Michael Braverman’s Second Reply

Dear Astell,

I appreciate your profound response which is a great contribution for our dialogue. In regards to your first question which is stated as follows; “judgments based on intuitions from a finite past, are these judgments mind-dependent or mind-independent”, I observed a very close approach to a definite answer in the later parts of your letter. Despite this, my claim is that intuitive distinctness is indeed a self-cultivating type of judgment. However, I will also add that in order for a good, beautiful, and respectable intuitive distinctness to exists, it must be influenced by a logical distinctness. Thus, as mentioned previously in our conversation, coexistence is crucial for these two types of distinctnesses (it may later be argued that logical distinctnesses can rely less on intuitive distinctness). If stated in prosaic manner, intuitive distinctness’s beauty relies on the influence of a logical distinctness. Without this influence, the beauty is lost, self-cultivation may no longer be a form of cultivation, but rather, it becomes a form of deterioration. Just like a mind of a mad man that deteriorates when it lacks its discursive counterpart, so will the mind-dependent judgments lose their beauty when intuitive distinctnesses are deprived from their necessary logical distinctnesses.

In regards to the unexperienced, I believe that the scientific, logical, and mathematical discoveries performed by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Sir Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo Galilei were mostly performed with the help of logical distinctness. I can rest assured that during the next few centuries, their aesthetic counterparts to their theories will be proved and discovered. With the help of these discoveries, it is possible to illustrate how logical distinctnesses can be utilized to discover the laws of our aesthetic reality. However, in the case of the logical discoveries, it can be noted that they couldn’t be performed without observations, which are inferences made through aesthetic distinctnesses. I still however imagine a possibility where logical concurrence can exists without an aesthetic counterpart. I envision a machine that may become an invention sooner or later, which could concur logically and accept reality in a logic manner. Such a machine can prove that logical distinctnesses can be performed with the help of intuitive distinctness. However, instead of having an aesthetic reality as we do, such a machine will have a logical one.

Based on what I have said, I believe that the only inventory of distinctnesses we can infer upon is aesthetic. You may indeed be proving a point that an inventory can become intuitive even if it consist of only logical distinctnesses. This is what constitutes human nature. We constantly make exceptions and ignore logical distinctnesses that are indeed present in our inventory, but we may not do so as an error, but rather, because we are influenced by aesthetic distinctness.

With all my reason, Immanuel Kant

December 8, 2015