Thesis 5: even instrumental “thinking,” as AI demonstrates, is more than recognizing patterns, but the human mind possesses the capacity to make determining and reflecting judgments.1 “Thinking” has to do with “seeing” things that aren’t directly and immediately in the phenomena. For example: no matter how many times one sees a table, the understanding that one is seeing/has seen a table requires more than the data. It requires grasping a concept (within a system of concepts) as well as applying that (system of) concept(s) to data in one of two ways: 1) when one already “knows” the appropriate concept for the data, one makes a determining judgment by applying the known concept to the data; or 2) when one does not already have an appropriate concept (e.g., “I don’t have the faintest idea what the professor is saying”), one has the conscious option of choosing (or not choosing) to “go find the appropriate concept(s)” for the phenomena for oneself in order to understand by means of reflecting judgment. Neither form of judgment is the mere application of a pre-programed, symbol system (e.g., computer language that the computer itself hasn’t generated), and no computer (as far as we will ever be able to determine) is able to take pleasure in the discovery of the “right” judgment. Furthermore, all determining judgments were once reflecting judgments – for a rational consciousness.2 Finally, a determining or reflecting judgment can be made even in ways not governed by the data (e.g., as in the case of figurative language). For example, Achilles is NOT a lion although one can gain insight into who Achilles was and what he means by considering him to be a lion! The capacity for determining and reflecting judgment is the absolutely incredible, surprising aspect of human intelligence.
Thesis 6: “thinking,” then, is far far more than merely applying concepts to data. This is where the notions of “apperception” (self-consciousness),3 beauty (forming a universal judgment WITHOUT A CONCEPT),4 and the mathematical and dynamical sublime5 are crucial to understanding human reason. Neither the mathematical nor dynamical sublime refers to some external phenomena directly, but they are a form of aesthetic judgment6 about consciousness. There are no beginnings nor ends to concepts in what is the mathematical sublime, and consciousness’ ability to initiate sequences of events that nature cannot initiate exclusively on its own means, in principle, that consciousness can destroy all of nature in what is the dynamical sublime.7 All of these notions are saying something about consciousness itself, not the content and patterns that emerge as the content of consciousness.
- On determining and reflecting judgment, see “Section IV” of the “Introduction” to the Critique of Judgment AA V: 179f.
- See the Critique of Judgment AA V: 187. All determining judgments were “surely” (gewiß) reflecting judgments, originally.
- See the Critique of Pure Reason B 131 f.
- See for example, §8 of the Critique of Judgment AA V: 214.
- See the Critique of Judgment AA V: 244 f.
- The term aesthetic comes from the Greek αἴσθησις, which means “perception by the senses.” However, Critical Idealism’s “critique” of sense perception involves the Copernican Turn to the “transcendental” (i.e., conscious) conditions that make sense perception possible, not just a “critical” analysis of sense data themselves. An aesthetic of the sublime, then, is ultimately concerned with the transcendental conditions that make a certain kind of sense perception (an unlimited universe and an overwhelming natural power capable of destroying the individual) in which the individual is reduced to “meaninglessness.”
- Already in his so-called “pre-critical” phase, Kant pointed out in his Vorlesung zur Moralphilosophie (Lecture on Moral Philosophy) (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2004) that humanity’s autonomous freedom (in but not reducible to nature’s “blind” causal system) in principle has the ability to destroy all of nature (177).