Philosopher Immanuel Kant turns 300: a Musing by Jeffrey Watumull and Noam Chomsky

In the News, Mind to Market Blog

On this, the Tricentennial of the birth of the arch-rationalist philosopher, Immanuel Kant, we quote from Oceanit Chief Philosophy Officer, Jeffrey Watumull, and his coauthor, Professor Noam Chomsky, writing about how Kant (and his contemporaries (e.g., Ralph Cudworth)) inform “Oceanitian” theories of natural intelligence, with implications for artificial intelligence:

The notion of an intelligible/unintelligible world is fallacious. There are only intelligible/unintelligible theories. We never interface with the material world directly. Our sensory organs encode “theories” of physics, our cognitive organs encode “theories” of language, etc. In science, our observations are “theory-laden” [Karl Popper]. In short, it is “theories all the way down”. With a colossal caveat, we can say, in Cudworthian/Kantian rationalist terms, that we never interact with the noumena, only the phenomena, which we construct with our cognoscitive powers. The colossal caveat is that, if by noumena we mean the Forms of the imaginal, then we do indeed interact with them whenever we engage in creative work, which consists in making cuts into the imaginal. This sense of noumena differs from that of the Cambridge Neoplatonists (and their [confrère], Kant), who were referring to objects of the material (not imaginal) world, which empiricists believed were imprinted upon the senses unmediated by cognitive modes of interpretation. We reject the empiricist doctrine, arguing in Popperian terms that our knowledge of the material world is not induced directly (or indirectly) from said world. We approach that world with conjectural theories, transforming its sense-data into evidence to deductively confute, correct, or corroborate our theories. Hence, there are only intelligible and unintelligible theories, and the growth of knowledge consists of conjecturing ever more of the former and eliminating ever more of the latter. (This does not entail idealism, but I [we] shan’t go down that rabbit hole here.)

Additional reading from the NYTimes: Why the World Still Needs Immanuel Kant – Unlike in Europe, few in the United States will be celebrating the philosopher’s 300th birthday. But Kant’s writing shows that a free, just and moral life is possible — and that’s relevant everywhere.