keskiviikko 20. toukokuuta 2015

Hoffmann: Study of reason – Clear as mud

Hoffmann begins a new topic by noting a familiar experience. Picture yourself a shadowy evening, when light is already beginning to fade away, walking in an unfamiliar environment. Ahead of you is a building, but you cannot really say what colour it is. You must have seen buildings of similar colour before, but you just cannot say in these conditions whether it is, say, brown or red. The idea of the colour of the building lacks clarity or it is obscure.

We might first notice a bit of terminological difficulty. What I have here called clarity, is called deutlichkeit by Hoffmann. In case of Wolffian tradition, I have usually translated deutlich as distinct, while clear I have reserved for the word klar. Turns out, Hoffmann uses another word, distinct, which it is just convenient to translate as distinct, and as Hoffmann doesn't use the word klar, I chose to use clear for deutlich in this case. In any case, although Hoffmann's and Wolff's two pairs of concepts share similarities, they ultimately refer to different distinctions.

Hoffmann means by clarity the capacity to distinguish an idea from other ideas and thus to identify it, if we happen to think about it in different times; the opposite of clarity is then obscurity (dunckelheit). It should come as no surprise that Hoffmann points out different levels and modes of clarity. The most external of these types is the verbal clarity of words, in which we recognise words used by speaker or writer. Verbal clarity, of course, doesn't mean that the thoughts expressed by the words are clear, and Hoffmann is eager to suggest that Wolffians often manage to get only to the level of verbal clarity.

Somewhat more substantial is what Hoffmann calls objective or external clarity, which essentially means the clarity an idea has in relation to a particular person thinking about it. This is undoubtedly dependent on the person involved, and e.g. a book containing thoughts that are as such quite clear might be truly obscure to a person who has insufficient cognitive skills to follow the argument of the book.

Distinct from the objective clarity is then the internal clarity of the ideas, or as Hoffmann also calls it, ideal clarity, and it is this type of clarity that is a topic proper for logic. Why is it then important to obtain ideal clarity? Hoffmann points out that only through clear ideas can we hope to distinguish objects, because obscure ideas might ambiguously refer to various objects. Now, because objects are differentiated by their qualities, clearer ideas must somehow helps us to discern more of the inherent qualities of things. This is an important criterion for clarity of ideas. In many cases we just cannot see directly the inherent qualities of things, but must satisfy ourselves with some analogies or symbolic presentations. Indeed, Hoffmann goes so far as to suggest that we can have truly clear ideas only of material things, and perhaps only of their mathematically expressible characteristics, while e.g. all ideas of spiritual things are inherently obscure, because we can characterise them only negatively, i.e. by telling that they are not material, or through qualities common with material substances.

The connection of clarity with inherent qualities provides Hoffmann also with a criterion for intelligible philosophy. If we cannot know any qualities of a thing, we cannot even think or have any idea of it. Thus, Hoffmann criticises Leibniz, because latter's monads have only relational characteristics: they are subjects or have a relation to a force and they are constituting level in relation to matter etc. In comparison, Hoffmann notes that idea of God is defined by many qualities, such as omnipotence and omnipresence.

Ideal or internal clarity comes in three different varieties, two of which are fundamental and all of which are required for a complete clarity. First variety is what Hoffmann calls vulgar existential clarity, which means simply put just a capacity to exemplify certain idea through sensations – e.g, when we can show what redness is like. Like the name implies, vulgar existential clarity is not enough for scientific purposes, but it is important, because only through such clarity should we be convinced of the existence of some thing corresponding to an idea. One can e.g. use analogies to make up for the loss of liveliness in non-sensational matters, but such analogies cannot guarantee any existence. It is no surprise that Leibnizian monadology is expressed as a warning example – analogy of two clocks does explain perfectly the relation of soul and body, but it still remains mysterious, whether anything existent corresponds with this idea.

The second type Hoffmann calls essential clarity, in which the idea is to see how well analysed some idea is, that is, to distinguish various parts and aspects in the idea and then combine them into a totality (note how this essential clarity means essentially what Wolffians had called distinction). Hoffmann notes that some sensuous ideas, such as those of colours, we cannot analyse in this manner, due to inherent limitations of our understanding, but otherwise one should try to analyse everything one perceives to make one's cognitive state as perfect as possible.

Essential clarity, Hoffmann tells, is dependent on what he calls logical existential clarity, which means having a clear idea of abstract ideas in separation from all other ideas. Indeed, having a clear idea of a defined structure, one must have clear idea of the parts of the definition, and once again due to inherent limits of human cognition, we must ultimately in the course of analysis face ideas that we cannot define, except by using the very ideas as a part of the definition. These basic ideas would thus be what Kant later calls categories, and the list which Hoffmann provides seems quite familiar, although it has only seven ideas: unity, diversity/multiplicity, negation, external connection, causality and subsistence. All the Kantian categories of relation might be said to be present in some form, categories of quantity lack only totality and categories of quality is represented by mere negation. The most glaring omission are the categories of modality, which Hoffmann has already stated to be too ambiguous.

Notion of clarity is then important as defining the limits of intelligibility. Yet, mere clarity itself does not make for a good cognition, as we shall see in the next post.

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti