Open Journal of Philosophy
2011. Vol.1, No.2, 39-47
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ojpp.2011.12008
Passive Knowledge: How to Make Sense of Kant’s A Priori
——Or How Not to Be “Too Busily Subsuming”
Constantin Antonopoulos
Logic & Philosophy of Science, Department of Applied Mathematics & Physics of the National
Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
Received August 4th, 2011; revised September 13th, 2011; accepted September 20th, 2011.
Subjectivists, taking the “collapse” of the observation-interpretation contrast much too seriously, are led to
imagine that even perceptual knowledge is active. And therefore subject dependent. Turning the tables on this
popular trend, I argue that even conceptual knowledge is passive. Kant’s epistemology is conceptual. But if also
active, then incoherent. If synthetic a priori truths are to follow upon our mental activity, they were neither true
nor, far less, a priori before that activity. “A priori” and “active” are contradictory attributes of knowledge. As,
indeed, are “a priori” and “subject-dependent” to begin with. Nothing a priori can be dependent on anything ex-
cept itself, and least of all on the human subject. Kant does consider the active aspect of thought. The difference
is that for him the more active it becomes, the less it is to be trusted. For we are no longer in the province of the
Understanding, and its necessary truths, but in the realm of Pure Reason and its dialectical antinomie s . Co g nition
activists who take a liking to Kant have simply mistaken Reason for the Understanding. And Reason is to Kant
“the seat of all transce ndental illusion”.
Keywords: A Priori, Intervention, Time, Subsume, Active, Passive, Imposition, Category Application,
Understanding, Reason
The Dark Aspects of the Active Side
Trivially, the task of epistemology is to study the validity of
knowledge. But of recent epistemologists appear to have their
priorities confused. The discipline is now being extensively
employed to underpin ideological aims in preference to its tra-
ditional pursuits, objectivity and truth. This is accomplished by
a strategic emphasis on the active aspects of cognition and a
correlative diminution of good old passive receptivity, which
seemed to warrant, if no more, at least a certain degree of
emancipation from the influences of human agency. What now
seems to matter are no longer correct results but, rather, the
stressing of our role in the process of cognition, where the dry,
impersonal investigations of the past have given place to a ris-
ing trend of epistemological heroics.
It is below us, we reason, to view ourselves as cognitive
automat a to which reality dic tates perceptions and concepts un-
protestingly (?). Concessions to passive knowledge are almost
universally considered by epistemologists as a kind of treason
against the human race, a species of doers, they tell us, not of
observers. It is a matter of human pride for some, that our
knowledge bear our stamp rather than that of the world as such.
There is no world as such to begin with, the more avant guarde
of the lot assure us. All there are are “interpretations”; active
ones, which yield in to the inspection of the sociologist rather
than to the traditional epistemologist. [Barnes, 1974: p. 12]. For
what was certainly a loss to objectivity, was definitely a gain to
society, especially when it comes to the equalitarian advan-
tages, availed in abu nd a nc e b y humanitarian relativism.
Though the true motivation behind it all was apparent to
many, it was Alan Sokal’s unconventional, but telling, inter-
vention by means of his pseudo-paper in Social Text [Longino,
1997: p. 119], which decisively turned the tables to this new
epistemological establishment, making things far more uncom-
fortable for it than any philosophical argument ever could. The
crowded industry, which Sokal’s prank has since scattered in
search of alternative methods for continuing the crusade, shared
a ruling tendency in common.
Knowledge is something that we do. Not something which
happens to us. This is one of the main reasons, though not the
sole there is, why science rather than knowledge became the
intensive focus of several of its representatives, e.g. Th. Kuhn,
P. K. Feyerabend and St. Toulmin [Katz, 1978; p. 329]. Science,
in this connection, is the name of an activity. Knowledge, the
name of a state. Sociology of Knowledge, the new discipline
necessary to account for Social Text Epistemology, is a prac-
tice applicable to the former concept. Not to the latter.
There can be a sociology of what we do in the acquisition of
knowledge but not a sociology of what happens to us in its
acquisition, considering that the former procedure is something
dependent on our will, the latter something independent of our
will or anybody else’s. Sociology of Knowledge, the publicly
acceptable form of cover up for Social Text Philosophy, is
mainly interested in “knowledge”, in whose acquisition we
clearly have a say, right where it looked like we never did.
Since to a state of ours, resulting in us through no act of our
own volition but through random external influence, we have
little say, the sociology of the latter is of little profit. Unless,
that is, we get radical enough and bold enough to postulate the
social processing of even the crudest of our perceptions, thus
doing credit to the afore said novelty of a disciplin e.
One such case of processing is Kuhn’s allusion to the
“duck-rabbit” phenomenon of perception. The “duck-rabbit”, a
sketch vague by design, purposively intended to stand on the
borders separating ducks from rabbits, manages, according to
Kuhn, to “show that two men with the same retinal impressions
can see different things”. [Kuhn, 1970: p. 127] That is to say,
some see the duck, some the rabbit, depending on... what else?
Culture. Of course, at a metalevel, Kuhn himself sees only what
there is; namely, a duck-rabbit. His retinal impressions are
strictly object-dependent and passive. Otherwise, the story he
wants to tell us could not even get started. But Kuhn fails to
notice this side effect of his argument, one failure of many. To
him this phenomenon marks the collapse of the so called “ob-
servation-interpretation statement” dichotomy. [Kuhn, 1970: p.
111 ff]. Observation is concept-directed, and therefore active.
Like most of Kuhn’s arguments the duck-rabbit argument
confirms the opposite thesis a lot more than it confirms his own.
First of all, the narrators of the incident, namely, detached
observers like himself, at the metalevel all see the same thing:
A duck-rabbit. And not two things. And without this informa-
tion Kuhn’s case cannot even be stated. For for stating it, inde-
pendent narrators need to separate between what the two sub-
jects see, i.e. two different things, and what they see, i.e. one
thing. Hence, when all is said and done, one thing can be seen.
Secondly, the two subjects of the experiment see different
things because, quite simply, there is too little to see in the first
place. The design is merely a borderline case between a normal
duck and a normal rabbit, hence satisfying in its sensory depri-
vation conflicting criteria. [Antonopoulos, 1993, p. 186.] The
drawing is partly a duck, partly a rabbit by (tricky) design.
Hence, its sensory paucity, on the one hand, and its intention-
ally antinomic constitution, on the other, most naturally result
to antithetic classifications by the two subjects, even if Kuhn is
quick to identify this as antithetic “seeings”, another severe
blunder on his part. We only have access to what the two sub-
jects report they see, namely, their classifications of the draw-
ing, not how they “see” it. And though the former are certainly
active, the latter needn’t be. And so needn’t his case.
Need we labour the point? Need we doubt that if Kuhn’s ex-
perimetal subjects were shown the photographs of the two
animals, instead of the borderline drawing now shown, they
would no longer see different things at all? They would both
see ducks in the photographs of ducks and rabbits in the photo-
graphs of rabbits. It’s as simple as this. And then all the magic
of active seeing would be lost. Now that the perceptual freedom
formerly granted by the ghostly, artificial pseudo-object has
been removed by the constraints of reality, the hands of the
active mind are tied. And passive unanimity is restored.
The independent specifications of the duck-rabbit effect only
go to show that (a) = perceptual element, and (b) = subjective
improvisation, are simply inversely proportional. So that the
less there is of the former, (a), the more there is of the latter, (b).
And inverse proportionality is, tautologically, a reversible pro-
cedure. Hence, conversely, the more there is of (a), the percep-
tual element, the less there will be of (b), the improvisation.
Until finally, and when (a), the perceptual element, reaches its
total capacity, as it is with the photographs, (b), the subjective
contribution, will be completely eliminated. Kuhn misses his
own point!
Other than that, Kuhn is not so much a foe of mine in this
search for objectivity, as he is a precious ally. I intend to argue
that too much mental activity, amounting to full scale improvi-
sation, leads to subjectivism. His duck-rabbit phenomenon, if
not indeed his entire philosophy, proves my case for me. I in-
tend to argue that active ‘knowledge’ is epistemically unreliable,
and this idea he has gone out of his way to champion. His Para-
digms literally “make us see things” [p. 110 ff.], whereas other
researchers, in other Paradigms, will see different things instead.
Not even Kuhn can afford to consistently describe this phe-
nomenon as reliable knowledge, when varying from one para-
digm to another, though I do suppose that he would call it
knowledge, while I won’t. The sole difference between us is
that he dismisses the possibility of passive knowledge and I do
not. And even at this point there is considerable convergence;
he wants to abolish passive knowledge for the exact same rea-
son that I want to reinsta te it: Because we both know that, once
there, it is compelling:
When I turn from the experimental to the theoretical prob-
lems of normal science, there are seldom many areas in which a
scientific theory, particularly if it is cast in a predominantly
mathematical form, can be directly compared with nature.
[Kuhn, 1970: p. 25].
This is one of the most straightforward descriptions of
scientific realism that I can think of. And one of its clearest of
explanations of both: the reasons why it is eventually aban-
doned, when it shouldn’t, and why there are such things as
Paradigms in the first place. The “predominantly mathematical
form” is just another way of saying that there is too much
abstract speculation going on and too little feedback with rea-
lity. That is to say, too much active output and too little passive
input. And it is because of this that much of what Kuhn says
about paradigms, and the way they make people see things, is
actually quite true. The areas that Kuhn speaks of abound with
“duck-rabbits”. Hence, having severed themselves completely
from the realm of passive receptivity, the only solid constraint
capable of keeping them in line, all that scientists have then left
to go by for establishing contact with reality are duck-rabbit
apparitions, the sole quasi-entities now suitable for even barely
providing a match with all those unfathomable mathematical
abstractions. The scientists then “see” in anything they can lay
their hands on a confirmation of their theory. This is why “dif-
ferent paradigms make us see things differently (research
workers in different paradigms have not only different concepts
but also different perceptions) making them fairly immune to
difficulties”. [Feyerabend, 1978: pp. 66-97; italics the author’s.]
They do, because due to their predominantly mathematical
form they transpose us into areas where there is nothing to see
and where, occasionally, even duck-rabbits as such we should
consider a lucky break. (See last Section.) Then the “duck-
rabbit effect” takes over and does the rest. Kuhn knows all this
only too well, but seems prepared to accept it as the “given”
and proposes no steps towards a remedy. Kuhn likes this situa-
tion, because it is ideologically exploitable, earning for him the
title that J. J. Katz has conferred upon him: One of “the new
philosophers of science” whose contribution “is not in their
philosophical doctrines but in their sociological doctrines”
[Katz, 1978, p. 329]. This is a praise I myself could well do
Grabbing at duck-rabbits now bears the stamp of a com-
munal practice, a “form of life”, in whose service this working
paradigm is originally devised. Even values infiltrate in this
investigation of a once inanimate reality: “‘True’, like ‘good’,
is an institutionalized label for sifting belief or action according
to socially established criteria.” [Barnes, 1974: p.22.] The result
of too much active theorizing, on the one side, now obliquely
adopted for the sake of communal solidarity and human broth-
erhood, and too little involuntary bumping of scientific heads
against walls, on the other, naturally culminates in the new pro-
The key point is that insofar as science is theoretical know-
ledge there is no reason why it should not be subject to socio-
logical causation. Once beliefs are conceded not to derive com-
pletely from the constraints of reality, no further argument can
be made against their sociological investigation. And the prob-
lem of the validity of the beliefs in question is beside the point
in this regard. [Barnes, 1974: p. 12].
This, we might say, is an honest statement, perhaps even a
brutal one, of the (so-called) “hard” programme of the active
knowledge campaign. Abstract science is a suppressed form of
social symbolism and to be treated accordingly, with all due
disrespect. It has lost all contact with the pressures of reality,
the passive element, where we are helpless to aught else but
conform. Helplessness is the key to objectivity, freedom of
mind the way to rendering validity “beside the point” and
choice the master of all truth.
So it will have to be in terms of helplessness that I too must
state my case. The following principle, therefore, I will deliver
as the tautology which it is, on Kuhn’s and Barnes’s direct au-
thorization: What I know, I cannot help, though I can help what
I don’t. And were I able to help it, God help me. For then I
would, by definition, turn it into something of my own making
and, therefore, by definition something other than it is. And,
therefore, by definition, no longer something that I know.
Which is exactly what the two subjects did to the duck-rabbit.
And exactly what the mathematics did to the physics. They are
all instances of knowledge helped along too much on our side
and too little on the objects’.
It is high time the papally infallible dogma, that real know-
ledge only comes through the activity of the human mind, be
questioned. And high time to fight fire with fire. To the hard
programme of relativistic epistemology, declaring that even
strictly perceptual knowledge is active, I will level a harder
programme of my own: Even strictly conceptual knowledge is
in-active. Previous rebuttals apart, a telling defense of that hard
programme would really turn the tables to Social Text epis-
temology, if anyth in g ev er would.
“Busily Subsuming”:
Exactly What the Skeptic Most Desires
The best place to look for strictly conceptual knowledge,
hence knowledge purified from all reference to sensory percep-
tion, is Kant’s a priorism. They don’t come any more concept-
tual than that. The choice is well warranted because, in addition,
Kant’s epistemology is a nonrealist one, exactly of the sort
avowedly preferred by activists. Showing, therefore, that even
such an epistemology is actually wholly passive, will only dou-
ble the satisfaction and hurt all the more.
The objectivism of Kant’s philosophy, though the word be
present nearly after every other page of the text, never drives
itself home, because it is a subject dependent objectivism and
this, on the face of it, is sufficient to confuse any reader, how-
ever trained in Kantian theorizing. One can only imagine what
chaos it will cause to the untrained! The expression seems a
contradiction in terms. All Kantians solve it as best we can in
the early stages of our initiation, by supposing that what Kant
means here, is a form of subjectivism so total and encom-
passing, that there is nothing objective left to contrast it to,
which seems to result to the same thing. But Kant was hardly
the kind of philosopher who would seek to attain objectivism
by merely stressing its absence. And his objectivism reaches far
deeper than our being merely unable to tell the difference.
To realize this one simply has to see the extent of the dis-
tortions imposed upon his philosophy, once modern day cog-
nition activists, but otherwise uninstructed in matters of a priori
theorizing, feel bold enough to get their hands on it, as they
have no bussiness doing. Reading their accounts is all it takes
to perceive in zero time, that what they say of him is the last
thing, which Kant can afford to say and not turn suicidal. Here
is one such account, the best of its kind:
It is well known that Kant thought that a priori knowledge of
synthetical propositions is possible for us only because these
propositions are made true by what a man does to his percep-
tions. [Machina, 1972: p. 484.]
What is, in general, a proposition which is made true? Well,
one which is not true, I would think. Why else does it take
someone to make it true in the first place? Thus, Kant’s idealism
at this stage is seen as the doctrine of succeeding (?) to some-
how turn false propositions into true ones by what we do to our
perceptions. For that, indeed, the active element can do. True
enough, this auhor does not speak of contingent synthetic pro-
positions at all but of synthetic a priori ones, which latter he
labouriously manages below to divest of factual content, thus
escaping absurdity by the bell. But by insisting on those latter,
he invites absurdity in through a different door.
An a priori proposition, be it synthetic or analytic matters
little in this connection, is a proposition which we simply do
not have the time to “make true” because, qua a priori, it would
have to be true before we even started making it so. This is
what an a priori proposition (Kant prefers judgement) is all
about. Of course, this is not a problem specific to this reader of
Kant’s text. It is an independent problem of Kantian episte-
mology. One which has led P.F.Strawson to declare the entire
theoretical programme of the Critique incoherent [Strawson,
1966: pp. 39-42 & 247-263, but, actually, passim.] A priori
judgements, that is to say, necessary ones do not begin to be
true at any time, for then they would not be true at all prior to
that time. Let alone necessary. To put the point as plainly as I
can, a necessary truth makes no room for the subject. [See An-
tonopoulos, 1898, 188] So Kant seems to be demanding the
impossible, if charitably read, or simply saying something in-
coherent, if uncharitably. I am not a fan of charitable readings
myself. But, as I am about to show, Kant has no need of them
though some others certainly do.
The first thing to realize, therefore, is that Kant’s idealistic
supposition, said to be responsible for transforming the world
into lawful obedience, whereas in “itself” it has none, cannot be
an event in time. Once this much is documented, the “active
knowledge” cliche is dealt a lethal blow. Whereas Kant’s fa-
voured term, transcendental idealism, gradually begins to form
itself into shape. What we “do” to our experience, to use Ma-
china’s mischosen words, is not even a part of experience in the
first place. It is transcendental; in other words, something
which experience cannot even reveal. The active reading of
Kant’s idealism, as a support of the relativistic trade, is cer-
tainly out, whatever else might befall his doctrine. Coherent or
otherwise, the doctrine is clearly not about an active knowing
subject at all. As that would certainly make it incoherent at the
very outset. The proper reading of Kant’s “synthetic a priori
rules out this much at least, i.e. the supposition that a judge-
ment can be true a priori due to our cognitive activity. If a priori,
it would antedate any activity. Consequently, conceptual know-
ledge can only be active at the pain of incoherence. And if that
cannot be active, what other can? But Machina still hopes other-
Whenever we find a human being who has experience of this
objective (?) sort we can be sure he believes all the group of
synthetic a priori proposions and is busily subsuming his per-
ceptions under the concepts employed in these synthetic a priori
propositions [Machina, 1972: p. 488].
But beliefs are by definition revisable. Synthetic a priori
truths by definition are not. So this promises to be a really in-
congruous marriage. Indeed, it results in the only way such a
marriage could:
Similar remarks can be made about the other most impor-
tant categories, cause and effect. One can take any two percep-
tions and decide to make the first one a perception of one event
which caused the event perceived in the second one provided
only that one does not thereby contradict some other belief
[Machina, 1972: p. 494].
Provided. Though it would tend to become a bit of a task to
remember all the other “beliefs” I have held so far in my life,
not to keep confounding which is which and which should be
the cause, which the effect. And, assuming I could, would others?
And when it comes to the beliefs of others, when compared to
mine, the matching would become even harder to attain. You’d
say the billiard ball set the second one in motion, I might say it
smashed it to pieces, given the extrinsic nature of all causal
relations. What do we do, when we see the wind bend the tree?
Exchange memoirs with each other, to make sure that no belief
is contradicted? I myself always thought that seeing the tree
bend under the wind is all it takes to realize that the one is the
cause, the other the effect. The incident is intuitively certain.
And then “some other belief” is irrelevant.
“Any two” says Machina, conscientiously referring in his
text to Kant’s Transcendental Schematism in all places, but
learning little from it. For for Kant not just any two, but only
irreversible sequents of perceptions (ordered pairs) qualify for a
causal treatment [CPR, B233, ff]. And the very term “ire-
versible” refers to phenomena whose succession in time we are
powerless to reverse. Hence, irreversibility, a necessary condi-
tion for causality, is already there. And not something we “de-
Now to “busily subsuming”as such. Suppose I (busily) sub-
sume “any two” perceptions of mine under the causal nexus,
christening the first perception a cause, the second an effect.
Busily subsuming takes some time, until the final christening.
What were these perceptions during that time and prior to
christening? Were they phenomena or things in themselves?
Machina would retort that they are phenomena eo ipso, if they
are perceptions. But I would point out that, if phenomena eo
ipso, they are already subject to the category of causality eo-
ipso. Just as eo ipso, in fact, as they are phenomena, to begin
with. And then there’d just be no time, or need, for Machina’s
busily subsuming. It appears that his human being cannot have
very much to keep it busy after all.
Nor does Kant’s philosophy afford us with a third route,
neither phenomena, nor things in themselves but something in-
between. That, were it admissible, would surely rip the whole
plan to shreds, because it would only mean that as yet un-
categorized perceptions would keep one foot at least implanted
in things themselves, which are therefore much closer to us
than claimed (infinitely apart, says Kant) and possibly know-
able. Either, therefore, we are keeping busy with only God
knows what in our hands until the christening, or else we’re
simply idle. And the job has already been done for us. It must
have, if a priori.
The case, actually, has as follows: (First) I perceive; (then) I
categorize, i.e. I subject the perception to a category. Hence, if
there be a rift introduced or allowed between the first stage and
the second, namely, if the perception can subsist in conscious-
ness without having yet been subsumed under a category or,
indeed, all categories, then we have in our hands a perception
which, for a certain length of time t > 0, answers to no category!
That a thesis such as this is attributed to Kant from within the
pages of a journal such as that of The Philosophical Review, is
a matter that is certainly worth noting.
For, indeed, what is the perception which, for a certain
period t, does not answer to a category? Not a phenomenon,
surely, for for these latter Kant has explicitly declared that
categories are their very possibility; that is to say, their very
possibility to be: “The objective unity of the original apper-
ception is thus the necessary condition of all possible perce-
ption” [A 123]. Is then Machina implying, perhaps, that it may
be a thing in itself, and still writing a paper on Kant? There has
never been a destruction of the Kantian text more total than this,
though to no fault of the original. Consider, if you will, our
prospects for handling the situation, “not answerable to the
categories”. Does it mean, perhaps, that the perception is
UNFIT for the categories? For if it were fit for them, instead,
the other remaining alternative, then it would satisfy the
categories eo ipso, exactly as it should. And there would then
be nothing to keep us busily subsuming. We would simply be
recording the fitting, not fabricating it, as Machina would have
us all believe.
And if the perception is UN-fit for the categories (during t),
then heaven help us all, Kant above all others. For then their
union a lá Machina would just breed a contradiction. We would
be simply fitting things that do not fit. And, if only to complete
the disaster while we’re at it, if the perception is unfit for the
categories for any period t, it is unfit for them for ever. For
either the “perception” will then have to undergo a change in
order to be “made” to fit, which is Machina’s favourite way of
turning falsehood into truth, which change, however, will have
to lay hold of causality, if to at all do it, i.e. a category of the
sort we have just admitted does not presently apply, or it will be
challenging the validity of the categories for all time to come.
This and this alone is the true cost of attempting to read Kant’s
idealism subjectively. That is to say, actively.
Finally, to the application of the category of causality per se,
an affair far more tricky than it looks, as the previous,
preliminary analysis has uncovered. Suppose I have the power
(invested in me) to decide, once and for all, which perception is
the cause and which the effect. The bothersome question still
won’ t let go. Are they cause and effect just after I so decide or
are they so before I do? If just after, then these two perceptions
are not the first a cause, the second an effect, and therefore I
should not have decided as I did. So, when I do, I do something
false. Suppose then they are the first the cause, the second the
effect before I even apply the principle. Then, obviously, they
need no help from me (or the power invested in me) to be the
first a cause, the second an effect. They are such already. I have
been “busily subsuming” my perceptions under my concepts for
nothing. If I get overactive and subsume them, when I should
not, I simply misrepresent and distort reality. And if I do not
subsume them, who does? Machina turns to psychic compul-
sion in this hour of need:
Because [...] we ourselves are constructed in such a way that
we cannot help but include these features in these perceptions
[Machina, 1972: p. 487].
Now observe first hand what Kant has to say about this:
The concept of a cause, which expresses the necessity of an
event under a presupposed condition, would be false if it rested
only on an arbitrary subjective necessity, implanted in us (!), of
connecting certain empirical representations according to the
rule of causal relation. I would not then be able to say that the
effect is connected with the cause in the object, that is to say
necessarily, but only that I am so constituted that I can not
think this representation otherwise than as thus connected. This
is exactly what the sceptic most desires. For if this be the situa-
tion, all our insight, resting on the supposed objective validity
of our judgements, is nothing but sheer illusion [CPR, B168.]
Regrettably. (For the Philosophical Review no less.) This
humdrum, down to earth, interpretation of the Kantian text is a
symptom. Not the sickness. Underneath lies the influence and
even the indoctrination of all the active-knowledge ideology
which has gone into Machina’s calmly proposing all of the
foregoing, without a moment’s hesitation as to how can all this
be. He is one of those trained with the idea that we can mold
the world in our thoughts in any way that pleases us and get
away with it handsomely, without so much as a consideration
of what goes on out there, that would make us look silly. Why,
we could even say that donkeys fly, when unobserved, if “we
ourselves are constructed in such a way that we cannot help”
but think so.1
This, in short, is the consequence of a philosophical training
which, for humanitarian reasons, has conditioned and accus-
tomed trainees to the idea that there is no right and wrong, (we
are all equal in our ignorance), no truth and falsehood, no hell
to pay if we falter. The thing we call knowledge is expendable
in any event. The rest is then a mere formality, especially when
a person of such training investigates the works of an idealist,
explicitly appearing to rely on the human subject. If all the rest
is so, he reasons, one can only imagine what an idealist is
capable of. The humdrum interpretation is then only an offs-
Parts of A Whole: The Passive Side
Kant’s initial problem of the Transcendental Deduction is to
show how logically separable entities can still be subjected to
(what we might call) an “organic” connection though not in an
organic context. As if the connected items were somehow
meant for each other, like the notes of a melody. The pressure
he was under was bequeathed to him by Hume’s analysis of
causality [Hume, 1968: pp. 78-81], which just about tended to
imply that cause and effect were almost foreign to one another.
Kant was too quick to accept the analysis, but not that quick to
accept the foreignness. This is what gave rise to the idea of
synthetic a priori judgements. The causal connection was
synthetic, just as Hume had shown, but necessary none the less.
The thing to do, then, was to show that there can be “organic”
connection even betwee n logically unconnected entities.
This is the role assigned to Apperception, alias referred to as
the “transcendental consciousness”. The first thing to notice is
that this consciousness is transcendental; not empirical. Left on
its own it is the consciousness of nothing whatsoever. And
therefore not a consciousness. (Viz. the active element.) This
consciousness is not only transcendental. It is also possessed of
a transcendental unity. It is a whole onto itself, whose (pu-
tatively) outgoing components can not be outgoing at all,
because held fast together as an undivided whole, almost
collapsing on one another. Apperception, thus conceived, is a
singularity. Kant calls it a “numerical unity” [CPR, A108]
which is a term even more inactive than my synonyms. It is
now not too difficult to see, where Kant is going with all this.
His plan is to utilize the unity of Apperception, of the trans-
cendental consciousness, as a foundation for the unity of its
contents. The idea is sound and it deserves a good deal more of
credit than it has received, at least on the part of non-Kantians.
How can a unity, a whole onto itself, ever tolerate contents
which resist their mutual unification, i.e. resist becoming the
parts of any whole, and be its contents at the same time? How
can it even survive the possibility and stay true to its permanent
Kant replies in the negative and he is quite right to do so.
Every representation of mine must be such, he argues, as to be
always capable of being accompanied by the “I think”. By the
I think”, to be exact [CPR, B132, ff]. The “I think” is evi-
dence of mental ownership. My representations are my repre-
sentations. The emphasis and the ownership are not about a
dispute between the two of us, of the sort “whose is this? mine
or yours”, claiming exclusive propriety. They are only intended
to stress that if mine, they will be mine as my shoes are mine,
or Cinderella’s hers. That is to say, the shoes which fit; the
right shoes for me or Cinderella. Just as I cannot wear shoes
which do not fit my feet, so also can I not maintain represen-
tations, which do not fit my mind. If my representations are to
be invariably accompanied by the “I think” in the said con-
nection, they must be the right sort of representations to satisfy
the requirement. In a word, such as they will always be parts of
a unitary whole. And therefore unifiable per se contrary to
Hume’s objections.
Recent developments in physics concretize this Kantian
conception in ways that Kant himself would not have thought
possible. Quantum theory, in nearly all of its other aspects a
bitter disappointment to Kant, were he only around to see them,
regarding his insights of the Transcendental Deduction provides
an amazing confirmation. Any two things connected to an
indivisible whole will themselves be indivisibly connected, if to
be at all connected with this whole. This is the Bohrian con-
ception of quantum wholeness, profoundly conceived but, as a
rule, poorly described by its conceiver. I choose David Bohm’s
description, for (remarkable) clarity. It is the description of how
an indivisible quantum can be transferred from one object to
The quantum must somehow belong to both objects and yet
be indivisible. This is possible only if the combined system
consisting of the two objects is, in some sense, an indivisible
entity which cannot be analyzed (even conceptually) into more
elementary parts [Bohm, 1967: p. 89].
The quantum under transfer from one object to another, i.e.
originally a different object, is indivisible and cannot be dis-
tributed among them. (There are no fractions of a quantum. It is
an atom.) If it could, then always and during any stage of the
procedure the quantum could belong partly to the one object,
partly to the other, distributed among them evenly or unevenly
depending on time, until completely transferred, in thoroughly
classical fashion. But the quantum is indivisible and cannot be
thus distributed. How can it then belong to two, separate ob-
jects without contradicting the theory? Simple (once we are told
the answer, that is). The two objects cease being two, becom-
ing one indivisible entity which we cannot analyze even con-
ceptually. The indivisible quantum joins them as a single,
undivided unit. Kant is therefore quite right. A pair of initially
independent, unconnected entities will become connected, if,
coming from different routes each, are to be both connected
with a self-connected, i.e. an indivisible entity. They will all
form an unidivided, unitary whole.
Now to our main question, starting from the indivisible quan-
tum, indivisibly connecting the two objects. Does the quantum
do anything, to accomplish the resulting indivisibility of the
two objects? Or does it simply remain throughout the uniting
process exactly what it is? Thus doing nothing in particular,
except staying true to its own nature? I submit the latter. Action
is a form of change; the change from inaction. If no change is
noticeable, no action should be. In Machina’s accounts of our
cognitive activity, for instance, “the man is busily subsuming”
his perceptions under his concepts. Being busy here is to be
contrasted with not being busy and is therefore a change. In
1Under no circumstances should Mackay’s helplessness be confused with
mine. His is a kind of psychic compulsion not to act. Mi ne a helples sness to
act, which anteda tes all compulsion, for there is nothing left to act upon.
acting (busily), the man is now in a state he was not in before.
Is this description at all true of the indivisible quantum? Far
from it. The quantum stays indivisible during the transfer, na-
mely, exactly in the state it was before the transfer began; the
state of indivisibility. It is therefore doing nothing. It is the
interacting objects, if anything, which undergo whatever trans-
formation is necessary in order to participate in the whole.
“They become one” we usually say, when describing this weird
quantum wholeness in our texts. They become. The quantum, as
such, is a constant. It neither rises nor falls, neither grows nor
diminishes. It does nothing. It is a constant. And so it is, then,
with Apperception.
It is the objects of Apperception which will undergo the
change, in order to become its objects, conforming themselves
with the unity requirement, namely, become what they must
become in order to participate in its whole and be accompanied
by the “I think”. In itself considered, Apperception remains
throughout the uniting “process”2 exactly what it had been
before it ever started. No change, no activity. To put the point
in Machinean terms, Apperception is not all that busy during
the “process”.
With the issue of activity is connected the issue of time,
activity being an inherently temporal kind of entity. So it is
high time we introduced the element of time in the procedure,
crucial, as we have seen, in determining just when a synthetic a
priori truth begins to be true, in other words, when exactly does
the process Kant calls the “transcendental synthesis of the
manifold” begin, to finally result in the sort of experience
which we have. On the one hand, we have Apperception. On
the other, its contents. Suppose first, as I have repeatedly al-
ready, that the unifiability of the contents of Apperception, i.e.
ultimately of the phenomena, obtains within its boundaries at a
time later than their first ever entry in its realm of jurisdiction.
The problem is once again immediately appa re nt. I f unif ia ble at
a time later than their entry, there will be a finite time interval
inserted, during which the contents of Apperception are not
unifiable at all.
And it would then be too late to unify them. For to say that
what has been unified in the end, were non-unifiable items
before the process started, is a verbal contradiction. One can
only unify unifiable elements, the Apperception included. O-
therwise, the job can’t be done. The proposition is a tautology
and Apperception, whatever other powers it may be said to
possess, certainly cannot defy a tautology. Take the simple case
of broken vase. Given that no broken piece is missing, we can
glue the vase back together in one piece. Can we do that, if the
broken pieces belong to different vases, differently broken? We
cannot. The broken pieces have to be unifiable before they are
to be unified. Unifiability is not a property indiscriminately
ascribable to anything we choose to ascribe it to (“decide” was
Machina’s term), independently of its own nature. Certain
things are unifiable, certain others not, and the latter we cannot
unify however hard we may try which goes for the broken
pieces of the same vase too, if any two of them provide a mis-
Kant is well aware of this:
If this unity of association had not also an objective ground
[...] it would be entirely accidental that appearances should fit
into a connected whole of human knowledge. For even though
we should have the power (!!) of associating perceptions, it
would remain entirely undetermined and accidental whether
they would themselves be associable [CPR, A 122].
There must, therefore, be an objective ground upon which
rests the possibility , nay, the necessity, of a law that extends to
all appearances a ground, namely, which constrains us to regard
all appearances as data of the senses that must be associable in
themselves and [hence] subject to universal rules of a thorough
going connection in their reproduction [ibid].
But if associable in themselves, they are not made (far less,
busily made) associable by us. The active mind option is eli-
minated. In consequence, the contents of Apperception must be
unifiable before they even enter its boundaries. Which means,
unifiable in advance of their imminent entry. In other words,
(Kant’s), unifiable a priori. The doctrine of Apperception is
thus a filter theory of the mind, not an imposition theory about
it, always implying a time before and a time after the impo-
sition, consisting each of mutually incompatible elements. It is,
if you prefer, a mind-world matching theory, which is hardly
any different from the filter version. What will filter through is
eo ipso what matches. Kant is quite straightforward about this:
The objective ground of all association I entitle their affinity.
[...] According to this principle all appearances, without excep-
tion, must so enter the mind or be apprehended, that they con-
form to the unity of apperception [CPR, A 122].
Or if not, not. This, then, is idealism. And it is a theory about
the nature of reality, i.e. an ont ology, and not a theory about the
nature of thinking, as Machina makes it look, i.e. a type of
psychology. (e.g. cognitive psychology.) An idealism which is
so unlike the “busy subsuming” of Machina’s, that all the sub-
jectivism concomitant with philosophical mediocrity is eradi-
cated across the board by the touch of philosophical greatness.
The greatness of showing how, what initially seems a subject-
dependent picture of the world, with all its shortcomings and
problems of belated impositions, and how it can all still be “a
priori” in this way, now turns out to be hardcore objectivism in
the end, and this on the selfsame initial premises. If appea-
rances must so enter the mind, as to conform to its require-
ments, the mind, primevally Apperception, neither has the time
nor the need to do anything further. Hence, the need to do
anything. Being associable in themselves, is an admittance
condition for appearances, their transcendental ticket to expe-
rience. It is not therefore something which the Apperception
does, busily or otherwise, which, as activity, can only be a
posteriori (an event in time) and therefore the thing unsuitable
for a priori knowledge of the sort Kant strives after:
The synthetic unity of consciousness is an objective condi-
tion of knowledge. It is not merely a condition that I myself
require in knowing an object [viz. what I do], but is a condition
under which every intuition must stand in order to become an
object for me [CPR, B 138, brackets mine].
The unity, therefore, that Kant speaks of is not to be found in
the handling of my data, like Machina’s “busy subsumings”.
The unity that Kant speaks of is in the having of data altogether.
The handling of them, i.e. the ordinary process we are all
familiar with, when we think, and which does fall within
Machina’s narrow specifications, is merely derivative:
Only the original unity is objectively valid; the empirical
unity of apperception, upon which we are not here dwelling,
and which is merely derived from the former, has only subject-
tive validity. The unity of consciousness in that which is em-
pirical [viz. the “busy subsuming”] is not necessary and uni-
versally valid [CP R, B 140, brackets mine].
2The word must not taken too literally. I am using it only in want of another.
“Process” is an entity signifying a development through time. But the
“process” referred to in this context is atemporal. Thanscendental unity of the manifold, therefore, is not some-
thing imposed upon phenomena, which would make it sub-
jective in origin and contradictory in constitution. It would not
be transcendental, if thus imposed. It is the ‘mechanism’ by
means of which phenomena are to primevally originate, and so
to be given. If unifiability is an admittance condition, the con-
tents-to-be of Apperception are unifiable a priori, as all po-
tential parts of a unitary whole must be, and since they are
already unifiable, there is little that Apperception, or “we” are
called upon to do thereafter, except, of course, integrate the
The passive side wins. For what is a priori so, as remarked,
leaves no room for the subject and its (alleged) activity to do
anything. Let alone, interfere. And if the subject cannot do
anything, or interfere, subjectivism is rebutted. We have no say
on the matter. Not as far as Kant is concerned at any rate.
The Busy Element: Conclusion
Time to say a few words on what really happened to Ma-
china, apart, that is, from presuming that he can comment on a
difficult philosopher, whose works he knows little or nothing
about. Machina does not offer an implausible account of human
mental activity, perhaps not even an incorrect one at that. Nor is
it true to suppose, besides, that Kant himself denies such ac-
tivity. Far from it. The difference is that, when it comes to the
philosophy of Kant, Machina is looking for it in the wrong
place. It belongs to an altogether different mental faculty. Rea-
The keeping busy side of our mental operations, though
clearly there in Kant as much as in any philosopher or any man
(no reason whatsoever to deny its presence even in Hume), is
not the business of Kant’s idealism to explai n an d descr ibe. I t is
not, because as Machina also says, it concerns what we con-
sciously do with our perceptions and is therefore, unlike Ap-
perception, whose workings are undatable, an event in time. It
belongs to the sphere of the empirical subject, the self-con-
scious man given to the process of thinking and drawing con-
clusions, not to the transcendental subject, which is an un-
thinking state, idle onto itself:
There are three subjective sources of knowledge upon which
rests the possibility of experience in general and knowledge of
its objects: Sense, imagination and apperception. Each of these
can be viewed as empirical, namely, in its application to given
appearances. But all of them are likewise a priori elements or
foundations, which make this empirical employment itself pos-
sible [CPR, A 115].
“Busily subsuming” an instance under a category, therefore,
in other words, its application, is emphatically declared by Kant
as an empirical affair, viz. what the self-conscious individual
performs in time and place, which is to be disting-uished from
the corresponding, transcendental function of these conditions,
and which lays the foundation for their ensuing empirical em-
ployment. Machina has mistaken that which results from a cer-
tain operation, as being that operation. The empirical, or con-
scious, subject only extends into the world that substratum,
which the transcendental subject has furnished in advance of
such extension, and for it. The former, to be identified with the
conscious, thinking “man”, is an object of psychology (cog-
nition) as it is, in fact, of any discipline. The latter, the tran-
scendental subject, viz. Apperception, an object of Metaphysics.
What Machina describes is a theory about man. An anthropology.
But what Kant ascribes to Apperception is a doctrine about the
nature of reality.
And the conscious mental operations of man, as opposed to
the nature of reality, are for Kant stuff which belongs to the
province of abstraction. They are therefore, properly speaking,
the business of Reason, not of the Understanding. Reason, yes;
is busily (or lazily) always trying to subsume our perceptions
under our concepts, provided they are subsumable in the first
place, which however is a matter that has already been settled
elsewhere, in the way I have explained. Reason may occasion-
ally even have to “decide”, which perception is cause, which
the effect, by bringing order to an otherwise messy empirical
material, provided there are such things as causes and effects in
the first place, which however is again a matter that has been
already settled elsewhere, in the way I have explained.
In thus busying itself Reason is engaged in the process of
building theories. Not in the process of making judgements,
which is the province of the Understanding to make. For theo-
ries are made of fact stating propositions and facts are, by
Kantian definition, not the province of Reason at all. They are
the province of the understanding. And the unity the under-
standing brings to a fact, e.g. “if cause A, then effect B”, is not
itself a theory at all. It is a fact-stating, in this case a causal,
judgement, immediately tied to experience, not to theorizing.
It is therefore one thing to treat a causal judgement as an in-
stance of the part-whole relation and an altogether different
matter to treat a system of causal judgements as an instance of
the same relation. The former, which is not a theory but, as said,
a synthetic judgement, can, as concerns validity of connection,
be synthetic and a priori. It would however be a joke to try and
say the same about a theory. Theories are not synthetic a priori
truths. They are not even synthetic a posteriori truths, if it came
to that, the way things are going in science nowadays. Syn-
thetic a priori judgements are necessary and, strictly speaking,
their opposite is inconceivable. But systems of interconnected
synthetic a priori judgements, i.e. theories, are anything but
necessary and, strictly speaking, their opposite is anything but
inconceivable. So far as I’m concerned, quite frankly, their
opposite is much rather God’s honest truth at times. (See be-
In other words, what knowledge has gained in terms of ab-
straction, namely, active thinking, it has lost in terms of reli-
ability, namely, in terms of the passive state we all experience,
when we cannot help but concede, however much we struggle
not to. Knowledge valid for all subjects is knowledge forced
upon us, knowledge coming from helplessness to do otherwise,
from what we are powerless to affect or change at will.4 It is for
this straitjacket of a feeling, that philosophers have coined the
term “necessary knowledge”. And speculating on the basis of
what was once solid physical evidence, which is what theories,
namely, abstractions are all about, is hardly the sort of thing we
are helpless with. It is the very essence of what we can help. It
4Some would point out that we are equally helpless in the face of a contra-
diction. And the discover y of a contradiction is the product of the ac t ive, not
the passive mind. This, though true, makes little difference to my case. First
of all, contradictions are discovered, not created so that they can be discov-
ered, which is what “active knowledge” claims for its own products. And
once they are discovered, we are powerless in treating them as anything
save as what they already are; i.e. contradictions. Secondly, those who
might contemplate using that argument against me, should ask themselves
first, how are contradictions at all possible in the first place. If not as prod-
ucts of the active mind, then as what?
3In other words, turn unifiability to unity by seeking out the ways in tria land
error fas hion of making the unity actual, as we would with th e broken vase.
Only now in experience, that is to say, consciously and a posteriori. This
derivative synthesis, which is active, is to be disnguished from its transcen-
dental origination, which is primitive and inactive. It is, however, justified
y the former, for it only unifies the unifiable.
is in this sense that I have warned the reader, that the more we
help what we know, the less we know what we help. Which are
also Kant’s sentiments exactly, when it comes to speculation,
his top favourite word for referring to the activities of Reason.
As a consequence, Kant has as notoriously little faith in
Reason, which he almost despises, as he has notoriously great
faith in the Understanding, which he almost worships. Take a
look at the things he charges it with: The title of his work is the
Critique of Pure Reason. Not so much as an iota of a critique of
the Understanding. The products of Reason deserving the cri-
tique are the Paralogisms of pure reason and the Antinomies.
The former, [CPR, A341-405, B407-432], are just fallacies that
can be detected and set aright. The latter, [CPR, A406, B433-A
567, B595] are logical conflicts which are not fallacies at all
and which cannot be remedied. And that, if anything, is worse.
They are for Kant inescapable results of what happens to the
human intellect when it abandons experience and plunges deep
into abstraction, i.e. into what common men and philosophers
alike unanimously and spontaneously call metaphysics.5
This, according to Kant, is the product of what he calls “the
architectonic tendencies of pure reason” (see, in this connection,
the notorious “unified theories” of Physics), invariably leading
it astray and into areas that knowledge has no business to enter.
After a series of compound abstractions, all done in fashion
which Machina would have every reason to call busy (too busy),
Reason is led step by abstract step so far from experience that
all which is then left to it are vacuous concepts, unrelated or
even inconsistent with the laws of experience, which concepts
Kant somewhat benevolently calls “Transcendental Ideas”. And
which Kuhn, speaking in more modernized terms, has called
“scientific theories cast in predominantly mathematical form,
seldom capable of being compared with nature”. Not a word of
what Kuhn says here is to be disputed. He tells it as it is. So,
then, does Kant no less, the difference being, however, that
what was then to Kant anything but science, and only stuff to
be mocked at, to Kuhn is science, since observing a standard
social ritual, and claimed by him to be the only kind we can
have. And so the best there is.
This is because, contrary to what nearly everyone supposes,
Kant is essentially an epistemological passivist, possessed of an
inborn distrust for too much wild theorizing, while Kuhn is a
self-avowed activist, who needs this activity, if to at all earn the
dubious praise Katz has conferred upon him, of a philosopher,
whose contribution is to be found in his sociological doctrines,
not in his philosophical ones. It is this activity and this alone
which opens the door to the social investigation of “thought in
its speculative employment”, as Kant woul put it, an investiga-
tion well deserved, when knowledge yields its place to socially
useful mythology. Because speculation, unfettered as it is by
the pressures of reality, more often than not cries out as to its
predictable origin: Ideology, and how it can be served together
with our putative interest in truth (or our pretenses at one).
The study of the natural laws which keep a boat afloat, when
investigated in terms of their social production, promise far
fewer humanitarian rewards and paradigm secured equalitari-
anism than, say, Big Bang cosmology, the modern day version
of “Fiat Lux!”, whose ideological roots are just too obvious to
miss. The more phy sical a theory is, viz. the lesser its degree of
abstraction, the less relevant, or desirable, its social investiga-
tion becomes. The sociological account of how the iceberg sank
the Titanic by puncturing a hole in its hull, would raise many
eyebrows. A soci ologica l invest igation of Big Bang cosmology,
by contrast, the virtual epitome of active knowledge at the top
of its performance, not only is well warranted and profitable, as
Barnes urges. It is imperative, especially for people like myself.
For being in the sad state it is in, it is difficult to ascribe its
public success to any other reliable factor.
The difference is that for people like myself the need for its
sociological investigation is not its rescue, or even a cause for
sympathy, as it is with so many others, but its damnation. For
when it comes to scientific theories thus produced, though their
sociological investigation may be anything but awkward, in fact
it is of considerable importance to knowledge, there may yet be
plenty of awkwardness to be found in their other departments.
Themselves, to start with. Their paradigm creation, if nothing
else, has taken care of that. Here, then, is a sample of active
thinking employed in its speculative capacity, the sole, besides,
it is capable of. Cosmologists assure us that their Bang created
the universe. And therefore space-time. Well, if it has created
space, it cannot have occurred at a place. And if it has created
time, it cannot have occurred at a time either. Some explosion
this is. But let’s be positive. The social role of the idea com-
pensates for whatever it lacks in the other departments.
Here now, by comparison, is philosophical greatness once
again, hand in hand with cognitive passivity, when Kant, in his
Transcendental Aesthetic, declared Space and Time to be a
priori concepts (intuitions, rather6), in other words concepts,
whose unconditional satisfaction constitutes the very possibility
for any phenomenon to even appear, or exist. No event can defy
space and time because, necessarily, events can only occur at a
place, at a time to even be events. But active knowledge and its
faithful, the paradigm theorists, will have none of that tota-
litarian talk and its arrogant exclusion of alternatives. After all,
absurdity is paradigm dependent. So, alternatives there must be.
Those being what else? Rival, incommensurable paradigms,
where the excluded, absurd alternatives are not just perfectly
coherent, but can even be actually seen.
Let us then follow up and see the “seeing”. The Big Bang is but
the opening stage of what cosmologists proceed to refer to as the
“universe expansion theory”, the contention, that is, that space ac-
ally grows, therefore taking up more of space, than it previously
did. To do that, of course, space would have to be larger than it is.
For what grows, takes up more of space, than it previously did.
And so, therefore, must space itself. And hence there has to be
more, namely space, of what, however, there is yet no more,
namely space. I myself would say that space is not larger than it is.
But paradigm epistemology, with its incommensurability and
everything, can s urely over come this slight difficulty.
All it takes, really, is just the right amount of “creative ob-
serving” and the job is done in style. Nor are paradigm addicted
scientists, for physicists they are no more,7 likely to ever run
out of either such observing or such paradigms, when needed
the most. This is what paradigm philosophy is all about. So
here goes, even if the passage that follows is hard to believe is
6Kant prefers “(pure) intutions” to “(pure) concepts”, though alternating at will
etween them, fo r an excellent r eason. Concepts, s uch as “man” or “hors e”,
have instances, whereas space and time do not. Spaces and times are but
parts of a singular space and a singular time, given all at once [A 25, 32].
7It is clear at this point that we can no longer afford to treat the terms “phys-
ics” and “science” interchangeably, much less so as they feature in the vo-
cabulary of cultural relativists. For physics is a term signifying the study o
the world, while science a term signifying a human and, indeed, a
5Though this is a commonplace fact in itself considered, Kant interestingly
recasts it in the context of his own theory. He attributes the Antinomies to
the non-empirical employment of the concepts of the Understanding, the
categories, now applied not to their natural recipients, their empirical in-
stances, as they should, but employed “purely”, something which for Kant is
a horrible epistemological crime. The move is from “what causes rain?” to
“what causes the world”. A full scale categorical leap.
really there. Read on and believe:
Galaxies are located at fixed positions in space. They might
perform small dances about these positions in accordance with
special relativity and local gravitational fields, but their real
“motion” is in the literal expansion of the space between them.
This is not the form of motion that any human being has ever
experienced, in that it does not involve travel through space. So
it is not surprising that our intuition reels at its implications and
seeks less radical interpretations [Odenwald & Fienberg, 1993:
pp. 31-35].8
And now, having run full circle, we are right back where we
started. To the ducks and the rabbits. Only in this new Pa-
radigm it is no longer ducks which look like rabbits nor rabbits
which look like ducks. It is only Hans Christian An d e r s e n ’ s The
Kings New Clothes, wearing a mantle as invisible as Oden-
wald’s and Fienberg’s motionless motion. Unobservable in
principle, yet seen none the less, clearly and perspicuously,
with a touch of condescension for those of us, whose intuition
reels at its implications, and sees nothing. It is difficult not to
turn to a Kuhnian relativist, or worse, in the face of “obser-
vations” like that. It goes without saying, that the observation-
interpretation, or active-passive, dichotomy breaks down in
cases like t he one in hand. What else could it do? The question
is, who ever dreamed of saying otherwise for cases like the one
in hand? And why on earth should they be deemed as the norm?
Andersen’s parable is highly instructive for our purposes. It
takes a child’s intellect, fresh enough to be impervious, or
indifferent, to social surroundings, to escape creative observing.
The grown ups are the slaves of protocol, just as Odenwald and
Fienberg are the slaves of their paradigm protocol. Which only
goes to show that “active seeing” of the sort here criticized is
the worst compulsion of all. Whence, besides, the necessity of
investigating its “sociological causation”. For for beliefs like
those, their sociological investigation can furnish the sole
illumination of their undue persuasiveness. I’d take passive
knowledge any day, its limitations, narrowness and downright
poverty notwithstanding. We’ll end up empty handed, people
tell me, for holding the views I do. Perhaps they should ask
themselves, what more they think they have in them right now.
Antonopoulos, C. (1989). Innate ideas, categories and objectivity. Phi-
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8Physicist L. Epstein puts the same question to two other physicists, Har-
rison, E. R. & Kaufmann, W. which only goes to show that this paradigm
counts several faithful among its ranks: Asking them “how to do an
experiment to differentiate between the two possibilities; Gaxies moving
apart or the space between them expanding” he came to realizethat “the
question ha d not previously entered their minds” [E pstein, 1987: p. 70].