Empirical Consciousness

Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason uses difficult language, and I found myself constantly referencing the introduction or making a quick google search to help guide me through this piece. One word that stuck out was “empirical” because I had seen it before in chemistry classes referring to the “empirical formula” of a compound. This piqued my curiosity and so I went searching for what this word was doing in a philosophical piece, because I had only seen it in a scientific context.Type the word “empirical” into google search engine and the definition it spits out is, “based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.”  So instead of knowledge that is purely formed in the mind or consciousness, empirical implies that we gain knowledge through “presentations” or experiences. This echoes what was said in the introduction with the Macbeth’s dagger, because the dagger is only his imagination and exists in his mind, Macbeth can dismiss it because it is not an actual presentation.

“For the empirical consciousness that accompanies different presentations is intrinsically sporadic and without any reference to the subjects identity. Hence this reference comes about not through my merely accompanying each presentation with consciousness, but through adding one presentation to another and being conscious of their synthesis” (B 133).

This excerpt from the text further argues Kant’s point that empirical methods are how people gain knowledge. The synthesis of different experiences is what causes “references” or knowledge, rather than the consciousness combining with presentations.

However, I know Kant references Leibniz and Hume who rationalists, the opposite of empiricists. So I am rather confused whether Kant is on the side of empiricist, rationalist, or somewhere in between. But from what I’ve read so far, Kant seems to argue in favor of empirical knowledge.

2 responses to “Empirical Consciousness

Leave a Reply