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Comments on the Review of Mossers Necessity and Possibility
时间:2009-5-12 下午 11:05:42,点击:0

A recent book review from Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews examines Kurt Mosser’s Necessity and Possibility: The Logical Strategy of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.?Given its title’s overlap with two of Piaget’s last books, as well as the influence of Kant on Piaget’s theory (to say nothing of the importance of logic to Piaget’s conception of organization), this book ?and its review ?seems likely to be able to provide a new perspective of material from the “new theory?period.?

In particular, it offers a potentially new way to understand the “ambiguities?Piaget (1981/1987, 1983/1987) diagnosed in the conclusion of his own work on this topic: Possibility and Necessity.?Since his comments also overlap considerably with present debates regarding the difference between “social constructionism?and “constructive realism,?I have quoted them here at length:

At first glance, reality may appear completely absorbed or “consumed?at its two ends by these constructions of the subject: at the start, it is reduced to nothing more than a particular case among other particular ones, and at the end, it finds itself subordinated to necessary ties.?But, in either case, it becomes much richer by being better understood and promoted from the lower rank of an observable to the higher rank of reality interpreted.?Two ambiguities still need to be cleared up.

The first would be to see a certain form of idealism in this subordination of reality to the subject’s cognitive tools.?But this would be completely false: in fact, the subject as an organism and source of material actions is also object (even when her actions become internalized as operations) and thus part of reality.?This explains the surprising convergence between mathematics and physics.

The second ambiguity might result from the distinction we make between the object as it is and the object as interpreted by the subject.?It would be to equate it with Kant’s distinction between the thing in itself (noumenon) and the thing as revealed (phenomenon).?But this would be equally false, since the subject in her cognitive activities comes to know and to reconstruct the object in increasingly adequate ways.?However, every progress also opens up new problems so that the object become more and more complex and, in this sense, retreats as the subject approaches it.?This means that the absolute difference between subject and object diminishes as a function of successive approximations.?But there always remains a relative distance, with the object staying in a state of “limit,?which is quite different from an unknowable and immutable noumenon.

What is to be learned from these situations is rather obvious: there exists no more an absolute beginning in the development of possibilities than one can determine an absolute end to necessity.?Any necessity remains conditional and will need to be transcended.?Thus, there do not exist any apodictic judgments that are intrinsically necessary. (Piaget, 1983/1987, pp. 142-143)

We will be discussing one of the justifications for this final claim in the symposium I organized for the upcoming meeting in Park City: “Piaget and Levels,?which incorporates aspects of formal systems which Mosser claims are not supported by Kant.?For now, though, I thought you might be interested in seeing the review for its alternative perspective of similar phenomena.

A final thought: throughout the review, you will see hints of notions developed in Piaget’s new theory (e.g., the call for “a more precise specification of the rules which constitute Kant’s logic?was addressed in outline in Toward a Logic of Meanings, 1987/1991).?I don’t think this is a coincidence, although I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

Piaget, J. (1987). Possibility and Necessity: The Role of Possibility in Cognitive Development (H. Feider, Trans. Vol. 1). Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press. (Original work published 1981).

Piaget, J. (1987). Possibility and Necessity: The Role of Necessity in Cognitive Development (H. Feider, Trans. Vol. 2). Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press. (Original work published 1983).

Piaget, J. & Garcia, R. (1991). Toward a Logic of Meanings (P. M. Davidson & J. Easley, Trans.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. (Original work published 1987).

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