Wednesday, September 3, 2014

week one prompt- Anti-Kantian

Meaghan Duffy
Dr. Adam Johns
Seminar in Composition 0200
September 3, 2014

Immanuel Kant, 18th century German philosopher, stood out among many of him time with his belief in the foundation of metaphysics and empiricism.  Kant described human knowledge as being constrained to science of the natural world.  In one of Kant’s most famous works, The Critique of Pure Reason, he said, “in whatever way and by whatever means an item of knowledge may relate to objects, what relates it to them immediately is intuition.  This happens only if the object is given to us, and that happens only when the object affects the mind in a certain way…so objects are given to us by means of sensibility and that’s our only way of getting intuition (28, Kant).”  He asserted that a new experience can never be a completely new experience and newly formed ideas can never be completely newly formed because intuition, the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning, is a human characteristic that we all possess.  It is cited that human discernment is the main origin of the generic laws of nature that construct our blue print of experience. 
When Abbey opens early on stating, “I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree, a piece of quartz, a vulture, a spider, and see it as it is in itself, devoid of all humanly ascribed qualities, anti-Kantian, even the categories of scientific description (6, Abbey),” he is refuting the idea that there is no such thing as a,  “mind-independent world.”  Being the only inhabitant in a 33,000 acre desert surrounded entirely by sand, rocks, original plant species and a variety of animals, Abbey wants to be able approach and learn about the non-human occupants with zero preconceived notions of their mental, emotional and physical capacities.  He wishes and intends to make no judgments about the others based on his own prior experiences. 
While Abbey’s official job title is a park ranger on duty in Arches National Monument, he makes it clear that his purpose there is to, “not only evade for a while the clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus, but also to confront, immediately and directly if it is possible, the bare bones of existence, the elemental and fundamental, the bedrock which sustain us (6, Abbey).”  Abbey will strive to reconstruct his internal database plagued with non-proven opinions and biased theories, to start from a new base creating his own personal relationships with the desert inhabitants while in solitaire.  Without mechanical man-made gadgets and electronic devices which tend to, “separate a man from the world around him,” Abbey plans to live simple and without such advancements so that the, “mighty stillness,” of the natural world, “embraces and incudes [him] (14, Abbey).” 

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: The First Morning & A Season in the Wilderness.  New York: Touchstone, 1990. 

Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Pure Reason: Transcendental Aesthetic. Jonathan Bennett, 2007.
"Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Kant, Immanuel: Metaphysics []. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2014.


  1. Meaghan,
    I thought your paper was well written overall. However, it looks like there is still room for improvement, in terms of argument, grammatical errors, and word choice. One specific place I had in mind for word choice was the last sentence of your first paragraph, which says "main origin of the generic laws of nature". The word generic does not fit there. I would recommend revising that sentence, as it doesn't flow well, or taking out that sentence completely.
    The grammatical errors and spelling mistakes are primarily in the first paragraph.
    Finally, I believe that your argument is pretty clear, but there are ways to enhance it further. For instance, I appreciated the introduction to Kant to give some background so as to make your argument even stronger, but maybe present the argument before giving the background. The argument of the paper doesn't seem to show up until the second paragraph. Maybe consider introducing the argument briefly, then introduce Kant and talk about how he is relevant to the paper, then continue on with the argument, providing evidence. From my point of view, it seems like you did give enough evidence to enhance your argument but not take away from the paper.
    Simply introduce the argument in a sentence or two before what is already your first paragraph, and I think your paper will be even better than it already is.


  2. Is there is a missing citation in the first paragraph? Your quote is effective and relevant to Abbey, although I'd like to understand even in the first paragraph what that relevance or relationship is, in your view.

    Your second paragraph is good and focused. I'd like to see you defend it, even this early, by citing other passages in Abbey as well, but it's much like the direction I'd probably take on this prompt. Be a little more careful with proofreading, even in rough drafts.

    "Abbey will strive to reconstruct his internal database plagued with non-proven opinions and biased theories, to start from a new base creating his own personal relationships with the desert inhabitants while in solitaire. " - this is a clever statement of your view, and could have been used to reorganize the first paragraph.

    Overall: This is a little short. I'm not talking about the length (although that gets involved), so much as what you accomplish. If one whole paragraph was going to be devoted to explaining Kant, you needed to push yourself a little farther to connect Abbey back to Kant. Your approach is good and your thinking clear, but I would have been happier with a clearer argument in the introduction and if you had been able to make your argument using material, perhaps, from "Rocks" as well as from the beginning.


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