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On p173 of Section "Subjective Truth and the Problem of Relativism" in The Big Questions by Solomon:

Rationality is tying our knowledge and our lives together in the most coherent and effective way. But if we focus on the coherence of our knowledge and not on the way the world really is, this raises questions about how secure our knowledge really is. This has been a problem facing Western philosophy since Kant, with his denial that we have any grasp of the way the world is independent of the way our minds construct our experience.

How shall the part after "with" in the last sentence be parsed according to the English Grammar?

Is my following understanding correct?

his denial (that we have any grasp of the way (the world is independent of the way (our minds construct our experience))).

There are three adjective clauses, which I delineate with parentheses, modifying the nouns right before them: "denial", "way", and "way".

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  • ]How *should this sentence be parsed?] "with" refers to Kant's interpretations. We use with to present ideas. With his gruff manner, he was not considered a polite man.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 15:57
  • The subordinate clause "that we have any grasp of the way (the world is independent of the way (our minds construct our experience)))" is a declarative content clause functioning as complement of the first "way". Within that clause is the further subordinate clause "our minds construct our experience" functioning as complement of the second "way".
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 16:00
  • What is it about my parsing that you don't understand?
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 6:25

2 Answers 2

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The prepositional with can introduce something that rubs shoulders with something else, which is temporally right next to it, so to speak:

And with that remark, he left the room.

And that notion of proximity is extended to the notion of the proximate cause of something:

With its third robbery in as many weeks, the bank has hired an additional security guard.

And so the prepositional phrase with his denial that we have any grasp of the way the world is independent of the way our minds construct our experience refers to what has caused a problem for Western philosophy, namely, Kant's rejection of the notion that it is possible to have a raw unmediated understanding of the world.

Kant denies that we have any grasp (understanding) of the way the world is, a grasp of the way the world is (that is) independent of the way our minds construct our experience.

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  • Thanks. (1) If I understand correctly, shall it be parsed as "his denial that we have any grasp (of the way the world is) (independent of the way our minds construct our experience)", where the two parts inside parentheses complement/modify the same "grasp" in parallel? (2) How do you know "independent of the way our minds construct our experience" also modifies "grasp", which is far apart?
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 2:39
  • (3) Is it grammatically correct? (4) Can it be rewritten to be more grammatically correct, with minimum change? For example, how about "his denial that we have any grasp of the way the world is and independent of the way our minds construct our experience"?
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 2:42
  • What is being grasped? the way the world is. What is the specific nature or quality of the grasping that is being denied by Kant? (that it is) independent of the way our minds construct our experience. It is a grasp "of the world" and Kant is denying that the "grasp" is "independent of ...." Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 11:11
  • No, your suggested rewrite is ungrammatical. "... with his denial that our grasp of the world is independent of how our mind constructs our experience". Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 11:13
  • We have no way of grasping the world that would be unmediated by that "construct". Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 11:19
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He denies that we have any (understanding of the way the world is) that's independent of (the way our minds construct our experience).

It's a garden-path sentence even for a native speaker. Replacing "is independent" with "is, independent" or "is independently" or "is that's independent" would have prevented the misparse.

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  • Thanks. (1) If I understand correctly, shall it be parsed as "his denial that we have any grasp (of the way the world is) (independent of the way our minds construct our experience)", where the two parts inside parentheses complement/modify the same "grasp" in parallel? (2) How do you know "independent of the way our minds construct our experience" also modifies "grasp", which is far apart?
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 11:59
  • (3) Is it grammatically correct? (4) Can it be rewritten to be more grammatically correct, with minimum change? For example, how about "his denial that we have any grasp of the way the world is and independent of the way our minds construct our experience"?
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 11:59
  • @Tim I moved one of the parentheses in my answer because I think it was misleading. I think your rewrite (4) changes the meaning. As I interpret the sentence, Kant says that we understand the world through our mental model of it, and we don't understand the world in any other way (other than the mental model). It's our grasp of the world, not just our grasp, that is/isn't independent of etc. It's a tricky sentence.
    – benrg
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 17:11
  • Does "that" in "that's independent ..." refer to the "understanding"?
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 2:03
  • @Tim Yes, there is no independent understanding (independent-of-experience understanding). Sorry I never replied.
    – benrg
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 23:17

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