A Critique of the Critique of Pure Reason
Stay with me, folks, because this is important. Kant really represents the turning point in the stream of philosophy, which runs down into all the creeks, crocks, and sewer lines we know of today. On the one hand, it ushered in the pseudo-philosophy of scientistic materialism in all its varieties, on the other, the many forms of irrational romanticism (leftism combines the worst of each).
Whitehead once said that the history of Western philosophy is just a footnote on Plato. However, I think it would be equally accurate to say that all postmodern philosophy is simply a footnote on Kant, since Kant opened up that annoying abyss between human beings and reality. Up until Kant, it was assumed -- yes, sometimes naively -- that human beings could know reality. But Kant's philosophy begins and ends with the undermining of that sanguine view. Hence the "critique" of pure reason, and the strict demarcation of its limits.
I think one must concede that Kant's critique has a certain superficial appeal, especially for the spiritually untutored man. A very accessible book on the subject is Confessions of a Philosopher, by Bryan Magee. And his book on Schopenhauer is a classic.
Don't worry, I don't want to get too pedantic here and put our troll to sleep again. Let me just say that I was never a Kantian, but I was a Schopenhauerian, in that I felt that he had addressed the limitations of Kant by essentially arguing that we could not know the thing-in-itself -- the noumenon -- but we could be it, so to speak, since it is our prior reality.
This view is superficially similar to the Upanishads, and indeed Schopenhauer was happily flabbergeisted when he stumbled upon one of the first copies of the Upanishads translated into German. He thought that the Vedic seers were saying the same thing he was.
But they weren't. In Vedanta, the distinction between noumena and phenomena -- or appearance and reality -- is more or less conveyed by the terms maya and brahman. The ultimate goal of the spiritual ascent is to climb from the former to the latter, which is none other than "liberation," or the realization of the Real (i.e., there is Reality, and there is realizing it, two different things that are ultimately ʘne, or not-two, to be precise).
But the Upanishads are not actually as dualistic as this division of appearance and reality implies. Long story short, maya may be "illusion" in a certain sense, but it is actually quite real. It is just not ultimate reality. So long as we are not God, we must necessarily live in "maya." But this hardly implies that there is a strict duality between Reality and fantasy, with no connecting link between them. In fact -- and we will get more into this later -- there are no "gaps" at all between God and everything else, due to God's immanence.
Here again, this is what I was endeavoring to convey nonverbally in my book, with the chapters running together and divided in mid-sentence. In other words, from the relative point of view, certain things appear "impossible" to man's reason, most notably, that dead matter can suddenly come alive and become conscious of itself.
In short, the world clearly appears discontinuous to our reason, e.g., "mind and matter." Reason can and does invent all kinds of speculative fantasies to fill the gap -- e.g., reductionistic Darwinism -- but such a person is in the final analysis constrained by Kant's critique. So the point of my structuring the chapters in that discontinuously continuous way was to explicitly note the ontological divisions in reality -- i.e., matter, life, mind, and spirit -- even while implicitly conveying their actual unity. And the unity can only flow from the top, never the bottom. The latter is literally unthinkable, which is why so much nonsense is generated if one tries to get around Kant (much less Gödel) with any form of pure reason.
So, how do we get around Kant? Easy. We do it all the time, every day, in varying degrees. Once you have inverted the cosmos (or yourself) back to its proper orientation, then you begin with wholeness and unity, not multiplicity and fragmentation. The unity is indeed our prior condition. Again, as I have argued in the past, this is the "purpose" of our right cerebral hemisphere, which intuits and lives in unity, while the right brain discloses multiplicity. To be "healthy" is to live in the dynamic transcendent space that is always unifying the two.
With this tedious preface, I believe we are in a better position to understand what Schuon means when he says that "the whole point of knowledge is the perception of the thing-in-itself," without which "the very notion of perception could not exist." He points out that "the inherent nature of things" is to "pierce through their appearances." In other words, the form conveys something of the essence, which is knowledge, precisely.
Now, there are naturally degrees of adequation, but kantrary to Manny, this does not render our knowledge false or illusory. Again, it is not a matter of either/or, but of our depth of penetration into the thing-in-itself. From a philosophical standpoint, I believe that Polanyi has most ably developed this idea of science as a kind of inward journey into the Real, thus giving us a coherent post-critical philosophy that transcends Kant and is easily able to reconcile science and religion in their highest aspirations.
Recall my description of the deep continuity of the cosmos, which can only come from "above." Schuon points out that every form of rationalism ignores the fact that reason flows in two directions, one ascending, the other descending.
The descending form tries to deploy reason to describe or convey what is known through the direct perception of intellection. For example, this is how the classic proofs of God are to be understood. They are showing with reason what can ultimately only be known directly by the higher mind/heart. The perception of God is by no means "proved" -- much less disproved -- through the dialectic of reason. As Schuon has remarked elsewhere, something is not true because it is rational, but rather, the reverse: it is rational because it is true.
Thus, the descending from of reason is "communicating." In contrast, the ascending form is "actualizing." By participating "in the intellection that is being communicated," one is able to actualize a truth. Therefore, it is completely erroneous and wrongheaded to reduce reason to a kind of linear and mechanical operation, as if we are mere robots or computers or trolls. If such were the case, "then discoveries would be mere conclusions. Were there percepts for genius, then men of genius would be hacks" (Lonergan).
But of course, in our topsy-turvy postmodern world, our wack & hackademics are considered men of genius -- all those radical secularists, materialists, and metaphysical Darwinians who know everything about nothing. Schuon:
"The position of science is exactly like that of a man who could grasp only two dimensions of space and denied the third because he was unable to imagine it; now, what one spatial dimension is to another, so is the suprasensible to the sensible, or more precisely: so is the animic to the corporeal, the spiritual to the animic, and the Divine to the humanly spiritual."
In short, One Cosmos Under God, however you slice it.