Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Critique of Pure Criticism

For a guy who thought it was impossible to know the thing itself, Kant sure went to a lot of trouble trying to make sure people understood his thing itself. 

After the publication of the Critique of Pure Reason he "felt it to be generally misunderstood," so he dumbed it down with a smaller and more accessible volume, the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Present Itself as a Science. At the same time, he revised the Critique, "still struggling to not to be misunderstood" (Magee). 

That right there is what you call ironic: if everything outside our minds conforms to our a priori ways of knowing it, then how can Kant make an exception for how we receive his work? Wouldn't it too just slide into our own preconceptual categories? He should rightly expect to be misunderstood, as proof of his theory.

I didn't come up with that critique of the Critique. Rather, I was flipping through a book by Norris Clarke called Explorations In Metaphysics, in which he explores this contradiction. 

Kant is very much the doorway into modernity and worse, so we need to go back and close that door and nail it shut if we want to get back on the right track. He is widely regarded as "the outstanding figure to have emerged in the subject since the ancient Greeks" (Magee), so we have no choice but to debunk him, good and hard.

I wonder what Schuon thought about Kant's bunkum? He calls it 

a gratuitous reaction against all that lies beyond the reach of reason; it voices, therefore, a priori an instinctive revolt against truths which are rationally ungraspable and which are considered annoying on account of this very inaccessibility. All the rest is nothing but dialectical scaffolding, ingenious or “brilliant” if one wishes, but contrary to truth.

Moreover, it is an

altogether “irrational” desire to limit intelligence; this results in a dehumanization of the intelligence and opens the door to all the inhuman aberrations of our century. In short, if to be man means the possibility of transcending oneself intellectually, Kantianism is the negation of all that is essentially and integrally human.

Anti-humanism masquerading as humanism; or a humanism that ushers in the infrahuman. And of course, in all of creation, only a human can fail to be what he is. Put another way, God and human are an endlessly fruitful cosmic complementarity. 

In Voegelin's terms, man qua man is always situated in the dynamic space between immanence and transcendence, whereas for Kant, the Transcendent Real is inaccessible to us. This is philosophical progress? Rather, it is the end of philosophy, as it blows up the bridge between intellect and reality.

Kant's "basic thesis" is "that the human mind projects its own forms onto reality rather than receiving them from reality" (Clarke). The essence of his so-called Copernican revolution in thought is that "it is our thinking that gives form to the world rather than the world that gives form to our thought."

You will have noticed that every ideology has a special exemption for the person who promulgates it. For example, consciousness is a function of class, except for Marx. Or, thinking is just a rationalization of the id, except for Freud. Or again, no one can know the thing itself, except for Kant's thing: he

quite obviously and without question takes for granted the existence of other persons like himself and just as real as himself..., and can receive and send, basically intact, intelligible messages from and to each other (Clarke).

Otherwise, why be so irritated at those of us who receive and reject the message? 

In fact, he became quite indignant when other philosophers did not get his message straight but misinterpreted it...

But of course we do understand communications from other people, because man as such is the intersubjective being, an intersubjectivity that arises in the transitional space between mother and infant. Of course, he knew nothing about developmental psychology. Still, perhaps it would have helped if he had had a child. 

But "nowhere in his works does he ever discuss how it is possible to know other human beings as real," and who are "able to receive from each other intelligible messages" -- "in a word, how information can be successfully communicated at all."

This reminds me of what Stanley Jaki said about the philosopher having to reach first base before pretending to get to second or third, much less make it all the way home. Kant nowhere explains how he got to first base, or in other words,

there is not a word in Kant as to how interpersonal dialogue is possible at all; it is simply taken for granted as the implicit framework of all his writing (Clarke).

Some critique! On the one hand he "insists that we cannot know any thing-in-itself as real outside of the field of our own subjective experience," but  

in the experience of an authentic successful interpersonal dialogue, it is impossible for him or anyone else to believe sincerely that the other is not equally as real as his own self and equally interacting with him... 

If "we inform the world, rather than the world informing us," why so irritated? Nevertheless, he "was indignant when others did not, he thought, get his message straight."

Now, we not only believe that interpersonal communication is possible, but that the Cosmos itself is a network of intelligible speech -- "a vast system of interactive communicating centers, with ourselves as privileged self-conscious centers in the midst of it all." Both Being as such and every particular being is "self-communicative." 

Don't look at what Kant says, rather, what he does, especially the very first thing he does, and which presupposes the rest: 

Whenever a philosopher offers the kind of message which is philosophy, it must contain, at the very minimum, a justification of the means used to convey the message to beings no less real than the author himself (Jaki).

Deny this, and the philosopher "will have to bring in through the back door the very objects the use of which his starting point failed to justify."  

This truth cannot be evaded, let alone refuted, because the refutation itself is an act of communication, an implicit falling back on objective means whereby alone other philosophers can be reached (ibid.).

An objective means of communication, like a book or something: "the first duty of a philosopher is to endorse the reality of the book (or the physical reality of a discourse) which is the means making his message available" (ibid.).

So the only flaw, as I see it, in Kant's reasoning, is that if it is true it is false, and besides, no one could know it.


julie said...

That right there is what you call ironic: if everything outside our minds conforms to our a priori ways of knowing it, then how can Kant make an exception for how we receive his work?

Ha - indeed. It's like the artists whose work is only "comprehensible" if you read the dissertation posted under the image first. "Comprehensible" in quotes, because reading the dissertation is like explaining the joke, but still expecting everyone to laugh instead of awkwardly saying, "OH. Oh, I get it now..." while tilting their heads to one side and another, trying to wrap their brains around what the artist intended.

Open Trench said...

Hello Dr. Godwin, Julie, and those who read but do not comment, I salute you this fine day.

I had a brief flirtation with Kant in university, but soon I realized it was empty calories and junk philosophy. The attraction was the proposition that the mind acts on reality. I never bought the proposition mind was reality itself.

I also immediately tangled with the Deconstructionists on the faculty, ripping them new ones right and left. They made it so easy. They were aghast any student could behave like a fox in a henhouse. Because I was old when I entered university. They had not counted on that factor. But anyhoo-

Years later the lefties trotted out "The Secret." I thought now here was easy pickings for a debunking, but alas, and I am ashamed to admit it even now, The Secret had a kernel of truth to it. Not even the most savage debunking could dismiss certain pieces of evidence. My honor demanded I honor truth. I don't want to go into all of that here and now. I've trotted it out before on OC.

So beware, even the lamest of the lame, like Kant, might inadvertantly stumble upon some little nugget that had been overlooked. I'll just leave it at that.

Yours in Christ, Trench the Examiner Provost and ripper of new ones.

Van Harvey said...

"Anti-humanism masquerading as humanism; or a humanism that ushers in the infrahuman."

Kant be denied.

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