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Thread: The Tremendous Impact of Immanuel Kant

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    The Tremendous Impact of Immanuel Kant

    Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)


    Kant's most original contribution to philosophy is his "Copernican Revolution," that, as he puts it, it is the representation that makes the object possible rather than the object that makes the representation possible. This introduced the human mind as an active originator of experience rather than just a passive recipient of perception. Something like this now seems obvious: the mind could be a tabula rasa, a "blank tablet," no more than a bathtub full of silicon chips could be a digital computer. Perceptual input must be processed, i.e. recognized, or it would just be noise -- "less even than a dream" or "nothing to us," as Kant alternatively puts it. But if the mind actively generates perception, this raises the question whether the result has anything to do with the world, or if so, how much. The answer to the question, unusual, ambiguous, or confusing as it would be, made for endless trouble both in Kant's thought and for a posterity trying to figure him out. To the extent that knowledge depends on the structure of the mind and not on the world, knowledge would have no connection to the world and is not even true representation, just a solipsistic or intersubjective fantasy. Kantianism seems threatened with "psychologism," the doctrine that what we know is our own psychology, not external things. Kant did say, consistent with psychologism, that basically we don't know about "things-in-themselves," objects as they exist apart from perception. But at the same time Kant thought he was vindicating both a scientific realism, where science really knows the world, and a moral realism, where there is objective moral obligation, for both of which a connection to external or objective existence is essential. And there were also terribly important features of things-in-themselves that we do have some notion about and that are of fundamental importance to human life, not just morality but what he called the three "Ideas" of reason: God, freedom, and immortality. Kant always believed that the rational structure of the mind reflected the rational structure of the world, even of things-in-themselves -- that the "operating system" of the processor, by modern analogy, matched the operating system of reality. But Kant had no real argument for this -- the "Ideas" of reason just become "postulates" of morality -- and his system leaves it as something unprovable. The paradoxes of Kant's efforts to reconcile his conflicting approaches and requirements made it very difficult for most later philosophers to take the overall system seriously...


    "...The moral man is a lower species than the immoral, a weaker species; indeed - he is a type in regard to morality, but not a type in himself; a copy...the measure of his value lies outside him. ... I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage; I do not account the evil and painful character of existence a reproach to it, but hope rather that it will one day be more evil and painful than hitherto..." (Nietzsche)

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    Kant's most original contribution to philosophy is his "Copernican Revolution," that, as he puts it, it is the representation that makes the object possible rather than the object that makes the representation possible.
    Ah yes, what a clever boy he was! As I've always maintained... there is no "truth". All perceptions are subjective and therefore "truth", as we like to think of it, is highly changeable and dependent solely on the interpretor.


    Kant always believed that the rational structure of the mind reflected the rational structure of the world, even of things-in-themselves -- that the "operating system" of the processor, by modern analogy, matched the operating system of reality.
    And therefore, the possibility for psychological chaos must reflect the possibility for chaos in the structure or nature of the world.


    But Kant had no real argument for this -- the "Ideas" of reason just become "postulates" of morality -- and his system leaves it as something unprovable.
    Without objective "truth", originating external to the human condition, "proof" becomes a redundant concept.

    I see "science" as a manifestation of the arrogance of man... to think that one can fully understand and therefore control and tame the external world. So futile a quest...

    Our pagan ancestors knew better... they respected the "mysteries" of life, and knew their place.

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    Here is Campbell talking about playing..

    The artist eye, as Thomas Mann
    has said, 1 has a mythical slant upon life; therefore, the mythological
    realm the world of the gods and demons, the carnival of their
    masks and the curious game of "as if' in which the festival of the
    lived myth abrogates all the laws of time, letting the dead swim
    back to life, and the "once upon a time" become the very present
    we must approach and first regard with the artist's eye. For,
    indeed, in the primitive world, where most of the clues to the
    origin of mythology must be sought, the gods and demons are not
    conceived in the way of hard and fast, positive realities. A god
    can be simultaneously in two or more places like a melody, or
    like the form of a traditional mask. And wherever he comes, the
    impact of his presence is the same: it is not reduced through
    multiplication. Moreover, the mask in a primitive festival is
    revered and experienced as a veritable apparition of the mythical
    being that it represents even though everyone knows that a man
    made the mask and that a man is wearing it. The one wearing it,
    furthermore, is identified with the god during the time of the ritual
    of which the mask is a part. He does not merely represent the god;
    he is the god. The literal fact that the apparition is composed of A,
    a mask, B, its reference to a mythical being, and C, a man, is dis-
    missed from the mind, and the presentation is allowed to work
    without correction upon the sentiments of both the beholder and
    the actor. In other words, there has been a shift of view from the
    logic of the normal secular sphere, where things are understood to
    be distinct from one another, to a theatrical or play sphere, where
    they are accepted for what they are experienced as being and the
    logic is that of "make believe" "as if."

    Pages 21-22

    ...

    The question then becomes only: How far down or up the
    ladder can one go without losing the sense of a game? Professor
    Huizinga, in his work already referred to, points out that in Japa-
    nese the verb asobu, which refers to play in general recreation,
    relaxation, amusement, trip or jaunt, dissipation, gambling, lying
    idle, or being unemployed also means to study at a university or
    under a teacher; likewise, to engage in a sham fight; and finally, to
    participate in the very strict formalities of the tea ceremony. He
    continues:

    The extraordinary earnestness and profound gravity of the
    Japanese ideal of life is masked by the fashionable fiction that
    everything is only play. Like the chevalerie of the Christian
    Middle Ages, Japanese bushido took shape almost entirely in
    the play-sphere and was enacted in play-forms. The language
    still preserves this conception in the asobase-kotoba (literally
    play-language) or polite speech, the mode of address used in
    conversation with persons of higher rank. The convention is
    that the higher classes are merely playing at all they do. The
    polite form for "you arrive in Tokyo" is, literally, "you play
    arrival in Tokyo"; and for "I hear that your father is dead,"
    "I hear that your father has played dying." In other words, the
    revered person is imagined as living in an elevated sphere
    where only pleasure or condescension moves to action. 11

    From this supremely aristocratic point of view, any state of
    seizure, whether by life or by the gods, must represent a fall or
    drop of spiritual niveau, a vulgarization of the play. Nobility of
    spirit is the grace or ability to play, whether in heaven or on
    earth. And this, I take it, this noblesse oblige, which has always
    been the quality of aristocracy, was precisely the virtue (dpcnj) of
    the Greek poets, artists, and philosophers, for whom the gods were
    true as poetry is true. We may take it also to be the primitive (and
    proper) mythological point of view, as contrasted with the heavier
    positivistic; which latter is represented, on the one hand, by re-
    ligious experiences of the literal sort, where the impact of a
    daemon, rising to the plane of consciousness from its place of
    birth on the level of the sentiments, is taken to be objectively real,
    and, on the other, by science and political economy, for which
    only measurable facts are objectively real. For if it is true, as the
    Greek philosopher Antisthenes (born c. 444 B.C.) has said, that
    "God is not like anything: hence no one can understand him by
    means of an image," ** or, as we read in the Indian Upanishad,

    It is other, indeed, than the known
    And, moreover, above the unknown! 1S

    then it must be conceded, as a basic principle of our natural his-
    tory of the gods and heroes, that whenever a myth has been taken
    literally its sense has been perverted; but also, reciprocally, that
    whenever it has been dismissed as a mere priestly fraud or sign of
    inferior intelligence, truth has slipped out the other door.

    And so what, then, is the sense that we are to seek, if it be
    neither here nor there?

    Kant, in his Prolegomena to Every Future System of Meta-
    physics, states very carefully that all our thinking about final things
    can be only by way of analogy. "The proper expression for our
    fallible mode of conception," he declares, "would be: that we
    imagine the world as if its being and inner character were derived
    from a supreme mind" (italics mine). 14

    Such a highly played game of "as if" frees our mind and spirit,
    on the one hand, from the presumption of theology, which pre-
    tends to know the laws of God, and, on the other, from the bond-
    age of reason, whose laws do not apply beyond the horizon of
    human experience.

    I am willing to accept the word of Kant, as representing the
    view of a considerable metaphysician. And applying it to the
    range of festival games and attitudes just reviewed from the
    mask to the consecrated host and temple image, transubstanti-
    ated worshiper and transubstantiated world I can see, or be-
    lieve I can see, that a principle of release operates throughout the
    series by way of the alchemy of an "as if"; and that, through this,
    the impact of all so-called "reality" upon the psyche is transub-
    stantiated. The play state and the rapturous seizures sometimes
    deriving from it represent, therefore, a step rather toward than
    away from the ineluctable truth; and belief acquiescence in a
    belief that is not quite belief is the first step toward the deep-
    ened participation that the festival affords in that general will to
    life which, in its metaphysical aspect, is antecedent to, and the
    creator of, all life's laws.

    The opaque weight of the world both of life on earth and of
    death, heaven, and hell is dissolved, and the spirit freed, not
    from anything, for there was nothing from which to be freed ex-
    cept a myth too solidly believed, but for something, something
    fresh and new, a spontaneous act.

    Pages 26-28

    http://www.archive.org/stream/maskso...25mbp_djvu.txt
    Later,
    -Lyfing

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