For me, travel is disruptive
and desolating. A little desolation, however, is good for the soul, whose
tendency is to sink into complacency. Daheim, empfindet man nicht so sehr die
Unheimlichkeit des Seins. Travel knocks me out of my natural orbit, out of the familiar with its gauzy filters, into the strangeness of things. Even an
overnighter can have this effect. And then time is wasted getting back on track.
I am not cut out to be a vagabond. I Kant hack it. I do it more from duty than
from inclination. But I'm less homebound than the Sage of Koenigsberg.
More on travel in the Travel category in which you will find Emersonian and Pascalian reasons against it.
The Russian boys were lined up for beer; perhaps one of them couldn't wait his 'transcendental' turn and the other, forsaking duty for inclination, shot him categorically albeit phenomenally. Or maybe the shooter was attempting to demonstrate that the transcendentally ideal can also be empirically real. Or perhaps the shooter was a Randian hothead and the man shot was a Kantian.
This is what comes of ignoring 'motorist' Rodney King's rhetorical question, 'Kant we all just get along?'
For Ayn Rand and her followers, Kant is the devil incarnate. I don't dispute that Rand made some good points, but her tabloid outbursts anent the Sage of Koenigsberg aren't worth the hot air that powered them. Despite her frequent invocations of reason, her work would be a worthy target of a Critique of Poor Reason.
Again, show what? 'There are objects' is nonsense. One cannot say that there are objects. This is shown by the use of variables. But what is shown if not that there are objects? There, I've said it!
Ray Monk reports on a discussion between Wittgenstein and Russell. L. W. balked at Russell's 'There are at least three things in the world.' So Russell took a sheet of white paper and made three ink spots on it. 'There are three ink spots on this sheet.' L. W. refused to budge. He granted 'There are three ink spots on the sheet' but balked at the inference to 'There are at least three things in the world.'
W's perspective is broadly Kantian. The transcendental conditions of possible experience are not themselves objects of possible experience. They cannot be on pain of infinite regress. But he goes Kant one better: it is not just that the transcendental conditions cannot be experienced or known; they cannot be sensibly talked about. Among them is the world as the ultimate context of all experiencing and naming and predicating and counting. As transcendental, the world cannot be sensibly talked about as if it were just another thing in the world like the piece of paper with its three spots. And so, given that what cannot be said clearly cannot be said at all but must be passed over in silence, one cannot say that the world is such that it has at least three things it it. So W. balked and went silent when R. tried to get him to negotiate the above inference.
What goes for 'world' also goes for 'thing.' You can't count things. How many things on my desk? The question has no clear sense. It is not like asking how many pens are on my desk. So Wittgenstein is on to something. His nonsense is deep and important.
Theology cannot serve to explain the appearances of nature to us. In general it is not a correct use of reason to posit God as the ground of everything whose explanation is not evident to us. On the contrary, we must first gain insight into the laws of nature if we are to know and explain its operations. In general it is no use of reason and no explanation to say that something is due to God's omnipotence. This is lazy reason. . . .
As Kant remarks in a footnote to A 689 = B 717 of the Critique of Pure Reason, ignava ratio was the name given to a "sophistical argument" of the "ancient dialecticians," the so-called Lazy Argument.
Diligent reason attempts to account for all natural phenomena in natural terms. The role of God is accordingly attenuated. He becomes at most a sustaining cause of the existence of nature, but not a cause of anything that occurs within nature. See my earlier discussion of divine concurrence. The squeeze is on, and it is no surprise that Schopenhauer squeezes God right out of the picture by rejecting the very notion of causation of existence, as I explain in Schopenhauer on the Cosmological Argument.
This is relevant to my series on Plantinga's new book. The crucial question is whether there is any room for divine guidance of the evolutionary process.
1. An important distinction for understanding the doctrine of original sin is that between originating original sin (peccatum originale originans) and originated original sin (peccatum originale originatum). This post will explain the distinction and then consider Immanuel Kant's reasons for rejecting originated original sin. It is important to realize that Kant does accept something like original sin under the rubric 'radical evil,' a topic to be explored in subsequent posts. It is also important to realize that Kierkegaard's seminal thoughts about original sin as expressed in The Concept of Dread were influenced by Kant, and that Reinhold Niebuhr's influential treatment is in turn derivative from Kierkegaard.
2. So what's the distinction? According to the Genesis story, the Fall of Man was precipitated by specific sinful acts, acts of disobedience, by Adam and Eve. The sins of Adam and Eve were originating original sins. They were the first sins for the first human beings, but also the first sins for the human race. Their sin somehow got transmitted to their descendants inducing in them a state of sinfulness. The sinfulness of the descendants is originated original sin. This originated original sin is hereitary sin: it is inherited and innate for postlapsarians and so does not depend on any specific sin of a person who inherits it. Nevertheless it brings with it guilt and desert of punishment. Socrates, then, or any post-Adamic man, is guilty and deserving of punishment whether or not he commits any actual sins of his own. And so a man who was perfectly sinless in the sense that he committed no actual sin of his own would nonetheless stand condemned in virtue of what an earlier man had one. This doctrine has the consequence that an infant, who as an infant is of course innocent of any actual sin, and who dies unbaptized, is justly excluded from the kingdom of heaven. Such an infant, on Catholic doctrine at least, ends up in limbo, or to be precise, in limbus infantium. A cognate consequence is that a perfectly sinless adult who lives and dies before Christ's redemptive act is also excluded from heaven. Such a person lands in limbus patrum. (See here for the Catholic doctrine.)
3. The stumbling block is obvious: How can one justly be held morally accountable for what someone else has done or left undone? How can one be guilty and deserving of punishment without having committed any specific transgression? How can guilt be inherited? Aren't these moral absurdities? Aren't we morally distinct as persons, each responsible only for what he does and leaves undone? There might well be originating original sin, but how could there be originated original sin? It is worth noting that to reject originated original sin is not to reject originating original sin, or original sin as such. There could be a deep structural flaw in humans as humans, universal and unameliorable by human effort, which deserves the title 'original sin/sinfulness' without it being the case that sin is inheritable.
Again I revert to my distinction between the putative fact of our fallenness and the various theories about it. To refute a theory is not to refute a fact.
4. Kant rejects the Augustinian notion of inherited sin. Sinfulness, guilt, desert of punishment -- these cannot be inherited. So for Kant there is no originated original sin. Of the various explanations of the spread of moral evil through the members and generations of the human race, "the most inept is that which describes it as descending to us as an inheritance from our first parents." (Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, trs. Greene and Hudson, Harper 1960, p. 35) But this is not to say that Kant rejects the notion of original sin. He himself speaks of peccatum originarium, which he distinguishes from peccatum derivatum. (26) For Kant, original sin is a propensity in us toward moral evil which is universal and logically prior to specific immoral acts. I hope to say more about this in a subsequent post.
5. But what is Kant's argument against hereditary guilt and originated original sin? Kant as I read him accepts it as a fact that in all human beings there is radical moral evil, a peccatum originarium that lies deeper than, and makes possible, specific peccata derivata. What he objects to is the explanation of this fact in terms of a propagation of guilt from the original parents. The main point is that a temporal explanation in terms of antecedent causes cannot account for something for which we are morally responsible. If we are morally responsible, then we are free; but free actions cannot be explained in terms of temporally prior causes. For if an action is caused, it is necessitated, and what is necessitated by its causes cannot be free.
What is true of actions is true of moral character insofar as moral character is something for which one is morally responsible. Therefore our radically evil moral character which predisposes us to specific acts of wrongdoing cannot be explained in terms of temporally antececent causes. Hence it cannot be explained by any propagation of guilt from the original parents to us. Thus there is no originated guilt. Our being guilty must be viewed "as though the individual had fallen into it directly from a state of innocence." (36) Thus all actions which make us guilty are original employments of the will. All original sin is originating original sin.
Perhaps we can put it this way. Adam has nothing over Socrates. It is not as if Adam went directly from a state of innocence into a state of sin while Socrates inherited sinfulness and was never in a state of innocence. If there is such a thing as original sin then both are equally originative of it.
The Genesis account gives us a temporal representation of a logical and thus atemporal relationship. The state of innocence is set at the temporal beginning of humanity, and the fall from innocence is depicted as an event in time. But then we get the problems raised in #3 above. The mistake is to "look for an origin in time of a moral character for which we are to be held responsible . . . ." (38) We make this mistake because we want an explanation of the contingent existence of our radically evil moral predisposition. An explanation, however, is not to be had. The rational origin of the perversion of our will "remains inscrutable to us." (38)
6. Kant thus does accept something like original sin. We have within us a deep propensity to moral evil that makes us guilty and deserving of punishment. But there is no deterministic causal explanation for it. So while there is a sense in which our fallenness is innate, it is not inherited. For it is morally absurd to suppose that I could be guilty of being in a state that I am caused to be in. Each one of us is originally guilty but by a free atemporal choice. This makes the presence of the radical flaw in each of us inscrutable and inexplicable. The mystery of radical evil points us to the mystery of free will. On Kant's view, then, there is only originating original sin. Each of us by his own free noumenal agency plunges from innocence into guilt!
We shall have to continue these ruminations later. Some questions on the menu of rumination:
Q1. Is Kant's account with its appeal to atemporal noumenal agency really any better than Augustine's biological propagation account?
Q2. How can guilt be innate but not inherited, as Kant maintains?
Q3. Why believe in radical evil in the first place? If the evidence for it is empirical, how can such evidence show that radical evil is both universal (and thus inscribed in man's very nature) and ineradicable by human effort?
I am of the understanding that one of your post-graduate degrees focussed on Kant. With your knowledge of said philosopher I wonder if I might trouble you to answer a few questions for me?
These questions pertain to Kant's criticism's of the cosmological argument for God's existence. I know that this argument comes in three basic forms: Leibnizian, Thomistic, and Kalam. Did Kant direct criticism to all three versions? Brian Magee has stated, "The fact simply is that Kant has demolished the traditional 'proofs' of God." (Confessions of A Philosopher, p.198) Many other credentialed philosophers make similar claims. In your view, is Magee's strident assertion justified? Do any of Kant's criticism's of the cosmological argument still have force today, or are you of the opinion that the work of recent philosophers has blunted the arguments of the Prussian?
Of course, I don't expect you to provide any counter-arguments to Kant. I am merely curious as to your take on the questions I have asked and I am quite happy for your answer to be brief. Thank you for your time.
Dear Mr. Lewin,
Thank you for writing and for reminding me of that delightful book by Bryan Magee. Unfortunately, the sentence you quote I do not find on p. 198. But on p. 156, we read that Kant's philosophy ". . . demolishes many of the most important religious and theological claims . . . ." On the same page Magee bestows upon Kant the highest praise. He is "the supreme understander of the problem of human experience," "the supreme clarifier," and "the supreme liberator." For Magee, Manny is the man!
A little farther down on the same page we find your quotation: "The fact simply is that Kant has demolished the traditional 'proofs' of God."
You ask whether Magee's confident claim is justified. No, but first a comment on 'demolishes' as it occurs in the above quotations. Magee uses it in connection both with claims and with arguments. But to demolish a claim is not the same as to demolish an argument. Presumably, to demolish a claim such as the claim that God exists would be to show that it is obviously false because ruled out on broadly logical grounds, or else ruled out on the ground that it is inconsistent with some well-known empirical fact or set of empirical facts. Clearly, Kant does not demolish the claim that God exists in this sense of 'demolish.' Ditto for the claim that the soul is a simple substance. Nor is it his intention to demolish these claims. At most he shows them to be unknowable or unprovable. And he thinks that is a salutary thing to have shown. "I have found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith," Kant famously remarks in the preface to the 2nd edition of the Critique of Pure Reason (Bxxx). I suggest that Magee is being sloppy when he speaks of demolishing theological claims. He may be confusing 'show to be false' with 'show to be unknowable or unprovable.' I receommend a careful reading of the 1787 preface as a counterbalance to Magee's Kant interpretation as der Alles-Zermalmer, the all-pulverizer.
Now what would it be to demolish an argument? To demolish an argument is to expose a clear mistake in it such as a formal fallacy or a plainly false premise. I believe that Kant demolished the ontological argument "from mere concepts" which is essentially Descartes' Meditation V ontological argument. Kant did this by isolating a presupposition of the argument which is plainly false, namely, the proposition that some concepts are such that, by sheer analysis of their content, one can show that they are instantiated. Surely Kant is right that no concept, not even the concept of God, includes existence. Interestingly, Aquinas would agree with this.
But there are modal versions of the ontological argument that are immune to the Kantian critique. See my "Has the Ontological Argument Been Refuted?" Religious Studies 29 (1993), pp. 97-110. As for the cosmological argument, Kant thinks that it depends on the ontological argument and collapses with it. This is an intricate matter that I cannot go into now. If you are interested, see my article, "Does the Cosmological Argument Depend on the Ontological?" Faith and Philosophy, vol. 17, no. 4 (October 2000), pp. 441-458.
Another idea of Kant's is that there cannot be a First Cause because the category of causality has no cognitive employment beyond the realm of phenomena. Schopenhauer borrows this notion and pushes it for all its worth. Relevant here is my post, On the Very Idea of a Cause of Existence: Schopenhauer on the Cosmological Argument. But it cannot be said that either Kant or Schopenhauer demolished the cosmological argument because their critiques rest on their own questionable metaphysical systems.
And as you suggest above, there are Kalam and Thomist versions of the CA that Kant doesn't even consider. Kant's knowledge of the history of philosophy was meager and the metaphysics he criticized was that of the Wolffian school which derives from Leibniz.
Finally, I refer you to my article, "From Facts to God: An Onto-Cosmological Argument," International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion 48 (2000), pp. 157-181.
For, "The bed is a nest for a whole flock of illnesses." (Immanuel Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties, tr. Gregor, p. 183)
I read Kant and about Kant at an impressionable age, and it really is a pleasure plowing through his texts again as I have been doing recently. I suspect my early rising goes back to my having read, at age 20, that Kant was wont to retire at 10 PM and arise at 5 AM.
Soon enough, however, I was out-Kanting Kant with a 4 AM arisal from the bed of sloth. And when I moved out here to the Zone, 4 became 2:30. (A Zone Man must make an early start especially on outdoor activities before Old Sol gets too uppity.) I've tried 2 AM, the time the Trappist monks of Merton's day got up, but I couldn't hack it. 2:30 is early enough. (I don't know whether the Trappist regimen is as rigorous today as it was in the '40s and '50s, and I'm not sure I want to know.)
I'd meant to get back to a little point you'd made a few days ago.
You said this: "I think of creation as an ongoing 'process': God sustains the world in being moment by moment. But at each moment, the totality of what exists is completely determinate: for each individual x and for each property P, either x has P or x has the complement of P. I would say that all and only the complete exists. Creation is bestowal of existence. So if at time t God is sustaining the world in existence, and what exists is complete, it is hard to see how God could add anything to it. The world at t is complete; anything added to it would precipitate a contradiction."
I agree with everything you say, but it doesn't seem to me to rule out the possibility of an input of new energy into space-time. It would of course be a contradiction if God were to both sustain the world at a time such that no new energy was anywhere present and, by a special act of will, bring it about at that time that there was new energy. But the creation of new energy at a time need not entail this contradiction. Rather, if there's new energy at time t, its existence is part of the complete world-whole at t; and God does not, at up to and at t, sustain the world-whole such that no new energy is present. Completeness does not imply a lack of novelty. Rather all that it implies is that novelty, when it occurs, is part of the world-whole at the time of its introduction and thereafter.
The question concerning the possibility of miracles is connected to a wider question concerning the relation of secondary or natural causes and the causa prima, God. How do these two 'orders' of causation fit together?
1. One extreme position is occasionalism according to which all causal power is exercised by God. For the occasionalist, God is all-powerful not just in the sense that he can do all that is (broadly) logically possible, but also in the sense that he exercises all the power that gets exercised. For the occasionalist, God is the only genuine cause and all secondary causes are mere occasions for the exercise of divine power. Although I have defended occasionalism elsewhere ("Concurrentism or Occasionalism?" Am Cath Phil Quart, Summer 1996, 339-359), I will not be assuming its truth here.
Earlier posts uncovered epistemic as opposed to ontic conceptions of miracles in Augustine and in Spinoza; but Immanuel Kant too seems to favor an epistemic approach. "If one asks: What is to be understood by the word miracle? it may be explained . . . by saying that they are events in the world the operating laws of whose causes are, and must remain, absolutely unknown to us." (Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, Harper Torchbooks, p. 81) There is no talk here, as in Hume, of a miracle as involving a "transgression" of a law of nature. The idea is that in the case of miraculous events there are laws of nature operating but these laws are unknown to us. This seems to imply that the miraculousness of a miracle is an appearance relative to our ignorance. If we knew the laws, there would be no miracles.
What I said about Abraham and Isaac yesterday is so close to Kant's view of the matter that I could be accused of repackaging Kant's ideas without attribution. When I wrote the post, though, I had forgotten the Kant passage. So let me reproduce it now. It is from The Conflict of the Faculties (1798), the last book Kant published before his death in 1804 except for his lectures on anthropology:
. . . if God should really speak to man, man could still never know that it was God speaking. It is quite impossible for man to apprehend the infinite by his senses, distinguish it from sensible beings, and recognize it as such. But in some cases man can be sure that the voice he hears is not God's; for if the voice commands him to do something contrary to the moral law, then no matter how majestic the apparition may be, and no matter how it may seem to surpass the whole of nature, he must consider it an illusion. (115)
A footnote to this paragraph reads:
We can use, as an example, the myth of the sacrifice that Abraham was going to make by butchering and burning his only son at God's command (the poor child, without knowing it, even brought the wood for the fire). Abraham should have replied to this supposedly divine voice: "That I ought not kill my good son is quite certain. But that you, this apparition, are God — of that I am not certain, and never can be, not even is [read: if] this voice rings down to me from (visible) heaven." (115)
Here is what I wrote yesterday:
Which is more certain, that I should not kill my innocent son, or that God exists, has commanded me to kill my son, and that I must obey this command? That I must not kill my innocent son is a deliverance of our ordinary moral sense. But wouldn't a command from the supreme moral authority in the universe trump a deliverance of our ordinary moral sense? Presumably it would — but only if the putative divine command were truly a divine command. How would one know that it is?
Kant's argument, put as concisely as possible, is that:
1. It is certain that one ought not kill one's innocent son. 2. It is not certain that a seemingly divine command to kill one's innocent son is truly a divine command. Therefore 3. One ought to trust one's moral sense and not the putative divine revelation. Therefore 4. ". . . if it [a scriptural text] contains statements that contradict practical reason, it must be interpreted in the interests of practical reason." (65)
Whether or not one accepts this argument that I am attributing to Kant — you are invited to note that I cobbled it together from disparate passages — you must, if you are rational, see that there is a problem here, one that cannot be ignored, namely, the problem of adjudicating between putative personal and Biblical revelation, on the one hand, and (practical) reason on the other. Something has to give. My judgment is that Kant is right in the passage just quoted, and that our sense of the moral law trumps any contra-moral personal revelation (e.g. a voice commanding an immoral act) and also any Bible passage that seems to endorse the acquiescence in a personal revelation that commands an immoral act.
But why not the other way around? Why not say that the Bible passage trumps our sense of the moral law? The short answer is that our sense of the moral law has superior epistemic credentials. If we know anything about morality, we know that we ought not kill our innocent children. If we don't know that, then we don't know anything about morality. But a voice commanding one to kill an innocent child has no claim on our belief.
Infirm as reason is, it is yet a divine spark within us, an element in the imago Dei. Insofar forth, it is inviolable.
Immanuel Kant was born on this day in 1724. He died in 1804. My dissertation on Kant, which now lies 31 years in the past, is dated 22 April 1978. But if, per impossibile, my present self were Doktorvater to my self of 31 years ago, my doctoral thesis might not have been approved! As one's standards rise higher and higher with age and experience one becomes more and more reluctant to submit anything to evaluation let alone publication. One may scribble as before, and even more than before, but with less conviction that one's outpourings deserve being embalmed in printer's ink. (Herein lies a reason to blog.)
So finish the bloody thing now while you are young and cocky and energetic. Give yourself a year, say, do your absolute best and crank it out. Think of it as a union card. It might not get you a job but then it just might. Don't think of it as a magnum opus or you will never finish. Get it done by age 30 and before accepting a full-time appointment. And all of this before getting married. That, in my opinion, is the optimal order. Dissertation before 30, marriage after 30. Now raise your glass with me in a toast to Manny on this, his 285th birthday. Sapere aude!
As a prelude to forthcoming posts on hypocrisy as seen by Kant and Hegel, here is a Kantian hymn of praise to sincerity. From Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (trs. Greene & Hudson), p. 178, n. 2:
O sincerity! Thou Astraea, that hast fled from earth to heaven, how mayst thou (the basis of conscience, and hence of all inner religion) be drawn down thence to us again? I can admit, though it is much to be deplored, that candor (in speaking the whole truth which one knows) is not to be found in human nature. But we must be able to demand sincerity (that all that one says be said with truthfulness), and indeed if there were in our nature no predisposition to sincerity, whose cultivation merely is neglected, the human race must needs be, in its own eyes, an object of the deepest contempt. Yet this sought for quality of mind is such that it is exposed to many temptations and entails many a sacrifice, and hence calls for moral strength, or virtue (which must be won); moreover it must be guarded and cultivated earlier than any other, because the opposed propensity is the hardest to extirpate if it has been allowed firmly to root itself. And if now we compare with the kind of instruction here recommended our usual mode of upbringing, especially in the matter of religion, or better, in doctrines of faith, where fidelity of memory in answering questions relating to these doctrines, without regard to the fidelity of the confession itself (which is never put to the test) is accepted as sufficient to make a believer of him who does not even understand what he declares to be holy, no longer shall we wonder at the lack of sincerity which produces nothing but inward hypocrites.