“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within.” – Immanuel Kant1
In the last three posts we saw that for Kant, ultimate reality is the transcendental or noumenal realm manifesting as four modalities: (1) reason – which for humans is theoretically the most accessible, (2) the thing-in-itself – which is largely forever outside human knowledge, (3) God – the implicit ground of reason, being, and morality, and (4) good will – in the absolute or pure sense, and as such, unattainable in the world as we know it. In addition, there are two key supplemental principles: human freedom and phenomenal evil. Today we will investigate the means of connection with the transcendental offered by Kant.
We should not be surprised that a man who wrote a 700 page book called Critique of Pure Reason believes that the first access point to ultimate reality is a sincere examination of reason, ‘the highest good on earth.’ Kant tells us “Thinking for oneself means seeking the supreme touchstone of truth in oneself (i.e. in one’s own reason); and the maxim of always thinking for oneself is enlightenment.”2 This is not, we learn, the acquisition of information, but rather the practice when making an assumption or conclusion, of demanding logic which can be converted into a universal principle in the process of reasoning itself. In that case superstition, error, and inappropriate enthusiasm are circumvented and the formulated maxim participates in reason’s self-preservation.3
Next Kantian physics (or should I way metaphysics?) places the thing-in-itself at the center of physical reality. As I noted before, while for the most part we are unable to directly access the thing-in-itself, Kant does believe we interact with the noumenal realm because our experience of things arises directly from them phenomenologically. However there are two noumena that we may directly access: (1) reason as discussed above, and (2) free will particularly moral freedom. Robert Merrihew Adams explains this latter assertion: while actions or deeds [Tat] are acts in time (that is participate in the empirical world), they also transcend time (as participation in the noumenal realm).4 Thus our reasoning, perceptions, and activities within the world ultimately connect us (though imperfectly) with the thing-in-itself.
(continued next post)
1Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Practical Reason in Hutchins, Robert Maynard (editor), Great Books of the Western World, Volume 42. Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Inc., Chicago, 1952. Page 360.
2Kant, Immanuel, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K, 1998. ISBN 978-0-521-59964-4, 7 footnote. The bold is his.
4Ibid., page xiii.