We have seen that for Kant, ultimate reality is the transcendental underpinning of the phenomenal world we live in. It has four foci which we can partially access – reason, the thing-in-itself, the divine, and good will. In the final analysis, these epitomize the wholly abstract and the absolutely concrete. On the one hand there is tremendous overlap of these facets and of our accessing them, and on the other hand they comprise extractions of a single realm which is just outside our grasp. Pure and practical reason and freely chosen moral conduct are the human activities vital to our alignment with ultimate reality.
Any summary of Kant is flawed in by its very nature as his own words offer crystallized explanations that should not be missed. I close with one of my favorite passages, but believe the industrious reader will profit from reading any and all of his works (a goal, I freely admit, I have yet to accomplish). Much is unexpected of perhaps the greatest rationalist thinker in human history.
I end now picking up from the epigraph starting this section, Kant is musing on the awe he feels from the starry heaven above and the moral law within:
“I have not to search for them and conjecture them as thought they were veiled in darkness or are in the transcendent region beyond my horizon; I see them before me and connect them directly with the consciousness of my existence. The former begins from the place I occupy in the external world of sense, and enlarges my connection therein to an unbounded extent with worlds upon worlds and systems of systems, and moreover into limitless times of their periodic motion, its beginning and continuance. The second begins from my invisible self, my personality, and exhibits me in a world which has true infinity, but which is traceable only by the understanding, and with which I discern that I am not in a merely contingent, but in a universal and necessary connection, as I am also thereby with all those visible worlds. The former view of a countless multitude of worlds annihilates as it were my importance as an animal creature, which after it has been for a short time provided with a vital power, one knows not how, must give back the matter of which it was formed to the planet it inhabits (a mere speck in the universe). The second, on the contrary, infinitely elevates my worth as an intelligence by my personality, in which the moral law reveals to me a life independent of the animality and even of the whole sensible world at least so far as may be inferred from the destination assigned to my existence by this law, a destination not restricted to conditions and limits of the life, but reaching into the infinite.”5
There is much more, but I will not further test the patience of the reader…
5Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Practical Reason in Hutchins, Robert Maynard (editor), Great Books of the Western World, Volume 42. Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Inc., Chicago, 1952. Page 360-361.