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The “Birth” of the Movement of Human Reason [SIGNIFICANTLY REVISED]

Posted by ajx5000 on January 26, 2009

Kant takes seriously the question of a “natural disposition” to metaphysics.  This natural disposition takes root as the “demand of reason”, the searching according to the principle that reason demands: the givenness of the conditioned implies the givenness of the unconditioned.

“Reason makes this demand in accordance with the principle that if the conditioned is given, the entire sum of conditions, and consequently the absolutely unconditioned (through which alone the conditioned has been possible) is also given.” (A409, B436)

Conceived “pretentiously” as a constitutive principle with infinite power—which Kant calls “dialectical illusion”—leads pure reason to its fight with itself—its “fate”.  The results of critique can well be called the humility of the Kantian program.  What Kant takes seriously in the journey of reason—in which reason “flies” from the confines of experience to grand constructions of speculative hauteur, which, as transcending experience, lie “out there”, beyond reaches of experience’s power to contradict—is the fact that, as a “natural disposition” reason is a metaphysical eros.

However as “natural” we are left with the question as to the “birth”, or a beginning of this eros.  I suggest the oft-quoted remark from the Critique of Practical Reason, if only taken as a conjectural “birth”, can provide us with a sense of the deep commitment that Kant holds, to not only these objects, but to this metaphysical eros so natural to human reason.

“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration, the more often and more steadily on reflects on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.  I don not need to search for them and merely conjecture them as though they were veiled in obscurity or in the transcendent region beyond my horizon; I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence.” (5:161-2).

The “starry heavens” above is Nature, the subject of the first Critique and the “moral law” within is Freedom, the subject of the second Critique.   The first thing that must be noted in this remark is the position of the objects that “fill the mind”.  Metaphysics up until Kant had, as its fundamental presupposition, that inquiry and, perhaps more importantly in this instance, the objects of inquiry must proceed out there, i.e., they must be clarified (“searched” for) and at the same time “conjectured” beyond in some “transcendent region beyond my horizon”.  Rather, for Kant, these objects are here, within the realm of my horizon: “above me” here and “within me” here.  It is the transcendent (thus dogmatic) metaphysics that obscures this natural situation of reason. The fact of this situation is that these objects are before me and are the respective “domains” of my horizon and thus human reason.

In being here in my horizon, moreover, I connect these objects “immediately” with the “consciousness of my existence”.  These are, that is, objects of human reason.  It is the “awe”, the Aristotelian “wonder”, of these objects that “excites” reason to inquiry, as though a call to reason to bring itself up to the task of inquiry.  In this binding of human existence to these objects, we find the “birth” of the metaphysical eros so natural to reason—that is, reason’s movement.  Though the extent to which this analysis of Kant’s remark remains conjectural, or even metaphorical, it expresses the deep sense in which metaphysical eros (reason’s movement) is natural to human reason, for these objects are in our “horizon”, which become intimately bound up with human existence.


KrV, B22.  Here Kant includes as one of the questions that he poses to guide the Critique: “How is metaphysics as a natural disposition possible?”

The third Critique as well; The third Critique establishes the first two critiques “in the world”, a unity of experience, where experience is broadly construed.

It is here we see that the “Hier stehe ich” (Here I stand) of Luther could find, as an ethos, its renewed expression here in the ‘critical turn’.

cf. A843-4/B871-2; Kant speaks in the first Critque of this “obscuring” of the idea of metaphysics.

cf. (5:162)

A final remark that can only be relegated (or promoted?) to the footnote:  Such a “birth”, cannot be conceived as an absolute beginning, for human reason never “starts”, strictly speaking, in the sense of an absolute beginning.  There is, to put it in Heideggerian terms, a sense of “having-been-thrown”. Reason is always already movement.  Thus this “birth” is something more like a point of departure for reason, in which reason, in being filled with awe, brings itself (or better: is bringing itself) to inquiry.  Kant’s rejection of first principles on methodological grounds confirms this situation of reason.

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The Election of Barack Obama: Discourse

Posted by ajx5000 on November 6, 2008

This is just a short (and not well thought out) thought (with big implications).

The election of Barack Obama has brought to the fore in a very strong way the discourse of race and America’s historical (/contemporary) relation to it.  I wonder how “lasting” this change of explicitness could be.  How (if at all) does this “honest” discussion change our relation to our past?

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Posted by ajx5000 on August 21, 2008

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