Thursday December 20th 2012
Today, there will be a serious circle drawn
around the Eve of Winter Solstice by thinking about metaphysics and
Kant, who died in the 1804, which is also the year in which the first
small commercial shipment of Banana arrived in New York City. When
I look at an image of Immanuel Kant, read his thoughts as they are on
paper, best to keep him in mind as a man of great influence on the
side of "reason," or "ideas for a more reliable way of being."
Then if I know that Kant's father was a harness maker in whose household
the Bible was a literal truth, and if I know that in all of his lifetime
Kant never travelled further than ten miles from his home town of
Konigsberg, odds are I'll better appreciate the power of his mind to
maintain a discipline that too many might think of as a prison.
For a while Kant tried to think of God through an intellectual
understanding of beauty, the sunset, the hillside, the starry
firmament and so on. "The sublime" I guess it would have been
called, and probably still is. But toward the end of his time he
is said to have become agnostic. Which has always been a neutral
zone for people who can't stand the atheist and find even less meaning
amongst the pious.
One of Kant's "things" was this.
He could absolutely feel his will gather together a desire to lift his arm.
And he could see his arm lifting. But he could not say with certainty
of something like mathematics that it was his "will" that lifted his arm.
Anyone who thought they could, he argued, was drawing a conclusion from some
very suspicious data that certainly would not, or should not, stand up to
the scrutiny of a court house, or "reason." In other words,
before you could blame your will for lifting your arm, better to have some
idea of the "how" of it as well as the "why" of it, or the "metaphysics" of
it. The German language has two words for the English word
"understanding." The one meaning of "understanding" is "The
Understanding itself" which in my own little world is a "thing." And
then there is "understanding" as the "intellectual happening by which
an understanding is achieved," which in my own little world is a "movement."
And in my own little world these are two very different meanings in
"understanding." For example, God, I'd argue, is more like a
"movement," than ever he or she or it was a "thing" or a "word." And
today, so as not to altogether avoid pomposity, I will also try to
think of "reason" as "ideas for a more useful way of being."