Friday, February 17, 2006

Kantian Cant

Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781) popped up in two pieces of writing Woolly Days was reading concurrently on the beach at Bribie Island.

One is an internet discourse on the difference between ‘a priori’ and ‘a posteriori’, the other is Stephen Hawkings Brief History of Time.

The two are widely different in scope but both invoke Kant. Immanuel Kant was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia in 1724.

His major emphasis was on discovering the nature and limitations of our learning means. In this he followed the same philosophical line as Locke and Hume.

His key role was to focus on the contribution of the knower to knowledge. As well as ‘Pure Reason’, his other main works were ‘ A Critique of Practical Reason and ‘A Critique of Judgement’.

He died in 1804 and is buried in Konigsberg. His tomb was one of the structures in the town to survive the Russian takeover (what is now Kaliningrad) in 1945.

Near his tomb is the following inscription from Pure Reason:

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and perseveringly my thinking engages itself with them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.

The heavens and morality are of the essence in Woolly Days' sandy readings.

The Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy discusses the difference between ‘a priori’ and ‘a posteriori’.

In essence knowledge gained a priori is gained independently of experience whereas a posteriori knowledge must be experienced. It goes on to explain the similarities between these distinctions and those that distinguish analysis from synthesis.

Kant originated the distinction in Pure Reason. In it he says a proposition is analytic if the predicate concept is contained within the concept but is synthetic if the predicate ‘amplifies’ or ‘adds to’ the concept.

In Hawkings Brief History (1987) he discusses whether the universe has a beginning in time and this question too is studied in Pure Reason. According to Hawkings, Kant calls the question an ‘antinomy’ (ie a contradiction) of pure reason because he felt there were equally compelling reasons for believing the thesis that the universe had a beginning and also its antithesis that it had always existed.

Both of Kant’s arguments, according to Hawkings, are based on the same underlying assumption that time continues back forever regardless of whether the universe does so. However St Augustine knew this not to be true. “Time was a property of the universe God created and did not exist before the beginning of the universe.”

Pause. Store. Recall.
Let this be my prayer wheel.
How will we find heart peace
Taking solace from powerful gods
Humbled by the scope of universal dilemma
Distracted by its own hungry moments
Unnerved by the sting of consequence
Unhinged by the powderkeg of intention
Unleashing demons into the mix
Multiplying viral forms attacking at random
Be strong but be sure
Ask yourself again
Am I right or just righteous?
Did all your dreams evaporate with the concrete?
Do you prefer the darker road?
Giving vent to your pessimism
Creating new shadowed realities
Dumbed down crushed finalities
Let them go
See them disappear
And watch and listen to the trees in the breeze
Whispering continuously
Proclaiming still life with photosynthesis
The only one we know

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