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Neither side for autonomy…

May 25th, 2009 · 15 Comments

Comment of Religion within the Limits of Reason

James said,
May 25, 2009 at 2:13 pm ·
I don’t think the goal of either side is to support human autonomy (despite the animosity that these two sides have for one another, they really represent two sides of a single coin). One side wants us to believe that we are mechanistic robots and the other side wants us to believe that morality is only possible with the belief in some divine law giver. Either way, their prescriptions for action represent the antithesis of human autonomy.

Absolutely right, and the Kantian reference of course indicates this, since his critiques point to the critique of scientism as much as that of religion.

Kant’s Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone is a book I shouldn’t refer to, in a way, since anyone who reads it gets the wrong impression. It is a stronge work.

You can take it as an idea in the title that we have to recreate for ourselves. The point is that religious ideas can be studied without faithmongering in the secular sphere (religion within the limits of reason, etc, ).
Kant was a severe critic of religions, but once he had demolished them, he considered it important to maintain a study of the issues they carried with them.
Sounds simple, but it is totally absent in secular scientism, whose attitude is almost hysterical ‘don’t touch me’ at the mere thought of religious ideas.

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15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Stephen P. Smith // May 25, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Absolutely wrong!

    Only science carries the burden where it finds itself with the need to explain reality. Religion is really not in the business of explaining; but perhaps it is true that some fundamentalists will blunder into an explanation, but I will argue that those folks are drifting from the responsibility of religion. Religion has to do with community and living well given the starkness that is not asking for an explanation. The responsibility of religion has to do with the cultivation of self-evident feelings, and this is far from the need to explain (or even to explain away) what is found self-evident.

    I think one problem is that scholars are demanding of religion what they ought to demand of science.

  • 2 dandy // May 26, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    “Religion has to do with community and living well given the starkness that is not asking for an explanation.”

    – According to Kant, there are definite laws of freedom imposed upon us (because we are beings endowed with the ability to choose our actions), objective prohibitions and Commandments to direct our actions by, in order to attain this utopian state. He then follows to rationally induce these principles and laws. What do you think of this Conjecture?

  • 3 nemo // May 26, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    To Hucklebird (smith): It is not clear what you are saying. But the point here was that Kant criticized religion for making ‘god’ a substitute for ‘autonomy’. That is, without ‘autonomy’, the ‘willed’ actions of ethical demands are meaningless.

    This is a critical issue. To talk of community, but without individuals with autonomy, is a poor substitute for real religion.

  • 4 Stephen P. Smith // May 26, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Autonomy is a necessary condition to find morality, but it is not sufficient! The more universal law is that “we reap what we sow,” and “freedom for freedom`s sake” cannot be called an absolute law. In other words: we must be free to discover morality, but the more cultivated emotion is not for free because it must be earned. Therefore, Kant blundered by his incompleteness! For the very same reason Darwin blundered: evolution must meet necessary conditions that permits life`s survival, it is not that necessary conditions explains evolution.

    And my claim is that science has to do with explaining, while religion has to to with the self-cultivation of what is self-evident. I repeat: I think one the problems is that scholars are demanding of religion what they ought to demand of science. Religion is not in the business of explaining!

  • 5 nemo // May 26, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Hucklebrid, I warned you three years ago of the guru i won’t mention trying to take away your autonomy. Are you satisfied to lose it, and not even know you lost it?

  • 6 nemo // May 26, 2009 at 7:26 pm


    the issue of autonomy is too critically important for any compromises: at G-con blog we have looked at the dangers to those who are conned out of their autonomy by so-called spiritual traditions.

  • 7 Stephen P. Smith // May 26, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    I indicated that autonomy was necessary, I only questioned its sufficiency! And this is apparently something Kant failed to do. And autonomy is necessary for what? Answer: to be free to discover the more cultivated emotion where moral action becomes self evident! And it has been religions responsibility to help humanity self-cultivate what all of us find self-evident. As I have said, this responsibility has little to do with “explaining.” It is science that must carry the burden to “explain,” which is why my book is about “the scientific basis of vitalism and transcendentalism.”

    Autonomy and freedom are not without limits! Are you saying otherwise? Autonomy and freedom are only necessary conditions, just like survival is a necessary condition for biological evolution. Yet you did not leap to the conclusion that mere conditions of necessity (implied by natural selection) are enough to explain evolution. And history`s harsh conditions were not enough to explain the richness of bird songs, or are you now telling me they are?

    If autonomy and freedom are taken as absolutes, then evolution would have stopped with the bacteria that would be unable to unite to form multi-celled organisms. If those things were absolutes, then ethics could be predicted from the behavior of free-bodies that interact to maximize their selfish interests, and this would validate scientism again. We would not know how to emphasize with each other. We could not share words. Liberalism would fail. And because oxygen is another free-body we could not reap the benefit of breathing, and we would die. Free-bodies, no matter how organized, will eventually fall to the second law of thermodynamics; they would die. And if we see ourselves as free-bodies then we would be very disappointed in the end, because our autonomous self must also be put to the grave one day. Yet life has an uncanny way of avoiding the fall into entropy, and putting it off until death returns and life is liberated in the ultimate act of free expression.

    Buddhist will have us empty ourselves in an act of free choice. And this is for what purpose? To remove the clutter, so we can see things and ourselves more clearly. Freedom brings responsibility, and the responsibility comes with hard work to cultivate our selves where we find moral action that is self-evident. We must be free to find a better way, but the better way does not come for free. Buddhist meditation is hard work!

  • 8 nemo // May 27, 2009 at 6:14 am

    What on earth possesses you to spiel all of this bullshit out of context?
    You sound like a front man for Andrew Cohen et al. who think the modern democratic revolution a mistake and that autonomy should be destroyed to make way for supervision of humanity by gurus. Are you a plant?

    Meanwhile, the issues of Kantian ethics are very complicated. Make sure you study them before you make a sausage out of it.
    The issue of autonomy arises very naturally in that context, and your remarks show little awareness of having read the definitions of the terms I am referring to.

    Meanwhile, loss of autonomy in the context of many of these New Age gurus is a genuine calamity, a misfortune, worse than slavery, so if you have been mucking about gurus recently, as I warned several years ago, then I am sorry for you. I warned you on that point, and offered to keep an eye on the situation. You have cleared lost your autonomy, and seem unaware of what you are saying. Fight loose.

    Enough here: we are talking about a simple issue of Kantian autonomy, a reference to his ethics. The terms are clear.

  • 9 Stephen P. Smith // May 27, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Kant is only wrong in the sense that autonomy and freedom are taken as absolutes. Kant’s categorical imperative that we “act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law,” is itself consistent whith my view that the responsibility of religion is to help folks “discover the more cultivated emotion where moral action becomes self evident.”

  • 10 nemo // May 27, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I doubt if Kant’s ethics and freedom is about absolutes. The issue is to get the basics right, and that is hard in terms of his system. Meanwhile pickiun objections a la Hegel are a disservice. Always at the crucial point you want to produce your pseudo-profound Hegelian toilet flush here. Why? I know why.

    Enough of this, Hucklebird. We deserve better here than shit objections to Kant on autonomy. Go do some homework.
    Anyone else I would let it ride, but not you.

    And if you are such a community fan, I hope you will stop being a Fox News groupie and propose Communism. The usual crap from rightists about community vs autonomy began with Hegel and ended up without an ethical system and community for the poor, and capitalist ‘autonomy’ for the rich, etc, etc….
    Kant’s ‘kingdom of ends’ is more than enough answer to all that.

    Meanwhile I warned you years ago the guru in question would use you as a torpedo against me and indeed this blog. I get tired of it.
    You might consider the EXTREME danger of surrendering your autonomy in this context. If you wish surrender your autonomy to a complete stranger who is playing guru, I hope for your sake he isn’t a sadist.
    Meanwhile, these issues have been discussed a lot at The Gurdjieff Con. We have seen the danger to autonomy in the context of the ‘sufi hyena’ syndrome…

  • 11 dandy // May 27, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Hucklebird, wait. No use in breaking the dishes. I will get to it… sometime…

  • 12 dandy // May 30, 2009 at 12:27 am

    “The development of the human machine and the enrichment of being begins with a new and unaccustomed functioning of this machine. We know that a man has five centers: the thinking, the emotional, the moving, the instinctive, and the sex. The predominant development of any one center at the expense of the others produces an extremely one-sided type of man, incapable of further development. But if a man brings the work of the five centers within him into harmonious accord, he then ‘locks the pentagram within him’ and becomes a finished type of the physically perfect man. The full and proper functioning of five centers brings them into union with the higher centers which introduce the missing principle and put man into direct and permanent connection with objective consciousness and objective knowledge.” – From In Search Of The Miraculous, chapter 14.

    “In the ordinary way the three nervous systems operate more or less independently, in sequence, so to speak; their different energies being confined to the functions for which they are most suitable. And when small amounts of these energies do leak from one system to another -as when a man tries to think when full of instinctive excitement, or on the other hand when he tries to reason about some deep emotion -only bad results are produced.
    Yet these three systems are arranged so that, in certain circumstances and at one particular point in the brain, a connection could be created between them.”

    “Such a condition, in which instinctive processes were as conscious as thinking, in which thinking was as fast as attraction, and in which reason, emotion, and action combined as harmoniously as breathing and sleeping, is at present unimaginable. We can only say that the human machine is in fact designed to make it possible.” – from The Theory Of Celestial Influence, chapter 10.

    I continue it from where we stopped.

    You may take as much day/s as you wish to consider carefully all that is written here until it clicks before replying.

  • 13 nemo // May 30, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Gurdjieff can’t even
    get straight how many centers he is talking about.

    In general this is not the same issue as that of autonomy. Autonomy is a given, it should be the case in any normal society. It is not a precondition of abolition that men have a certain consciousness.

    Gurdjieff talks about abnormal ‘man machines’, but he is himself the product of an abnormal spiritual culture that has deviated from true sense into diabolical occultism, and genocidal fascist politics.

  • 14 Stephen P. Smith // May 30, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    The speaker loves to speak. But for this to be true the speaker`s love must find support in the community. A necessary condition has emerged, and it is so easy to confuse necessity with sufficiency. That the speaker speaks in one voice, again points to the necessity of autonomy. But this not saying that autonomy is an absolute.

    For there to be community support that gives itself to speaking, there must also be those that love to listen. This is a necessary condition again, this is not a sufficient condition. And again, listeners must listen with one ear. Autonomy is found to be necessary, but not sufficient.

    We have been told that Kant never declared autonomy and freedom to be absolutes; fine then. Living right, and ethical choices, require autonomy and freedom as necessary conditions; so says Kant. But Kant is unable to argue that what is found necessary explains away what is realized as sufficient. And what is found sufficient is closer to the driver of evolution; it is something found in religion.

    We only know that speakers love to speak, and listeners love to listen. But what holds speaker and listener together to form the perfected agreement is again a middle-term that is beyond. And somehow I found a doorway to beyond our fractured selves given by the abundance of autonomy.

  • 15 Darwiniana » Log: some posts from last week // May 31, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    […] on Atheism And It’s CriticsTimothy Birdnow on The mind is not the brainStephen P. Smith on Neither side for autonomy…nemo on Neither side for autonomy…Darwiniana » Archaic Greece and the Old Testament on […]

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