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Agnosticism and the noumenal

June 30th, 2010 · No Comments

We have already linked today to: An Agnostic Manifesto, but the essay is worth reading.

I was often over time ‘a sort of atheist’ without realizing it, and this position was really closer to agnosticism than atheism. With the arrival of the New Atheists, vacating the atheist position becomes an necessity since this cultic brand is highly intolerant and contains an entire bible of related beliefs.

The problem is that, philosophically, theism can revinvent itself constantly in ever new guises, in a manner that, while not truly convincing, is dialectically alive. Much atheism arises from the silliness and infantile deterioration of theism into a degenerated theism. A spate of atheism is often a negation of this perverted theism, and as such healthy for the mind.
But the real idea of ‘god’ is not so simply dismissed because it is not so simply defined. And very powerful antinomies of reason, as clearly portrayed by Kant, haunt both the affirmation and/or negation of ‘god’.
This often takes the form of the antinomies of the beginning in time/no beginning in time (The manifesto linked to has a version of this in its question about creating something from nothing).
The mind will be like a dog chasing its tail as it wobbles between theism and atheism. The search to still the mind might be found in an agnostic position.

Beyond that, the transcendental idealism of Kant, seemingly theistic in the case of the latter, and atheistic (or agnostic) in his great successor Schopenhauer, gives us the truest ground for agnosticism, contra Kant, in its reminder that the noumenal is beyond knowing, behind the phenomenal. We cannot ‘know god’ (save that ‘gnostics’ in another sense do so claim) either as a positive or a negative.
Unfortunately Kant muddied his position by reintroducing a redefined version of ‘faith’ to posit an ‘atheist’s redefined god’ somewhere in the vicinity of his ethical discourses. Schopenhauer in a way swept all this aside in his streamlined agnostic transcendental idealism. One problem is that Schopenhauer is almost Buddhist in his strain of pessimism and his concealed metaphysics of the will. But, whatever the case, the great insight into transcendental idealism starting with Kant reminds us that agnosticism confronts the noumenon as it is.
Transcendental idealism, despite its confusing and misleading name which doesn’t mean what it seems, is a highly useful non-belief system constructed as an extension/commentary to Newtonian physics and is highly adaptable to a modified science.

Again, the question of ‘god’ is never simple. Note that the Israelites did not use this word, but instead IHVH, as something to point to beyond simple theism.

Tags: Kant · Philosophy · Schopenhauer

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