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Kantian morality and the noumenal limits of understanding

August 29th, 2014 · No Comments

http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article1429083.ece

Discussions of the problems with Kantian morality are as important as the paeans to Kant’s brilliance. Brilliant he was, but his own perspective reminds the attempt that it cannot succeed: the issues of will, reason, and free are at the core of Kant’s work, but they express antinomian perplexities. I have a feeling that too much effort goes into trying to create a practical morality from the ‘Groundwork’: that’s an important exercise, and research program in progress, but the questions arise as to the noumenal aspect of what is being enquired into. But even if we admit to the possible failure of Kant’s project his remains the most seminal, and brilliant work on the subject: the Old Testament children’s stories are brought ruthlessly into the realm of the Enlightenment ‘flashlight of Reason’, and show a canonical and world historical first in the realm of ‘models of ethical behavior’. We often wonder if we are reading a tract of theory, or a means to the (really) practical. The answer is both, with a taste of the ‘science fiction of the future’, the evolutionary future of man who is not some Nietzschean scofflaw but a being who can assess the complexities of the issues Kant raises. One of the traps of Nietzsche’s attempt to zero out morality (based in part on his hatred of Kant, and the curious vanishing act of morality in Hegel) is that we end up in a really silly, where not absolutely dangerous, version of the overman beyond morality. That’s a fantasy from comic books. The real overman has struggled through the theories of morality to a knowledge of ‘will’, ‘reason’, and self-consciousness. In a funny way Kant seems to be ‘communicating with the supersmart aliens’, to pose a serious (and seriously funny) metaphor of the ‘last and first me’ who can evolve to the intelligence required to see Kant’s supercomplex ruminations a step toward simplicity. Kant is filled with these pathways to the future evolution of man that are so far dead ends for the current ape we call ourselves (the last i heard it was ‘sapiens’ or ‘sapiens sapiens’??). Between Kant (and Schopenhauer) we see a hint of the solution of the problem of will in a Newtonian universe (which is actually another fiction) and this is perhaps the main achievement, for starters, in the reckoning of newtonian confusions, still very much alive in the successions of secular humanism.

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