Thursday, December 20, 2012

Things and Things that Move


 
    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." 


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