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Monday, February 05, 2007

Science <> Philosophy Either. . .

I just got an e-mail from fellow Hamster Astrid remarking on my clipmarked post from Meme Therapy that I mentioned earlier. She brought up Immanuel Kant and the Categorical Imperative which is, in fact, a pretty good way of building a moral philosophy without recourse to God or religion. . .

But, I thought I'd mention, it still ain't science. . . Kant's imperative is a philosophical first principle, like the Libertarian Non-Aggression Axiom, the Axioms of Euclid's Geometry, or the Ten Commandments. In other words, it is something that must be accepted as revealed truth because there's no objective way to determine its validity. All you can do is evaluate its consistency.


Astrid Julian said...

By making people aware of the difference between "practical" reason (real world, experimental truth) versus "pure" reason (thoughts, subjective values), Immanuel Kant represented a milestone of sorts for our thinking about how to conduct investigations into natural science.

In a way he set the bar for intellectual honesty by showing that "pure reason" could be delusional without the corrections provided by real world "practical reason". If you're interested in reading what a real scientist thinks about this, you could check out Y.S. Kim's Einstein-Kant page. He is a Korean-American physicist at the U of Maryland. (I can't figure out how to code the link for your blog, but it googles well.)

The most biting critique of "pure reason" written by Immanuel Kant was a scathing parody of Emanuel Swedenborg called "Träume eines Geistersehers" (Dreams of a Ghostseer). (After reading all 8 of Swedenborg's books, Kant even changed his first name from Emanuel to Immanuel.) Swedenborg studied his own visions for 10 years in order to be able to describe and write down what heaven and hell looked like, what the angels were like, what happens after death and so on. He "knew" it all from the "pure reason" of his mystic visions. According to Swedenborg the nature of the world and heaven could only be known through visions, not science (Naturwissenschaft). Cheese-Loueese, of course. Why didn't I see that. Kant made it respectable to disbelieve Swedenborg and other purveyors of religion.

For this reason and others, the Catholic Church names Kant one of the Six Pillars of Unbelief and Frederick the Great asked Kant not to publish anymore of his thinking about God. It was all right for the philosopher-king to think such thoughts, but his people had to be protected from thinking for themselves.

Ryan said...

Morality is the aggragate of human judgement. That being said, morality is fluid over time and imprecise in the present. Methodology results mostly in legal sharpstering leading to useless class prestige and gridlock. (as opposed to more desirable forms of class prestige).