Thursday, September 01, 2005

Kant Reason with Metaphysics

HUMAN reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer.

The perplexity into which it thus falls is not due to any fault of its own. It begins with principles which it has no option save to employ in the course of experience, and which this experience at the same time abundantly justifies it in using. Rising with their aid (since it is determined to this also by its own nature) to ever higher, ever more remote, conditions, it soon becomes aware that in this way -- the questions never ceasing -- its work must always remain incomplete; and it therefore finds itself compelled to resort to principles which overstep all possible empirical employment, and which yet seem so unobjectionable that even ordinary consciousness readily accepts them. But by this procedure human reason precipitates itself into darkness and contradictions; and while it may indeed conjecture that these must be in some way due to concealed errors, it is not in a position to be able to detect them. For since the principles of which it is making use transcend the limits of experience, they are no longer subject to any empirical test. The battle-field of these endless controversies is called metaphysics.

-Immanuel Kant

It is human reason which drives us to ask the big questions, but it is also those big questions for which reason cannot supply answers. Henceforth be the endless paradox of metaphysics and the human condition.

4 comments:

Enigma4U said...

Why does the topic of metaphysics just not grab me?

As somebody once said, metaphysics is the science that studies a black cat, inside a dark room... that is not there.

Mis-nagid said...

Nice definition, except for the part about it being a science.

Orthoprax said...

Enigma,

Metaphysics is the endpoint of all the endless Why? questionings of children (and adults).

The very nature of our universe in terms of what it means to exist, is so fundamental and so abstract that it's either of immesurable importance to how we live our lives or completely meaningless.

Anonymous said...

I just thought that a little definition of the term in dispute would be useful. That said, I have heard your definition before and it is good for a chuckle.

-Benjamin