The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
~ Albert Einstein 1879-1955
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
~ Albert Einstein 1879-1955
“Faith is not being sure. It is not being sure, but betting with your last cent… Faith is not a series of gilt-edged propositions that you sit down to figure out, and if you follow all the logic and accept all the conclusions, then you have it. It is crumpling and throwing away everything, proposition by proposition, until nothing is left, and then writing a new proposition, your very own, to throw in the teeth of despair… Faith is not making religious-sounding noises in the daytime. It is asking your inmost self questions at night and then getting up and going to work… Faith is thinking thoughts and singing songs and making poems in the lap of death.”
–Mary Jean Irion, 1970
“…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 [Letters to a Young Poet]
Immanuel Kant on Reason, God, and Morality
Kant now takes himself to have waged a devastating critique of rational theology in the Transcendental Dialectic, and yet we find in the Canon of Pure Reason that we are still justified, according to him, in believing that there is an omniscient and omnipotent God, and that the soul is immortal- on other than theoretical grounds. “If then, these three cardinal propositions [the three unconditioned ideas] are not at all necessary for our knowing, and yet are insistently recommended to us by our reason,” he says, “their importance must really concern the practical” (B 828, p. 674). Making the distinction between pragmatic law and moral law, Kant places moral law within the realm of the practical, because between the two laws, the moral law is the only one which “permits a canon” (p.674). It is upon this ground, that of the idea of the moral law, that Kant begins to build his ethics and the justification for belief in an all-powerful God (which will later grow into his Religion Within the Bounds of Reason Alone, for which he is made to apologize and recant).
Humankind has a naturally occurring deep and real sense of morality according to Kant- an objectively valid experience of a moral life and the way things ‘ought to be’ which is necessary in order for the universe to make any unified sense at all. This common experience of the moral law within each of us is the practical importance of reason’s ever-reaching upwards toward realms it cannot fly in. Three questions concern it most, three questions it is always asking, and these are: What can I know? What can I do? And what can I hope? (B 833, p. 677). The first he dismisses (the purely theoretical), having already discussed it at length in the rest of the Critique. It is helpless on its own and we can find nothing for us in it. The second, Kant says, is not transcendental, but purely moral (practical), and therefore dismisses it. It as well is helpless on its own, and of no use or interest to us. The third, however, is both “practical and theoretical, so that the practical leads like a clue to a reply to the theoretical question and in its highest form…” (p. 677, emphasis added).
What can I hope? we ask, after Kant. All hope concerns happiness according to him(p. 677), and one can always either concern one’s self with the pragmatic (practical) approach, bent on acquiring that happiness, or with the moral approach, which “has no other motive than the worthiness to be happy” (p.677).
In an ‘ideal’ world (in the conventional sense of the term), a world “in which we have abstracted from all hindrances to morality”, one’s worthiness to be happy would perfectly coincide with one’s degree of happiness; however, says Kant,
“this system of self-rewarding morality is only an idea, the realization of which rests on the condition that everyone do what he should, i.e., that all actions of rational beings occur as if they arose from a highest will that comprehends all private choice in or under itself” (p. 679).
Through discerning the way things ought to be from out of a comparison with our inner sense of the moral law, we see that while we are constituted in such a way as to fit in such a world, our senses and tell us this is nothing like where we now are. “To regard ourselves as in the realm of grace,” says Kant, “where every happiness awaits us as long as we do not ourselves limit our share of it through the unworthiness to be happy, is a practically necessary idea of reason,” and yet we live in the realm of nature (Leibniz) where, although we “stand under moral laws[, we] cannot expect any successes for [our] conduct except in accordance with the course of nature in our sensible world” (p.680-681). Since this moral world cannot come to be on this earth (as we humans are far more disposed to go our own directions than anyone else’s, moral or not), it is clear that if the hope of happiness necessarily linked and equal with the striving to be worthy of that happiness is to survive, we must believe in an afterlife where this is possible. Pure reason imposes this belief on us.
The system of morality itself, being a system, is cohesively one, and our conception of it must be policed in such a manner as to make sure it is able to remain whole. Kant says that the coherence of the moral law requires the existence of a God-like being to make the moral laws commands by enforcing them and endowing them with the consequences appropriate to (or even dictated by?) their nature. Thus pure reason shows us the necessity of supposing a commanding ‘highest reason’, or ‘highest good’, a being “which alone can make possible such a purposive unity” (B840, p.680).
In this way, Kant has achieved the construction of an argument for compelled belief in God and the afterlife, built from the ground of the common experience of the moral law up. Without these two beliefs, “the majestic ideas of morality are, to be sure, objects of approbation and admiration but not incentives for resolve and realization.” (p.681). But with a God there to make good on the ‘promises and threats’ involved in the consequences of the moral law, it is clear why our moral disposition must come first and open the door to happiness rather than the desire for happiness instituting the moral disposition within us (p.681). According to Kant, we are convinced of this concept of the divine being,
“not because speculative reason convinces us of its correctness but because it is in perfect agreement with the moral principles of reason… we will not hold actions to be obligatory because they are God’s commands, but will rather regard them as divine commands because we are internally obligated to them” (p.683-684).
c. Mary Kathryn Gough
Katie Huffman (married, Gough)/ 5.21.04 /Kant / Professor Hardy / Journal # 5
Katie Huffman / PHIL 340 / Halteman
Journal # 1.5 (date?) ; Response to the Phonomenological Movement
Several Quotations I reacted to very strongly:
“When epistemological inquiry sought to answer the question of how the subject, filled with his own representations, knows the external world and can be certain of its reality, the phenomenological critique showed how pointless such a question is” (p.131).
“To that extent, the method of phenomenology, in contrast to all scientific methods, is a method which has no foundation, the way of a “transcendental experience,” not an empirical induction. For it must first create its ground for itself” (p.160).
“Now all these relativities, even out captivity in our own life-world, which has become historical, lose their disconcerting meaning when the eidos “life-world” as such and the range of it’s variation is known” (p161-162).
“The idea of a gathering of all the past into the “absolute” present of an “absolute knowledge” proves itself to be absurd. Just as the future, which fades away into the uncertain distance, is incorporated into the immediate flow of the ego as an infinite horizon, so does the past, which also fades into the distance” (p.162).
The idea of philosophy and the use of language being the self-healing of self-inflicted wounds (p.177) was also particularly striking to me. That “the field of language is not only the place of reduction for all philosophical ignorance, but rather itself an actual whole of interpretation that, from the days of Plato and Aristotle till today, requires not only to be accepted, but to be thought through to the end again and again…” rung so true.
I really liked the articulation that “we are ever and again only “on the way to language”” (p.177).
This reading, though very difficult, was joyously so. The challenge was fascinating and I loved every minute I spent with it! 🙂 Many things hearkened back to our class lectures and the few texts we had thus far consumed 😉 but I only caught onto a few, I know. In reading the piece over again I find more and more that I can say I have a fuller understanding of where I had only an inkling of meaning and direction before…
c. Mary Kathryn Gough (huffman, maiden)
“What we love in other human beings is the hoped-for satisfaction of our desire. We do no love their desire. If what we loved in them was their desire, then we should love them as ourself.” ~ Simone Weil
The night is still around me. Stars turn in the void. Water sounds in the gorge, and the grass sways to the rhythm of a dance lady Wind has yet to teach me. There will be enough time this semester, I think, for academic novellas on the state of mankind. This is confession. I am staring in the mirror within me and seeing snow-capped mountains — a fairy-tale escape, fictional beauty — but there is no reflection of my self. I do not see my neighbor, either, in this scene. For I have fictionalized us both. When anyone comes into my soul, meets me, do I see them? Do I see me?… Most importantly, do I see us?
When honestly put to trial, I find I have committed the callous crime of carelessness over and over and over — more times than I could count if I spent years at the task. Sometimes I pity the angel who transcribes my life ~ poor creature! That is a job I do not envy, even over living my life, and I’ll tell you why. But first let me explain how I have fictionalized myself.
I have become invisible by my silence, and I meet my irrelevance face-to-face. It comes to me that my tyranny, the power of my Executioner, is in direct proportion to the extent to which I refuse to acknowledge or witness some part of me I do not wish to be one with. Most often it is my pain and the domino results of its presence in my life to which I find I cannot reconcile myself. This makes a vacuum space into which the dark Death-dealer yawningly steps, operating a guillotine of the heart on which my imagination must utter the words ‘by myself’, like a mantra, in echo of Cincinnatus C. To preserve my capability to dream, to save my love — I will walk away with my heart in my hands, unharmed, into another world. Transported… and then I realize once again, always with this feeling like hitting a brick wall at a dead run, that I cannot. The wisdom of hopelessness is folly, and all who choose death alone choose Death indeed.
The transportation and transfiguration of the guillotine is nothing when compared with the resurrection and transfiguration of Living, Breathing, Life on this earth itself (and beyond). Christ returned to this earth in the flesh, appeared to his loved ones. I believe we can do no less with our lives, when gifted with the transformation of our beings in Him through the power of His Spirit.
Overcoming my blindness means overcoming whatever it is that avoids a straight-on look at anyone in my life — including parts of me. Empathy for myself is something I will have to learn if I intend to see myself in the mirror of my interactions, and not just my favorite escape, my handy fiction that allows me to manhandle myself and others into a dream-reality that is-Not. Empathy banishes the Executioner and leaves an option for a re-creative act of weaving those two unmatched worlds — the harsh reality and the escape — into one unbroken cloth, dedicated to embracing God.
She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth–
it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration
where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it’s you she receives.
You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.`
~ R.M. Rilke
I do not envy the angel writing my life, though he escapes all my trials and pains, because I am in the unique position to dance and sing and weave thanksgivings to my God. Perhaps, like for the prophet of old, praise will bring down the walls. But I find myself asking, who will play the trumpets?
Upon some thought, I’ve realized that fiction is my trumpet. What?, you say — Yes, I say. Fiction and poetry are my song, my witness of other lives and of God’s creation for what it is to me; creative writing is the tool by which I leave my testament to the power of every aspect of His character I am blessed enough to see. These creative acts are my particular praise and expression of love to God, made possible through what He’s given me to see, feel, know, observe, hear, understand, and love on earth, in this body wracked with Pain and full of anguish.
No matter how much pain I am in, or how incompetent of a human being I end up looking to be like because of its persistent role in my life, I find God is still taking massive amounts of time to tutor me in Love and Joy, in healthy confidence and a sense of the relevance of my whole being; He is teaching me to be Whole. To be Holy. And He is teaching me to fill my life with Living things, one by one calling the dead things by name, the blind things, the careless things, and banishing them from His presence. He is teaching me the devastating physics of a vacuum in a human life, and telling me to look my neighbor in the eye. To see them for who they are, to know who they wish to be seen as, to listen to them with my whole heart, the heart of flesh He gave me, and to acknowledge the beguilingly unique mystery He shaped in each one of them as something only they can ever offer anyone. He is stretching me, making room inside me to hold His beloved children. I still don’t know any specifics, but it’s not a business meeting; I’m stretching out my arms to gather in as many of the little children looking out from behind the curtains of adult bodies as this single broken body can manage to hold.
i walk, breathe,
live & move
enshrouded by mystery;
the glorious unknown
in every being i see
motes of stardust
shaped my unseen hands
Light in my soul.
all text c. Mary Kathryn Gough (maiden, huffman), 9/28/05
Journal # 7 (3/5/04)
A “fore-having” as Heidegger uses the term here is what you bring with you to an experience that allows you to interpret it. In the most general terms, “all interpreting is an interpreting with respect to something, on the basis of it, and with a view to it” (p.60, emphasis added). As personal, historical I’s, Beings each with a particular ‘having-been’, we bring things with up to the table of our experience, every moment refreshed as the trajectory from out of our past towards our future continues on. These fore-havings, based upon ever more refined understandings of our having-been, are linked with the idea of “formal indications” in that, once we see Philosophy as a path to be traveled rather than a stationary position to be defended, these two ideas can help guide us onto the right ‘path of looking’ (p.62). As the project itself must be subject to its own content, we see Heidegger’s work illustrates the provisional character it projects.
The “everyday world”, as laid out in section 19 of Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Faticity, is purposefully described inaccurately “in order to bring an authentic analysis into sharper relief,” among other things (p. 67). Heidegger makes use of a table as an example here and says that where it has certain qualities in nature like smoothness or roughness, the ability to be burned etc, and that as you walk around it and experience it from different angles, different aspects show themselves to you. However this “being-there-in-such-a-manner… provides the possibility of determining something about the meaning of the being of such objects and their being-real… [the table] is furnished with definite valuative predicates: beautifully made, useful” etc. as well (p.68). In this exposition of the ‘everyday world’, “the total domain of what is real can… be divided up into two realms: things in nature and things of value. Heidegger says these results are not false, but are only apparently true. A better description of ‘everyday world’ is offered in section 20 where he says that the table is not simply a table but the table, a particular table “at which one sits in order to write, have a meal, sew, play… [and] this characteristic of “in order to do something” is not merely imposed upon the table by relating and assimilating it to something else which it is not” (p.69). Section 19’s description of the everyday world maps on very well to the theoretical attitude brought out in the “Worldview” lectures, grasping those ‘things’ nearest and most immediate to us and ascribing to them various qualities– not something Heidegger wants to summarily dismiss or reject, just something he wants to take a step back from and put a ground to, find the ‘from-out-of-which’ that we need in order to engage in the theoretical attitude’s activities at all. Section 20’s exposition of the ‘everyday world’ fits extremely well with the idea of environmental experience in those same previous lectures in that it shows how Dasein is bound up in its experience and absorbed in its Umwelt. There must be a reference back, a tying back into that personal, historical I, in every piece of that world which enfolds Being, making it whole with itself by giving it access to its having-been.
c. Mary Kathryn Gough
Katie Huffman (married, Gough) / Philosophy 340 / Professor Halteman