On Reason and Peace

Something we may have to think about as well when we look at the terrible incidents that happened in Norway the last days – I had been re-reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason while working on defintional issues of law. I found something that is important enough to be thought about, also as matter of thinking about the connection between ‘managerialism’ (as another form of ‘pure reason’) and the (re-)emergence of (here: Christian) fundamentalism and neo-fascism:

Philosophical cognition, accordingly, regards the particular only in the general; mathematical the general in the particular, nay, in the individual. This is done, however, entirely a priori and by means of pure reason, so that, as this individual figure is determined under certain universal conditions of construction, the object of the conception, to which this individual figure corresponds as its schema, must be cogitated as universally determined.

The essential difference of these two modes of cognition consists, therefore, in this formal quality; it does not regard the difference of the matter or objects of both. Those thinkers who aim at distinguishing philosophy from mathematics by asserting that the former has to do with quality merely, and the latter with quantity, have mistaken the effect for the cause. The reason why mathematical cognition can relate only to quantity is to be found in its form alone. For it is the conception of quantities only that is capable of being constructed, that is, presented a priori in intuition; while qualities cannot be given in any other than an empirical intuition. Hence the cognition of qualities by reason is possible only through conceptions. No one can find an intuition which shall correspond to the conception of reality, except in experience; it cannot be presented to the mind a priori and antecedently to the empirical consciousness of a reality. We can form an intuition, by means of the mere conception of it, of a cone, without the aid of experience; but the colour of the cone we cannot know except from experience. I cannot present an intuition of a cause, except in an example which experience offers to me. Besides, philosophy, as well as mathematics, treats of quantities; as, for example, of totality, infinity, and so on. Mathematics, too, treats of the difference of lines and surfaces—as spaces of different quality, of the continuity of extension—as a quality thereof. But, although in such cases they have a common object, the mode in which reason considers that object is very different in philosophy from what it is in mathematics. The former confines itself to the general conceptions; the latter can do nothing with a mere conception, it hastens to intuition. In this intuition it regards the conception in concreto, not empirically, but in an a priori intuition, which it has constructed; and in which, all the results which follow from the general conditions of the construction of the conception are in all cases valid for the object of the constructed conception.

Kant, Immanuel: Critik der Reinen Vernunft; Zweyte hin und wieder verbesserte Auflage; Riga: Johann Friedrich Hartknoch, 1787 (erste Auflage: 1781); Wiesbaden: Insel Verlag: 1956: 614) (I did not check the English translation reproduced here.)

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  1. […] And still, we come across it again and again – and if we are open enough we see it not so much and not primarily as personalities (and the lack) but also and predominantly as matter of social interests, of social patterns reflecting different interests and powers. Sure, the short version is the individual interest against the interest of social interests. The dissoluteness, set free at a stage where people lost any hope, where they draw back from a society which lost the capacity of providing anything: Like the pure lust of the seven young women and three young men, who wanted to escape the black death, left Florence and emerged in the telling of stories, overcoming the restrictions of a society that lost the power over them, positive and negative, supporting and controlling power … .This apparently generic struggle of the two different patterns of control: instinctive acting on one’s feelings, standing in such detrimental way against society can also be seen the other way round: the oppression of individual lust by a society that actually lost control over itself – I quoted earlier Immanuel Kant and his rejection of pure reason. […]


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