Have you ever tried to read Kant, for content, not for class assignment/requirements? The Critique of Pure Reason? Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals? I picked up Groundwork a couple of years ago, looking for some analysis of morality. Ethics and morals aren’t taught or discussed much in modern materialist consumerist capitalist society. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a MMCCS, per se; it’s all in how you use it – but to ignore the study of ethics and morals, to neglect the ethical and moral side of existence speaks volumes about why we are where we are as a society.
To me, his conclusion at the end of the Metaphysics of Morals is that there must be some categorical imperative that defines human motivation:
[The categorical imperative] may be defined as a way of evaluating motivations for action. According to Kant, human beings simply occupy a special place in creation, and morality can be summed up in one ultimate commandment of reason, or imperative, from which all duties and obligations derive. He defined an imperative as any proposition declaring a certain action (or inaction) to be necessary.
When I was first coming out, in the mid-70s, I tried to figure out for myself how to live a moral life in gay society. I never took the analysis very far, but the question always remained, and its absence in the community itself was disturbing to me, personally significant, but irrelevant to the larger society, so I set my concerns aside, for the large part.
But nothing prepared me for CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. In the 90s, while housesitting for a friend, I picked up her copy of Kant’s work, deciding to start slogging through it. I didn’t get far, that time, but the thought I needed to know something of its argument and analysis stayed with me. About a decade later, I picked up the book on my own, and started going through it again.
Now, reason is a system of thought, it is a mechanism for thought; and like any system, there are questions that can generated within that system for which there are answers only to be found from outside the system of thought itself. This idea renders Sir Bertrand Russell’s formulation of logical positivism absurd:
Again, to refer to wikipidia.org, “Positivisim” is defined as …
a philosophy which states that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, in opposition to pure empiricism and central to the foundation of academic sociology.
As I understood it, logical positivism went further stating that rational knowledge is the only authentic knowledge; if a proposition cannot be stated logically, it cannot be stated to exist. This just never made sense to me, but then I always preferred to ascribe my worldview to the Shakespearean rather than the view of the world that states the limits of existence are the physical limits of the world:
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet (1.5.167-8),
But I am a Freudian Analogist rather than a Russellian Logical Positivist. Reason didn’t create the world, and reason cannot encompass the world. But we can ‘think’ about how the world IS constructed by incorporating and comprehending the non-rational nature of the world ‘beyond thought’. Analogy is the only ‘true’ way to think about the world, its operation and its existence. When you stop to think of it, reason itself is a form of analogy, and not the other way around.
CRITIQUE OF KANT
When I use the term “object of consciousness”, I refer to the “things” of the mind, and just as physical objects are what we work with as bodies, objects of consciousness are things we work with, with our minds. Thoughts, ideas, concepts, beliefs, words even, insights, understandings, intuitions – these are all objects of consciousness, but they operate differently, they are generated differently, and we work with them differently. It is this difference in the exploration and expression of different kinds of objects that I wish to explore here.
When I quit struggling with CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON, it was because his expressions of what I am sure were very clear thoughts had become jumbled, in view of modern understanding and brain science. They didn’t know about the structure of the two lobes of the brain, or how signals worked inside the brain and mind. They didn’t understand the circulatory system, much less the neurological system; they didn’t even have a term for neural activity yet.
It is said that Sir Isaac Newton had a breakdown after ‘discovering’ the force of gravity, which is when he was appointed Lord of the Mind. It is my thought that, having discovered one of the essential forces of material existence – gravity – he had glimpses of and tried to make the leap to the Unified Field Theory, and the inability to make this leap is what triggered his infamous breakdown. It’s just a theory, but it makes sense that, without a distinct sense of ‘the energy of consciousness’, he couldn’t begin to understand how it operates, or how it relates to the operation of the larger universe. Now is that time.
We now understand about the two lobes of the brain, about specificity and locality of function and the malleability of the pathways within the brain.
We speak of ‘right-brained’ as the intuitive side of awareness, and ‘left-brained’ as the logical side of that same awareness. One way of describing the difference between the functioning of the lobes of the brain is to look at the forest AND the trees. The rational mind operates on ANALYSIS, breaking down into separate pieces of form and function, to come to an understanding of the way a thing works. The intuitive mind, on the other hand, operates GLOBALLY, seeing the whole rather than the parts, and understanding the way things work from a wider perspective.
Think of it as patterns and pieces – and every pattern is made up of pieces. The rational mind breaks down into pieces the ‘object of consciousness’. The intuitive mind seeks the patters underlying the placement – and relation – of the individual pieces. The ‘mind’ needs both pattern recognition AND analytical competence. But they are different functions of the mind, they operate within different ‘spheres’ of the ‘brain/mind’, and is it such a leap to think that, just perhaps, the rational difficulty with comprehending the non-rational parts of ‘mind’ is because the two lobes of the brain actually have different and distinct systems of operation?
The laptop I have has dual operating systems – one side Linux, the other side Windows. They perform the same functions, but the achieve their ends differently. The laptop, like the brain, is partitioned; each OS in the computer is independent, with limited communications between the sides of the partition. There is a common file point, I was told by the programmer, so there is a way for the two systems to share information, but it is very specific, and very limited, and very hard to find. I’ve had the computer now for over two years, and still have yet to find the common file point.
As we go on to further discuss the brain, I will put this analogy to further use.
In order to understand the relation of mind, brain and consciousness, we need to analyze the different processes, functions of these objects of consciousness; it only makes sense that, as they develop from different sources, the ways of working with them would have to be comparatively different.