Kant philosophy categorical imperative

Between reality and metaphysics

The term “meta” is en vogue now. Meta means beyond. Metaphysics means philosophy today, but at the time it was just a term to describe what Aristotle did beyond physics. We now use it for anything self-referential: a met-analysis is an study of studies and a meta sandwich would be a sandwich made of sandwiches. Maybe I should change the name of this blog to Metathinking.

Metaphysics is really the science of that which isn’t immediately tangible. It isn’t knowable. David Hume destroyed it. He basically said that if it cannot be experienced, it doesn’t exist. For example, causality cannot be experienced – or verified. Hence, philosophy is largely left with nothing to say as it is not empirical. Arthur Schopenhauer believed metaphysics was there, but said it wasn’t knowable. Immanuel Kant restored it. Kant analysed epistemology. He argued that it is impossible to know, or experience, anything without certain made up a priori concepts – that he called synthetic (as distinct from analytical concepts, but just like empirical). These synthetic concepts are more abstract and general rather than purely random and logical like empiric observations. For example, he argued that time and space aren’t part of our experience, but a condition that makes our experience possible. Concepts like quality and quantity are in this same category. However, this still mean that metaphysics couldn’t hold – as it is entirely outside of experience. As such, his problem with concepts like god was that they are full of non-falsifiable statements. If it cannot be verified, it doesn’t make sense.

Kant came up with his own metaphysics. To him, the mental apparatus required to experience things were metaphysical: time, space, necessity and being vs not being. So he came up with something else instead – that which wasn’t metaphysical, which isn’t empirical, but necessarily precedes the empirical. His categorical imperative was that one has to act in a way that one would wish the rest of the world acted. This is how he said it:

“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law”.

Sounds a lot like,

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

However, unlike Jesus (and others to whom this was attributed in different religious texts), Kant didn’t tell people what to do, he just opened that up for discussion. There isn’t a moral charge in this. Another interesting thing is that Kant’s imperative inherently presumes that we should assume that others are motivated by the exact same things we are motivated by, being rational beings. Big assumption.

Kant’s philosophy is attractive because it provides a context for real events rather than going off into the ridiculously theoretical. At the same time, because it lies in that grey are between the empirical and the theoretical, to me it still feels like metaphysics.


4 thoughts on “Between reality and metaphysics”

  1. What do you think about this:-

    What is ontological perspectivism?

    Ontological perspectivism is the view that reality is the very relation to or perspective on otherwise undifferentiated surroundings.

    1. Here reality means what is the result of the perception or cognition of the subject, i.e. tables, chairs, mountains and stars etc.

    2. When a subject perceives or experiences noumenon, he does not experience what is actually there but only that part or aspect of noumenon which his cognitive faculties can grasp.

    A thought experiment: There is a white paper on which no. 7423 is written. 7 is written in blue, 4 in yellow, 2 in red and 3 in green. Now imagine a subject who can only see what is written in red. So this subject when asked to tell what no. is written on the paper, will reply 2. Now if we consider no.7423 as what is really there (noumenon), and no. 2 as what is perceived or experienced by this subject (phenomenon), then would you say that the subject is having the actual experience of noumenon? Is cognizing 7423 as 2 an actual *experience* of 7423?

    “Phenomenal reality” is a misleading word for the false understanding of the subject, and this false understanding is part of the subject and is in the subject and can not be another separate reality outside of the subject . Your understanding is part of you and is not outside of you.
    So all what we are perceiving or experiencing is a distorted, false and misleading representation of noumenon presented to us by our limited faculties of cognition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, it seems natural that we can only perceive a part of what is really going on – the whole. However, I believe that the whole is still there, whether it is perceived or not, like say Brownian motion – or who know what else. As humans, we max out at x% perception of the whole. However, any given human can be at less than x. I think all we can ever really hope for is to narrow the gap between our current perception and x.


  2. ” However, I believe that the whole is still there, whether it is perceived or not, like say Brownian motion ”

    Of course the whole is still there whether it is perceived or not. What is Brownian motion and what has this to do with whole?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s