I want this thread to discuss the questions and ideas being offered in this discussion between Richard Whittaker and Jacob Needleman from Parabola Magazine.We’ll take one section at a time beginning with Kant and then move on to Descartes.
https://parabola.org/2016/03/04/the-gre ... needleman/
Is the mind the source of what allows for human perception or is mind a lesser conscious level of an ineffable conscious source?RICHARD WHITTAKER: I thought that, since you’re a teacher of philosophy, I could ask you to talk a little about the unknown in terms of the Western philosophical tradition.
JACOB NEEDLEMAN: I should start by saying, only half-jokingly, that philosophers don’t do answers. We do questions. We deal with discovering and deepening our sense of something that is unknown. But in the spirit of your question and—as an academic thing, and in a good way—when I hear this phrase “the unknown” I think first of all of Immanuel Kant, probably the greatest modern philosopher. He defined something essential about the modern era in the Western world through an extraordinary book called The Critique of Pure Reason. This is a vast, complex work of genius; it’s like walking into a great cathedral because of the immensity of it and the depth of thought and understanding in it. To put it briefly, he argued with unsurpassed persuasive power that the structure of the mind shapes our reality; that there are categories by which the mind operates and organizes the data that comes to us through our senses. It organizes all that data automatically beneath the level of consciousness so that by the time that we actually have a perception of that flower or that object, it has already been organized by the categories through which the mind works. All our experience is shaped by passing through these modifying functions. So we can never really know things as they are independent of our perception of them. He gave two roughly similar names to this unknown. One is “things-in-themselves” and the other word is the noumenon (meaning “that which can be apprehended only by a higher power of direct knowing, which in fact we do not have”). We’re forever barred forever from knowing reality as it is in itself.. Whatever certainty about the world that we seem to have—such as the law of causality—is simply a certainty that the mind irresistibly imposes on our perception. He demonstrated this with such force and such genius, it astonished the whole intellectual world. For many people it was –and still is– a shattering realization to think that humanity is never going to know reality as it is. Some people fell into despair.
RW: I think of “the death of metaphysics” as being connected with Kant.
JN: Yes—metaphysics considered as the knowledge of reality independent of our perception, the universe as it really is. As Kant put it, metaphysics used to be the queen of the sciences and now it no longer has that status. He was trying to account for the fact that there is certainty. But it’s only the certainty that we put into the world, not certainty about the world as it is in itself. So this had a huge influence on the modern era. Many people have argued with it, but nobody has ever really overcome the influence that this man has had.
[/quote]He gave two roughly similar names to this unknown. One is “things-in-themselves” and the other word is the noumenon (meaning “that which can be apprehended only by a higher power of direct knowing, which in fact we do not have”)[/quote]
Could Man ever consciously evolve so as to experience direct knowing both in the intellect and in our feelings? Could we ever know ourselves sufficiently to know why we don’t experience direct knowing so as to be able to make it possible?