Studying Religion: More and Less than Mapping Territories (33 PAGES) – Updated July 2019

Updated July 2019

“Studying Religion: More and Less than Mapping Territories” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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 “Studying Religion:  More and Less than Mapping Territories”

Abstract

Rather than portray Religious Studies by J. Z. Smith’s metaphor of mapping territories, here the metaphor is extended to cover Kant’s description of the human condition as consisting of three regions of experience: fields (Felde), territories (Böden), and domains (Gebiete). All three regions involve clarity of conceptualization.  Fields constitute regions of experience where there is conceptualization without rules (e.g., dreams, fantasies, hallucinations), territories regions where rules are possible but not universal (e.g., civic laws), and domains regions where rules are necessary and universal (e.g., nature and creative freedom). Concerned with all three, RS is grounded in the necessary conditions of possibility for experience where there is self-legislation (because imperceptible) of rules for its understanding and action. This paper contrasts this grounding in domains with eleven territories of RS. Neither a mere perspective on life nor limited to a single region of experience, RS focuses on pure religion at the core of all historical religion.

Freedom! What’s It Good For? 17 Pages – Updated August 2019

Updated August 2019

Freedom! What is it good for? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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Freedom! What’s it good for?

In his 1979 essay “What’s wrong with Negative Liberty,”[1] Charles Taylor identifies Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts of Liberty”[2] as the archaeological heritage to which he appeals in order to engage a discussion of freedom.  However, Taylor employs Berlin’s concept of negative freedom (freedom from external interference) as the straw man for formulating an alternative notion of positive freedom to Berlin’s positive freedom.  Berlin’s positive freedom is “coercive freedom” in the sense of Rousseau’s Social Contract through which the individual subordinates her-/himself to a “higher authority” such as parents or the state in order to increase one’s, or to achieve a greater, freedom.  In contrast, Taylor’s positive freedom is not “coercive” but “purposive.”  In other words, Taylor wants to acknowledge that freedom involves not merely an alternative between radical independence and external coercion, but positive freedom is concerned with “internal” elements (the individual’s desires) that lead to our pursuing purposive ends.  For Taylor, then, Berlin’s notions of negative and positive freedom are inadequate to grasp the true character of positive freedom:  the pursuit of ends governed by our internal desires.  Because not all desires are moral, though, the desires that govern Taylor’s notion of positive freedom as “purposive” require a “second-order” reflection that invokes moral principles to govern our desires.  For Taylor, the source of these moral principles is religion.

“Religion and Morality” Presented at the University of Cape Town – 27 Feb. – 1 Mar., 2019 (7 pages; with notes 15 pages) – Updated August 2019

Updated August 2019

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Religion and Morality[1]

Abstract

If there is anyone who was not (and today would not be) surprised about a disconnect “between religion and ethics, it would be Immanuel Kant.[2] Nonetheless, the two are deeply connected: there can be no morality without particular experience in the world and the transcendental conditions of possibility for which the term religion is appropriate.

Introduction

Two inter-related questions, concerned with the origins of rational capacities and not with the consequences of decisions and actions, drive the following paper with respect to the relationship between ‘religion’ and ‘morality’:

  • Are we humans playing a zero-sum game? Are we merely on a cruise ship with finite resources only able to re-arrange the chairs on the deck according to power relationships as we head towards the iceberg?
  • … or is there any place in nature that is open-ended? Is there a species capable of acting and thinking beyond the blind processes of natural events?

On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence (9 Pages) – Updated August 2019

Updated August 2019

“On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence” by Douglas R. McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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Presented in Prof. Otfried Höffe’s
Oberseminar
12 January 2019
Tübingen

 

On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence[1]

Abstract

An examination of the claims made on behalf of “artificial intelligence” (AI) that it can and will replace human rationality.  Whereas AI has the potential to be beneficial (as the case with any product of autonomous freedom), it also has the potential to be extremely destructive.  However, the core thesis of the paper is not simply one of a critique of AI by practical reason but a rejection of the materialistic reductionism on the part of the blind defenders of AI.  Already in the 18th Century, Critical Idealism pointed out that there is far more to reason than the “hypothetical” imperatives and “culture” of technical skills.  We lose humanity when we overlook the a priori synthetic structures of theoretical and practical reason, the reflecting judgment of “aesthetics,” and “pure” religion.

Mea culpa – Anachronistic Metaphor Interference: Synthesis as nexus and compositio 28 October 2018

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Mea culpa – Anachronistic Metaphor Interference:
Synthesis as nexus and compositio
28 October 2018

The postings on https://criticalidealism.org make no claim to perfection because the limits to reason are so ubiquitous and pervasive.  Furthermore, because the postings are (and must be) reflections stimulated by Kant’s writings, they make no claim to know what Kant “really meant.”  To make such a claim would be to succumb not only to the arrogance of hermeneutical certainty denied by the very limits to reason so central to Kant’s project but also to the illusion of the intentional fallacy.

Nonetheless, it is painful to have to acknowledge that one has made the same error that one has pointed out in the writings of other interpreters:  anachronistic, metaphor interference.  This is a label for the assumption that what a metaphor means today (or at the point in time of an interpreter’s writing) is what the metaphor meant for Kant.  Jean Paul wrote in his Vorschule der Aesthetik in 1804 in Sämmtiche Werke, Vol 42 (Berlin:  S. Reimer, 1827):  24-25 that “each language is a dictionary of faded metaphors.”   Given that all language is metaphorical, not literal, it should come as no surprise that the meaning of a term for a particular author must be arrived at through careful attention to its context of usage.  However, interpreters pro and con of Kant have acceded to metaphor interference with respect to core elements in Kant’s terminology:  a few examples are autonomous freedom, Enlightenment, a priori synthetic judgment, radical evil, Anlage  and Hang, critique, Copernican Turn, subreption, Ding an sich, Noumenon and Phenomena, regulative and constitutive ideas, “pure”/rein, Anschauung, etc.

When I have discussed a priori synthetic judgment in Kant, I have frequently cited the Critique of Pure Reason (B 201*) to distinguish between synthesis as the a posteriori determination of something “in common” (e.g., a concept) to a set of phenomena from synthesis as the a priori “adding to” the phenomena of something not given directly in the phenomena.  I took the term nexus to refer to a posteriori synthesis and compositio to refer to a priori synthesis.  I should have read B 201* more carefully.

Whereas Kant most certainly made the distinction between a posteriori synthesis and a priori synthesis (see B 748, 750, 751-752), his distinction between nexus and compositio at B 201* is concerned with two kinds of a priori synthesis.

B 201* is concerned with distinguishing between a priori  “mathematical” and a priori “dynamical” synthesis.  He is talking here about a priori “combinations” (syntheses) that are either “not necessary” (mathematical) or that are “necessary” (dynamical).  Unnecessary combinations he calls “compositio,” whereas necessary combinations he calls “nexus.”

The issue here, then, is not a priori (adding to phenomena) judgments versus a posteriori (deriving from) judgments but “unnecessary” and “necessary” a priori judgments.  Mathematical judgments (formal, logical conditions) are not necessary because they are “merely” logical.  Dynamical judgments (concerned with “forces” and “change”) are necessary because they are concerned with empirical phenomena.

Compositio are a priori syntheses that are not (!) arrived at out of “necessity” (in the sense of the necessary conditions of possibility for experiencing a set of phenomena) but logically, and they can be an “aggregation” (concerned with “extensive” size) or a “coalition” (concerned with “intensive” size).  Extensive size involves amounts and multiplicity and is concerned with the representation of the parts of a perception that make possible the representation of the whole – hence, the parts precede the whole.  It is a logical procedure.  Intensive size is concerned with contents and their diversity, logical significance, and fruitfulness for understanding insofar as the contents lead to multiple and significant consequences (not quantity but quality).

Nexus are a priori syntheses that are (!) necessary as the conditions of possibility for experiencing a set of phenomena (i.e., they are not simply logical).  Kant uses the examples of “substance and its accidents” and “cause and effect.”  These elements are not equivalent but are “connected” a priori.  Because they are not arbitrary or capricious, Kant calls them “dynamic” (concerned with “forces” and “change”).

My “metaphorical interference” was to take compositio to mean a priori “construction/adding to” the phenomena and to take nexus to mean a posteriori “discovery of a unity in the phenomena.”  However, for Kant both forms of synthesis are a priori and refer to two kinds of a priori synthesis:  “unnecessary” (i.e., logical), mathematical judgments (compositio) and “necessary” (i.e., required to understand phenomena), dynamical judgments (nexus).

In addition to the Critique of Pure Reason, we find Kant’s distinction between a priori and a posteriori synthetic judgment in the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics § 22:

“[…] uniting in a consciousness is either analytic by identity [e.g., arrived at a posteriori], or synthetic by the combination and addition of various representations one to another [e.g., added a priori].  Experience consists in the synthetic connection of appearances (perceptions) in consciousness, so far as this connection is necessary.  Hence the pure concepts of the understanding [which are the necessary condition for a priori synthetic judgments] are those under which all perceptions must first be subsumed before they can serve for judgments of experience in which the synthetic unity of the perceptions is represented as necessary and universally valid.”

Here Kant adds a footnote:

“But how does the proposition that judgments of experience contain necessity [emphasis added] in the synthesis of perceptions agree with my statement [… made so often before] that experience, as cognition a posteriori, can [… give us] only contingent [not necessary] judgments?  When I say that experience teaches me something, I mean only the perception that lies in experience—for example, that heat always follows the shining of the sun on a stone; consequently, the proposition of experience is always so far contingent [emphasis added].  That this heat necessarily [emphasis added] follows the shining of the sun is contained indeed in the judgment of experience (by means of the concept of cause [emphasis added]), yet is a fact not learned by experience [emphasis added]; for, conversely, experience is first of all generated by this addition of the concept of the understanding (of cause) to perception [emphasis added].”

“Desiderata 2018” – 5 Pages

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Desiderata 2018

The page is blank. It turns into a “text” because there is an “animal” capable of “seeing” more than just a blank page. The page is a metaphor for a life, and this “animal’s” capacity to generate a “text” is what makes all the difference …

What follows seeks to unpack this difference in a way that enables the reader to grasp its transforming power as far more than the blind causality that, like leavening yeast, changes flour and water into a loaf of bread. This difference involves more, though, then just the individual because, as a communal project, it is grounded in dignity from which springs not the self- and social-destruction of mere self-promotion and material aggrandizement but the elevating joy of responsible creativity that improves us all. Make no mistake: The duty that accompanies dignity is no depressing weight that crushes the enjoyment of life but a call to do one’s best despite the inescapable and ineradicable limits that biology places upon us. It is precisely our imperceptible limits that make it possible for us to stretch the perceptible limits of the physical world. When we do so with a sense of insight and responsibility, we not only draw on the thrill of creativity but also commit ourselves to what makes our efforts truly worthwhile: the preservation of the material conditions of life as we creatively transform what are only merely apparent, perceptible limits of the material world.

God is Necessary to be Good (10 pages) – Updated July 2019

Updated July 2019

“God is Necessary to be Good” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

With Index to Footnote Themes

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Oxford Symposium on Religious Studies
Ioannou Centre
Oxford, UK
August 2, 2018

God is Necessary to be Good!

Abstract

This paper proposes that, although one best avoid invoking an anthropomorphic deity, belief in God is, nonetheless, a necessary assumption for the exercising of humanity’s moral capacity.  This invokes the notion of the “good,” which will be parsed according to an amoral, a categorical, and a hypothetical good that grounds (or is necessary for) autonomous freedom’s ability to intentionally initiate sequences of events that, otherwise, nature on its own cannot accomplish, which, in turn, makes moral effort possible.  Denial of this set of themes is, of course, conceivable, but methodological skepticism’s Copernican Turn points out that such scoffing amounts to misanthropy.

Reason Suppresses Feelings? Or Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques (20 Pages) – Updated August 2019

Updated August 2019

Reason Suppresses Feelings? Or Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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Originally Presented at Stellenbosch University
in Stellenbosch, South Africa,
24 April 2017
Revised 27 June 2018

 

Reason Suppresses Feelings?[1]
Or
Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques

Abstract.: A common claim is that the proper functioning of reason requires the suppression of feelings because feelings are a debilitating, merely subjective pathology that cloud and/or distort clear thinking. Frequently, as well, it is claimed that Enlightenment reason’s suppression of feelings is exemplified by Kant. This paper proposes to the contrary that a more appropriate understanding of the role of feelings (not emotions, generally) for Kant’s Critical Idealism, rather than being a pathological hindrance to reason, as well as an understanding of the centrality of the third Critique is served by examining Section VII of Mendelssohn’s Morning Hours – Lectures on the Existence of God. The feelings of awe and respect are positive and ubiquitous to theoretical and practical reason as they, not by their content but by their function, motivate creativity and the assumption of moral accountability for the decisions driving, and the actions deriving from, such creativity.