Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Understanding Destiny Transcendentally

   I have been inquiring into 'destiny' as part of a general study of 'problematic' concepts and how they are grounded in the human experience in such a way that can provide insight into the human condition, as well as works of thought in the history of philosophy.  The result is an understanding how we are destined transcendentally.  These reflections should serve as a starting point rather than an end.  In order to understand our transcendental destiny it will be good to start with a more familiar picture of destiny.
   Where there is destiny there is a story wherein something or someone is destined.  The nature of the destined is such that it is established towards something.  Sometimes things are at the end of their destiny, and the story surrounding the thing is arranged by the destiny; other times the destiny is still to be fulfilled and stretches forward arranging and canceling possibilities.
   Destiny does not mean that something will happen according to mere mechanism, but rather according to a purpose or plan; such purposes or plans are thought on analogy with something willed by an intelligence.  (This is mentioned not to say that we must grant ourselves knowledge of some intelligence that is determining destiny, but simply to characterize the way we think destiny.)  When I meet my beloved, it may feel like some being intended for this to happen; when things are shaping up poorly I may wonder if it was planned that the difficulties would emerge at precisely the decisive moment.  
   We may feel like we are being rewarded, or punished by destiny, or even that we no longer have a destiny (that we are abandoned by the gods).  But no matter what specific case of being destined, we can be sure that there is also a pure mechanism that accounts for the entire sequence of appearances, and so the destiny is not necessary for the occurrence of the events that we feel are destined.  But we may still ask what it would be for a destiny to be necessary, and from that take a view to what things may count as such a destiny.
   For a destiny to be necessary it is not enough to just say that the destiny corresponds with whatever happens in nature mechanically.  Instead, what is destined must be thought apart from the mechanism of nature.  This is why any destiny in nature is also not necessary, since it always can defer to mechanism.  This tells us that in order for a destiny to be necessary, it cannot refer to beings as natural (where nature is understood as the Kantian 'sum total of appearances').  But what can be said to happen outside of nature that is purposive?
   Kant's aesthetic and moral judgments appear to be instances where destiny is at work transcendentally.  With the aesthetic judgment (judgment of taste) we find ourselves with the purpose of thinking a specific yet undetermined thing under a concept; with the moral judgment we are commanded to act in a certain specified way, but the command is given by us, and we are revealed as free.  Destiny in the case of the judgment of taste is the reflection off of the satisfaction in an object which at the same time makes us into thinking beings; destiny in the moral judgment is the reflection off of the moral law which at the same time reveals us as free and self-governing.
   There is a peculiarity of the aesthetic and moral judgments which defy the common view of destiny which makes man appear insignificant and only playing a role set out for them.  With the aesthetic and moral judgment, the human being is first free - free to act in relation to things according to his nature as an intellect, and as an agent.  (Perhaps it is only because the human is transcendentally destined to be free that these weighty elements of our life stories can weigh on us as they do and usurp destiny transcendentally understood.)
   We can also consider Heidegger's question concerning the essence of technology.  What is destining us to order beings in terms of standing reserve?  Well, this destiny is not necessary for us transcendentally speaking - we came into our technological 'frame' only at a certain point in history - but we can understand how a certain blindness to the limitations our 'frame' puts on the world ultimately has a restriction on the way in which we come into contexts with things, and are fated to operate in certain modes with them.  How can we best understand our capacity to conceal the nature of things?

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