Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Highest Objective Harmony and Practical Reason

   In a previous post I considered different types of contradiction, and hoped to elaborate on one of these that was potentially more obscure: practical contradiction.  Practical contradiction depended upon the goal of a highest objective harmony, the idea of which I will elaborate in order to hopefully reveal some new considerations of practical reason.
   The possibility of the conformity of all objective employment of reason (its employment concerning objects), both in the understanding of nature, and in its application to action, is the possibility of the highest objective harmony (coherence).  There is no need for us to worry that nature will not be in conformity with itself, since it must follow certain laws necessarily.  However, concerning actions as bringing about states of affairs (as objective), we are guaranteed nothing of such a harmony save for the possibility (at least in thought) of such a harmony.
   The complete objective harmony of the practical employment of reason concerns objective states of affairs as brought about by action in a manner as consistent as nature's own laws.  This concerns all possible actors, which means that this concern with objective states of affairs also places a demand on subjects universally (so far as we think this highest objective harmony).  Any act which disrupts this objective harmony is called a practical contradiction.
   If all subjects cannot perform the same act (in the same context) then it is not compatible with a rule, and so contradicts the highest objective harmony, since such a harmony concerns the complete regularity in the production of objective states of affairs according to rules, and so demands a uniformity resulting from the laws of freedom that is comparable to the results of laws of nature. 
   When we experience duty (feel that we are called to perform or omit an action), we do not experience it as optional.  This necessary character of duty postulates our freedom, but also a regularity of this freedom as governed by laws which would make a necessary demand.  The connection of freedom with necessary duties is by means of a principle of practical contradiction which is given in a formula as the demand for objective harmony. This can be seen as another formula of the Categorical Imperative.  (There can really be an indefinite number of such formulas, since each has merely to express the sort of necessity we find in duty in a general and universal manner.)  The objective harmony can be used to illustrate the meaning of contradiction in Kant's Categorical Imperatives. I will consider this with respect to Kant's discussion of a lying promise.
   A lying promise, as Kant explains, produces a (practical) contradiction when applied to the Categorical Imperative.  Under the Categorical Imperative (law of nature formulation), a promise would always be cognized immediately with the knowledge of its not being meant, and so not as a promise, making the act of promising impossible.  We can understand the sort of contradiction which Kant has in mind more clearly in relation to the highest objective harmony, since there we considered a demand of reason concerning the maximum of regularity in all objective cognitions.
   This objective harmony may be something of a linchpin between theoretical and practical reason, and suggests that pure practical reason only emerges from a combination of theoretical reason with something else which is called on to conform to the same regularity as natural law.  Perhaps this can help give direction for the connection of the faculties which cognize ends (purposes) with theoretical reason, and which result then in the production of a pure practical reason in their combination through a synthesis of objective harmony.

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