Thursday, January 9, 2014

Phenomenological Interpretation of Reason's Striving for Completeness

When reading Kant, it may occur to the reader to consider how Kant experienced reason's striving for completeness.  A more general treatment of reason's striving will involve discussing the ideas, and how these ideas relate to the three syllogistic figures.  However, what we are looking for is something that any reader of Kant can turn to themselves in order to experience that striving, and find the resources of developing Kant's own insight for themselves; we are looking for what we encounter in experience that Kant clarifies by discourse of the ideas and syllogisms.
The striving of reason concerns, ultimately, the coherence of things where incoherence will mean the impossibility of the attainment of our nature as knowers and agents generally.  Kant discusses how we want a complete system of nature as knowledge, and a resolution to our desire for happiness in relation to our virtue, and both of these are products we seek - but we don't originally feel our need for these it seems.  I will directly answer what the striving of reason looked like for Kant, and then discuss it.
For practical reason, the experience of hope is the product of the striving of reason, while for theoretical reason, it is the experience of learning.  Hope in God fulfills the human struggle for perfection, while learning is the clear advance of the human towards knowledge of a systematic kind.  However, the parts of our experience that directly show the working of the striving of reasons do not necessarily contribute to the differentiation of that activity from the striving of reason, and some other experience will be needful in the discovery of reason's operation.  We will need to consider despair for practical reason, and indeterminacy for theoretical reason.  These are practically (if not) the opposite of hope and learning, and these consist in a break down in reason's striving - something we have encountered that throws 'completeness' into question.
When we are in despair, we may express it as a loss of meaning or value of life; in relation to hope, in Kant, it will relate to a doubt in the existence of God.  If we can never be fulfilled, then we somehow no longer make sense to ourselves, and life seems a burden.  This anguish is the striving of reason, and the grounds for confirming once more a belief (not knowledge) in what brings possibility to our highest fulfillment.  This sort of despair seems to break out at one time or another in life.
For theoretical reason, it seems that some subtlety is required to discover the like of the Anitinomies, but more simply, and as a first step, we can refer to the experience of being wrong.  In Plato's Meno, Socrates shows that the slave boy already knows geometry, but this is not the point entirely.  Once the boy errs, Socrates points out that now that the boy has discovered his error he will want to know the truth (and that he will be better off for having learned his ignorance).  This shows the striving of reason through our impulse to heal what has ceased to make sense to us.  The discourse Diotima gives Socrates on love as lacking and striving seems also to relate to this.  In Kant, we are not confronted with errors of an accidental kind, but of errors that are lurking in the structure of experience itself.
When there is a debate over there being a smallest particle or not (a priori) we seem to find equally strong reasons to support each side.  This could lead to a general dispair of reason.  We cannot imagine an appearance of something with any size without dimension, and so always divisible in thought, and this both affirms the divisibility of the appearance and the necessity of the spaciality of appearances at once.  The indeterminacy we are lead to here has led to drawn out debates, and even pretended solutions (through calculus, for example, which already changes the nature of the object; or by using the current standard of empirical science, which certainly wouldn't be to settle the matter a priori).  The tail spit that we discover in these aporias is significant in how it shows our natural interest in coherence, and so the striving of reason directly given in our anxiety.
From these moments in experience we can see how Kant would see how even though we are in a situation not to know, it is a perennial concern to try to find out anyway.  The natural disposition to Metaphysics seems to be the result of the striving of reason for completeness along with our own falling into despair, error and aporia, and the anxiety we encounter here exerts all our resources to their limit and still leaves the problems unresolved: despair can always break out again, we will find people who have resolved their theoretical speculations in an different way than us.

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