“Freilich fand es sich, dass, ob wir zwar einen Turm im Sinne hatten, der bis an den Himmel reichen sollte, der Vorrat der Materialien doch nur zu einem Wohnhause zureichte, welches zu unserem Geschäften auf der Ebene der Erfahrung gerade geraümig und hoch genug war, sie zu übersehen; dass aber jene kühne Unternehmung aus Mangel an Stoff fehlschlagen musste, ohne einmal auf die Sprachverwirrung zu rechnen, welche die Arbeiter über den Plan unvermeidlich entzweien, und sie in alle Welt zerstreuen musste, um sich, ein jeder nach seinem Entwurfe, besonders anzubauen. Jetzt ist es uns nicht sowohl um die Materialien, als vielmehr um den Plan zu tun, und, indem wir gewarnet sind, es nicht auf einem beliebigen blinden Entwurf, der vielleicht unser gänzes Vermögen übersteigen köntte, zu wagen, gleichwohl doch von der Errichtung eines festen Wohnsitzes nicht wohl abstehen können, dem Anschlag zu einem Gebaüde in Verhältnis auf den Vorrat, der uns gegeben und zugleich unserem Bedürfnis angemessen ist, zu machen.” Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, Reclam, 1966, p. 726.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, somewhere in April 2008. This will probably always be my all-time favourite quote and the rest of this really is rather irrelevant, in perspective. This is the origin of Quadrialectics.]
(semi-official English internet translation: “We have found, indeed, that although we had contemplated building a tower which should reach to the heavens, the supply of materials suffices only for a dwelling-house, just sufficiently commodious for our business on the level of experience, and just sufficiently high to allow our overlooking it. The bold undertaking that we had designed is thus bound to fail through lack of material – not to mention the babel of tongues, which inevitably gives rise to disputes among the workers in regard to the plan to be followed, and which must end by scattering them all over the world, leaving each to erect a separate building for himself, according to his own design. At present, however, we are concerned not so much with the materials as with the plan; and inasmuch as we have been warned not to venture at random upon a blind project which may alltogether beyond our capacities, and yet cannot well abstain from building a secure home for ourselves, we must plan our building in conformity with the material which is given to us, and which is also at the same time appropriate to our needs.”)
He may not have been a poet but he nevertheless produced via the above a sublime poetic truth.
It’s much like my history teacher (the forever unknown Jef Arras) told me twenty years before I mustered the courage to read, happily unguided as ever, this rather annoying but great book: there is a philosophy before Kant and another one after him – and only the latter is of real significance.
[I wrote this before reading Hume and I apologize for it, but only to Hume and to Montaigne (in a way). But, see next sentence, if progress requires 2 points, I may be able to be forgiven (in another way).]
Immanuel shifted philosophy into proper scientific progress. It took some time for it to be widely felt. The truth is that many still today (more about that later) dive head first into a concrete wall of trying to explain everything, and, more specifically, everything at once. The sad truth is that the big pockets of tower-building megalomania are found in scientists blabbering out haphazard ‘philosophical’ truths and getting them into playing yes/no games with the most profound stupidities of organized religion.
But let’s be positive.
Since Kant philosophy is no longer polemic and merely rhetoric but a place where people can cooperate (for instance using the art of both polemic and rhetoric). Although he does not finally get to stating it outright, the spirit introduced is the spirit that more than a century later was explicitly put in words by Carnap: philosophy not as a means to get the final word but as a means to allow a community of builders to erect a workable community where at least what is said can be clearly understood. A search, if you will, for how a first word could ever be uttered as well as understood in the way it had been intended to be understood (& so to the by now not yet classical enough: & so forth & so on).
What then should be our plan?
For sure not the plan Kant was thinking of or at least not in the specific way he was thinking of it. The plan is unwinding literally, to the extent that only the process, the form of a plan, remains. Philosophy is no longer a place to make those big substantive claims about this, that or even the other. What remains is slight at best for those in need of fast mental food – but this lack, if lack it is, is made up big time by the universality of what is still claimed as to the due process of our reasoning (and consequently of our moral living). How we progress in philosophy is how we progress in everyday life – if we are to progress at all, but that’s the subject of many other quoughts.
[The thesis referred to next is linked to somewhere on this site. Look for it yourself because I’m too lazy to link to it again here.]
Let me self-indulgently quote from my – probably forever unknown – thesis: “Commonsense Reasoning: Do Humans Think?”. More specifically the passage directly following the Kantian quote of today’s quought: “The debates within the cognitive sciences pretty much feel the same way the Scholastic debates must have felt to I. Kant. Divisions inspired by strong principles alongside substantial fragmentation on very specific matters. Specifically with reference to so called ‘higher’ cognition one finds rather heated debates between a more rationalist point of view and a more empiricist view. My, maybe somewhat overambitious, contention is that by and large the analogy holds. The divisions and debates referred to above mask a more profound issue similar to the one Kant dealt with. This common source consists in the shared view that the mind should be able to mirror, in principle, the external human behaviour of reasoning. In other words, the brain is a minature computer of sorts on which all overt reasoning can be implemented and the brain is, as well, the source of the mind.In the terms of the quote above, I hold that these views ‘are bound to fail by lack of material’, in the brain. There is more to the social practice of reasoning than can be accounted for by the mere operation of the brain. At the same time there is more to the operation of the brain than can be functionally accounted for using the basic terminology of pure reason.”
With this I at least achieved this: I was quoted somewhere 😉
[Whilst writing this I was listening to This Mortal Coil.]