“Das blosse, aber empirisch bestimmte, Bewusstsein meiner eigenen Daseins beweiset das Dasein der Gegenstände im Raum ausser mir.”
I. Kant, Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, Reklam, 1966, p. 304.
[Amateuristic English translation (an official one won’t be hard to find): “The mere, but empirically determined, awareness of my own existence proves the existence of things in the space outside of me.”]
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 22-09-2009. Short and, maybe even, sweet.]
It is a bit of a coincidence I found this back. I didn’t even mark the page when I first read it. But it’s timely. Now I am finally developing a taste for a severe form of skepticism, I need the strongest of antidotes in order not to lose myself (and maybe one or two readers) in mysticism, or, & worse, relativism.
(The reason, by the way, that I didn’t mark the page is because my younger me did not appreciate yet that everything else comes first and only then comes your self. It is not one of the instincts in the young to relativize; let alone to relativize one’s self. I have to be honest here, and add to this rather poetical reason this prosaic matter of fact: I don’t buy the proof the great man gives of this theorem. I simply don’t see a sustainable sense in all this time-space stuff. It is a naïve physicalism that got ad nauseam repetition in the 20th century.)
So with this ‘between brackets’ out of the way let me try to link the truth of the statement with a more proper basis for it. A basis that leaves much more room for scepticism and the like than an overly realist physical interpretation of the above. In a sense it is a closure of some sort to what I have written here to date. It’s a closure of the type which fixes one point for sure and thereby leaves the rest of the field as open as possible, as open as I intuitively think it is (and not just ‘is’ but ‘has to be’, precisely because of the point that is fixed).
It is as remarked of Carnap here before (click the tag ‘Carnap’, then take the one entry that has been written before this entry): in order to have a psychology of self, one is to start with the psychology of others (yes!, behaviorism and all that). Where I don’t know about time and space, and all of those other handy notions for the analytically minded, I do know it is simply inconceivable to talk of my self without first witnessing, and witnessing the talking, of others’ selves who are definitely not myself.
More extremely: it is inconceivable to imagine talking without first witnessing someone else talking to yet another someone else (even if the latter someone else, on reflection, turns out to be yourself). Let me venture this: the existence of others (implying other things, by a very flexible standard of thing-ness) is a synthetic a priori, whether analytically minded dominant cultures like it or not (the basis of purely rational systems of thought are indeed necessarily arbitrary or, with another word, mystical).
So that is my programme:
- find a reason to deprogram the many religious and the increasing number of quasi-religious systems of convictions about lots of minute [moralizing] details and replace it with fuzzy but absolutely certain foundations;
- then establish on this foundation a morality that only assumes that it is good to try to firm up the universality and extent of that foundation (hence Habermas for instance; hence, Darwinian treatment of ideas with open-ended evolution); and;
- finally, allow life to be lived, in matters of flesh as well as in matters of thought.
Live life freely, only constrained by the integrity, physical as well as mental, of others (and consequently of ourselves). Hence Bergson’s spirit and an Humean moral relativism with solid unshakeable foundations.
[originally I ended with: ‘If I only had the time to treat of it all without having to hurry and blabber and quite probably making an utter fool of myself in some isolated statements ;-(‘ but I think now this was being excessively hard on myself because it is the shortest attempt at being complete on the basis of my thought.]
[Whilst writing this I was listening to Cosey Fanni Tutti, Time To Tell]