Thursday, February 11, 2010

Existence of God in the Age of Reason

While Kant said that reason can not be used to study metaphysics, in practice there is in man's consciousness and unconditional moral obligation that only makes sense if belief in God, freedom and immortality are postulated. This is Kant's famous "CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE". It says that the feeling of "thou shalt" or 'thou shalt not" whatever the consequences requires:

  1. A God who is entitled to command. Of course this may be an inner voice, like a 'wee small voice', or the 'collective unconscious' but ultimately it remains a 'moral' 'dictate'. Kant sees this experience as intrinsic to human nature and that the experience of command implies a commander as such.
  2. Further he says that 'thou shalt' can only be said where 'thou canst' can also be said thereby implying 'freedom'. Morality as such says that I have the experience of 'freedom'. Even if I am a puppet actor in a play and my thoughts follow the actions of the play which is pre determined, my experience is of freedom since I 'feel' choice , in that I feel I 'must' make one decision or the other. This clearly is a matter of the 'MIND' which is as different from the brain as a rider is from the horse. Whether the rider is leading or the horse is however may be a matter of faith. The question of whether I am God or I am not God is an arbitrary decision for some but this is addressed specifically by the theologian Schlelermacher who knew and studied Kant.
  3. Kant further says that the moral perfection that man feels obliged to seek cannot be found within the bounds of life so this implies what he calls an after life or at least another life. Plato was more for parallel existence and of course 'language' limits the expression of the experience. The native sense of afterlife and parallel is among us and certainly in dream we are within and without or transcendent or imminent. It's just that the very notion of perfection is to Kant not of a clearly "imperfect' world. The engineer knows this well in his 'tolerances' and 'approximations' of measurement. Perfection is a matter of mind and again it becomes a question of rider and horse and the relationship. St. Francis called his ride or body 'brother ass' . The universe we expeience is parallel in this sense and certainly the dualism of Descartes carries into the limits of the experiment as Heisenberg clearly showed that the experimenter affects the experiment. Mind impacts on brain while brain may no doubt set limits on the mind.

Romanticism is contrasted with Rationalism in that the universe to the romantic is a work of art and not a machine. Shleiermacher, the great theologian of Kant's day found that the starting point of religion is man's feeling of absolute dependence. I find this interesting because it essential says that the experience of God is directly proportional to one's humility. Humus or pride goes before a fall. Pride is to such a large extent fear driven. Yet I know my limits. I can't take back these wrinkles or levitate today and I can't do so many things I can 'imagine'. Despite my best prayers I can't restore the limb of the amputee, yet. I can imagine a world in which what I think occurs but in this world I am limited. I lack God like powers. I simply can't leap over tall buildings. In fact I'm hardly leaping any more at all. Pouncing maybe but not really leaping. And yet there's this creation I'm apart of. Perhaps some unknown part of my self creates this creation or the collective activity of our collective consciousness makes this creation but it's not me. I'm decidedly humble in relation to the world. Being in nature facing seas and winds and watching my life in general go different from what I intended, not that that was bad, but it's all taught me clearly that I'm not God. Not me. Wrong guy. If an alien arrived today and said show me to your leader I would gladly take him 'there' because he or she or it wouldn't be 'here'. I'm not the leader. I may think I am but I'm not.

Shleiermacher says that "God is given to us in feeling in an original way; and if we speak of an original revelation of God to man or in man , the meaning will always be just this, that along with the absolute dependence which characterizes not only man but all temporal existence, there is given to man also the immediate self consciousness of it, which becomes a consciousness of God."

It think that's brilliant. Schleiermacher gets an A in my book because as I contemplate my humility God grows in my consciousness. Certainly that's the experience of meditation.


It strikes me that 'lack' of 'belief' in God, a higher power, an over self, a creator or the other, or the mystery is quite 'irrational' . It's imminently sane to be a theist and even without Pascal's wager, somewhat insane to be an aetheist. I say this because the conventional aetheists I've talked have been desperately intent on their own 'saniety' while very clearly questioning mine, criticizing my belief and insisting that they are a priori right . While I respect that by the limitations of this reality I can't truly "know" , for 'yea but now we see through a glass darkly' I am bullied by their insistence that they do 'know'. As I've grown older and more experienced I have become more suspicious of anyone who insists they are right because that is by definition 'arrogance'. As a scientist I have a 'hypothesis' which I'll naturally argue and yet if I become emotionally invested in it, more often than not I'm really arguing the 'business' or 'politics' of science and have long left the 'truth' of the matter.

That said, I think I'm right in saying I think Kant and Schleiermacher are right and probably God is too.

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