Rational Anthropology and Radical Enlightenment, #2–The Starry Heavens Above Us, The Moral Law Within Us, and The Oppressive State Around Us: Two Dignitarian Arguments.

By Robert Hanna

“Rage, the Flower Thrower/Love in in the Air,” by Banksy (Bethlehem, 2005)

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You can also download and read or share a .pdf of the complete text of this essay, including the BIBLIOGRAPHY, HERE.

The BIBLIOGRAPHY also appears in this second installment.

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Our age is the genuine age of criticism, to which everything must submit. Religion through its holiness, and legislation through its majesty commonly seek to exempt themselves from it. But in this way they excite a just suspicion against themselves, and cannot lay claim that unfeigned respect that reason grants only to that which has been able to withstand its free and public examination. (Kant, 1781/1787, CPR Axi n., boldfaced emphasis in the original)

Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from their own self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another. This immaturity is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own understanding! is thus the motto of Enlightenment. (Kant, 1784, WIE 8: 35, boldfaced emphasis in the original, translation modified slightly)

When nature has unwrapped, from under this hard shell [of the “crooked timber of humanity” (Kant, 1784, IUH 8: 23)], the seed for which she cares most tenderly, namely the propensity and calling to think freely, the latter gradually works back upon the mentality of the people (which thereby gradually becomes capable of freedom in acting) and eventually even upon the principles of government, which finds it profitable to itself to treat the human being, who is now more than a machine, in keeping with their dignity. (Kant, 1784, WIE 8: 41–42, boldfaced emphasis in the original, translation modified slightly)

That kings should philosophize or philosophers become kings is not to be expected, but is also not to be wished for, since possession of power unavoidably corrupts the free judgment of reason. (Kant, 1795, TPP 8: 369)

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Rational Anthropology and Radical Enlightenment, #2–The Starry Heavens Above Us, The Moral Law Within Us, and The Oppressive State All Around Us: Two Dignitarian Arguments.

Now, here’s an explicit 12-step argument for what I’ll call the thesis of cosmic dignitarianism:

The all-inclusive natural or physical universe, aka, the cosmos, together with its proto-dignity, is the metaphysical ground of all rational human animals, especially including our consciousness, our free agency, and our dignity.

This argument fuses (i) the basic line of argument in the Transcendental Aesthetic of the first Critique (Hanna, 2006: section 6.1, 2014: lecture 3) with (ii) a Kantian aesthetics of the beautiful and the sublime, insofar as we experience them in the natural environment, as presented in the third Critique, the Critique of the Power of Judgment, and also (iii) a Kantian self-evident phenomenology of our experience of “reverence” (Ehrfurcht) for the manifestly real cosmos and for our rational human animal nature, especially including our consciousness, our free agency, and our dignity, at the very end of the second Critique:

[T]wo things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and reverence (Ehrfurcht), the more often and more steadily one reflects on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I do not need to search for them and merely conjecture them as though they were veiled in obscurity or in the transcendent region beyond my horizon; I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence. (Kant, 1788, CPrR 5: 161–162)

1. According to rational anthropology’s metaphysical doctrine of weak transcendental idealism, (1a) necessarily, the basic metaphysical and ontological structures of the manifestly real world conform to the basic innate structures of our rational human cognitive and practical capacities, especially including our sensible capacities for first-order consciousness, affect or emotion (including desire, feeling, and passion), sense-perception, memory, and imagination, and also our discursive capacities for conceptualization, thinking, self-consciousness, and rationality, (1b) necessarily, if the manifestly real world exists, then if sensible, discursive, conscious, and self-conscious rational human cognizers were to exist, they would be able to cognize that world veridically to some salient extent, which in turn is fully consistent with sensible, discursive, conscious, and self-conscious rational human cognizers not actually existing at any given time, and (1c) the existence of the manifestly real world necessitates the real possibility of sensible, discursive, conscious, and self-conscious rational human cognizers, but not their actual existence at any given time (Hanna, 2015: section 7.3, 2022b: section 4.4).

2. Given the truth of weak transcendental idealism, then we can take fully seriously the essentially non-conceptual conscious evidence provided by our aesthetic experience of beauty in the cosmos, as veridically tracking natural purposive form, without a purpose, in a way that is inherently disinterested and therefore divorced from all possible self-interest (Kant, 1790, CPJ 5: 204–211).

3. In short, our aesthetic experience of beauty in the cosmos shows us that the cosmos cannot be and ought not to be regarded or treated purely instrumentally, that is, merely as a means or as a mere thing, and thereby exploited.

4. Given the truth of weak transcendental idealism, and our aesthetic experience of beauty in the cosmos, then we can also take fully seriously the reverential experience of what Kant calls “the mathematically sublime in nature” (Kant, 1790, CPJ 5: 248–260), for example, “the starry heavens above me.”

5. To make this kind of reverential experience phenomenologically vivid to yourself, either stand outside on a clear, moonless night at 2:00 am in a place without too many nearby lights and then look straight up; or perhaps contemplate, for example, Van Gogh’s 1889 masterpiece painting, “The Starry Night”:

6. Now since, according to Kant, by means of the human aesthetic experience of the mathematically sublime in nature, the cosmos is thereby represented as having a specific character and normative value that is expressible only as a transfinite or non-denumerably infinite quantity, it follows that the specific character and normative value of the cosmos cannot reduced to any denumerable quantity, no matter how great (Kant, 1790, CPJ 5: 244–260).

7. Hence the cosmos, aesthetically experienced by us as mathematically sublime, cannot have a “market price” and is thereby aesthetically experienced by us as beyond price, or priceless, since all “market prices,” or exchangeable economic values (say, monetary values) “related to general human interests and needs” (Kant, 1785, GMM 4: 434), are expressible only as denumerable (natural number or rational number) quantities, even infinite ones.

8. Otherwise put, the specific character and normative value of the cosmos, aesthetically experienced by us as mathematically sublime, inherently transcends any economic or otherwise strictly instrumental calculus.

9. Steps 1 to 8 jointly entail what I call the proto-dignity of the cosmos: so more precisely, what do I mean by that?

10. Human dignity is the absolute, non-denumerably infinite, intrinsic, objective value of human real persons, i.e., rational human animals (Hanna, 2018b: chs. 7–8, 2018c, 2021c, 2022b: ch. 5); now the cosmos isn’t itself a real person, and more specifically it isn’t itself a human real person, and therefore it doesn’t have human dignity per se, since human dignity per se attaches inherently only to human real persons or rational human animals: nevertheless, the cosmos, reverentially aesthetically experienced by us as beautiful and sublime, inherently cannot be (without eco-disaster) and inherently ought not to be (without moral scandal) exploited, merely bought or sold, or otherwise treated as a mere capitalist resource or commodity (aka “commodified”).

11. Moreover, our rational human animal nature and our human real personhood, including our human dignity, itself necessarily belongs to the cosmos.

12. Therefore, weak transcendental idealism, plus the self-evident phenomenology of our reverential aesthetic experience of beauty/sublimity in the cosmos, (“the starry heavens above me”), plus our equally reverential aesthetico-moral experience of respect for human dignity (“the moral law within me”), conjointly prove that the cosmos, together with its proto-dignity, is the metaphysical ground of all human real persons, i.e., rational human animals, especially including our consciousness, our free agency, and our dignity: that is, cosmic dignitarianism is true.

Then, to go along with the argument for cosmic dignitarianism, here’s an equally explicit 10-step line of moral and sociopolitical reasoning that I’ll call the argument for dignitarian anarchism.

1. Let’s adopt, as basic moral principles, by means of which we can judge the permissibility or impermissibility of any human choice, action, practical policy, or other practical principle, the set of broadly Kantian dignitarian moral principles, focused on our strictly universal obligation to treat all people everywhere with sufficient respect for their human dignity — i.e., the absolute, non-denumerably infinite, intrinsic, objective value of human real persons or rational human animals (Hanna, 2018b: esp. chs. 2, 7–8, 2018c, 2021c, 2022b: ch. 5) — which collectively entail never treating people as mere means or mere things, and always treating them with kindness, i.e., with active attentiveness to making it really possible for people to satisfy what Michelle Maiese and I have called true human needs (Maiese and Hanna, 2019: esp. ch. 3).

2. Precisely insofar as it’s morally impermissible for individual human persons or ordinary groups of people to issue authoritarian commands other people and coerce them to obey those authoritarian commands as a duty, then by the same token, it must also be morally impermissible for special groups of people inside States or any other State-like institutions, aka governments, to issue authoritarian commands to other people and coerce them to obey those commands as a duty.

3. Therefore, precisely insofar as it’s morally impermissible for individual human persons or ordinary groups of people to issue authoritarian commands to other people and coerce them to obey those authoritarian commands as a duty, then, even if governments have the power to issue authoritarian commands to other people and coerce them to obey those authoritarian commands as a duty, nevertheless governments do not have the moral right to issue authoritarian commands to other people and coerce them to obey those authoritarian commands as a duty.

4. But all actual and possible governments claim political authority in precisely this sense.

5. Therefore, there’s no adequate rational or moral justification for political authority, States, or other State-like institutions.

Or in one long sentence, summing up steps 1–5: Because there’s no adequate rational or moral justification, according to the set of broadly Kantian dignitarian moral principles, for any individual human person, or any ordinary group of people, to issue authoritarian commands to other people and coerce them to obey those authoritarian commands as a duty, yet the very idea of political authority entails that special groups of people within States or State-like institutions, namely governments, have not only the power to coerce, but also the right to issue authoritarian commands to other people and to coerce them to obey those authoritarian commands as a duty, then it follows that there is no adequate rational or moral justification for political authority, States, or any other State-like institutions.

6. As per step 1 above, all human real persons, i.e., rational human animals, aka people, are: (6a) absolutely, non-denumerably infinitely, intrinsically, objectively valuable, beyond all possible economics, which means they have dignity, (6b) autonomous animals, which means they can act freely for good reasons, and above all, (6c) morally obligated sufficiently to respect each other and always to be actively concerned for each other’s well-being and happiness, aka kindness, as well as their own well-being and happiness (Hanna, 2018b: esp. chs. 2, 7–8, 2018c, 2021c, 2022b: ch. 5).

7. Therefore, it’s rationally unjustified and immoral to undermine or violate people’s dignity, under any circumstances, and, more positively we must always choose and act in such a way as sufficiently to respect the human dignity of all real human persons, i.e., rational human animals, everywhere, and always treat them with kindness.

8. But, since the time of the Mesopotamian potentates, Egyptian pharaohs, and pre-Socratic tyrants, humanly-created States and other State-like institutions have explicitly claimed to possess political authority, and then have proceeded to use the power to coerce, especially the power of primary coercion, frequently of the most awful, cruel, and monstrous kinds, thereby repressing, detaining, imprisoning, enslaving, torturing, starving, maiming, or killing literally billions of people, in order to secure their acceptance of these authoritarian claims. Even allowing for all the other moral and natural evils that afflict humankind, it seems very likely that there has never been a single greater cause of evil, misery, suffering, and death in the history of the world than the coercive authoritarianism of States and other State-like institutions.

9. Now, imagine a world without States or other State-like institutions, in which all the members of humanity freely form various sufficiently-dignity-respecting sub-communities built on kindness, mutual aid, and the individual and collective pursuit of principled authenticity, and then freely link them all together in a worldwide network of partially overlapping sub-communities, while also sufficiently respecting the proto-dignity of nature. Isn’t that self-evidently an absolutely and non-denumerably infinitely better world than the world of States and any other State-like social institutions, especially including the advanced capitalist, technocratic, neoliberal-cum-neofascist contemporary world?

10. Therefore, we should reject, devolve, and ultimately exit all such States and State-like institutions, in order to create, belong to, and sustain a real-world universal ethical community, in a world in which there are no States or other State-like institutions, but instead a cosmopolitan or world-wide network of constructive, principled-authenticity-enabling, post-State, post-State-like, post-advanced-capitalist, post-technocratic, post-neoliberal-cum-neofascist social institutions, for the sake of universally sufficiently respecting human dignity and always treating everyone, everywhere, with kindness. Or in other words: dignitarian anarchism is true.

Putting together the argument for cosmic dignitarianism with the argument for dignitarian anarchism, then rational anthropology’s doctrine of radical enlightenment says that we should reject, devolve, and ultimately exit all such States and State-like institutions — especially including advanced capitalism, which is ultimately grounded in Statism (Hanna, 2022h) — in order to create, belong to, and sustain a real-world universal community, in a world in which there are no States or other State-like institutions, but instead a cosmopolitan or world-wide network of constructive, principled-authenticity-enabling, post-State, post-State-like, post-advanced-capitalist, post-technocratic, post-neoliberal-cum-neofascist social institutions, for the sake of universally sufficiently respecting human dignity, whereby we not only fully respect the human dignity of all people everywhere, and always treat them with kindness, but also fully respect the proto-dignity of the cosmos and thereby cultivate our global garden. Or in other words: existential Kantian dignitarian anarchist cosmopolitan eco-socialism is true, which is the same as to say that radical enlightenment is true.

Finally, assuming that the arguments for cosmic dignitarianism and for dignitarian anarchism are both sound, then obviously what’s further required in order to complete the moral and sociopolitical doctrine of rational anthropology, is nothing more and nothing less than a detailed and workable real-world neo-utopian plan for implementing radical enlightenment.

— But perhaps not surprisingly, that’s a long story for another day (Hanna, 2018c: part 3, 2022b: ch. 00; Hanna and Paans, 2019, 2022).

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