THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE, #7–Kant, Natural Piety, and The Limits of Science.
By Robert Hanna
This book, THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE: Uniscience and the Modern World, by Robert Hanna, presents and defends a critical philosophy of science and digital technology, and a new and prescient philosophy of nature and human thinking.
It is being made available here in serial format, but you can also download and read or share a .pdf of the complete text of THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE HERE.
This seventh installment contains section 1.2.
We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart. It is through the latter that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them. (Pascal, 1995: #110, p. 28)
If there is any science humankind really needs, it is the one I teach, of how to occupy properly that place in [the world] that is assigned to humankind, and how to learn from it what one must be in order to be human. (Rem 20: 45)
Natural science will one day incorporate the science of humankind, just as the science of humankind will incorporate natural science; there will be a single science. (Marx, 1964: p. 70, translation modified slightly)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A NOTE ON REFERENCES TO KANT’S WORKS
1.2 Kant, Natural Piety, and The Limits of Science
Chapter 2. This is The Way The Worlds Ends: A Philosophy of Civilization Since 1900, The Rise of Mechanism, and The Emergence of Neo-Organicism
Chapter 3. Thought-Shapers
Chapter 4. How To Complete Physics
Chapter 5. Digital Technology Only Within The Limits of Human Dignity
00. Conclusion: The Point Is To Shape The World
Appendix 1: A Note on The Löwenheim-Skolem Theorem, “Skolem’s Paradox,” and Neo-Organicism
Appendix 2: A Neo-Organicist Approach to The Nature of Motion
Appendix 3: Sensible Set Theory
Appendix 4: Neo-Organicism and The Rubber Sheet Cosmos
1.2 Kant, Natural Piety, and The Limits of Science
The truly apocalyptic view of the world is that things do not repeat themselves. It isn’t absurd, for example, to believe that the age of science and technology is the beginning of the end for humanity; that the idea of great progress is a delusion, along with the idea that the truth will ultimately be known; that there is nothing good or desirable about scientific knowledge and that humankind, in seeking it, is falling into a trap. It is by no means obvious that this is not how things are. (Wittgenstein, 1980: p. 56e, translation slightly modified)
It’s of course fully recognized by Kantians, and widely known even outside Kantian philosophy, that Kant is a serious metaphilosophical critic of classical Rationalist metaphysics, especially in the Critique of Pure Reason. Nevertheless it’s far less well-known and sometimes even completely overlooked, even by Kantians and Kant-scholars alike, not to mention non-Kantians, that Kant is also an equally serious metaphilosophical and also first-order-philosophical critic of scientific naturalism: that is, the doctrine that everything in the world, including ourselves, is ultimately physical, together with scientism, the epistemic and metaphysical valorization of the formal and natural sciences, often glossed as the idea that “science is the measure of all things,” together with natural mechanism, the doctrine that all natural processes are ultimately composed of purely physical, inert physical items operating according to strict natural laws (whether deterministic or indeterministic and probabilistic/statistical/stochastic) and Turing-computable and/or primitive-recursive algorithms (Turing, 1936/1937; Boolos and Jeffrey, 1989: ch. 3).
The principal reason for this failure of recognition is that Kant-scholars in particular and Kantians more generally have tended to focus, and still tend to focus, quite narrowly on the Critical and pre-Critical periods, to the serious neglect of the proto-Critical period from 1768 to 1772 and also of the post-Critical period after 1787. In a 2016 essay, “Directions in Space, Non-Conceptual Form, and the Foundations of Transcendental Idealism,” (Hanna, 2016b), I developed and defended reasons for taking the proto-Critical period very seriously; and, earlier on, I also developed and defended Kant’s critique of scientific naturalism, especially as found in his post-Critical period, in Kant, Science, and Human Nature (Hanna, 2006a: esp. chs 3–4). In certain ways, The Philosophy of the Future is a radical sequel to that book; and what I call Kantian anti-mechanism or Kantian organicism is a segue between the two books. Indeed, as I’ll also argue in section 1.5, I think that Kant’s anti-mechanism/organicism is the most seriously overlooked and underexploited part of what can be called Kant’s real metaphysics (Hanna, 2017a),in contemporary Kant-scholarship or Kantian philosophy more generally. This overlooking and underexploiting is ironic, because Kant’s anti-mechanism/organicism had a heavy influence on post-Kantian German idealism, up to and including Hegel (Hanna, 2013). And although Kant’s anti-mechanism/organicism has had a non-trivial impact in philosophical aesthetics and the philosophy of biology, an impact that in turn has been well-covered and well-studied in recent Kant-scholarship in those areas, ironically enough, this hasn’t been worked out in its specifically metaphysical implications, but instead only in either its history-of-ideas influence or its epistemological implications (Zammito, 1992; Shell, 1996: chs. 8 and 9; Cohen, 2009; Zuckert, 2007). But most ironically of all, although Kant’s anti-mechanism/organicism has had an exceptionally deep and wide impact outside professional academic philosophy, in literature and other fine arts, and in the environmental movement, it has had virtually no impact whatsoever in contemporary professional academic philosophy, whether Kantian or non-Kantian. Some reasons for this non-impact will emerge later.
But in any case, against the backdrop of Kant’s Neo-Aristotelian Natural Power Grid, in the rest of this chapter what I want to focus on particularly are (i) Kant’s critique of natural mechanism in his post-Critical period, specifically developed as a thesis in his transcendental idealist metaphysics, that, as I’ve already mentioned, I call “Kantian anti-mechanism/organicism” (see section 1.3 below), (ii) developing Kantian anti-mechanism/organicism into a larger-scope, contemporary, broadly and radically Kantian philosophy of nature, science, and human thinking, including a radical philosophy of natural science in particular, that I call natural piety in general,[i] and more specifically call scientific pietism, and finally, (iii) expanding Kant’s Neo-Aristotelian Natural Power Grid, Kantian anti-mechanism/ organicism, natural piety, and scientific pietism into the larger metaphysical, epistemological, aesthetic, ethical/moral, and sociopolitical doctrine of neo-organicism.
Why do I say that the doctrine of natural piety is “radical”? By radical, in this context, I mean “edgy, critically robust, theoretically or morally controversial, philosophically unorthodox, and sociopolitically highly progressive, even emancipatory or liberationist.” In view of that, the doctrine of natural piety is radical because (i) it’s explicitly and robustly metaphysical — committed to what I call “liberal naturalism” — not merely epistemological, (ii) it’s explicitly and robustly value-driven, committed to what I call the primacy of the normative, with serious aesthetic, ethical/moral, religious-experiential and spiritual, and sociocultural-political implications, and (iii) it’s explicitly and robustly pro-science without being in any way scientistic, where “scientism” is (iiia) scientific naturalism, i.e., ontological and explanatory materialism/physicalism, plus (iiib) the dogmatic epistemic thesis that all methods of inquiry and knowledge are ultimately reducible to natural-scientific methods, plus (iiic) the Baconian/Cartesian ideological-technocratic thesis that natural science is essentially a “lordship and mastery” over nature, including inert physical nature, non-human living or animal nature, and human nature alike.
The radical sociocultural and sociopolitical character of the doctrine of natural piety is also perfectly captured by Wittgenstein’s apocalyptic thoughts about the nature and limits of science, quoted in the epigraph for this section:
[T]he age of science and technology is the beginning of the end for humanity; … the idea of great progress is a delusion, along with the idea that the truth will ultimately be known; [and] there is nothing good or desirable about scientific knowledge and … humankind, in seeking it, is falling into a trap. (Wittgenstein, 1980: p. 56e, translation slightly modified)
As we’ll see, natural piety (together with what I call formal piety) is the normative gateway to a new philosophy of nature, science, and human thinking — The Uniscience — that provides what I think is the one and only rational ground of hope that humanity has for escaping the fourfold New Apocalyptic trap.
[i] There’s also a corresponding attitude of formal piety in the formal sciences of logic and mathematics, flowing from, e.g., Cantor’s theory of non-denumerable or transfinite numbers, Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, Tarski’s semantic conception of truth, and Zermelo-Fraenkel well-ordered set-theory +/- the axiom of choice.
AGAINST PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY REDUX 629
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