Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Humane Critique

That the Critique of Judgment is Kant's most humane critique could be established on superficial grounds: for in it, he discusses those things which above all make us human, as opposed to being simply one or the other of those two terms which go together to make our definition (i.e., rational, animal). Surely art and purpose, more than logic or, say, digestion, are the fields in which we most eminently show ourselves for what we are as whole beings, beyond the elements of our composition. No doubt this proposition could be denied, but not from within the perspective properly called humanism, which is perhaps the same perspective from within which we may expect to grow a concern for the application of the term “humane.”

But in addition to this superficial reason, there is also the fact—an astonishing fact, when it appears within the context of a received notion of Kant as the philosopher who stole the real world away, walling it off from our pathetically grasping and clutching reason behind an impenetrable range of phenomena—that here he invites us to discover the real bases we have for judging nature as subjectively and objectively purposive. True: these bases are merely a set of presuppositions which enable judgment to expect to discover purposive organization in nature, and therefore enable it to reach out for universal empirical laws and structures. They cannot satisfy pure reason that the world is such and such. But is it humane to expect the world to satisfy pure reason? Is it not possible that, contrary to the parable of Plato, the seat of raving ambition is not in the horse but in the charioteer—and that it is he who must be reined in by the nobility of his horsemanship?