Confusions of idealism

On Philosophy Forums on November 13th, 2015, I’ve written a post with unique arguments for categorizing Kant as a materialist. Bill Harris, my main opponent, criticizes me for not understanding Kant. However, I am convinced that it is Bill who doesn’t understand my arguments. The debate is still going on, so I think I should drive my point further home, as it also would be in Ayn Rand’s and Leonard Peikoff’s interests.

Immanuel Kant redux

Immanuel Kant is a crucial point in CRH for being one of the three fundamental one-positional types and the most contested categorization. Although he might have been a sleeper before publishing his first Critique, Kant probably became aware of the category in which he realized himself to be through his self-proclaimed “second Copernican revolution.” Today his philosophy is known as transcendental idealism and empirical realism. Yet, there is nothing so complex about this category as some may think[1]. The way I see it, though, this category was established over two millennia before Kant, but today it is praised as the dominant scientific and cultural authority.

Looking back, we can see that Kant really wasn’t anything like Plato, whose idealism was realistic. Hegel and Rand were quite different from Kant too but much closer to Plato. An idealist believes that the ideal is beyond the mind, not merely exists within the mind, and is knowable. Kant believed that all ideas are within the mind, but the material reality as it is in itself is the “noumenon,” impossible to grasp by a mortal mind. Because Kant’s “noumenon” is vastly different from Plato’s conception of “noumenon,” we have some further issues to distinguish. Kant internalized the relations of mind-guided idealism and caused philosophy to be more concerned with phenomenal reality but only inside and bound by our minds in order for it to be epistemological (i.e., truth-justified and transcendental) aided by his synthetic a priori (Kantian metaphysics). His direction, from a position, became idealistic, whereas his empirical position, from the direction of much unconditionedly regressed (and ultimately epistemologically omitted, in Rand’s sense) true nature of reality, became materialism.

In different words, metaphysically Kant starts from mind as a synthetic faculty and spatiotemporal ground for epistemological judgments and ends, though negation, toward Nonexistence. His method is through mental categories (i.e., a priori thought-structures) shaping all experience and being “intuitively” connected to phenomenal matter. The confusion is that his position is epistemologism while his method is a different quality of metaphysical, not as it seems at first. Even while categories are made to be metaphysical (versus linguistic, in Aristotle’s sense), they are primary structures of knowledge and constitute Reason and what Kant deems to be the laws in every human mind – but it is his mind that he finds to be innately composed of such mental aggregates. This is Kant’s main difference from all earlier idealists: he bases his philosophy on what he learned during 11 years of reclusiveness about the nature of his mind and which now correlates with findings from neuroscience and quantum physics, which he indirectly inspired. He contrasts his a priori knowledge with analytic a priori ideas, which, according to Kant, are epistemologically unjustified. But complete reality can be neither Platonic nor Kantian: it has to include and go beyond both.

After the works of Democritus have been mostly forgotten, Kant reintroduced metaphysics for materialist science, thus ushering in today’s scientific era, while integrations of level 7 had mostly concluded with Newton and had gone over to the next level, starting with Thomas Jefferson’s magnificent accomplishments. It may seem strange that disintegrations of level 7 are continuing while there are no integrations on that level. But this is not strange, considering that today, and since the twentieth century, we have more fundamental, transmaterialist, or, if you prefer, materialistic, integrations happening on level 1 (e.g., quantum interpretations by Leonard Susskind and Robert Griffiths). Just as disintegrators started to dig below level 7, we’ve got a new category of integrations to reinforce the integrationist worldview, integrations that no materialist-7 can touch. But a confusion and powerlessness still remain because of incorrect understanding of the two conflicting roles allotted to metaphysics.

Warning about wrong interpretations of concepts

The metaphysical confusion of object and context, position and direction, had probably started with the second wave of philosophy, and Kant was a conclusive figure in it. Today, what generally represents a direction, such as materialistic in Rand, idealistic in Kant, Hume, and Schopenhauer, and realistic in Plato, may be thought of as an apparent position, but what represents their actual positions may be ignored by being replaced with their directions. Not always, but it happens in many cases, such as when Plato, well known as an idealist (see Benjamin Jowett’s introduction to The Republic), is also called a “realist” for (his idea of) realism. In another, even more extreme case, some, such as Bertrand Russell, view Plato as a “mystic,” which contradicts Plato’s heavy emphasis on reason, objectivity, mathematics, and geometry. Although Plato might have been thought of as a “mystic” in contrast to religious idealists, his abstract, ethical ideas are congruent with those of the followers of Abrahamic religions. It also should be noted that Plato created a “spiritual” foundation for modern mathematics, to which the likes of Albert Einstein readily adhere. The views of Platonic mathematical primacy and Aristotelian logical primacy were in conflict for millennia, and Russell, rather than clarify, only shaded their differences even further.

Metaphysics of many philosophers started from onto-epistemologically equating a knowable object with its context, or conceiving a part as a whole, whether it’s universal source, race, society, body, mind, thought, or matter. Similarly, the confusion in philosophical categorization was caused by equating the primary starting location with the method of achieving some goal, or an ending location. As before, as now, and as ever, there are ultimately, whether explicitly or implicitly, only two ending locations: metaphysics of matter (lev. 1) and (conditioned) metaphysics of universal source (lev. 15). In an idealist version, whether religious or scientific, the unconditioned metaphysics of universal source are generally thought of as “existence” (in Rand), “Good” (in Plato), “One” (in Plotinus), “God” (in Abrahamic religions), “light” (in Einstein), “singularity” (in Hawking), or “nothing” (i.e., dark energy in Krauss), but as starting locations they can only be (implicitly) pointing toward and in order to ultimately explore matter. And while metaphysics of matter is always unconditioned, conditioned matter is a transmaterialist, integrative position of level 1, which is the new wave of integration pointing toward universal source (e.g., article by Griffiths). Either way you look, you can only select one of the two directions (at any one time) but never both.

[1] For example, Vladimir Lenin, in the orthodox Marxist tradition, describes Kant’s position as agnostic, along with Hume, and includes Engels’s straightforward and powerful critique of Kant’s worldview(s) in Materialism and Empirio-criticism (Ch. 2, sec. 1).


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