On the Radical Altering of the Way a Thinker Views the World—Kant and the Copernican Revolution in Philosophy

Appeals to nature are common in philosophical arguments. It is posited that in order to come to a conclusion one must have an understanding of what is natural for human life in general. Anything that demands that an individual do something counter to their own nature is fallible because it violates what is natural. However, this argument presupposes that human nature is something that can be appealed to, and so nature must be seen as something already established and rigid. Nature is seen like the rules to an established game, and anything that breaks these rules is disallowed. The problem with this is that each individual happens to view nature differently. More specifically, a philosopher, through radical thinking, can come to view the world in a way fundamentally different from the ‘common sense’ way of thinking of the world.
I have always been suspicious of the way that human beings think about the world—about truth. Philosophers have as well, which is why the great German metaphysicians of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were so intent on revealing the fallacious ways that we think about things. Kant, for example, brought about a Copernican revolution in thought that has been almost universally accepted among academics and scholars, but that has been equally ignored by the ‘common folk,’ and even castigated, falsely, by pseudo-intellectuals like Ayn Rand and the objectivists. To understand why this is problematic, imagine if Copernicus’ findings—that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and not vice versa—were only accepted by the scientific community while everyone else in their everyday lives went on believing that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Imagine if there was still a poplar scientific movement that posited that the Earth was the center of the universe that called themselves the truthists. Such groundless and ignorant opposition would stand against philosophy as the flat-Earthers stand against science. There would be a fundamental divide in the way human beings understand their existence in the universe. Fortunately, however, the Copernican revolution has become common knowledge for just about everyone, at least in the first world, and it is common knowledge that flat-Earth theorists are not to be taken seriously. Unfortunately for philosophers, however, the discoveries of Kant, while in general considered uncontroversial to philosophers and those learned in the field, remains largely ignored and often, ignorantly, opposed.
Just as the Copernican revolution crippled the religious belief that humanity, and the Earth, was the center of the universe, Kant challenges the notion that human perception of objects in the world constitutes absolute knowledge of things as they are. Kant revealed the way in which every truth claim exists in a relational sense between subject and object. You cannot simply say that, for example, the cup in front of you is blue. Grammatically and logically, the content of the statement is false, because it posits that the cup stands on its own outside of human subjectivity and possesses the nature of “blueness,” as inherent to its nature as an object. It is believed that the cup is still blue, as it were, even if there is no human being around to perceive it, a belief that depends on a fundamentally ignorant understanding of subject-object relations, and on what ‘blueness’ is as such. In reality, the blueness of the cup is a combination of whatever the cup’s true nature is and the human subjective modes of perception that make the cup appear blue to us. Blueness does not stand in the cup itself. Blueness depends as much on the nature of the cup as it does on the nature of the subject perceiving the cup. This is a fundamental philosophical fact. The result of this finding is that there is no absolutely objective knowledge such that the knowledge stands outside of human subjectivity. Every knowledge claim is subjective and relational, because we as humans can only experience the world as filtered through our subjective relation with the world. We cannot experience the world as pure, non-subjective perceivers, because the very idea of a pure, non-subjective perceiver is paradoxical—a non-subjective subject.
Now, Kant does not just leave objectivity behind in its dogmatic state, while adopting a fully subjective understanding of things. Instead, he alters his understanding of what objectivity was originally in order to conceive of a new form of objectivity—that of the transcendental induction. The transcendental induction questions what our subjectivity must be like in order for us to come to the conclusions we do about the world. He can therefore posit objective facts like: the transcendental intuitions of human subjectivity necessarily entail conceiving of the world as spatiotemporal—as existing in space and time. Again, this is different from the claim that the universe exists in space and time. Kant argues that human beings necessarily conceive of the world as if the world existed in space and time. It is thus a fact of the matter that human beings intuit space and time—that these categories are inherent to our subjective nature. This is objective knowledge inferred about the subjects that we are. Furthermore, we can study the relations between human subjectivity and the world, non-dogmatically, through self-understanding. Philosophy is not dead as a result of Kant’s critical analysis, just as science does not die once scientists discover that humanity is not the center of the universe.
The problem here is that this fundamental shift in the way human beings think about the world, while revolutionary and important, is only really accepted by those aware of Kant’s philosophy. While it is not difficult to understand Kant, conventional education has not found it necessary to teach the populous about German philosophy. Thus, what philosophers end up as is fundamentally alienated from the rest of the world. To be a philosopher who has accepted the Kantian formula it analogous to being a scientist in the 14th century—we are alone in our developed understanding. While humanity has advanced extremely far in its scientific understanding of the world, our subjective, philosophical understanding of our relationship to the world, in its most fundamental and logical sense, remains primitive—around 400 years behind the developed understanding of philosophers. The reason why this is so important is because Kantian philosophy stands against dogmatic thinking—the ignorant belief that one’s own views of the world are objective and universal, that they do not depend on the faculties of thought, subjective intuitions, and mechanisms of perception inherent to one’s subjectivity. Understanding of oneself as a subject leads directly to a more wholesome, critical, and nuanced understanding of one’s relationship in the world. Bigotry, dogma, and reified belief systems are all contextualized as dependent on specific subject-object relations, such that, if the subject were to change, so too would the objects themselves, since the very idea of objectivity cannot be conceived outside of its subjectivity. Until humanity as a whole catches up to the vigor and critical insights in philosophy, ignorant conceptions of the mind and human existence will continue to be widely accepted.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s