Marcel Chelba

Critical Introduction
About the possibility of Metaphysics, as Science, in the critical philosophy of Kant

Crates Publishing, Reşiţa, Romania, 2004.

Extract from: Marcel Chelba, Introducere critică. Despre posibilitatea Metafizicii, ca Ştiinţă, în perspectiva filosofiei critice kantiene, Editura Crates, Reşiţa, 2004.

Nota Bene: Here you will find only the Argument and a summarized part of Chapter 2, For the sake of peace. The rest of the book is not yet translated. To find a translator.



Contents1 Foreword Argument Appendix Critical Introduction: I. A strategic step back I.1. Antithetic of pure reason − the incandescent core of the Critique of Pure Reason. A strategic retreat behind the sensitive experience (within the transcendental). The need for discovery of a transcendental topic and a discipline of pure reason. I.2. The cardinal concepts of pure reason and their possible ontological significance. II. For the sake of peace II.1. A conflict of interests and a compromise solution. The substitution of transcendent censorship with a transcendental self-censorship. Formation of a critical system of Pure Reason as a reconciliation system of perspectives of thought. II.2. Transcendental idealism instead of empirical idealism. Totality argument instead of the majority argument. Practical success instead of pragmatic success. “Titanic-waltz”. II.3. Metaphysical certainty rather than empirical certainty. Metaphysical approval instead of public approval. Consistency truth − the prototype of the correspondence truth. II.4. Pragmatic truth, moral competence and judicial competence. Metaphysics in the service of peace. II.5. Redefining the metaphysics as a science of its own possibility. II.6. Ethical reconstruction of nature. Kant's meeting with Socrates.


Translation by Marcel Chelba


II.7. A system of wariness − a bridge of reconciliation between being and beings. Technology and moral − two orthogonal perspectives of beings. III. Towards a new paradigm of science. III:1. From the tree of the predicates to the theory of ramified types: same problem − same solution. III.2. Empirical confirmation of Kantian transcendental idealism: non-Euclidean geometry, quantum mechanics and relativity. § 1. Copernican revolution of Lobacevski, Bolyai and Gauss. § 2. Short intermezzo on a similar theme in the philosophy of culture (Lucian Blaga). § 3. The dilemma of classical geometry and transcendental solution of modern geometry. § 4. Einstein's Copernican Revolution § 5. Copernican revolution of quantum mechanics III.3. Constitutive relativity of experience and unfinished project of Kant IV. In search of a better ensured certainty IV.1. How is it possible to know from our inward what's out there? How is it possible the Transcendent? IV.2. Our transcendental myopia and overcome it by recognizing and rational integration of its constituent uncertainty in a antinomic system of possible world (experience). Escape from illusion by illusion recognition. IV.3. Ontological surprise − the essence of any possible object (as Gegenstand). V. Blind paradigm. V.1. Kant's man − Cheselden's blind. V.2. Empirical disappointment. Impossibility of evidency. Paraconsistent awakening of metaphysics after consistent (dogmatically) sleep of reason. Rational bases of faith and morals.


VI. Dilemma and the method of metaphysics. VI.1. The dilemma of metaphysics − Gödel's dilemma. Transcendental logic − an applied logic of paraconsistency. Paradigmatic unit of Critique and modern fundational research. VI.2. Mole's dilemma. Metaphysics − a priori model of a possible reunited theory of nature. Ontological antinomy. VI.3 Perspective of the divine intellect − the ideal model of an possible absolute certainty. VI.4. Recognition of transcendental illusion and overcoming them by overturning the historical and psychological perspective on knowledge. Transcendental logic − the last opportunity to save metaphysics. VI.5. Towards a future system of metaphysics within the bounds of science. Transcendental methodology, science of uncertainty and geometrization of thought. End of Introduction Notes Bibliography


Argument2 Could the pure reason’s antinomy be just a strange attempt from whose whirl reason will always emerge defeated? Could the pure reason’s antinomy be a mere exercise aimed at spotlighting a limit – one we anyhow come up against everywhere? Isn’t by any chance this tailchasing performed by reason the bearer of a testimony, the only one we have, about a higher and truer world in which we only appear as mere particular cases? * If we could grasp a universal antinomic schematism, not in a logical-formal sense but in a higher, metalogical sense; an antinomic schematism from which, inevitably, thinking cannot escape through any of its attempts to rise to the level of universal judgements or whose object is the concept of totality, that is, that of a unique, absolute presence; then we would be entitled to believe in the possibility of an ontological significance of this schematism and in our chance to find in it the condition of making any particular knowledge possible and thus to find the only possible bridge between the determined self, in its hypostasis of knowing consciousness, and the objective world in general sense. This is the hypothesis within whose horizon the present work was elaborated. I want to thank all those who dealt before me with these problems and praise them for their endeavour; I apologise in advance to those who I will not refer to: maybe I do not know them. The times when you could know everything about something are long gone. I am sure that there were many courageous and tenacious men before me who dwelled on these matters and cannot imagine they

Translation by Florin Lobonţ


failed to bring some clarifications, which I advance here as my own. Nevertheless, I argue that we cannot linger for too long entangled in confrontations with tradition. Some turn this scruple into to excess; in me this is far too little the case. On the other hand, being fully convinced that had I entered the jungle of Kantian exegesis I would have never come to a haven, I lifted up my rucksack and set out forward. I wouldn’t like this research to pass for an exegesis of Kant’s oeuvre; this was not my intention. And if I permitted myself to be bold sometimes, without exiting, however, the spirit of Kantian critical ideas and the meaning Kant ascribes to metaphysics I did not do it in order to stand out at any cost. What it is at stake here is not originality, but a certain science. This is precisely the reason why my position towards the Kantian oeuvre is that of a constructive (not deconstructive) critique, whose generic effort is indeed that of understanding of an original philosophical work and of synthesising it into a coherent system of fundamental principles and assertions. But the critical act doesn’t end with this primary axiomatisation of an original work; it also presupposes the putting forward of critical judgements from the perspective of a superior system of reference, that is, one with a higher capacity of nuancing and crystallising ideas. To understand a work doesn’t necessarily mean to surpass it 3 in Windelband’s sense, that is, to delimit yourself from it and propose a superior alternative in its place, but rather to discover its joints and optimise them within the context of a wider and more solid system of ideas, which to reveal eventually itself as its own. The hermeneutic ideal says Dilthey, is to understand an author better than he understoood himself.4 Yet, with respect to Kant, his exegets, by the “corrections” they made to the alleged defections or sideslippings of Kantian thought,

“To understand Kant means to surpass him” (W. Windelband, Vorwort zur 1. Aufl.: Präludien. Aufsätze und Reden zur Philosophie und ihrer Geschichte. 9. Aufl. Tübingen 1924, Bd. 1, IV.) – cf. A. Hügli and P. Lübcke (eds), Filosofia secolului XX, Vol. 1, Ed. All Educational, 2003, p. 22. 4 cf. A. Hügli and P. Lübcke, op. cit., p. 44.


have in most cases only particularised or tilted the scale of some ideas towards one side or another, while Kant’s intentions were in fact to balance them – his entire thought being in the last analysis a kind of walking on a rope. Thus the hermeneutic ideal is rather to arrive at the certitude that you think what the author himself had thought but within a broader perspective, whith an extra degree of precision and generality. Our endeavour to generalise and axiomatise an inaugural thought of a given author often leads us, while moving within the presupposed framework of the original work, to a lacunary and self-contradictory system of ideas. But this is only our mode of understanding the problems and solutions proposed by the author. However, only with reference to this standard model of the work we can put forward critical judgements of the author, given that between us and his real position always interpose his original texts. Consequently, the critical act per se has to be preceded by an effort of systematic reformulation or reconstitution of the philosophical work in question. This endeavour should result in a standard model of the work in itself, which will be the reference object of the future critical approach. This standard model needs to be built rigorously on the basis represented by the work’s original text according to a logic which we recognise, albeit not unproblematically, as belonging to that text. The critical act per se should commence precisely with the discussion of this presupposed inner logic, aiming at confirming it or counterposing another one – more rigorous and encompassing – to it. Once this stage concluded, it becomes possible to construct another model, another theory respectively, or another philosophical system. This new model is in fact the commentator’s critical proposal or the ideal case of the philosophical system in question; only in relation with the latter, taken as system of reference rigorously founded critical judgements of the object of critical approach (the standard model!), can - only implicitly and only probably with regard to the work as such – be put forward. But we must be aware that, on this road, the distance between hypothesis and certainty will never be covered as the work will always keep sovereignly in store “a 8

semantic rest”, which could one day appear as essential, and which could one day overturn our critical model (that is, the relative object of our critical observations) while the original work’s reality could remain perpetually outside our representations, like a veritable thing in itself. We cannot imagine another way within a thought which does not seem to work in the absence of hermeneutic patterns. This methodological scheme is nothing else but a staunch application, albeit summary, of the principles and solutions of Kantian transcendental philosophy in the field of hermeneutics. Any other later sources could only raise false claims. Indeed, as in the Kantian hierarchy of intellect’s forms of representation the critical hypostases of the work in itself string one after the other like beads on a piece of thread: at the left end we could imagine the real intention of the author from the real work; the next is the standard model of the work, that is, our perception or representation of the work; and, at last, at the right side end there is the spring of our own critical exigencies. Between the standard model and the work per se interposes the work’s text; at this level experience occurs, the text as such being the interface between the work in itself and our representation of it. Clearly, our primary, standard, representation is already affected by our critical exigencies, for it appears within our transcendental space, that of all our possible representations where it will have to be compared to the ideal model. But in order for this comparison to be possible it is necessary that the compared entities be assessed against the same measure, the same standard, which requires that they are of a similar nature. Thus the standard model is already a primary form of translating the work in terms of our exigencies; it is a subjective model, every reader referring in fact to his/her own standard model of the work. The problem is, thus, that this model is not certain; in order to solve this drawback our exigencies need to become explicit as part of a new model of the work, namely the ideal one. Hence our critical judgements will emerge by taking this ideal model as system of reference, and the model standard as object precisely because only these two can be compared. This is also the reason why our judgements can 9

never categorically refer to the work in itself provided that the latter is the object of knowledge, possibly still unknown, which will in fact always remain in this condition. All our judgements will remain rigorously consistent as long as: 1) we do not clam that they refer to the reality in itself of the original work but only to its transcendental reality, that is, that placed in a relation with our own sensibility and judgement faculty; 2) we will keep the string of beads open at both ends, meaning that we will never question either the origins of knowledge, or its ultimate exigencies. An eventual closing of the string would place reason in a circular, selfreferential, state, which would drive it into paradoxical and insurmountable situations. All modern critics’ and literary theorists’ and semioticians’, fret around the concepts of interpretation and open work, or that of logicians around the problem of paradox and logical foundations of mathematics, is nothing else but a late rediscovery of the principles of Kantian transcendental critique in the realms of literature and natural sciences. About the way the Kantian critical model was spread or how it was rediscovered in various fields I will speak, perhaps, some other time. Let us only note that the theory of the open work is nothing else but a hermeneutic adaptation to the idealist-subjective version of Kantian critical philosophy. According to this theory, the author will never succeed in placing his true message into his work; hence the work carries a different message, which in the absence of absolutely valid interpretative criteria will be exactly that placed by the reader there. This theory was eventually abandoned. Not surprisingly, a semiotician endowed with critical spirit like Umberto Eco5, for example, could not accept to advance endlessly in this direction, which merely throws the problem of interpretation into chaos. Like Kant, he admits that if we do not accept at least the virtual existence of an original sense and of a universally valid interpretative criteria the problem of interpretation is deprived of any sense, begins to drift away and becomes impossible. This is the dilemma

Umberto Eco, Limitele interpretării, Editura Pontica, Constanţa, 1996.


which American pragmatism too is struggling to escape from by attempting to recuperate a sense from chaos, with the help of statistics and genetics that are nothing else but some metaphysical ingredients of empiria. The theorists of pragmatism – for they cannot be called philosophers – profess metaphysics without knowing it. Similarly, physicists believe that they only profess physics, not knowing that in fact they move within and between the limits of metaphysics. Finally, what I would also like to note here is that, in terms of the hermeneutic model referred to above the exegesis usually thickens the standard work’s contours until the contours of the ideal work with regard to which it puts forward its critical judgements, become almost totally blurred. Instead of that, I will try – relatively to the Kantian oeuvre – to keep the balance between its two transcendental hypostases and to single out, for all that, its Ideal, from its fundamental suppositions and desiderata to the ultimate consequences and significances of its critical perspective. But this aim does not pertain, otherwise than implicitly, to the scope of this research. Neither do I intend to paraphrase Kant, as Husserl, unfortunately, did; nor to de-compose his work in prime factors, in a supreme act of hermeneutic violence, in Heidegger’s sense, although there is a guiding idea in this. This whole section of Kantian exegesis will remain more or less diffuse. What I am aiming at, beyond any historical valences or determinations, is precisely what is rigorous and universal in the Kantian oeuvre, its mathematics, that is, exactly the joints of that highly coveted mathesis universalis from whose perspective I chose to take the research further in order to see whether we can talk about a constitutive ontological antinomy of being in general and, consequently, about an ontological significance of the antinomy of pure reason, in particular. Given that the mathematical science represented for Kant himself an ideal model of consistence and apodictic certitude, I take the liberty to try and sketch a possible etymology of mathematics in four steps, very eloquent in


this context and easily recognisable following the wellknown Greek-French by Baily:6 1. mathesis: scholarship (act of learning and science); mathema: study, science, knowledge 2. thema: a) deposition, grounding, founding (Bailly gives only the example of depositing money into a bank); b) theme or subject-matter of a discourse; themelios: foundation or basis of a building 3. themno: to cut, to separate, to cut up (whose Latin correspondent is templum); themenos: precincts of a temple; sacred place; delimited territory reserved to the leaders; clearly delimited place of sacred or secular dwelling; themenitis akra: hillock with a sacred precincts 4. Mathematics: science of identity or science that follows from the principle of identity, and which grounds its own knowledge by thematic delimitation (in other words, by defining, if we are to avoid the pleonastic appearance), that is, by isolating, and distinguishing, and finally, by idealising. The ancient men’s belief that mathematics is a sacred science, a sacred hillock, a territory somewhat suspended above the profane world, is deposited precisely in the etymological architecture of the term. The western tradition associated mathematics with the image of an ivory tower in order to award its metaphysical valences a more exotic and precious perfume. This was presumably a consequence of contingent, historical reasons provided that the mathematical science arrived in Western Europe through Arab channels. As it well-known, Kant himself likened philosophy with mathematical science the only difference being, in his view, that philosophy cannot confine itself to deducing consequences from its synthetic concepts, but has also to regard objects of possible experience. In the last analysis,

M.A. Bailly, Abrégé du dictionnaire grec-français, Hachette, 1901.


he recommended the expanding of mathematical, rational, perspective led by the same identity principle over the entire realm of knowledge: this meant rethinking metaphysics with the rigour and scientific scruples proper to mathematics. But, unless mathematics, in metaphysics absolute certitude was not reachable, for among its objects of study there is something that can never be known entirely, as it is in itself, namely that ineffable presence of the “thing in itself” which lies beyond the frontiers of sensibility. In other words, metaphysics works with an extra unknown, situated in a plane orthogonal to the plane of mathematical thinking. However, this is not the only difficulty which irremediably deprives metaphysics of mathematics’ deductive privileges and prevents it from reaching the dignity of its consistency and completness. Metaphysics, says Kant, is “a completely isolated speculative rational form of knowledge, which raises above what experience teaches us, that is, by mere concepts (not like mathematics, by applying them to intuition) where reason itself has thus to be its own pupil.”7 Precisely due to this self-referential difficulty, continues Kant, Metaphysics could not raise so far to the level of a deductive rational science “despite the fact that it is older than all other [sciences] and would survive if all the others would plunge in the abyss of a barbarism capable of destroying everything.”8 For not mathematics is called to explain the possibility of philosophy but vice-versa: the philosophy is called to explain the possibility of mathematics. “Indeed, as they [the mathematicians] have hardly ever philosophised about mathematics (a difficult job!), the difference between the two specific ways of employing reason doesn’t even cross their minds.”9 As it has been observed, when mathematicians started at last to think of the possibility of their science they borrowed the means of philosophy, more exactly those of

CPR, p. 32 (Immanuel Kant, Critica raţiunii pure, Ed. Iri, Buc. 1998). (B XIV) 8 CPR, p. 32. (BXIV) 9 CPR, p. 529. (A 725, B 753)


logic and arrived eventually, with Gödel, at the same apories; and their solutions, from Russell onwards, are not essentially different from the solution discovered and recommended by Kant in the metaphysical realm, as I will show in great detail in my study. Their conclusion is that mathematics cannot ground itself and consequently has to remove from its axiomatic system the circular definitions and the reference to foundations and to its own consistence. The incapacity of mathematics to give an answer to these questions without risking to become inconsistent, is similar to metaphysics’ incapacity to become an absolute system of objective knowledge, which is why, in order to remain consistent, it has to withdraw to the transcendental territory of possible experience and of its synthetic a priori judgements, that is, to evacuate from the field of its knowledge pretensions precisely the springs of knowledge: the thing in itself, that is the transcendent as source of causality’s progressive order and the true spring of the identity principle, that is, the transcendent as source of the regressive order towards conditions. Yet the situation of metaphysics is different from that of mathematics. Metaphysics will never get to identify itself with a deductive science, concludes Kant; it will always remain a discursive, or acroamatic science in which the words, their discourse and dynamics will attempt to grasp a subtle truth and a hidden reality. To many this conclusion of Kant would appear, even today, as highly sceptical. This is natural. Yet I cannot fail to notice an almost miraculous fact that causes a radical situation change: Kantian scepticism regarding the possibility of metaphysics as a universal science is nevertheless rigorous, so that it can be enunciated apodictically, qua absolute truth or veritable metaphysical certitude. Moreover, this new perspective reveals to us a certain optimist significance of the Kantian result, namely that metaphysics, just like quantum mechanics from physics, can precisely predict its own limits and uncertainties. This is the sense in which metaphysics is possible qua science in Kant! Its categorical scepticism seems to be the hidden but long sensed spring of a possible transcendental and deductive knowledge of nature regarding its own possibility! This is precisely the new 14

perspective I set myself to explore aiming at the high peak of a certain antinomic universal schematism as a constitutive principle of metaphysical science, starting my journey with just a few supplies more [than Kant] from the camping place marked by Kant himself over two centuries ago. All my praise will go to those who will find the respite to read these lines with a genuine interest in ideas and truth; but I will be most flattered by those good-willed who, even in the eventuality of not finding anything of worth here, will not lose enthusiasm but will go even more courageously forward. This work is not a treatise but rather a plea in favour of metaphysics and philosophical thinking in general.


II. For the sake of peace10 For Kant, our source of all conflicts (social, economic, political etc.) is not outside but in our own thinking – in that there is always, on any topic, two (or more) competing perspectives of thought. System of wariness that Kant is concerned in Critic of pure reason is not wanted anything else, as could see, than a system of conciliation of our perspectives of knowledge and judgement. As for Leibniz, metaphysics was something else, for Kant, rather than a universal harmony mathematics – our transcendental creation lab of models of good neighborliness with God and the World. In his critical solution to the antinomy of pure reason Kant sought and found peace’s condition of possibility. * Over two centuries have elapsed since Kant’s temerary „expedition” and we still have the feeling that we do not know what to do with the wonderful gifts he brought us; that we have not learned how to enjoy them. From all possible errors of interpretation of his critical approach one could be extremely damaging: only a mind incapable of creative effort and spiritual elevation could assert that the whole social delirium of nineteenth and twentieth centuries with all their inflation of political, social, and ideological, fictions, is due to Kant, who, in his critique, has allegedly exiled God forever in the transcendent and at the same time in the humble condition of “heuristic fiction” which we can renounce without remorse once our practical interests are fulfilled. In this event we would only have the case of a

Translation by Florin Lobonţ


philosopher who, in the vulgata of his philosophy, is understood completely upside down. For, in Kant, the springs and desiderata of practical reason are fundamentally different from those of AngloSaxon pragmatism because, in the purest spirit, they aim at eupraxia, the realisation of good, not the mere manifestation of power. God, the supreme being and the absolute unconditioned, as mere ideals or mottos of our moral interests, are not concepts of practical reason but of pure reason, which do not lead us to things – but to the high and untouchable spring of absolute necessity and of causality through liberty, that is, to the grounds of a moral, not empirical, determinism. In actual fact, Kant did not speak about God’s existence11; he always sent this problem away to the realm of the unfathomable, which is not tantamount to the denial of His existence. On the other hand, Kant investigated what we can know for certain about God. In this sense, he indeed excluded in a way God from the sphere of our possible experience, but pointed out that in the end not God’s presence, but precisely this known world (through experience) of ours, is imaginary and subjective; and that although only with respect to the things contained in it we can say for certain that they exist, it doesn’t mean that what doesn’t belong to it lacks reality, but only that we cannot prove it as such. Here exists a nuance, which is not always obvious in Kant. Yet it overturns an old supposition that represented the main target of Kant’s criticism at the address of Hume and the other exponents of British empiricist tradition, namely that certainty in knowledge can only be obtain empirically, from experience, and that all knowledge that comes from concepts is purely illusory. According to Kant, their guilt was the fact that, tough distinguishing between necessary truths of mathematics, and contingent truths,

It is just that he did not plan to speak about the existence of things but only about their cognoscibility, yet without doubting their existence; this fact was most clearly stressed quite early by Rehl in Der philosophische Kritizismus (cf. C. Noica, Concepte deschise în istoria filosofiei la Descartes, Leibniz şi Kant, Bucharest: Humanitas, 1995, p. 203).


proper to experimental sciences, they only allowed, paradoxically, an absolute right of dwelling in the city of science to the contingent, legitimised by experience, truths, that is, by our sensible impressions and faculties. In the traditional dispute (but not yet conceptualised) between correspondence (contingent) truth and consistency (necessary) truth empiricists took the correspondence’s side, given that they denied the existence of an independent, transcendent arbitrator able to regulate the relation between object and concept, and to legitimise the assessment criteria of the extent to which object and concept correspond to each other. But if ultimate certainty can only be obtained a posteriori, empirically, from experience, then, naturally, all knowledge coming from concepts will be purely illusory. By exacerbating the importance of experience, points out Kant, this empiricist supposition pushes eventually everything into fiction, relativism and uncertainty. In opposition to Hume’s scepticism, but also to Berkeley’s absolute phenomenalism, Kant felt it was his duty to reveal, for all that, the possibility of a transcendental certitude; for without an a priori unifying universal principle experience alone could not crystallize even the most elementary categories – without which even the faculty of comparing sensations and representations would cease to be possible – a function that in Kant is precisely our essential faculty of distinguishing the presence of things qua lasting in time, that is, in relation to the original, a priori, form of our inner sense, therefore in relation to our own determining consciousness. But neither this perspective could remain uncensored, for it wrongly led us to the rationalist conviction that, starting from this transcendental certainty of self-consciousness we could deduce the existence of the entire world. Both thought vistas, namely empiricism and rationalist or dogmatic idealism were, in Kant’s view, wrong: not absolutely, but only due to their lacunary character. In short, says Kant: “Experience teaches us what is, but does not teach us that it could not be other than what it is. Consequently, no empirical grounds of proof can ever amount to apodeictic proof. Even from a priori concepts, as employed in 18

discursive knowledge, there can never arise intuitive certainty, that is, [demonstrative] evidence, however apodeictically certain the judgment may otherwise be.”12 Kant was at great pains to abate his own early rationalist enthusiasm – precisely with the help of the ideas of those he had previously criticised – in order to finally establish a durable peace between the two camps, and found himself in the situation to admit eventually a limit of reason’s employment, namely that within the strict framework of the conditions of possible experience and not within the domain of existence, or that of things in themselves. Out of this pacifying interest came into existence “the critical solution.”13 Here is what Kant said about “the two camps,” that of empiricism, on the one hand, and that of problematic, dogmatic and rationalist, idealism, or of transcendental realism and empirical idealism, on the other – in this case
12 13

CPR, A 734, B 762. Certainly, the fact that Kant’s intentions are good, and that his guiding programme aims at pacifying philosophy and the world, reason and our practical life, does not automatically imply that the „solution” that emerged at the end of his critical approach is right. Not all that emerges from good intentions is good. This supposition is rather under someone like Machiavelli who was ready to recommend or excuse any crime and wrongdoing if the intentions (purposes) were „noble”. Kant was in search for a solution homogenous with the problem’s context; he was not keen on bringing evil in the service of goodness – and this entailed a series of necessary ambiguities within the terms of the problem. Embarked upon the way towards a solution to the problem of independence and supremacy among states, Kant arrived at the problem of liberty and causal subordination among things, and from here, at the deeper problem of the antinomy of pure reason. Thus, by his critical „solution” to the problem of the antinomy of pure reason Kant was looking for a paradigm for peace of any kind, valid in any context of our practical life, that is, of our contradictory and problematic being itself. The metaphysical dimension of Kant’s approach is given precisely by this symbolic or paradigmatic extensibility of the problem of the antinomy of pure reason and of his „solution” over the entire realm of being. But this paradigmatic solution aimed at by Kant is not guaranteed by its own desideratum; that is why we, continuing Kant’s grounding endeavours, ought to check its deeper fundations.


about the limits and contradictions in Locke and Leibniz: “Instead of seeking in understanding and sensibility two sources of representations which, while quite different, can supply objectively valid judgements of things only in conjunction with each other, each of these great men holds to one only of the two, viewing it as in immediate relation to things in themselves. The other faculty is then regarded as serving only to confuse or to order the representations which this selected faculty yields.”14 Kant wished to reconcile all: Maupertuis and Crusius with Wolff, Mendelssohn with Jacobi; Leibniz with Descartes, on the one hand, or with Locke and Hume, on the other. The reason for this was that this scholastic brawl could not lead anywhere any longer. The time of a compromise solution, a middle way, had come, for the loses were ruinous on all sides. If from Leibniz’ point of view, for instance, the objectivity of knowledge was of a transcendental, a priori, purely rational, origin, situated, at its height, under the patronage of a sovereign self, in Hume it is the other way round: knowledge was exclusively grounded in experience, the apodeictic force of reason and even the self’s existence and sovereignty being strongly questioned. If Leibniz was losing in the monad the content of a well-determined and necessary world, Hume was indeed recovering in experience the certainty of an external presence, but was losing the ground of its necessity in the concept of an existence that could not detach itself from the significance of an appearance. In his approach Kant only assembled15 the two perspectives of thought, making experience offer a content and a certain certainty to some transcendental forms and constructions and, conversely, making reason to confer necessity and outline a sense where experience could only display contingency, relativism and chance and thus critically recovering, finally, the great transcendental illusion of a natural necessity, i.e. the pragmatic perspective of “common sense,” the one in which the scientist also works, from its obscure beginnings to the present day.
14 15

CPR, A 271, B 327. See R. Scruton, Kant (Bucharest : Humanitas, 1998).


Later, at the very beginning of his Anthitetic, where he will analyse reason’s conflict with itself within the sphere of cosmological ideas, Kant will reassert most explicitly his position of wise and cautious – not dogmatic – judge who seeks to learn from the conflicts he judges upon, in order to find indeed the right solution: “For the sceptical method [in the critique of pure reason] aims at certainty. It seeks to discover the point of misunderstanding in the case of disputes which are sincerely and competently conducted by both sides, just as from the embarrassment of judges in cases of litigation wise legislators contrive to obtain instruction regarding the defects and ambiguities of their laws.”16 This is the very sense in which the Kantian critical system can be understood, i.e. as a system of perspectives (in the way Allison, Bird, Prauss, and Palmquist understand it): a system of pacification of perspectives; a system of reconciliation of all possible “pleas” (on absolute truth), precisely because they are conflicting. By accepting the legitimacy of certain opposite “opinions” but “imposing” certain domains of validity upon them, Kant assimilated contradiction within his critical system in the hypostasis of complementarity, which allowed him to find a sense and a ideational consistence where tradition saw only contradictions.17 Thus, in relation to the philosophical tradition – always divided into two camps – Kant practically proposed a third way, that of critical scepticism which, qua discipline of pure reason, will represent nothing else but a “system of wariness” destined to keep us away from errors and illusions in the employment of reason – first of all from transcendental amphiboly, that is, the confounding of the object of pure intellect with the phenomenon18 – precisely

CPR, A 424, B 451-452. 17 In this respect Kant can be considered the greatest forerunner of paraconsistency.


CPR, A 270, B 326 (Translator’s note: the Kemp Smith’s English translation of the fragment reads: “a transcendental amphiboly, that is, a confounding of an object of pure understanding with appearance”).


because we will not be able to avoid it, and will never cease to practice this illusion in our quotidian life. After demonstrating that, in the last analysis, the realism-idealism and empiricism-rationalism disputes are nothing but a conflict of reason with itself at the level of cosmological ideas, Kant had no other solution than to lift reason the trenching competence in the matter of empirical reality and, as a matter of course, to convince both sides (perspectives of thought) in conflict that it would be wiser on their part to be more reserved and cautious towards their results despite the fact that both had the solemn appearance of categorical inferences. For, says Kant, “Since the arguments on both sides are equally clear, it is impossible to decide between them. The parties may be commanded to keep the peace before the tribunal of reason; but the controversy none the less continues. There can therefore be no way of settling it once for all and to the satisfaction of both sides, save by their becoming convinced that the very fact of their being able so admirably to refute one another is evidence that they are really quarrelling about nothing, and that a certain transcendental illusion has mocked them with a reality where none is to be found. This is the path which we shall now proceed to follow in the settlement of a dispute that defies all attempts to come to a decision.”19 This critical reservation which reason should adopt in all its practical employments will represent, in essence, the entire content of the famous Kantian critical decision and the result Kant (and the whole subsequent philosophical thought) had to ground ontologically in a transcendental dialectic – under whose veil I innocently suspect the hidden existence of an entire phenomenology of mind. Indeed, inasmuch as our reason, even through its limits, is universal, we could believe that in its dialectic as transcendental Ideal (Prototypon transcendentale – says Kant) we would have the expression of a universal pattern or archetype and that its syllogistic and paradoxical core would be exactly the mode in which Being unveils itself, without showing itself, to us. But Kant did not want to go

CPR, A 501-502, B 529-530.


that far, for, according to him, we have no guarantee whatsoever in what concerns the universality of reason and the infallibility of our thought and feelings. It was precisely this constituent uncertainty of our human being that will become in Kant the ontological ground and the transcendental argument of his critical decision. Only by acknowledging this limit, will assert Kant, we can still find a way out of the conflict, an escape from under the guardianship of dogmatic thinking and politics of fait accompli, that is, of blind force. Driven by an undisguised and tenacious pacifying interest Kant will decide – from the very beginning, as a major objective of his transcendental philosophy or of his transcendental idealism – upon the replacement of transcendent censorship, that is, the given or natural limit of reason, with a transcendental self-censorship, that is, a critical system of pure reason or a discipline of pure reason, deduced transcendentally, whose “negative” or “regulatory utility”, as Kant puts it, was to be precisely that of stopping the extension of reason’s employment beyond its natural limits, in order to spare us of delusions and illusory certainties, thus retrieving its authentic aim and favourite employment, namely that of moral instance.20

“But will be asked, what sort of a treasure is this that we propose to bequeath to posterity? What is the value of the metaphysics that is alleged to be thus purified by criticism and established once for all? On a cursory view of the present work it may seem that its results are merely negative, warning us that we must never venture with speculative reason beyond the limits of experience. Such is in fact its primary use. But such teaching at once acquires a positive value when we recognise that the principles with which speculative reason ventures out beyond its proper limits do not in effect extend the employment of reason, but, as we find on closer scrutiny, inevitably narrow it. These principles properly belong [not to reason but] to sensibility, and when thus employed they threaten to make the bounds of sensibility coextensive with the real, and so to supplant reason in its pure (practical) employment. So far, therefore, as our Critique limits speculative reason, it is indeed negative; but since it thereby removes an obstacle which stands in the way of the employment of practical reason, nay threatens to destroy it, it has in reality a positive and very important use. At least this is so, immediately we are convinced


Consequently, if the “transcendent censorship” of reason makes illusion possible –thus preventing us from acceding to an immediate objective knowledge – transcendental self-censorship will prevent us, on the other hand, from letting ourselves deluded, by equipping us with a certain a priori, restrictive, certainty, namely the pure truth of the fundamentally ambiguous relationship between ourselves and the objects of empirical knowledge. Practically by integrating transcendentally our own limits Kant revealed the conditions of their possibility together with their a priori necessity, which implicitly meant our equipping with a “system of wariness” aimed at keeping us away, in the future, from our own illusions. In other words, according to Kant, if reason is incompetent when it comes to saying what is or what is not in reality, it seems, on the other hand, capable to tell us what we are allowed to know, do, and hope, that is, what is in principle possible for us – yet not devoid of the risk of deluding ourselves even in this respect. Kant is the last rationalist, the one who saw the haughty temple of infallible and clear-sighted reason crumbling under the blows of empiricism, and decided to save its bricks (elements) in order to reveal their value in a more modest – in terms of ambitions – construction, but more durable, and perhaps more useful. As Kant himself confessed at the beginning of Transcendental Methodology, all his efforts focused on the discovery of that project for which the elements of reason can be sufficiently resistant and in which they could at last find their authentic purpose

that there is an absolutely necessary practical employment of pure reason – the moral – in which it inevitably goes beyond the limits of sensibility. Though [practical] reason, in thus proceeding, requires no assistance from speculative reason, it must yet be assured against its opposition, that reason may not be brought into conflict with itself. To deny that the service which the Critique renders is positive in character, would thus be like saying that the police are of no positive benefit, inasmuch as their main business is merely to prevent the violence of which citizens stand in mutual fear, in order that each may pursue his vocation in peace and security.” (CPR, B xxiv-xxv.)


and vocation.21 In his transcendental idealism Kant salvaged the dignity of reason precisely on the territory of what seemed profoundly irrational, namely that of the uncertainty and ambiguity of our relationship with things. This is why Kantian transcendental idealism is, in the last analysis, a critical realism, one that refers not to the objective reality of the things that affect our senses, as Riehl, Kuno Fischer and Külpe tried to show – without erring –, but to our relation with things. Kant is a godless Berkeley, one could say as a continuation of the well-known assertion about phenomenalism in general. But it wasn’t Kant who renounced God in his explications; quite to the contrary, he was precisely the one who tried to “rescue” Him as Supreme, or Absolute Being, as Hegel will say, in a world secularised by empiricists. Kant could not find solace before the pragmatic demystification of reason, but, being fully convinced that reason is nonetheless the only shore at the vast “ocean of illusion” where we can moor, he endeavoured to map, first,

“If we look upon the sum of all knowledge of pure speculative reason as an edifice for which we have at least the idea within ourselves, it can be said that in the Transcendental Doctrine of Elements we have made an estimate of the materials, and have determined for what sort of edifice and for what height and strength of building they suffice. We have found, indeed, that although we have contemplated building a tower which should reach to the heavens, the supply of materials suffices only for a dwelling-house, just sufficiently commodious for our business on the level of experience, and just sufficiently high to allow of our overlooking it. The bold undertaking that we had designed is thus bound to fail through lack of material – not to mention the Babel of tongues, which inevitably gives rise to disputes among the workers in regard to the plan to be followed, and which must end by scattering them over all the world, leaving each to erect a separate building for himself, according to his own design. At present, however, we are concerned not so much with the materials as with the plan; and inasmuch as we have been warned not to venture at random upon a blind project which may be altogether beyond our capacities, and yet cannot well abstain from building a secure home for ourselves, we must plan our building in conformity with the material which is given to us, and which is also at the same time appropriate to our needs.” (CPR, A 707, B735)


the edges of this continent and then its whole topos. For reason has to be capable to determine precisely the limits of its own certainties, its at home, where it can truly be sovereign; otherwise it would have entirely fallen into chaos: this was the matter really at stake. Only once its own limits determined, reason can authentically fulfil, at last, its aspirations towards universality. Kant strove mightily to distinguish the planes of reflection well and to clarify from where does come, what aim does have, and how can we employ, our natural inclination to mistake any representation for its empirical object and any concept for its ontological meaning. We usually superpose the object of possible experience, which is nothing else but an a priori synthetic concept, over the real objects which appear to us within experience, and the formal rules of truth – understood as schematism or algorithm of certainty – over the totally ambiguous and uncertain relation between these objects of experience and our representations. We can do nothing else anyhow, maintains Kant, this schematism, proceeding, or condition of possibility of the connexion and substitution of an object of experience with a certain form of representation being also the only support we have at our disposal for ascribing our concepts an objective significance, that is, an empirical content. But, specifies Kant, we have to be aware that by doing this subreption or substitution we commit in fact an error and that, as a result, we actually operate within an illusion: the illusion that we really know the objects as they are in themselves. But the certainty regarding these objects can be realised neither exclusively deductively (through intellect), as rationalists believe, nor exclusively experimentally (through sensibility) as empiricists believe, but only through the creative and progressive conjugation of these two springs of knowledge.22 For experience,

Later, American pragmatism, foremost of whom Pierce, will try to fructify – on allegedly exclusive empirical bases – this idea of a progressive knowledge, too, yet guided not by transcendental principles, as asserted by Kant, but by statistical or elective laws (whose origin is not known). The intention of the “founding forefather” to lay the foundations of a “free American philosophy,”


maintains Kant, can only supply us with the matter of an object or another, and the intellect only with the formal conditions of its existence. Thus: “To neither of these powers may a preference be given over the other. Without sensibility no object would be given to us, without understanding no object would be thought. Thoughts (Gedanken) without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind. It is, therefore, just as necessary to make our concepts sensible, that is, to add the object to them in intuition, as to make our intuitions intelligible, that is, to bring them under concepts. These two powers or capacities cannot exchange their functions. The understanding can intuit nothing, the senses can think nothing. Only through their union can knowledge arise. But that is no reason for mistaking the contribution of either for that of the other; rather is it a strong reason for carefully separating and distinguishing the one from the other.”23 Why? In order to see the sight; to see how we see, in order to know how much we can count on our empirical knowledge; in order to know what we can know, what we ought to do and what we may hope.24 And this transcendental knowledge of our own limits will also be the content of the entire metaphysics. According to this new critical perspective, metaphysics is not any longer a rival of scientific knowledge, but the latter’s own framework, the science of its own possibility. In the Critique, metaphysics, once dethroned by experimental sciences and their practical successes, rose again back to light with the entire dignity and glamour that once characterised it, without having the
in no way indebted to the European continental philosophical tradition, is obvious. But because he cannot leave aside the results of critical philosophy Pierce will translate it in terms of hermeneutics and will re-christen it pragmatism, trying, after all, to substitute the problem of ontological certainty in Kant with the problem of semantic certainty. However, these two problems are not profoundly different; they can substitute one another, but only in a metaphysical plane where again critical perspective is paramount. Pierce rejected the peace proposal made by Kant. 23 CPR, A 51-52, B 75-76. 24 “1. Was kann ich wissen? 2. Was soll ich tun? 3. Was darf ich hoffen?” (CPR, A 805, B 833)


feeling that it usurped its own usurpers. For now its object was not any longer the objective reality, but the condition of possibility of reality, that is – as Heidegger will confirm with might and main – not what it is, but what it means to be or how it is generally possible for something to be. Consequently, if our empirical knowledge can only be revealing in what regards things for us, as phenomena, then the task and possibility of transcendental knowledge will be that of discovering what could things in themselves be; but only metaphysics will have the privilege to truly understand something, that what is, or, more exactly, what happens in reality. Thus the scission of our knowing faculties will not be a mere rhetorical distinction within the ontological discourse, but will itself constitute a profound reality. And only the admission of this abyss, of the margins of our own knowing faculties respectively, argues Kant, could open the way towards the eternal peace in philosophy and in the world. Kant’s entire thinking revolved around the following problems: 1) the acknowledgement of transcendental illusion (the donées of the problem); 2) the antinomy of pure reason (the theoretical context of the problem); and the eternal peace (the desideratum or the possible solution of the problem). In his critical solution to the antinomy of pure reason Kant sought and found peace’s condition of possibility. Kant brought about a scandalous divorce between our knowing faculties precisely in order to reconcile them; to find, in vitro, within our own subjectivity, a universal solution for peace, the variable architecture undergoing a continuous self-clarifying process: clarification of our relations with things, with our fellow creatures, and with God. By disputing the claims of infallibility both in case of rationalism – regarding the omnipotence of reason25 – and in

„... [E]ven the assumption – as made on behalf of the necessary practical employment of my reason – of God, freedom, and immortality is not permissible unless at the same time speculative reason be deprived of its pretensions to transcend insight. For in order to arrive at such insight it must make use of principles which, in fact, extend only to objects of possible experience, and which, if also applied to what cannot be an object of experience, always


case of empiricism – regarding the virtues of empirical evidence – but acknowledging what each of them can authentically supply knowledge with, Kant could not fail to finally acknowledge, as solution to the conceptual crisis he himself had unleashed, a wonderful sovereignty of man, and, in the last analysis, of reason as the prerequisites of a cosmic lucidity and of a creative and responsible freedom – precisely because they are grounded on purely subjective foundations.
really change this into an appearance, thus rendering all practical extension of pure reason impossible. I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith ... [and t]he dogmatism of metaphysics [in favour of the Critique of Pure Reason.” (CPR, B xxix-xxx). But this „suppression” of genuine, Newtonian, scientific rationalism, which put forward a generating set-world, a machine-world, was not, however, total, but partial, local, just inasmuch as to allow space for our moral liberty too. In Kant there is not a suppression of science as such, but a mere delimitation of its competences from those of mere (speculative) reason, and a delimitation of the latter’s competences from our practical interests and possibilities. The interpretation professed by objectivists – who see in Kant the manifestation of a „real enmity against life, man, and reason” (A. Rand, cf. G.V. Walsh: Ayn Rand and the Methaphysics of Kant, 1992); who accuse him of denying reason any possibility of saying something reality any longer (L. Peikoff, cf. G.V. Walsh, op. cit.) and of preaching „a total and abject self-renunciation” in the moral realm (A. Rand, cf. G.V. Walsh, op. cit.); and even that he opened the gate of irrationalism, that is, romanticism, which later culminated with all political and cultural disasters of the twentieth century – are nothing but an unfortunate hypertrophy of the pragmatic spirit and its falling into a kind of hermeneutic extremism that has nothing to do with Kant. In other words, objectivists accuse Kant of misology, that is, precisely what Kant charged the naturalists with, without reproaching them with anything, in the closing lines of Critique: „This is mere misology, reduced to principles; and what is most absurd of all, the neglect of all artificial means is eulogised as a special method of extending our knowledge. For as regards those who are naturalists from lack of more insight, they cannot rightly be blamed. They follow common reason, without boasting of their ignorance as a method which contains the secret how we are to fetch truth from the deep well of Democritus. Quod sapio, satis est mihi; non ego curo, esse quod Archesilas aerumnosique Solones –


Practically, shows Kant, the source of our freedom is our own consciousness, this „Olympus” or suspended medium of thought situated above the empiric reality, from whose summits we can both abandon vanity and refrain from the reactions and automatisms of the animal in us, and assume voluntary gestures – totally surprising within the causal chain of nature – under the sway of teleological, moral, exigencies. In other words, the source of our freedom is precisely this faculty of ours to say no, to temporarily suspend our instinctual, animal, spontaneity in favour of our moral spontaneity: an aptitude without which our life would either not differ at all from that of animals, or would be a perpetual moral crisis. The crisis of life, our permanent state of conflict, has, in the last analysis, its origin in the crisis of reason, in its antinomic illusions and limits: that is why, Kant seems to say, the solution of life, the discovery of a solution of peace, can only come from here too, on the same transcendental pathway of our critical faculty and our moral, demiurgic, spontaneity, as expressions of our true freedom. The appearance of consciousness in humans had practically thrown instinctuality into the zone of sin and proclaimed the contrary of „natural” behaviour a form of
Persius’ verses [Sat. iii. 78-79] – are their motto with which they may lead a cheerful and praiseworthy life, not troubling themselves about science, nor by their interference bringing it into confusion.” (CPR, A 855-856, B 883-884) Within his critical view, Kant only adjusted the competences of reason and experience so that they can couple and work together within a unique and intelligible (rational) system of possible knowledge; he never thought of suppressing one in favour of the other. Kant only censored their strivings, namely those claims of competence they could not really honour. This was precisely why these two sources of knowledge had to complete one another. Conscious and careful, Kant made sure that the balance of justice did not tilt in favour of any of them at the expense of the other. And he was not inventing there a new method, but tried to discover, through a careful investigation and scrutinizing, the real levers of knowledge, the real scheme of possible truth, the real conditions under which a science can exist. This is the sense in which Kantian realism is a critical, not transcendental, realism, and his idealism a transcendental idealism, not a subjective or empirical one.


good and morality. This frame-idea had occurred to Kant too, placing him unequivocally within the great moral tradition of Christianity. In Kant too, morality appears, practically, as the reverse of nature. In Kant too, being a priori given, morality is a transcendental remembrance, the inner, imperative and categorical, voice of a transcendent censor who tells us what to do and especially what not to do; who shows us especially the dead ends, as Jean Brun observed in case of Socrates’ demon,26 but, at the same time, is also an eschatological projection of possible happiness, that is, of a kind of Possible Paradise, like in Christianity. From this perspective – classical after all – reopened by Kant, philosophy will never be anything else but, necessarily, an ethical reconstruction of nature, with man present within it – in other words, polarised by the idea of liberty; a kind of world turned on its head as Hegel will say soon afterwards, as if man could never bear living any longer in this world in which he feels profoundly trammelled, subjected to external determinations alien to his aspirations, unless this world is essentially the result or expression of the freedom of an absolute, possible, being; in other words, only provided that he succeeds in rationally integrating within himself all limits and drawbacks of life as expressions of an absolute, transcendent, freedom. Philosophy is, above all, an exercise of sincerity, of admission of our own limits and our deepest interests. From Kant onwards, it has become clear that philosophy, with its ethical, subjacent perspective, is nothing else but the way in which we try to make our life bearable, after we became conscious of it and suspended it in a possible, much more truer, world, somewhere in the proximity of God. Somehow condemned to loneliness and uncertainty behind his own sensibility the Kantian man remains nonetheless sovereign in a possible universe; but, precisely because he doesn’t have – with respect to the given world – the attributes of a divine being, he has to cultivate himself and assume with all responsibility the consequences of his own liberty. This is the critical difference between man and

Jean Brun, Socrate (Buchrest : Humanitas, 1996), p. 93.


God. For, we imagine, only the supreme being, in its absolute liberty and solitude, can afford to be pure spontaneity, that is, absolutely irresponsible and totally carefree regarding itself. But, from man, both the divine being and the reality of what things in themselves are, beyond our senses, will always remain hidden. That is why, Kant concludes, we should better leave God in his primordial peace and cease troubling the starry sky with our petty interests; in other words, to leave the transcendent to its law, but to recognise the transcendental, the place from which the true light springs for us and cultivate the priceless flower that grows here alone in the whole universe: our moral law. Only then all things will be in harmony. And we should not be afraid, for wherever there will be conditions for man’s appearance, man will appear! Even without our intervention. And vice-versa, if we will exhaust our conditions of existence, we will disappear, no matter what we do. Paradoxically, Kant seems to suggest, we will never be able to meet the transcendent and reconcile with it, unless when, apparently, we turn our back on it and become friends with the transcendental; in other words, we will never find it outside, through senses, but only along an inner pathway, of mind. This is the idea in which the entire German Idealism will take refuge. After all, Kant did nothing else but reiterated the famous motto of the Delphi oracle: “Know yourself and you will know the kingdom of the gods!” representing the paramount doctrine of classical philosophy, which eventually made Socrates the first critical philosopher of the transcendental in history. For, in essence, Kant’s critical solution to the antinomy of pure reason says the same thing: we can only reach the knowledge of this world’s depths or ultimate summits as a result of a critical introspection into our knowing faculty, that is, by stepping, with the problem of the possibility of knowledge, and of Truth, into the realm of metaphysics. Only as a result of this inner self-examination, maintains Kant, authentic knowledge becomes possible with Socrates.


Thus Nietzche’s fear27 that, with Socrates, the Eleatic spirit of Ancient Greece was buried and that the West had irreparably lost the pre-Socratics’ message, is groundless. In Socrates this „message” was critically sublimed and took the dialectic form of pure lucidity; and in Kant it revived with colossal force exactly on the analytical soil of western culture. None of them sought to „castrate” the human being of its instinctuality in favour of reason, but neither to ridicule knowledge and wisdom in favour of instinct and blind will, but to hold the reins of these „balky horses,” as Socrates used to say, under an ontological discipline and a universal ethics. In Socrates salvation comes through knowledge, observes Nietzsche. In fact, in both Socrates and Kant salvation comes on a transcendental path, through introspection and withdrawal, backwards like the crayfish, towards the source of light in ourselves, which we always feel somewhere behind and above us – not through experiment, as a result of a systematic, artefactual, action, pushed forward by will and basic instincts or interests. And although this immersion (backwards) towards light also belongs to a form of instinctuality, as moral spontaneity (inspired with by a demon, in Socrates; and as expression of our freedom of consciousness, in Kant), it does not oppose us to the others, to the world and to God, but, quite to the contrary, unites us all from inside, like a true genetic code or a universal existential programme. For both of them the cave is precisely the world; and the light that makes sight possible is nowhere else but in us: it springs from our inside and from behind ourselves – from somewhere „above”. That is why all that we seem to see and touch in front of ourselves, the things, are nothing else but shadows on the screen of our sensibility – shadows of some untouchable realities, which bathe themselves unhindered in the rays of that light, inside us, somewhere behind, between us and that spring of light. The things we see and touch „outside”, before us, are nothing else but copies of things that had dwelled in us long time ago and

F. Nietzsche, La naissance de la philosophie, French tr. by G. Bianquis (Paris : 1938).


which we just remember through experience. The world is the living mirror in which all gestures and the entire will of an Olympian, transcendent presence, are copied, despite the fact that, paradoxically, the living images in this mirror appear to move and live in virtue of their own freedom. Consequently, both in Socrates and in Kant the chain of conditionings in our „cave” is the following: Had we not existed, the light and the possible things in ourselves wouldn’t have existed; had the light and the things not existed, their shadows wouldn’t have existed either; and had the shadows not existed, the world too wouldn’t have existed. The world is given if the shadows are given; the shadows are given if the things and the light are given; and the things and the light are given if man is given. Consequently, if man is given, the world is given. Man makes the world possible, not the other way round. The world in itself can exist, but vainly, for no reason. Without man, that is, in the absence of consciousness, it is nothing. A given world, without man, is nothing – an absolute dark. The world exists because man exists. In other words, in Kant’s terms, given that the category of existence is also a transcendental, a priori, category, the existence of things itself is nothing but a shadow of their own ideal existence. Kant will name those shadow-things that appear within our experience phenomena or, generally, empirical representations of pure-, or ideal-tings whose possible being is a priori, that is, independent of experience. Up to this point, Socrates and Kant walked together. Socrates remained on the summit, at this wonderful revelation of ideas, scrutinising unflinchingly the absolute or the undetermined, as Kant would have put it, these eternal and unchanging stars, which always elude any definition or categorial determinations. Despite appearances, Socrates was not a rhetor, although he learned a lot from rhetors. For the rhetors are the discoverers of the transcendental, without knowing it. Showing, throughout their speculative juggling, that, as far as representations and ideas are concerned, the world of 34

intellect has practically a greater productivity of objects than nature, they had indeed cut the invisible ties that were attaching, inside the cave, the things to their shadows. As Nietzsche too observed, in their own way, the rhetors discontinued the pre-Socratic mirage of the communion between Being and [the state or action of – tr.n.] being, opening an unbridgeable abyss between things and their representations, establishing irreversibly that Being is one thing, and being another. The rhetors had in fact discovered the transcendental illusion and exploited it fully, for practical means; and Socrates undoubtedly took it over in his dialogues – but only in order to depart from it. The Socratic exercises are nothing else but exercises of dismantling false certainties and illusions hidden in the so-called obvious, „palpable”, definitions and proofs, for, he found out, only following to this unveiling of hidden contradictions in the ideas of cosmology and ethics, as Kant will specify, the locus where Being has its real dwelling place can be foreseen: in the transcendent, that is, in the Logos – the original name of Being – in which, after long millennia of theogonies and eu(phe)mystical convulsions, being is itself again, at last returned to itself (like at the famous end of Eminescu’s Oda), together with the path towards it, that is, by discursive thought, or, better put, by the discursiveness of thought. In Logos being itself seemed to stop briefly to catch its breath – almost simultaneously with and similar to its halt in Dao.28

Very much as in the architecture of the pyramid we have a common sacred architecture of man (revealed in parallel cultures, between which not even systematic encounters, even at the level of their elites, could lead, though, to such profound transfers of culture), there must be also a common architecture of spirit, through which we can communicate and understand each other. Yet, the pyramid, I will show further, is only the architecture of intellect. The architecture of spirit is “the cave”, in which the concept meets the object and coincides with it; that is, a kind of pyramid, or, better put, a cone which initially widens its base, then bends it upwards in order to catch everything in its “net”, and then starts to close, above, until the base meets again the vertex from which it departed and coincides with it in a continuous move of self-folding-unfolding. The architecture of “the cave”, that is, of


Thus, similar to what Kant will do in his antithetics, Socrates withdrew systematically into the transcendental, that is, into the polemic dialogue of thought put face to face with itself29 precisely in order to be able to better contemplate the transcendent, the Logos – our only common „opinion” possible – and recover the lost ideal of the precursors, that „One” of Parmenide which, despite the fact it could not be defined, remained nevertheless our first and only common supposition, namely that, independent of us and beyond our power of understanding, there is nonetheless something and that that something is a Whole, which comprises us too, together with our thinking and knowing faculty. The Logos was the keystone of „the cave” – the essential pre-Socratic myth. But the organisation of the whole Socrates-story into a system of ideas and into a
spirit, is the torus, the serpent that bites its tail, that is, precisely the image of space in some of the non-Euclidian geometries that are generated, as it is well-known, by introducing an irrational hypothesis – scandalous in those times – a kind of negation of the parallels axiom, namely that parallels meet, though, at plus infinitum and minus infinitum. Thus assimilating the infinite as a dimension, or among dimensions, geometry dispossessed itself of the illusion of real, intuitive, empirical, space moving to a new vision: that of the imaginary, possible, space. Practically, geometry moved from an algebra belonging to the real numbers class, to algebra of complex numbers “endowed” with an imaginary “side”. Kant did the same thing before the geometricians: he “endowed” the real side of our empirical knowledge with an imaginary side in order to retrieve the transcendental and metaphysical unity of knowledge in general. The analogy between the springs of Kant’s thought and complex numbers algebra had been drawn quite early by some commentators (Maimon and Vaihinger), but they failed to also adequately grasp the ontological significance of this new type of philosophical “calculus,” beyond its mere practical employment. In the next section Towards a new paradigm of science I will try to assess ontologically precisely this new – perhaps surprising, yet extremely significant – analogy between the Kantian philosophical system and non-Euclidian geometries. 29 This self-reflexive state of thought became all the more so evident in Plato’s dialogues through their status of oeuvre or auctorial voice suggesting the common descent of both conflicting perspectives of thought, from the same original principle which itself was attempting to stand out.


coherent discourse was undoubtedly Plato’s accomplishment. The understanding of things and their clarity are connected to him to even a bigger extent. But Socrates will remain a great event in the world of spirit, a true cosmic agent in the history of man. Socrates made Plato possible, and all that followed after him, very much as, without Plato there would have not been any Socrates for us. Plato was the only competent witness of Socrates’ life and deeds. How lucky we are! But the role Kant will assume in the history of thought is not less important. As it was to be expected, he will try to go further in search for a new and higher summit of understanding. And he will find it. Above the Logos, above Parmenides’ „One”, and even above „the Supreme Being” there is the transcendental lucidity, the critical perspective on absolute truth, that is, on the possibility of knowledge itself. Practically, from the summit he reached Kant observed and reminded us all that in all this speculative approach – from the Greeks onwards – revolving around the theme of truth and being we have never left the transcendental space, the world of our representations, so that all concepts discovered here, in the cave of thought, have never referred to what exists in itself but only to what could exist for us. Thus Kant recovered and integrated into his critical system the rhetoric scission, the abyss between transcendent and transcendental, the ontological difference, as Heidegger will put it, but also filled it with the faculty of our productive imagination, through which we can synthetically reconstitute the objects and the world from our own „memory”. This memory is deposited in a safe well guarded somewhere behind us, in the depth of the „cave”, in the original synthetic unity of aperception or the principle of transcendental synthetic unity – the ultimate and highest place where our own self can withdraw in order to look inside, or scrutinize, as Kant puts it, itself, its own past, present, and future. Consequently, all that is knowledge for us, is in fact remembrance either of facts that once happened, within experience, or of possible facts whose possibility was lasting from illo tempore.


From rhetor(ic)s onwards, thought remained irrevocably captive behind our sensible faculties, prey to illusion. But, even under these circumstances, Kant recovered the faculty of sight. He reopened the royal pathway of Antiquity, the possibility of knowing the Truth in itself precisely by the conceptualisation of illusion as transcendental limit of the intellect, and its surpassing within a regulatory discipline of reason, in a universal scheme of possible knowledge. This is the bridge we ourselves throw between the two sides of the abyss, between Being and being, that is, between what is in itself and what is for us, that is, in reference to us, as Hegel puts it. This scheme of possible, critical and paradoxical, knowledge, is the commonplace, the third party in which Being and being recover themselves together. In fact, the construction, or transcendental deduction of that critical system of wariness Kant was talking about, will confine itself to the knowledge of this scheme. In this universal scheme of knowledge, which integrated its own limit – being, itself, the only true and indubitable knowledge, that is, a priori certain – we have the integral expression of Kantian critical scepticism lay as foundation of any possible knowledge. „Scepticism is thus a resting-place for human reason, where it can reflect upon its dogmatic wanderings and make survey of the region in which it finds itself, so that for the future it may be able to choose its path with more certainty. But it is no dwelling-place for permanent settlement. Such can be obtained only through perfect certainty in our knowledge, alike of the objects themselves and of the limits within which all our knowledge of objects is enclosed.”30 This last version also prefigured Kant’s answer. His discovery will be exactly this: that no absolutely certain knowledge is possible apart from that of the limits of knowledge and that, precisely due to this, knowledge becomes again possible, in the absolute, as scheme of possible knowledge, which reveals itself precisely as a hypostasis of possible being, that is, as a metaphysical knowledge. With it, the initial inner scission within our


CPR, A 761-762, B 789-790, italics added.


transcendental space between sensibility and intellect was „repaired”. By producing this „system of wariness” – which prevents us from falling into the abyss of the „transcendental illusion” over which we are always tempted to jump without ever having enough impetus – reason practically advises us to remain further here, on this island or high plateau of our transcendental space, from where we can see from outside what could be beyond, inside, thus satisfying a priori our metaphysical curiosity. The transcendental, in Kant, produces a possible world and, with it, throws a bridge towards the transcendent, in the real world. But the knowledge of the absolute truth will not be achieved as a part of the empirical dénouement of this algorithm, but precisely as part of the understanding of this scheme of possible knowledge, which will never become the knowledge of a certain object, but will be realised only as a possible and absolute knowledge of a possible and absolute object. The whole universe known through our scientific investigations is nothing else but an objectification of our own intelligible universe through a projection into the real world, through an extension of the possible world into the domain of the sensible world, that is, an expansion on the territory of contingency and chance of our own eucration – as Socrates put it – i.e. of our inner, rational discipline. But the perfect knowledge of reality through this sole proceeding at our disposal – namely from outside, that is, from outside reality in this hypostatisation of the Naught or Nothingness in which our own consciousness dwells – is not possible without rest, without us endlessly dragging after ourselves a great knowledge gap in all our representations. There is only one way, Kant will maintain, in which we can attain an absolute knowledge and a total objectification of our own consciousness within the world: through morals, namely this type of unconditional reaction without cause and purpose, for it commences from itself and finds fulfilment in itself; and this is precisely our original mode of inserting ourselves into the world as determining and generating and creative, demiurgic, factor acting through inaugural, pioneering gestures. Paradoxically, only by this 39

eupraxis, as Socrates would have said, i.e. by this projection of our own being as moral being into the real world; only by this moral reconstruction of our own destiny our inner eucration can overcome its own subjectivity, becoming itself reality. For from moral discipline’s point of view reality configures itself as such in the presence and according to the norms of our own self. But, I emphasize, only from a moral perspective. It is very well known that, by his famous Copernican revolution, Kant overturned „the gravitational” system of knowledge, making things take man as a guide, as Noica puts it, not vice versa. In other words, it is not that things are, and we come from somewhere to know them: rather, it is us who are and they [the things] come from somewhere to be known by us. Yet, this is not always so. Kant did not dislocate things or objective reality from their places, but stressed that this overturn of perspective is only valid within a moral view on the world. From the standpoint of analytic knowledge we will remain forever blind, that is, outside objective reality, incapable to see it from within, being forever subjected to the transcendental illusion. As Kant often stressed, during empirical knowledge we do not really produce the objects or the objective reality. From this critically uncensored perspective this eupraxis is illusory and vetative. We can only reach this performance of knowledge and being regarding our own person in morals when, practically, we turn the world inside out one more time and put it back, at last, on its own feet, and bring it back – but morally transfigured – from the possible world to the real world. During empirical knowledge all we do is remember things and reinclude them into our own possible world and fasten them into technologies like in some universal recipes for success, which yet do not offer us enough guaranties; for, in relation to things, we either lack something, or have not yet understood something well. Only with our moral gestures we leave, at last, the transcendental, i.e. we exit the possible into a real light – that of the spirit. Neither Hegel nor Heidegger will understand this. Both let themselves dazzled by the spell of transcendental illusion. Both were seduced by a certain phenomenological realism, 40

by a certain identity or correspondence which slinked in between the ontogenesis of being qua history of its own revelation in concept or language, and the phylogenesis of being, qua objective history of self-confirmation in which we too are taken over together with our consciousness and questions, on the wings of the same global, macrocosmic becoming. Hegel thought he found in the idea of the ideal state the project of the real state itself, and in the history or phenomenology of mind [as spirit – tr.n.], the hidden motor of history itself. Similarly, Heidegger was convinced that he found in the joints of philosophical, political, and social nihilism the historical expression of our own ontological status, that is, of our consciousness in relation with the real world, the embodiment of Nothingness itself. This would mean that neither could we ever get out of here, from the nothingness of our own lucidity, and that nihilism contains the end itself, the terminus point of philosophy just as the dictatorship, as dull stock-still stand of pure, contentless, intellect, is the terminus point of history. Do not indulge in illusions, Kant would have said: not even with these ideas you left the transcendental; you do not know anything yet about the real world. For Kant wanted to censor precisely this realist subreption, to unveil this incapacity of consciousness to infer existences, this habit of intellect to substitute its concepts for real objects: a transcendental illusion on which, from Descartes onwards, the entire edifice of science was built – but not in order to undermine it, but to find a deeper and truer foundation for it. For Kant, this objectification of consciousness and its meeting with the real world is authentically possible only at the level of morals, i.e. only within the viewpoint of a selfcensored or critically self-well-curbed reason. In other words, truth will only come on the pathway of science when it will manage to reach ethics and follow from ethics. Thus, intellect and reason cannot produce reality – just real or rational monsters, as Kant names those people who can turn even moral behaviour into a mask and a recipe for success. Indeed, isn’t positivist and rationalist scientism the hidden source itself of an absolute, technological, and doctrinaire, cynicism, which erupted into philosophical nihilism and especially into the totalitarian delirium of the last century? 41

Isn’t this virulence of all kinds of „reasons” (economic, political and d’etat) the best proof of dogmatic slumber of reason? According to Heidegger, our only possible world, which we can assimilate with the real world, is in fact an irruption of nothingness into something. This is the status of science itself, says Heidegger, and he is right. Indeed, doesn’t everything in science make zero? – an opening mutually compensated and infinite within the Nothingness of all kinds of things and anti-things, whose sum is always zero? As we have seen, in Kant, this irruption of nothingness into something, or appearance of our own subjectivity as objective, is precisely the moral deed. Thus, technology and morals are the two perspectives, orthogonally conjugated, of subliming our own absence qua being: for in both of them we actually agree, for the sake of peace, with our own disappearance.