The Critique of Pure Reason

No – not the critique of Immanuel Kant, but a rather different critique; that of G.K. Chesterton. From his book, Orthodoxy:

The general fact is simple. Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion… To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

I suppose you either get this or you don’t. The dream of the Enlightenment is dead. Now what? So far the answer has been post-modernism; subjectivism canonized. But this will not do either. We can’t build our philosophy on the supreme authority of the individual. This leads to nothing, and rids the world of truth; or at the very least, radically redefines what is meant by truth. Surely universals (i.e. truth, beauty, justice, etc.) are apprehended by the individual in a subjective manner, but why should this necessarily imply that universals are non-existent? I wish I knew more philosophy to posit an intellectual answer to the problem thus proposed. I only know enough to know that it is inadequate. And perhaps in the end, Chesterton is right – the attempt to apprehend the universe through the use of pure reason is a dead-end road, leading to madness!

Advertisements

5 Responses to “The Critique of Pure Reason”


  1. 1 Pushpa Divecha June 24, 2008 at 4:08 am

    In responding to “The Critique of Pure Reason”, this needs repetition.

    Chesterton. From his book, Orthodoxy:

    “The general fact is simple. Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion… To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”

    Many heads have split, but in the process some light has crept in through the cracks!

    If spirituality is a poetic impulse to absorb understanding of the infinite, science is similarly seeded in a intuitive impulse to stretch knowledge to its finite limits. The inspiration is the same. The greatest scientist of them all, Einstein, was agnostic to the end. For him the universe was in perpetuity. He was modest enough to admit he did not know why. Had he lived longer, he would undoubtedly have endorsed the ‘big bang’ hypothesis, entropy, and later proof of a finite beginning of our universe.

    The shards of light that have crept though the head splits are not as frightening as it would seem. The ache in fact becomes less severe when we accept our universe as the most complete book for our senses to ever comprehend. It tells our story.

  2. 2 Mark June 25, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Pushpa,

    I certainly agree with you that while heads have split, some light has shown through. I am hardly one to condemn all of modern philosophy or science on the grounds that it is modern. As a Christian, and particularly as a Catholic, I believe Our Lord and Savior is the very essence of truth. If truth is to be found in modern science and philosophy, and in some cases this is certainly true, then this truth cannot and will not be contrary to my faith. On occasion it will require faith to believe that reason cannot contradict faith, especially in the face of some “new” proposed truth, as I’m sure was the case in the immediate aftermath of Darwin, but in the end we always find that faith does not contradict reason. At least, I have always found it to be so. Thank you for your comment.

  3. 3 Broc S. July 5, 2008 at 1:16 am

    Mark,

    I agree that “Our Lord and Savior is the very essence of truth,” so what does that mean for epistemology? This would have to mean that all true knowledge is from God who is all knowing; the Infinite One according to Chesterton here. That would mean that God, not the finite human mind (aristotle) must be our epistemological starting point. Think about it.

    Good stuff!

  4. 4 Mark July 15, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Broc,

    Excellent epistemological point. I guess I knew that, but haven’t thought about it explicitly in a long time. We have to remind ourselves that we are finite and in every way fallible, perhaps most especially in our reasoning. On an individual basis, we prove this to ourselves time and time again with each passing day, but our egos would have us think otherwise.

    Thanks for your comment.

  5. 5 sandrar September 10, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.


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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s




Blog Hit Counter

  • 103,676 hits
Liturgy of the Hours

%d bloggers like this: