Text: People live and think in three different realities: in the WORLD OF APPEARANCES, in the INTELLIGIBLE WORLD, and in expectation of a WORLD OF FREEDOM / That is the core of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy / Social researcher and philosopher Oskar Negt reports - -

Text: THE SECRET OF IMMANUEL KANT / Oskar Negt speaks on occasion of the 200th anniversary of the “ALL-CRUSHER”’s death

Alexander Kluge: As you told me yesterday, Kant proposes that there are practically three realities. That’s Immanuel Kant’s secret. There is not just one. What are these three realities that he deals with?

Oskar Negt: The first one is a reality determined by causalities, by cause and effect. Someone does something and it has a verifiable effect.

Kluge: That’s true in war, and in the sciences, because the stars collide. In that sense, the starry heavens are determined by causalities.

Text: Oskar Negt, philosopher

Negt: And that means, humans are not free. You can observe and utilize these causal relationships, but you cannot influence them. So the “ought to,” as he says, the “ought to” has no place in the sciences.

Text: The Persian King Xerxes had his men beat the Bosporus with chains, because the waves that a storm had stirred up interfered with the Persians’ crossing of the waters.

Kluge: Anyone who beats the Bosporus with chains seems like a silly tyrant. But now there is a second reality, which is its own universe within another, so to speak. Within the universe of reality No. 1, there is a second one.

Negt: The second one is necessary and it marks a border. Kant has different expressions for this second realm of reality: the thing-in-itself, independent from us; noumenon; that which is in contrast to the phenomenal world.

Kluge: What is that?

Negt: We can’t recognize it, but it defines the limits of our ability to take influence on the world.

Kluge: But there is a second world, a second universe, which we also inhabit, are integrated in. Is that the intelligible world?

Negt: That’s the intelligible world. Mundus intelligibilis, that is one of Kant’s very early concepts. Mundus sensibilis, the world…

Kluge: That’s what we experience with our senses, what we can measure, what follows the norms of meter and time.

Negt: And this distinction is already part of his thinking in the so-called pre-critical time. So, that’s the second one. And the third level of reality, the third realm of reality is the realm that humans can shape themselves through morality, where they can set limits for themselves and thus build a world that is not arbitrary but follows certain laws, a world grounded in mankind’s autonomous legislative competences, in their capability for freedom.

Kluge: And that is only possible because the mundus intelligibilis, the intelligible world, flows through man, because he has an understanding of himself; and because at the same time the real world, the causal world of nature also works within him. And he carries both to his tent.

Negt: That’s why this world, the legislative world – the moral law below and the starry heavens above – the world of causalities and the moral law within me represent their own realms. Kant also describes this as an empire of freedom. But we can never prove the existence of this realm of freedom – because the moment we enter the realm of freedom with our categories of knowledge, we need to access sensibility and sense, sensibility and categories at the same time. That means, Kant refuses to introduce a sensory element to this world, because he worries that another piece of human autonomy is going to be taken away.

Text: Hercules meets Prometheus

Text: Prometheus’ punishment

Kluge: A glimpse of the future. Mankind has yet to evolve. That’s a Promethean thought. Prometheus practically designed mankind. And because he wasn’t careful, they did not become masters of their own fate, but they betrayed the Gods together with him. He took everything edible from the sacrificial altars for the people, and only sacrificed the bones, the useless leftovers to the Gods. His betrayal gets punished. And Kant wants to avoid this kind of betrayal at all cost.

Negt: That’s why he reserves a specific territory …

Kluge: .... for future construction.

Negt: … so that it becomes part of human autonomy, something we cannot fully comprehend. That’s why we cannot rationally understand what freedom is, we only need to defend it. And moral law is the proof, the tangible proof that mankind is capable of freedom.

Kluge: Basically like a vessel. It’s not about the content but about the procedure man is able to use to refill this vessel. The humanization of nature ultimately means the reconstruction of the planet according to human rules, which are not the same as those of the world of causalities.

Negt: Not the same as those of the world of causalities. Instead, the moral construction of reason, if you will, would render causalities usable for the humanization of the world.

Kluge: But that requires heavy borrowing from magic.

Text: Emmanuel Swedenborg, spirit-seer

Negt: Although Kant is very careful with notions of magic. He had this disagreement with Swedenborg, who pushes concepts of sensibility into this world and says: People experience the dead, they speak with the dead. And Kant says: That’s fraud. If I try to grasp that rationally, it needs to be verifiable experimentally; and sensory experience needs to be intersubjective, that means it needs to be verifiable by others …

Text: Oskar Negt, philosopher

Kluge: So he functions as a customs officer, as border patrol between the causal world and the intelligible world. Nothing passes through.

Negt: That’s why he also says: The thing-in-itself is a liminal concept. It’s absolutely necessary.

Kluge: It does not belong to the people.  

Negt: Because otherwise we would basically only live and think in causal relationships. And the moral law that allows us to act in opposition to causality is proof that there is something like freedom. That’s the solution to the third antinomy of the “Critique of Pure Reason,” where he says: Causality and freedom are not at odds. Mankind is capable of freedom and at the same time tied to certain sensual experiences … they are also … there’s an animalistic part of human existence.

Kluge: Which does not provide advice from a moral perspective. Man cannot learn retroactively that a certain aspect of evolution was successful and could basically function as a command from his ancestors. That’s not what Kant would say.

Negt: He would say: Nature has provided us with the potential, with the possibility, the ability, the capability for freedom.

Kluge: I’d like to hear more about this. For example, some of this ability is contained in mathematics, like a vessel ….

Negt: No, not like that. In math ... mathematics is practically a product of human cognitive faculty, of the cognitive faculty. And it can go pretty far, or less so, in regard to knowledge, but the laws are practically given. The laws are given.

Kluge: But isn’t it true that the cosmos is obviously determined by mathematical rules, very basic elegant equations like the Einsteinian equation that Kant didn’t know yet, which the human mind is automatically able to understand? They cannot be developed by drawing exclusively on the causalities, the entanglements of the phenomenal world. Mathematics is far too complex for that. And he goes as far as to say: These are signs that show that we have been steered well through the evolution of the cosmos from which we originate.

Negt: Absolutely. On the one hand, we are part of this natural evolution – with the exception, and in contrast to all other natural occurrences, that we are suddenly equipped with the ability to make our own laws, which no other being shares, not even nature itself.

Kluge: We can get along, we can understand each other. We can put ourselves in someone else’s mind, and that’s an additional ability humans share.

Negt: That’s an additional ability, even though …

Kluge: That’s something God cannot do. He doesn’t understand us.

Negt: I don’t know

Kluge: Kant would doubt it, even if he wasn’t a scientist.

Text: Influence of the SPIRIT-SEERS

Negt: Well, I mean the spirit-seers, that was a problem for him, because Swedenborg had significant influence on the souls and minds of the people of his time. Kant complained that he had bought this expensive book and had read it and was now cursing his own determination. He never would have expected this little reason in 18 volumes …

Kluge: It’s a poetic work.

Negt: A poetic work with hallucinations. He spent a lot of time in thought. He was somewhat of a hypochondriac. Every cough, for example – and he was a hypochondriac …

Kluge: He pondered the question of how to slowly suppress a cough until the fourth hour of the night. He came up with rules.

Negt: He came up with rules. Among the dietetic rules of living that he developed was, for example: If you go for a walk with someone, you should not talk to each other, because cold air might enter your lungs. He definitely has a tendency towards hypochondria.

Kluge: But he keeps it separate. He keeps it separate. A doctor can give him advice, but that’s not something to build a philosophy on.

Negt: Not something to build a philosophy on or develop knowledge from. He has a very strict concept of knowledge, which is tied to the two pillars of knowledge. One pillar are the categories, that is the mind; the second pillar is sensibility. Only if both come together, there will be knowledge. Of course, speculations and assumptions are also legitimate strategies for Kant.

Kluge: But they are merely speculations.

Negt: Just speculations. They have to be called by their true name.

Kluge: Could you explain this again: He says that the mind does not simply categorize sensual experience.

Negt: Well, the mind establishes the laws for the sensual experience. I establish the laws for nature. That means, these laws are not simply the empirical result of an experience of nature.

Kluge: Such categories are space, time...

Negt: Space, time, causality, interaction, there are twelve of these a priori categories.

Kluge: And without these search terms, I can’t process sensory experience.

Negt: It would remain diffuse. I would be mixed up and not serve the production of knowledge. However, I do not produce sensory experience. There is an aspect of knowledge that originates in the object. I am affected, he says, I am touched by sensory experience.

Kluge: Like a solid construction worker, like an architect, he maintains the houses of knowledge, the apartments of experience. He produces blueprints.

Negt: I mean, you have to keep in mind that he died in 1804.

Text: THE SECRET OF IMMANUEL KANT / Oskar Negt speaks on occasion of the 200th anniversary of the “ALL-CRUSHER”’s death