A Step Back

Written by St Andrew on . Posted in Come and See

To better accompany Markie on her journey, check out her last post here.

Let me take a step back. I want to explain myself a little better.  My last post dumped a lot of information on you all, so let me back up.

Immanuel Kant wrote that there were certain limits to our knowledge.  Because of the limits of our physical world, Kant argues we cannot understand what the metaphysical world may be.  He argues that humans have constructed reality in our minds through our senses.  Kant thinks that there is some other reality that is indeed very real but that we cannot access because of the limits of our mind.  It was because of these limits that Kant thought we could never know if God truly exists.  He did, however, think that belief in a “benevolent universe” could allow humans to live moral, meaningful lives.  He insisted that not knowing whether God truly exists outside of our own constructed reality is okay, ideal even.  He then tries to rationalize his anxiety of a godless world by suggesting that it is only without a god that is outside of our reality that we can bring a god into ourselves.  The belief in a kind universe allows us to live by our own moral will.  This, to Kant, means that God is no longer outside of our reality, but within us. 

This idea of God-in-us dates back to Plato’s idea of a “divine spark.”  The idea is that the soul has been given to us from God—a “divine spark” to morally orient the individual.  Reason and freedom were believed to be inherently in this God-given soul.  We are thus believed to be inherently moral beings, because God made us that way.

There are many philosophers who follow and expand Kant’s ideas.  Heinrich Heine, for example, praises Kant for reframing reason and forcing humans to recognize the limits of their knowledge.  He wrote that Kant’s statements are akin to Copernicus—just as Copernicus discovered that the Earth revolves around the Sun, Kant discovered that the mind revolves around reason.  Heine argues that reason’s purpose is to investigate the nature of God, indeed that “contemplation of the nature of God” is good for the soul, is in fact “true worship.”

As I discussed in my last post, this is where the death of God literature explodes with Nietzsche.  These are all of the ideas influencing him.  He uses the idea of a “divine spark,” and affirms it, calling it “will” instead.  However, Nietzsche wants people to realize that the spark is not God-given.  He wants us to claim it for ourselves and own it.

I understand what Kant is saying—that we have constructed our reality—but I do not think that fact dictates whether there is a greater power outside of our reality.  Indeed, Kant seems to have some anxiety about this as well.  He wants there to be some greater force, a “benevolent universe,” that is still looking out for us.  He also urges us to pull God into ourselves, and to carry Him around in our hearts.

Still, God made us in His image.  Everything we know is because of Him.  He is the One who gave us capacity for thought in the first place.  So yes, perhaps reality as we know it has been constructed, and the true nature of the world escapes us.  But it does not escape God.  He knows what He’s doing, and He is the benevolent force protecting us from the chaotic nature of the universe.

~ Markie Soposky