By Mxolisi Masuku
Perhaps one of the most overlooked philosophical ideas ever brought forward in terms of contribution to human independence from dictatorial ideas and religion is Immanuel Kant’s idea of the noumenal. Put loosely, the noumenal refers to the transcendental aesthetic, the existence of a thing in itself, independent of the observable manifestation of the thing in inquiry. Say for example, we have a “cube” or at least what we call it, a 3 dimensional object with 6 equal sides and occupying a certain volume of space equivalent all 3 sides cubed. That is how we perceive it and what Kant goes on to call the ‘phenomenal.’
Today, physics supposes that all matter is made up of energy which exists connected by ‘strings’ which vibrate in and oscillate across up to 11 dimensions. Think about it, what we call the totality of the observable universe – which is reality – only covers 3 dimensions (or 4, depending on how you want to look at it, point is there is so much, over 60% of what we don’t know about the matter that we see as individuals from a perceptional point of view)… and the percentages are about to get worse.
The phenomenal world, the one you see around you, the people, trees, ideas, even yourself, is simply a product of our infinitesimal attempt to make sense of that which we think we know interacting with that which is unknowable to us. In Kant’s words “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’. Intuition in this case is how we accept or perceive the sensory input from our interactions with the physical. Marx brings forth the interesting idea that the real nature of things in the phenomenal world is the totality of all social interactions. We cannot completely share all our intuitions in their entirety no matter how much person A explains concept/experience C to person B, the two can never have the same perception of it. At best we are all trapped in our own perceptions aided by getting “functional” incomplete glimpses of the perceptions of the few beings we interact with extensively. That is to say, the real nature of a tree today is equal to approximately 7 000 000 000 000 interactions added to a billion others left by those who existed before us.
If you are atheist, that’s pretty much it, simple right? If you are agnostic or a theist (relative of cause) please add millions if not billions of creatures which allegedly exist and interact with people like demons, angels, spirits, God/gods, devils etc. A single conscious being’s understanding of the true nature of things phenomenally is only less than, equal to or slightly greater than (highly unlikely). This is the origin point of my case for subjectivity and independent perceptions as the best case humanity can ever have in the battle against all that is considered pious because a God commanded it and basically all dogmatic prescriptive ideologies.
(Hypothetical) But God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent; you might say, He knows everything. He created the universe for crying out loud! Yes, but even if that’s true, the moment He/It started perceiving that which it created, it stopped seeing that object as it in itself but only as the creator. One of course might misguidedly be tempted to argue that since God created said object and the very space it exists in, it is obvious that he knows its noumenal nature. But this is flawed, given that the universe is guided by a law/property which allows it to have more than one distinct configuration due to the inevitable progression into the future and the sentient entity we call God would only be able to see the thing as he imagined it when he created it and the sum of its parts only as he intended. He too just like us is a prisoner of his own perception. See the only thing he can ever truly know is being God, he can never know what it’s like to not know, to desperately piece an entire existence only on such small fractions, to fail, crumble or even lose sight of it all as we humans do. Even if he sees everything and feels everything that we do or see, it can never be the same because he has alternatives, he is everything and nothing thus he can never truly grasp the limitations of mortality or pain because all this is created only in a system where a certain amount of ignorance is present which he does not and cannot have.
“If you want to assert a truth, first make sure it’s not just an opinion that you desperately want to be true” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Agnostics would want to argue that we don’t really know if God exists or not but it’s just best to be safe. They even go on to say we must follow God’s law because even if we realize that he doesn’t exist we got nothing to lose. Again on the premise of subjective interpretations of reality, what we stand to lose is unimaginably infinite, but will just damp it down to a simple thing; we lose ourselves. We basically condemn the little light that could have been into an unconquerable inescapable darkness. Doesn’t that sound a little similar to hell?? What we lose is a maximum of 6 999 999 999 parts of reality and only gain 1 which we don’t even fully understand but just follow out of fear. Even if we go to heaven, the laws in that infinite world are those crafted by that God again so we basically take our dark equivalent of hell along with us forever (assuming we retain our self-awareness there). For those who argue that in heaven people will be altogether different, the question is ‘I’ am already going to be non-existent, why must I fight for an unknowable being or extension of myself to be cast into an eternity of subservience? Without autonomy or the ability to live by a maxim which we give ourselves, we are basically God’s eternal slaves trapped in a golden city meant to sing and praise it forever. Nasty huh??? A friend of mine once joked “What about us who are terrible at singing?’’
Agnostic logic at its best puts the debate of God’s existence at 50/50 (but we both know it’s far less than that on the affirmative side) At its best, it’s the perfect definition of a gamble and a good gambler knows to only risk that which he can afford to and is willing to lose. Clearly Agnostics are on the wrong side of the gamblers scale! One of the most the most foolish decisions a conscious being can make is to gamble away his only shot at self-discovery via self-possession and autonomy for either a being that might exist or a chance at eternal servitude. Gambling away a possible 6 billion experiences, perceptions and realizations only for a fraction of one?
At this point, I must make it clear that this is me being soft on Agnostics, there is basically no evidence at all or argument for the existence of God(s), only spurious correlations and assumptions at best. It’s like putting your head on the line for a horse that hasn’t shown up to the race course in 4,3 Billion years but for some reason still gets a slot because there are people who desperately wish it to be there while a horse that’s constantly improving and winning is there…….enter science.
The current state of the Science vs Religion debate was perfectly summarized in Plato’s allegory of the cave. A group of people chained up in a cave facing the wall and this is the only life they know. They occasionally see shadows projected on the wall by objects passing in front of a fire put at the mouth of a cave. In today’s world some say the shadows are created by an anthropomorphic creature which wants the people to forever live by its all of commandments or it will burn them and various paranoid and bizarre illustrations and interpretations of this being’s will are drafted and imposed upon everyone else by those who have the means to control the flow of ideas and nature of discourse within the cave. This sad state of nature gets worse because in reality we can’t all possibly think the same thing of the shadows we see, they can never affect us uniformly and yet we are forced to abandon that which we perceive and that which is sensible and follow an ‘alien’ concept made by those who are looking at the wall just like us. In the same cave there are some who question all these accounts and tell us, there is more out there and are always making use of everything around them and rigorously test its nature and have the ability to explain the nature of the cave progressively. The best part is their methods and information is open to everyone to challenge provided you can back up your claim. No one scientist ever claimed to speak for the atom and stopped others from questioning the atom’s existence with bickery of foolishness, hellfire and an appeal to blind acceptance as his best lines of defense.
Religion said the earth is flat, killed people for it until science proved otherwise. It told us that diseases are a curse from God and the only way to overcome them is to pray and believe, science proved they are mostly a product of pathogens and created medicines which still heal you even if you don’t believe in them (Talking to you anti-vaxxers!!) Religion since time immemorial has preached racial, gender and sexual inequality all of which have been debunked by science and made life better for pretty much all women, races and sexual orientations and yet here we are. People being killed, abused, denied basic human rights and dignity, nations enslaved all because someone refuses to find out what is making the shadows on the wall? What a waste!!!!
“How are you to imagine anything if the images are always provided for you? To deliberately believe in lies while knowing they are false?…..so to defend ourselves and fight against this assimilated dullness to our thought processes we must learn to read, to stimulate our own imagination, to cultivate our own consciousness, we must do this to preserve our own lives” – from Psygnosis – Sunyata
To put it bluntly, even if a God existed, we can never know anything about its intuitions in their phenomenal and noumenal sense and the same applies to it when it comes to what we know, it can observe us, so really, why should we care what it thinks? As the old saying goes, “Life is basically just the atom trying to understand itself.” If all matter is made up of energy, then everything in this universe (god included) is energy just like us, hypothetically just another joule, and another atom but in reality just a hoax, a delusion feeding off our deliberate ignorance and complacence. Why should it then have the right to tell us what to do? I am, therefore I must be, condemned to be free, to make sense out of this world from all possible angles. I must therefore be an atheist! I must reject all the ideas telling me to ignore the world, to ignore myself, to ignore sense, to follow benevolent entities unseen, unproven, who do nothing when people suffer because it’s all part of their grand plan all for the reward of an eternal gilded prison. I must live for me and this is my rebellion!!
Kant’s theory of knowledge: An outline of one central argument in the critique of pure reason – Graham Bird
Seven Theories of Human Nature – Leslie Stevenson
A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
Plato – The Republic
[Psygnosis – Neptune; Sinyata]