Thursday, August 14, 2008

Semi-Buddhist Kant?

Was Immanuel Kant a Buddhist? As far as I can tell, no way. I came across, in this book, a reference that suggests he was in no way linked to the 'Theosophists', which, unless I'm mistaken, was the term used to describe Buddhists back in Kant's day. (Feel free to correct me on this point, somebody.) I've nearly finished reading a hefty book of Kant's writings, and my Semi-Buddhist eyes zeroed in on a few things. Kant had a way of looking at things that strikes me as Buddhist; especially when he says Space itself, however, as well as time, and with all phenomena, are not things by themselves, but representations, and cannot exist outside our mind. Doesn't that sound at least a little Buddhist?
I interpret this offering as 'nothing exists but our perception of things', which is what Buddhism suggests. My Semi-Buddhist eyes caught onto that right away. The second thing that Kant discusses in this selection of writings that impressed me was his take on the ancient 'What is x?' question. Socrates used the question 'What is virtue?' but one can fill in x with any word of their choosing. Kant went after Beauty, which is another word that has an equally broad definition. Once again, I got to thinking about words and how people interpret said words. Words like virtue and beauty are intangible, and can be defined a myriad of ways. A term like 'tree' or 'house' can be defined a multitude of ways as well, but a tree or a house are tangible things, and are much more limited in their definition.
What one considers beautiful is open to countless interpretations, and this is the conclusion Kant pretty much came to. He tries to find universal qualities that can be used to define beauty but does not really find too many connecting words that all opinions can agree on. Anyway, I'm not done reading this really fascinating book, but I plan to return to it in a year's time and see if I've come to any more conclusions on my own. Word of warning; not an easy book to read through. The first 150 pages are something of a snore, but then it gets better. All depends on your level of patience, really.

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