Materialistic interpretation of universe and allied philosophies (II)

Due to negligence of Kant to latter two sources of knowledge, Kant’s phenomenolism is prone to heavy criticism, for it eroded the garb of religion. Again lqbal remarks wisely that:-

“It cannot, however, be denied that Ghazali’s mission was almost apostolic like that of Kant in Germany of the eighteenth century. In Germany, rationalism appeared as an ally to religion, but she soon realized that the dogmatic side of religion was incapable of demonstration. The only course open to her was to eliminate dogma from the sacred record. With the elimination of dogma came the utilitarian view of morality, and thus rationalism completed the reign of unbelief There is however, one important difference between Ghazal’ and Kant. Kant, consistently with his principles, could not affirm the possibility of a Knowledge of God. Ghazali finding no hope in analytic thought moved to mystic experience, and there found an independent content for religion. In this way, he succeeded in securing the right to exist independently of science and mysticism”.

Kant, like many of his predecessor held that humans occupy a special place in scheme of creation and in words of James Rachels “human beings have an intrinsic worth, i.e., dignity, which makes them valuable’ above all price. Other animals, by contrast, have value only insofar as they serve human purposes Kant believes that this intrinsic worth is due to rational nature of humans who are bestowed with the faculty to think, analyze, judge and act rationally. To some extent we may comply with this theory, for when angels challenged their superiority over Adam, the God almighty invoked the intellect and rational nature of man to establish his superiority over angels and other creatures. So it must be understood that the elements of intellect and the art of acquiring knowledge are prime attributes of human nature, whosoever digresses from these parameters in fact digresses from the human race itself. But the Kantian approach towards the existence of God was one of ambiguous and hesitant nature. Kant asserted that, because of the limitations of argumentation in the absence of irrefutable evidence, no one could really know whether there is a God and an afterlife or not. For the sake of morality and as a ground for reason, Kant asserted, people are justified in believing in God, even though they could never know God’s presence empirically. To Kant also goes the due for institutionalization of “Voluntaristic Idealism”, the doctrine which holds the primacy of will or idea. This doctrine was brought to climax by Schopenhauer, who in his book “The world as will and idea”, which heralds with an epoch making statement that “The world is my idea”. As Ghalib puts it:-



This completes Kantian picture of human nature and of universe in general as much as is demanded by our purpose.

Next we turn to Hegel, whose thought represented the climax of Kantian thought. He made an extensive contribution to philosophical literature by writing masterpieces like “Phenomenology of mind”, “Science of logic”, “Encyclopedia of the philosophical sciences” etc. His pioneering role in German Idealism, Historicism: and Hegelianism is most prominent besides his special contributions to epistemology and political philosophy. Hegel succeeded in synthesizing a comprehensive system of absolute idealisms4to describe the relation of mind and nature, the subject and the object. Hegel holds that world is a great thought process. According to him world is the thought of creator, and nature is thought externalized. But then he proceeds to say that nature is not the end of this divine thought but “it expresses itself more fully in human self-consciousness and in the end finds its complete realization in art, religion and philosophy”. He further holds the picture of God that resembles too closely with trinity. He believes that as unity, God is one, unchanging and eternal. As objectified he appeared in universe in the form of man and finally assumed the form of “Holy Ghost’ . Thus he believes in “unity in trinity or trinity in unity”. About his philosophy, Bertrand Russell remarks “Hegel’s philosophy is very difficult–he is, I should say, the hardest to understand of all the great philosophers”. Also, Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy remarks that “his language and approach were so heterodox that he has inspired as much controversy about the meaning of his position as about its adequacy. Hence any summary will be as much a summary of the controversies as of the basic position”.

Hegel held that universe is like an organic entity, indivisible and inseparable where one part cannot be understood without taking into view all others. This entangled and organic picture of universe is highly consistent with recent trends in physics’”. The most important concept of Hegel is that of his dialectics’’, which is however purely a logical debate and out of present context. However it may be noted that John Mc Taggart Ellis in Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic (1896) argued that Hegel’s dialectic is valid but subjective, since the Absolute Idea Hegel used it to derive contains nothing corresponding to the dialectic. In Studies in Hegelian Cosmology (1901) he applied the dialectic to such topics as sin, punishment, God, and immortality. In his Commentary on Hegel’s Logic (1910) he concluded that the task of philosophy is to rethink the nature of reality using a method resembling Hegel’s dialectic. About his concept of deity, S. Radhakrishnan remarks “Hegelian dialectics have no place for a god to whom we can pray and offer worship”60, thus obliterating the concept of personal god. Due to its disturbing and inconsistent nature, lqbal says of Hegelianism:-



Further, he speaks through Rumi about Hegel the following verse:-



  You tread the path of love with the help of intellect; you are trying to look for sun with the help of candle”.

Schopenhauer “is in many ways peculiar among philosophers. He is a pessimist, whereas almost all the others are in some sense optimists. He is not fully academic, like Kant and Hegel, nor yet completely outside the academic tradition. He dislikes Christianity, preferring the religions of India, both Hinduism and Buddhism. He is a man of wide culture, quite as much interested in art as in ethics”, says Russel. The central postulate of Schopenhauer’s system is that the fundamental reality is will, which he equates with the Kantian thing-in-itself. Unlike Kant, Schopenhauer contends that one can immediately know the thing-in-itself through the experience of an inner, volitional reality within one’s own body. Every phenomenon, according to Schopenhauer, has a comparable inner reality. Consequently, the term “will” extends to the inner nature of all things. Moreover, because number pertains exclusively to the phenomenal world, the will, as thing-in itself, is one. Nevertheless, different types of things manifest the will to different degrees. Schopenhauer accounts for these differences by invoking Plato’s Ideas (or Forms). The Ideas are the universal prototypes for the various kinds of objects in the phenomenal world. Taken collectively, the Ideas constitute a hierarchy. We usually overlook them in everyday experience, focusing instead on particulars and their practical relationships to us. However, during aesthetic experience, we recognize the universal Idea within the particular; simultaneously, as aesthetic beholders, we become “the universal subject of knowledge”. German transcendentalism was affected by Indian thought and Buddhist ideas through the writings of Schopenhauer. He was an ardent believer of mysticism and combined in him the best of Kant and spiritualism of Buddha. But in asserting, with Kant, that the world is my idea, he did not deny the reality of world. He too keenly distinguishes between the phenomenal and existential world as Thilly says “As a reality it (world) exists independently of me, but as an object of sensibility and the understanding, or, in a word as a phenomenon, it depends on the subject who perceives it”63.So the theory of Schopenhauer is one of metaphysical idealism, for the world is not merely an individual’s idea but has its basis on the objective reality, namely, the divine will.

Amir Suhail Wani is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought.