A retrospective: Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant‘ was born in Königsberg, Prussia, a region of Germany, in 1724. He grew up to become one of the most influential philosophers surrounding epistemology during the Age of Enlightenment. As philosophers go, Kant was the real deal, and followed in the footsteps of ‘Sir Francis Bacon‘, who 200 years previous had focused on rationalism, the pursuit of reason, and empiricism which involves knowledge that’s gained through experiences of the senses. He was born and raised as a Lutheran, and started at the local Pietist, Latin school aged 8 where he remained a student until he was 16, and he then enrolled at the University of Königsberg, where he studied theology. It was here that he discovered his love of physics, and he began reading the works of the most notorious scientists and philosophers of the past.

“It is beyond a doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience.” – Immanuel Kant

One of Kant’s areas which he began to study was metaphysics, which is theoretical philosophy that focuses on cause and effect; the cause of the universe and the nature of being. In other words it studies how and why, and a perfect example is the question; Divine Creation, or the Big Bang? The second of Kant’s areas was the study of ethics which began with his Pietist faith. He believed that morality comes about by using extensive reasoning, and this led him towards political ethics where he claimed democracy and liberty would lead to world peace. Despite being raised as a Pietist, and adhering to the ethics of his faith, he became sceptical towards arguments defending theism, and some historians claim he was an agnostic, and others say he developed atheistic views. I think it’s fair to say that his spirituality was an ever developing idea, and when applying reason, he struggled with the concept of god.

“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.” – Immanuel Kant

As a scientist and philosopher he turned the world upside down with his theories and ideas regarding cosmology, ethics, politics, geology and physics. He was a thought machine, and many of his theories despite being disregarded in certain circles during his life, have stood the test of time and his influence on modern science has been monumental.

He proposed the nebular hypothesis which is the theory that the solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago by a nebula cloud containing dust and gas. As it became denser, gravity formed objects of mass which include the planets and the sun, and they began to rotate. Kant claimed that the evidence for this was the fact that all the natural satellites in the solar system (planets and moons) all orbit around the Sun in the same direction, and because over 99% of the mass in the solar system is the Sun, it attracts all the other objects of mass. The gravity of the Sun condensed until it reached a critical point and the hydrogen atoms fused to create helium, and nuclear fusion began with the Sun coming to life. He proposed that galaxies formed in a similar way, and each galaxy had an infinite amount of solar systems that formed by gravity interaction.

As a moral philosopher he never encouraged any theism in his approach, and he deals with something he described as ‘fact of reason’. What this implied was every human has been endowed with a conscience, and with this comes empathy and reason, and without freedom we have no moral worth, but he also dismissed the idea of free will and believed in the theory of causality proposed by ‘Isaac Newton‘. In other words, morality is derived from consequence, and we must always endeavour to respect humanity in ourselves, and once that’s achieved we will understand our intrinsic moral duty. He separated the idea of morality into two distinctions.

Theoretical reason is studying the natural world through understanding why

Practical reason studies the questions of how the world ought to be and tells us our duty

As well as personal ethics, he had a deep interest in political ethics which involved an honest government and civil rights. In a way he was an idealist and believed that human were inevitably going to reach a state of perpetual happiness, but there must be reform. This he believed would come from a Rechtsstaat, which essentially means ‘rule of law, or state of justice‘, which is a form of constitutionalism. As well as wishing for universal peace, he claimed that wars lead to economic turmoil, and the more expensive wars become, the more reluctant that nations will wish to get involved, which will eventually lead to conditions of peace, which encourages morality.

Have the courage to use your own reason- That is the motto of enlightenment.” -Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals

Regarding Kant’s cause and effect ideas; every action has a reaction, he also studied autonomy and its influences, like universality and particularity, objectivity and subjectivity, conformity and individuality, and what impact they have on decision making, and especially in regards to morality. He defined autonomy into three categories that are:

The right to make decisions without outside influence

The right to make decision independently using personal reflection and reason

The right to be accepted by others that morality is universal and what is required by you, is required by all

“Autonomy, in Western ethics and political philosophy, the state or condition of self-governance, or leading one’s life according to reasons, values, or desires that are authentically one’s own.” – Source

Kant’s ethical ideology is known as Kantian ethics, or deontological ethics, means ethical duty. This involves something that Kant coined as ‘Good Will‘, which suggests that doing something that you consider good, doesn’t automatically make it good, it’s the attitude behind the action which is important. Take theism as a perfect example of why it cannot be categorised as good will. Once there’s a reward for doing a good deed, then the act of morality is cancelled, and according to Kantian ethics, you do a good deed because it’s your duty, not for merit. So good will and duty is what defines morality, not pleasing the will of a god, and once opposing inclinations outweighs rational incentive, the moral framework breaks down.

Georges Lemaître and the hypothesis of the primeval atom

Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître‘ was a Belgian priest born in the 19th century, and is evidence that despite being devoutly religious, you can believe in god and separate that belief from science and reality. As well as being a priest, he was a professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven, and a keen cosmologist. During World War I he served as an artillery officer in the Belgian army, and when the war ended he studied to become a priest and was ordained in 1923. Between 1925 and 1927 he studied solar physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in America and obtained his Ph.D, and where he studied the works of ‘Edwin Hubble‘, and his ‪theories surrounding an expanding universe, which he’d observed through an extremely powerful telescope at Mt. Wilson in California‬

Georges Lemaître 07/17/1894 – 06/20/1966

Upon his return to Belgium he proposed that due to the neighbouring galaxies moving away from us in different directions, then an obvious conclusion would be a massive cosmic force and he proposed the Big Bang theory using ‘Albert Einstein’s’ theory of general relativity that he published 11 years prior. Georges never actually referred to the cosmic event as the Big Bang as he named it ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom’. Albert Einstein disregarded George’s theory as nonsense, but in later life he considered it as one of the most important theories in science. of the primeval atom’. His theory was in simple terms that to explain why the universe was expanding, it must have had a point of origin where everything within the universe was packed within an object of infinite density. This object of infinite density is what he described as the primeval atom.

“The radius of space began at zero; the first stages of the expansion consisted of a rapid expansion determined by the mass of the initial atom, almost equal to the present mass of the universe. If this mass is sufficient, and the estimates which we can make indicate that this is indeed so, the initial expansion was able to permit the radius to exceed the value of the equilibrium radius. The expansion thus took place in three phases: a first period of rapid expansion in which the atom-universe was broken into atomic stars, a period of slowing-down, followed by a third period of accelerated expansion. It is doubtless in this third period that we find ourselves today, and the acceleration of space which followed the period of slow expansion could well be responsible for the separation of stars into extra-galactic nebulae.” – Georges Lemaître

‪Whilst Georges Lemaître was a devout believer, he was a scientist as heart, and he said that through religion and science he had two avenues to search for the truth, but they must always be kept separate. You can’t help but admire a religious person who rejects the idea of creationism and accepts that science is the answer to the birth of the universe. I read that he once said that if the theory of relativity was a creation of god, it would have been declared in the Bible. When he first published his theory, it received little attention, and it wasn’t until the prominent English astronomer ‘Arthur Eddington‘ had it translated and published in the ‘Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society‘ in 1931. It wasn’t until 18 years later that astronomer ‘Fred Hoyle’ mockingly called it the ‘Big Bang’ and that name stuck.‬

In 1929, ‘Edwin Hubble‘ proposed the Hubble constant, which is a theory that the further away galaxies are from Earth, the faster they are moving away, and this was originally known as Hubble’s law, but in 2018, scientists voted to rename it to ‘Hubble–Lemaître law‘, due to Georges Lemaître proposing it, and Hubble refining it.

A retrospective: Malcolm X

Malcolm X‘ was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, and spent his youth growing up in multiple foster homes. At age 19 he was sentenced to prison for burglary/breaking and entering, and in prison he discovered Islam, and he joined the political group, Nation of Islam (NOI) where he changed his name and publicly he became Malcolm X. Elijah Muhammad, who was the leader of the NOI became Malcolm’s mentor after he left prison in 1952.

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” – Malcolm X

Elijah Muhammad preached his own version of Islam where he claimed that whites were inferior, and blacks being the original humans should take back what’s theirs. Of course he gained much sympathy and allegiance as he targeted young black men who were oppressed, who were often Christian who he successfully converted to Islam. The Nation of Islam combined Islam with black nationalism and this ideology appealed to Malcolm, after his brother, Reginald, who was also in prison with him converted. Upon release from prison he created a newspaper for the Nation of Islam called Muhammad Speaks, and every member of the movement was obligated to sell a fixed amount after publication. Malcolm quickly rose through the ranks and became minister at the Temple No. 7 in Harlem, and Elijah Muhammad made him National Representative of the Nation of Islam, his second in command.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” – Malcolm X

He tirelessly worked to recruit and gain notoriety in his battle against racial hatred and the civil rights movement, and this involved him preaching on the streets of Harlem, and giving public speeches wherever he could. Whilst both him and Martin Luther King Jr. had the same objectives, they were extremely critical of each other’s methods. It was partly due to Malcolm’s pride and persistence that the terms coloured and negro were replaced by African American, or black, as he formed the foundations of black power, and black consciousness.

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

His relationship with the Nation of Islam became sour, and his relationship with Elijah diminished because of separating views, and he announced his separation in 1964, but remained a Muslim. He founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc. and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are required to do at least once in their lives, and he changed his name to el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz.

“I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” – Malcolm X

In February 1965 he held a rally in New York that’s aim was to unite others for the human rights movement. As he began his speech in front of the small crowd in Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, a man stepped forward brandishing a Sawn-off shotgun and shot Malcolm in the chest. He was then shot another 14 times by other assailants representing the Nation of Islam. His death led to the prominent Black Power movement.