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.

Evolution of emotions

I was interacting with a user on Twitter who claimed that souls are real, and just because you can’t see them, or science can’t prove or disprove them, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. He suggested that someone can claim love for someone else, but can we prove love really exists. My reply was to inform him that love is an emotion and emotions exist, but there’s no proof of a soul, and it’s a product of religious brainwashing. I told him that brain scans by neurologists have studied the effects emotions have for decades, and it’s actually become a science of its own.

“Human emotions have deep evolutionary roots, a fact that may explain their complexity and provide tools for clinical practice.” – Robert Plutchik

What is an emotion?

An emotion is a biological state that’s triggered through a variety of experiences, like thoughts, feelings, stimulants, experiences, or responses, and can be both positive, negative or ambivalent. Emotions are not only a mental state, but can also be physiological in the way the heart can speed up when you experience fear, or you can perspire. Your breathing can quicken and you may tense up. When you are embarrassed you can blush, and when you are angry your face can go red. Everyone suffers a variety of emotions throughout their days that can be from happiness to sadness, anger to euphoria, love to hate, and these can affect our decisions in a variety of ways, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. Emotions that are strong can affect our judgement and cause irrationality, like love for instance. Love can make people do very erratic things that under normal circumstances they wouldn’t even consider, and hate works in the same way. Psychiatrists often put emotions into three distinct categories and they are:

Subjective experience

Physiological response

Behavioural response

Emotions are subjective and different to each person. Take anger as an example. Two people could have their cars stolen, and both can be angry, but the first person is angry that they’ll have to report it to the police and take the bus home, so they see it as more of an inconvenience; whereas the second person could be in a fit of rage, as they’ve had their personal property violated, and that was their dream car, and if they get their hands on the thief who took it, they will tear them apart. Emotions can also be ambivalent which is mixed feelings. You’re going on your first date with someone and you’re extremely nervous as what if she doesn’t like you, or you say something idiotic and make a fool of yourself. But at the same time you’re extremely excited as she could potentially be the one, and her smile makes your heart melt.

The physiological response is butterflies in your stomach, dry mouth, sweaty palms, racing heart, rapid blinking, changing of facial expressions, tensing of muscles or posture. These are all involuntary changes that are controlled by your nervous system and are triggered by various emotions. You are going for the interview for your dream job, and you know that you will have to shake the hand of the interviewer, but your palms are sweaty, and you’ve already stuttered to the receptionist and you have the feeling of falling, and your mouth is dry. This is anxiety and nervousness as it obviously matters to you and you’re desperate to make a good impression, but your nervous system is betraying you.

Behavioural response is the actual feeling of emotion, and the ability to recognise emotions in other people as you’ve seen the signs from your own experiences. Someone you know has lost their pet and they are distraught, and you’ve been in the same position yourself as you lost your dog a year ago. You know they are very sad, they’ve lost a friend and their life will now have an empty space in it. You try to show empathy and be sympathetic, but you know that no amount of comforting will ease their grief, only over time will their suffering subside. There are also actions that can be taken when feeling an emotion. Anger can lead to violence, happiness can lead to dancing or hugging someone, and love can lead to sexual interaction, or intimacy.

“Emotions are a process, a particular kind of automatic appraisal influenced by our evolutionary and personal past, in which we sense that something important to our welfare is occurring, and a set of psychological changes and emotional behaviors begins to deal with the situation.” – Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman‘ is a psychologist from Washington, DC, and has a PhD in clinical psychology. He’s an expert on emotions and facial expressions, which he claims is an indicator of lying. Regarding his expertise in emotions, he clams that there are seven groups of universal emotions.

‪• Anger – a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility‬

‪• Fear – an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm‬

‪• Sadness – the feeling of being unhappy, especially when something bad has happened‬

‪• Disgust – a feeling of revulsion or strong disapproval aroused by something unpleasant or offensive‬

‪• Surprise – an unexpected or astonishing event, or fact‬

‪• Anticipation – a feeling of excitement about something pleasant or exciting that you expect to happen‬

‪• Trust – firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something‬

‪• Joy – a feeling of great pleasure and happiness‬

Dr. Robert Plutchik‘ was a professor who studied psychology and psychotherapy, and was considered an expert in the field of emotions, and the above image is ‘Plutchik’s wheel of emotions‘. He was of the mindset that there are eight groups of universal emotions.

Can we prove emotions exist?

Emotions are observable in the mind and the body, so with them being visible, they obviously exist and aren’t a construction of the mind, and considering emotions are involuntary and are difficult to control, their effects are noticeable. If someone is sad, they will shown it in their face, and body language. They sometimes have a lack of attention, or concentration, and can struggle with every day tasks, like personal hygiene, or coping with personal relationships. Love can overwhelm some people as they don’t wish to be apart from the one they love, and they miss not being in their company. Love can make people over protective, or jealous, or not think straight as their mind is consumed by the one they love. If there’s a separation that’s one sided, the one who’s still in love will feel like they. Ant cool without their partner, and they’ll have a sense of loneliness and feel worthless. These feelings make a physical impact, as well as mentally, and can cloud a person’s judgement.

With emotions being controlled by the brain, the brain will change its activity. For decades, neurologists have been using volunteers and placing them in situations that can effect their emotions and studying the brain activity. In 1872, ‘Charles Darwin‘ published ‘The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals‘, and claimed that emotions have a universal character, and evolutionary history, and every human, regardless of race, religion, sex, or gender have similar behaviours. He expressed that all sentient being experienced emotions, and having four dogs I can testify that this is indeed correct. Their emotions aren’t as complex as humans as they don’t understand the concept of the world around them, but they express happiness, fear, excitement and the need for cuddles and kisses. Darwin was involved with several researchers hiked the was writing his book, and one was ‪French physician ‘Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne‬’. He applied electricity to people’s faces to stimulate the muscles to attempt to imitate facial expressions that were relative to emotions, and this was an area that Darwin was interested in as he believed that expressions were an important factor in the study of emotions.

Scientists have been using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study brain activity when a person suffers an emotion, and they claim that the brain has shown to give off neural signatures that have been shared by different subjects who have been studied.

“Despite manifest differences between people’s psychology, different people tend to neurally encode emotions in remarkably similar ways” – Amanda Markey

By using highly sophisticated computers, they were able to map out areas of the brain that were triggered when the subjects were stimulated into an emotional state. Modern psychiatrists, and neurologists are on the brink of being able to scan brains to seek out a problem, rather than self analysis which isn’t a completely reliable science.