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Philosophy Discussion on Immanuel Kant (HAY)

Philosophy Discussion on George Berkeley - 32:42 Minutes

Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804)

Hayagrīva: Immanuel Kant. Being a son of the Enlightenment, Kant strongly advocated the right and duty of every man to judge for himself in religious and secular matters. Indeed, he considered the motto of the Enlightenment to be, "Have courage to make use of your own intellect." The emphasis here is on individual freedom and on the ability of man to intuit the truth.

Prabhupāda: Does it mean that anyone, whatever he does, that is perfectly right? If he is given that freedom, then anyone will do anything as he likes. So it will be taken as...

Hayagrīva: Well he, at the same time, he considered the Bible to be the best vehicle for the instruction of the public in a truly moral religion.

Prabhupāda: Then he has to accept some authority. Where is freedom?

Hayagrīva: He believed that the individual can intuit truths within, but could be helped from without by scripture.

Prabhupāda: Yes. That means he should not become independent, but he advocates in the beginning that everyone should be independent. So that is not right proposal. One should be dependent on authority, and that authority should be recognized or well established. Then knowledge is possible.

Hayagrīva: He writes, "Absolutely no human reason can hope to understand the production of even a blade of grass by mere mechanical causes."

Prabhupāda: Yes. Therefore he has to know everything from the person or authority who knows that thing. That means this is perfect way of understanding, to take knowledge from the authority who is actually cognizant and knows things as they are.

Hayagrīva: He believes that behind nature or mechanical laws, he says that crude matter, or prakṛti, should have originally formed itself according to mechanical laws or automatically; that life should have sprung from the nature of what is lifeless. That matter should have been able to dispose itself into the form of a self-maintaining purpose is contradictory to reason. Simply by using our reason we can intuit the creator behind the creation.

Prabhupāda: No. Unless there is a brain... Matter has no brain. Matter cannot combine together without a brain behind. That brain is the Supreme Lord, God. That is quite reasonable. And if somebody thinks matter automatically combines together and becomes the sun, becomes the moon, so bright, without any brain behind it—that is ludicrous.

Hayagrīva: Well, he sees the design in nature, but he says the design only suggests a designer; it doesn't prove the existence of the...

Prabhupāda: No. As soon as there is earthen pot, immediately the potter is understood, and that is a fact. We cannot say that it is simply understanding that there is potter, but there is no potter. That is foolishness. Without potter, the pot is never manufactured, so as soon as you see the pot, you can immediately understand that some potter has made it. That is logic. That is philosophy.

Hayagrīva: He says because suffering and calamities overwhelm man in nature, it is impossible for man to see nature's final end.

Prabhupāda: No. Nature is not final end. Nature is only instrument. Just like I beat you with a stick. The stick is not beating you; I am beating you. Stick is in my hand. So from nature when you get tribulation, pains, that is designed by God, and nature is instrument. Śītoṣna-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ. The change of season we find nature, but why it is systematically changing unless there is brain behind nature? In such and such month there will be winter. And by accident or by some other ways the month of April does not become winter; the month of December becomes winter. So there is adjustment. So therefore there is brain behind these natural changes and activities. That is confirmed, mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-carācaram (BG 9.10).

Hayagrīva: He says this can be intuited, but not known.

Prabhupāda: Not known? To foolish man everything is unknown, but to a man who is in knowledge, he knows everything. From the authority or my direct perception, somehow or other the knowledge is there. So "unknown" means that he doesn't care to know. Where to take knowledge he doesn't know, neither he personally knows; therefore it is unknown.

Hayagrīva: For him we cannot experience God through our senses.

Prabhupāda: No, that is not possible. We always say that when God explains Himself, that is also not to everyone—only to the devotees. The devotees can accept the Personality of Godhead as He instructs. A nondevotee or atheist he cannot understand; he simply speculates. But by speculation it is not possible to understand God.

Hayagrīva: Kant says that speculative reason is unable to attain to a sure or adequate conception of God.

Prabhupāda: Yes. That is our..., that the speculator cannot reach vicinity of God. It is not possible. Athāpi te. Only one can understand by the mercy of God, and this mercy is bestowed upon a person who is devotee, who is surrendered to God. Otherwise this mercy is reserved, as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya yoga-māyā-samāvṛtaḥ: (BG 7.25) "I am not revealed to everyone and anyone; rather, I am covered by yoga-māyā." Because revelation means when one becomes devotee this covering curtain is... What is called, curtain?

Devotee: Curtain.

Prabhupāda: Huh?

Hayagrīva: Curtain.

Prabhupāda: No, curtain closed and opened.

Hayagrīva: Opened.

Prabhupāda: Yes. Then one can understand. Just like at night there is sun in the sky—there is no doubt about it—but the night is (indistinct), prohibiting me to see the sun. But when the sun by his mercy rises in the morning, the night is immediately over and one can see this. So at night, by speculation you cannot understand sun, but when the sun rises in the morning... Sometimes we see from the airplane how within a second the sun comes out from the sea and everything becomes illuminated, and you can see things by light. You have got that experience?

Hayagrīva: Hm.

Prabhupāda: All of a sudden, as if it is coming from the sea.

Hayagrīva: He rejects the traditional proofs of God's existence in order to clear the ground for his assertion that God is morally necessary in a moral universe. In this universe, every soul is an end in itself, and these individual souls are like citizens in a kingdom of ends. He calls it "a kingdom of ends."

Prabhupāda: So why does he use that word kingdom if there is no king? This is unreasonable. Why does he say kingdom if...

Hayagrīva: Oh, he would say there is a king.

Prabhupāda: ...he does not believe in king? He does not believe in God. The individual souls are ends themselves.

Hayagrīva: Oh, he believes in God...

Prabhupāda: Oh.

Hayagrīva: ...but that he rejects the traditional proofs of God. He says that God is morally necessary in a moral universe. His philosophy is a philosophy of ethics and morality.

Prabhupāda: That's all right. But if your, his morality does not accept God, and God is there—because we have already discussed that behind the nature there is God. So if his morality denies the existence of God, then where is the value of this morality? This morality can change at any time into degradation.

Hayagrīva: His, his emphasis are on morality is based on this. He says...

Prabhupāda: So what is morality?

Hayagrīva: He says, "For a rational but finite being..."

Prabhupāda: No.

Hayagrīva: "...the only thing..."

Prabhupāda: So one man is thinking that animal killing is good, and another man is thinking animal killing is immorality. Then who is correct? Unless you know morality means this—it is coming from authority—that you have to follow it, otherwise you will be punished, then morality. Otherwise, if there is no background of forcing, that morality can be degraded into immorality at any moment.

Hayagrīva: Well, this is the weak..., this seems to be the weakness in his philosophy. He says, "For a rational but finite being the only thing possible is an endless progress from the lower to the higher degrees of moral perfection." So...

Prabhupāda: That means endless struggle to understand real morality. But if he takes the order of God, that he must do it, that is final morality.

Hayagrīva: This is... What he means by morality is rather vague. He does not say what this moral law is, other than it's called a categorical imperative.

Prabhupāda: But who is...

Hayagrīva: The categorical...

Prabhupāda: Who is, who will force that categorical imperative?

Hayagrīva: That says, "One should act in such a way..."

Prabhupāda: So how he will act? He is immoral. How he will act morally unless there is force?

Hayagrīva: For him, he says that the categorical imperative is that "One should act in such a way that the maxim of one's action becomes the principle for universal law."

Prabhupāda: That cannot be done. By individual soul it is impossible...

Hayagrīva: For a man.

Prabhupāda: ...to do something which will be universally accepted. That is nonsense. That is not possible.

Hayagrīva: A man cannot establish a universal law by his own action.

Prabhupāda: No. So God can do it. Just like God says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām e.. (BG 18.66).. Because God says, it has to be accepted. But if some individual soul said, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām, who will do that? Nobody will do it. That's why we are preaching that "You surrender to Kṛṣṇa." We do not say that "You surrender to me." Who will hear me? "Who are you? Why shall I surrender to you?" But if one understands that God wants this surrender, then he will agree.

Hayagrīva: According to the Christian religion, at the end of the world there is a resurrection of the body, that is the gross material body. Kant does not think very much about this. He writes, "For who is so fond of his body that he would wish to drag it about with him through all eternity if he could get on without it?"

Prabhupāda: That is the nature. Even a hog, pig, he is living so abominable. Still, when he is captured for being killed, he cries. He does not think that "My body is so low-grade that I have to eat stool, I live in filthy place, in a very bad smell, and I am trying to save my, this body?" But he cries. So this is called māyā. Although his body is so abominable, he wants to protect it perpetually. This tendency is there because the living entity has actually..., he is perpetual living condition. He wants that, but he wants that in this material body. That is his mistake.

Hayagrīva: He writes that "Man alone can be regarded as nature's own end or highest product, because on earth only man is capable of complying with the categorical imperative, the moral law."

Prabhupāda: So it is accepted that nature creates man, and that is not very good philosophy. Nature creates man, then nature is supreme. There is no such thing. And nature is ultimate. Nature is dull matter. What do you call nature? Bhūmir āpo 'nalo vāyuḥ: (BG 7.4) earth, water, fire. They cannot create. Nature cannot create. Otherwise the materialist scientist, they could do it by combining, combining this earth, water, air, fire. So nature is dull, lifeless. How nature can create life? What is the logic? What is the philosophy?

Hayagrīva: He wouldn't say that. He would say that man is nature's final end...

Prabhupāda: No.

Hayagrīva: ...because man's moral nature alone is worthwhile.

Prabhupāda: No, no. He is giving stress that nature has made man. That is our objection, that nature cannot do anything. Nature has given a body that..., just like a tailor can give me a set of dress, but the dress, when I put on, the dress looks like a man, with hands and legs. But dress is nothing; it is simply outward covering of a man, a living entity. Similarly, nature gives us this material body, outward coating. The inside is living entity, that..., not the creation of this material nature. That is creation of part and parcel of God. This (indistinct) knowledge is imperfect, that nature has created man. That is imperfect knowledge.

Hayagrīva: He maintains that certain knowledge of God's existence would destroy a man's freedom and reduce human experience to a show of puppets frantically currying the favor of the Almighty.

Prabhupāda: Yes, that is favor. Just like nobody wants to die, but the superior power obliges everyone to die. So he is dependent. Why should you think that he is independent? That is foolishness.

Hayagrīva: He sees uncertainty as a necessary ingredient for faith.

Prabhupāda: What is that?

Hayagrīva: Uncertainty is a necessary ingredient for faith.

Prabhupāda: No. Faith, faith should not be blind. That is useless. Faith... Just like I believe in the government. This is not faith, this is fact. There is government, and I am under government's law, so I have to obey the orders of government. This is not faith; this is fact. Similarly, to one who knows God and becomes dependent on Him, that is not faith; that is fact. He is happy by his depending on God. Just like a child, he knows that "Here is my father and mother." He voluntarily depends on the parents and he is happy.

Hayagrīva: In his last work Kant seems to shift his position. He says, "Morality thus leads ineluctably to religion, through which it extends itself to the idea of a powerful moral law-giver outside of mankind for whose will that is the final end of creation, which at the same time can and ought to be man's final end. Make the highest good possible in the world your own final end." So he seems to point to an absolute law-giver or an absolute morality, which is God, but he believes that this knowledge of God is ultimately uncertain.

Prabhupāda: Uncertain—for the man who does not possess the perfect knowledge. But if we believe in God, if we know God, we can get perfect knowledge from Him. Then we become perfect.

Hayagrīva: He says, "An ethical commonwealth can be followed only as a people under divine commands, that is, as a people of God, and indeed under laws of virtue. We might indeed conceive of a people of God under statutory laws. Under such laws, that obedience to them would concern not the morality but merely the legality of acts."

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: "This would be a commonwealth of which indeed God would be the law-giver."

Prabhupāda: Yes. That is the best quality of state. If we abide by the orders of God, or the king or the government abides by the order of God, that is ideal state.

Hayagrīva: He says, "Thus the constitution of the state would be theocratic, but man as priest receiving his bequests directly would build up an aristocratic government," like the brāhmaṇas would receive the knowledge from God.

Prabhupāda: That theocratic government is Manu-saṁhitā. That is Vedic literature given by Manu for the benefit of the human society.

Hayagrīva: He writes, "It does not enter men's heads that when they fulfill their duties to men they are performing God's commands and are therefore, in all their actions, so far as they concern morality, perpetually in the service of God, and that it is absolutely impossible to serve God directly in any other way, since they can effect and have an influence upon earthly beings alone and not upon God." He said we can only relate to man. We can only serve man and not serve God directly, but only serve god through man, like a humanitarianism.

Prabhupāda: So if he does not serve God, then how he will get direction how to serve the humanity? If he does not know how to serve humanity from God, then what is the value of his service to humanity? (break) ...giving direction that "You serve humanity in this way, by preaching His message, Bhagavad-gītā, to all humanity." Then he becomes very faithful servant of God. So to give service to the humanity means when one is a faithful servant of God, he can service to the humanity or to all other living entities, and if he manufactures his service, that is useless.

Hayagrīva: Kant writes, "There is only one true religion, but there can be faiths of several kinds. It is therefore more fitting to say, 'This is..., this man is of this or that faith"—Jewish, Muhammadan, Christian, Catholic, Lutheran-'than he is of this or that religion.' "

Prabhupāda: Yes, that is going on. Actually, religion means obedience to God. So religion does not mean some sect. They are trying to understand God some way, but that is not actually religion. That is a method of understanding God. But religion begins when one has actually understood God and giving Him, rendering Him service. That is religion.

Hayagrīva: For Kant, the true religion is the divine ethical state. He is..., he was fond of quoting the Christian Bible. When Christ was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say, 'Lo here' or 'Lo there,' for behold, the kingdom of God is within you." Now Kant footnotes this passage by saying, "Here a kingdom of God is represented not according to a particular covenant, but moral, knowable through assisted reason." So again he insists on the priority of God within, on the priority of ethical action and the freedom to accept ethical action. And this is epitomized in his famous line, "The starry sky above and the moral law within." The starry sky above is the abode of God, is very far away, but the moral law within is very close. Thus he emphasizes that the kingdom of God is within you.

Prabhupāda: Yes. If one is actually aware of God and His instructions, then the kingdom of God is within himself.

Hayagrīva: The Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone—that is one of his last books—he condemns prayer as an inner formal service to God, because God does not need information regarding the inner disposition of the person offering prayers. In other words, God does not need formal prayer to know what man needs. Such a prayer would be, "Give us this day our daily bread." However, Kant believes that it is good to teach children to pray so that in their early years they may accustom themselves to a life pleasing to God. So that prayer might add their...

Prabhupāda: That is religion: how to please God. That is not only restricted among the children, but authorized(?) to the children's father. One must know how to please God. That is real religion.

Hayagrīva: He rejects temple attendance, church-going as a means to salvation. He says, "Sensuous representations of God are contrary to the command of reason. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." So he would reject...

Prabhupāda: If somebody imagines...

Hayagrīva: ...Deity worship.

Prabhupāda: ...some image, that is not required. But if a, actually just like you keep the photograph of your beloved, that is not image. Image is imagination. But when you keep the photograph of your beloved, that is not imagination, that's a fact.

Hayagrīva: When you keep a photograph...

Prabhupāda: Of your beloved.

Hayagrīva: Beloved.

Prabhupāda: That is not imagination; that is fact.

Hayagrīva: So that is all. (end)