Kant’s Four Noble Truths

  1. The disease resulted from an over-permissive method of theorizing—one whose content was sourced from hunch and tradition, and whose correctness was checked by mere internal consistency. So all these pretentious creators invented, and then defended—which action constitutes philosophy—their own favored imaginary worlds. Metaphysics thrived under the Montessori method, and the result was a plethora of internally consistent, equally plausible, but totally incompatible models.
  2. The cause of the disease was bad method.
  3. The cured state is that of having only one metaphysics. More specifically, in the cured state you have one metaphysics, you see why it is valid, you see that it is the only one that is valid, and you see why it is the only one that can be valid.
  4. Cleaning up involved two jobs—negative and positive. The negative job was that of minimization. Occam’s Razor is neither a theoretical nor a practical ideal. It is axiological. Its discoverer was Francis Bacon, but its greatest practitioner in the realm of metaphysics was Hume. The positive job was that of building from necessity. Its discoverer was Descartes. The way of Good Metaphysics, then, is one that is purely formal, matter-free, self-correcting, and scientific. The method, which is the method of discovering essences, is to begin from absence and impossibility, and then make the minimal additions required to rebuild the object in an act of real definition by way of essences.

As everyone knows, the form of the 4NTs follows that of Indian medical diagnosis. It was a popular formula. The Buddha’s using it to present a new kind of yoga (an experience of direct contact with fundamental or essential reality) was witty, good for marketing, and provided excellent placebo enhancement since it packaged the system path as a medical procedure. The story about the arrow also shows a prioritizing of the medical over the philosophical approach. For the Buddha,

Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of medicinal effort, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey it.

In any system of thinking, precisely because it is a system, consistency and unity are goals. When many truths fit together into a larger complex truth, we expect the truth of the whole to be determined as a truth-functional combination (i.e., the conjunction operator).

For Kant, combination is the primary act of the epistemic subject. It is combination that turns the point-moments of Humean empiricism into objects, concepts into judgments, and judgments into inferential webs and conceptual taxonomies.

Unity is a goal of the epistemic subject. Its goal: to fit many truths into something that it can wrap up organically in a way that satisfies the intentionality (innate delimiting and focusing of attention) invoked by a name.

For Kant, naming mis-informs us of its true underlying nature. Like Russell on definite descriptions, Kant said that the human experience of “object-before-me”—which is the paradigmatic physical knowledge situation—is really, underneath, an act of judgment. This brings us to Kant's meta-principle:

  • All topics of philosophy finally reduce to questions about knowledge. The concepts in a system will be an aspects of object or of knowing objects and will be end up working as supports for the overcoming of doubt. Merely showing up as a pertinency imbues the concepts with theoretical currency. All beings are knowable, and are originally delivered as facts.

A name has roots that go deeper than its de facto function as tag, pointer, or label. Much goes on before this encapsulating and simplifying ostensive function is possible. A name’s seemingly facile power of referring “to a unity” is really a final act combination that follows many acts of sub-combination.

The notion of “combination” is generic for Kant—so generic, in fact, that its meaning may be empty. But it is the way of philosophy to love any act that brings unity a priori, and nothing is more exciting than finding a simple or necessary act that produces unity as a side effect. Unity then becomes a freebie, or is accounted for “by virtue of the conditions that must be satisfied for obviously unproblematic or necessary act A.” The act A for Kant is judgment at all. Why?

Because it is the doorway out of Uncle Bob. Inviting the possibility of error is the first step on the philosophical Hobbit’s path.