Saturday, November 15, 2014

Plaster Cast of a Living Human Being

So suppose someone has, in the strict sense, learned a system of philosophy—for example, that of Wolff. They would have in their head all the axioms, explanations, and proofs, together with the structure of the whole system, and they would be able to count everything off on their fingers. However, all they would have would be a complete historical knowledge of Wolff's philosophy. They know and judge only as much as has been given to them. If you criticise one of his definitions, they won't know how to come up with an alternative one. They have taught themselves on the basis of someone else's reason—but the capacity to imitate is not the capacity to be creative. In other words, the knowledge did not arise in them from reason. Although, objectively, the knowledge is certainly an instance of rational knowledge, in the learner as subject it is merely historical. They have understood and remembered, that is, they have learned well; but they are no more than a plaster cast of a living human being. Knowledge that is objectively rational can only originally have sprung from the reason peculiar to humans. So knowledge in the subject can also be called rational only if it is drawn from the universal sources of reason. And the same sources, namely principles, give rise to criticism and even rejection of what has been learned.
Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B865