This is part of a series of notes in response to "What's So Great About Christianity" by Dinesh D'Souza
Chapter 15 | The World Beyond Our Senses: Kant and the Limits of Reason
This chapter took an incredibly long time for an extremely brief point that doesn't even seem to follow from the Kantian ideas presented as evidence. D'Souza spends literally ten of his eleven pages discussion essentially one Kantian principle: we can't verify that our senses are recreating reality as reality really is. He seems to say this and then wait in silence as the reader either "Oohs" and "Aahs" or looks up into his eyelids or just stares blankly. I don't see the issue. I will concede that he is correct. The best we can do is assume that what we perceive is at least representative of reality, that rooms don't disappear when we leave them, that colors and sounds are real, etc. I'm not sure practically how much good it would do to think about this all day. We have what we have (our senses) and we need to make due with them.
Finally, after discussion how no one has refuted Kant on this issue (not sure whether that's true or not), he gets to his last page and asserts:
Ours is a world of appearances only, a transient world that is dependent on a higher, timeless reality. That reality is of a completely different order from anything that we know, it constitutes the only permanent reality there is, and it sustains our world and presents it to our senses. Christianity teaches that while reason can point to the existence of this higher domain, this is where reason stops: it cannot on its own investigate or comprehend that domain. but one day, it is promised, when our earthly journey is over, we will know the higher realm and see things as they really are...While the atheist arrogantly persists in the delusion that his reason is fully capable of figuring out all there is, the religious believer lives in the humble acknowledgment of the limits of human knowledge, knowing that there is a reality greater than, and beyond, that which our senses and minds can ever apprehend.
This just seems so outlandish I'm not sure where to begin. D'Souza takes us from somewhat of a deep thought experiment about how we can really be sure that what we sense aligns with reality. One answers that we can't, which he uses to blatantly assert that a higher timeless order exists which forms the "real" reality and sustains our mirage? How in the world can one make that jump? He's beaten to death in ten pages the limits of the human senses and without stating whatsoever the tools used to uncover the non-reasoned reality, he just asserts that it's there and after we die it'll all be clear. In finality, he calls this position humble as though it's arrogant to ignore or deny something that has literally no evidence to support it and no stated mechanism for discovering it. He's right in stating that Kant can only take us so far with reason on the bridge to this special knowledge… but D'Souza completely fails to mention what method holds up the remainder of the bridge.
Given that our senses and reason can only take us so far, does this mean that no religions are actually based on solid facts? If they are all based on this intangible reality, it would seem that all humans who perceive such a reality are valid in doing so. I suspect that D'Souza will claim that Christianity has better historical evidence and that other religions actually have evidence against them and that therefore only the Christian formulation of this immaterial existence is correct.
If Christianity, however, has valid claims against it, at the very least I see no reason that conceding that a transcendent reality exists but no religions accurately describe it. Even more so, if this reality exists but there is no way to access it or describe it, what does it add to life? D'Souza seems to think that simply hinting at the limited nature of reason builds a case for perhaps heaven and hell or the reality of angels and souls? All he's done is state that we don't know if our reason accurately describes reality. It should be pointed out that he constantly made allusions to things like whether a picture really portrayed a face accurately, whether we could know what it's like to actually be a dog, etc. Not once did he suggest that Kant was pointing toward our limited reason leading us to believe there's a whole separate spirit world as well as the natural one. Instead he only brought up, as I stated earlier, a "thought experiment" regarding whether we could possibly know that green is actually green or that what I hear and see is really what exists and so on. Only in his remaining page does he reveal that his agenda is to suggest that a hypothesized separate reality exists. What is the evidence for it? Only what he accused Dawkins of earlier... that there's no evidence against it.
To Ch 16: In the Belly of the Whale >>