Cosmic Dignitarianism

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Robert Hanna:

"I’m now going to present a 12-step argument for the cosmic dignitarianism thesis, that fuses

(i) the basic line of argument in the Transcendental Aesthetic of the first Critique7 with

(ii) a Kantian aesthetics of the beautiful and the sublime, insofar as we experience them in the natural environment, as presented in the third Critique, aka the Critique of the Power of Judgment, and also

(iii) a Kantian self-evident phenomenology of our experience of “reverence” (Ehrfurcht) for the manifestly real cosmos and for our rational human animal nature, especially including our consciousness, our free agency, and our dignity, at the very end of the second Critique.

ARGUMENT : Cosmic Dignitarianism

1. Given the truth of transcendental idealism for sensibility, then we can take fully seriously the sensibility-grounded, conscious evidence provided by the aesthetic experience of beauty in the cosmos, as veridically tracking natural purposive form, without a purpose, in a way that is inherently disinterested and therefore divorced from all possible self-interest (CPJ 5: 204-211).

2. In short, our experience of beauty in the cosmos shows us that the cosmos cannot be and ought not to be regarded or treated purely instrumentally, that is, merely as a means or as a mere thing, and thereby exploited.

3. Given the truth of transcendental idealism for sensibility, and our experience of beauty in the cosmos, then we can also take fully seriously the reverential experience of what Kant calls “the mathematically sublime in nature,” for example, “the starry heavens above me.”

4. To make this kind of reverential experience phenomenologically vivid to yourself, either stand outside on a clear, moonless night at 2:00 am in a place without too many nearby city lights and then look straight up; or perhaps contemplate, for example, Van Gogh’s 1889 masterpiece painting, “The Starry Night”

5. Now since, according to Kant, via the human experience of the mathematically sublime in nature, the cosmos is thereby experienced as having a specific character and normative value that is expressible only as a transfinite, or nondenumerably infinite, quantity, it follows that the specific character and normative value of the cosmos cannot reduced to any denumerable quantity, no matter how great (CPJ 5: 244-260).

6. Hence the cosmos, experienced as mathematically sublime, cannot have a “market price” and is experienced as beyond price, or priceless, since all “market prices,” or exchangeable economic values (say, monetary values) “related to general human interests and needs” (GMM 4: 434), are expressible only as denumerable (natural number, rational number) quantities, even infinite ones.

7. Otherwise put, the specific character and normative value of the cosmos, experienced by us as mathematically sublime, inherently transcends any economic or otherwise strictly instrumental calculus.

8. Steps 1 to 7 jointly entail what I call the proto-dignity of the cosmos: what do I mean by that?

9. Human dignity, according to Kant, is the absolute, non-denumerably infinite, intrinsic, objective value of human real persons, i.e., rational human animals; now the cosmos isn’t itself a real person, and more specifically it isn’t itself a human real person, and therefore it doesn’t have human dignity per se, since human dignity per se attaches inherently only to human real persons, i.e., rational human animals; nevertheless, the cosmos, reverentially experienced by us as beautiful and sublime, inherently cannot be (without eco-disaster) and inherently ought not to be (without moral scandal) exploited, merely bought or sold, or otherwise treated as a mere capitalist resource or commodity (aka “commodified”).

10. Nevertheless, our rational human animal nature, including our human dignity, itself necessarily belongs to the cosmos.

11. Therefore, transcendental idealism for sensibility, plus the self-evident phenomenology of our reverential experience of beauty/sublimity in the cosmos, (“the starry heavens above me”), plus our equally reverential experience of respect for human dignity (“the moral law within me”), conjointly prove that the cosmos, together with its proto-dignity, is the metaphysical ground of all rational human animals, especially including our consciousness, our free agency, and our dignity.

12. That is: cosmic dignitarianism is true.

Whether we’re incredibly shrinking people or incredibly expanding people, provided that we’re thinking, then the truly important philosophical upshots of Jack Arnold’s and Kant’s thought-experiments are identical: the cosmos is not metaphysically alien to us, as rational human animals with consciousness, free agency, and dignity—on the contrary,

for better or worse, the cosmos is our metaphysical home, which is why we must sufficiently respect its proto-dignity.

And in this way, physics, biology, mathematics, metaphysics, moral philosophy, sociopolitical philosophy, aesthetics, environmental philosophy, and existential spirituality all coherently converge."

Source: The Incredible Shrinking Thinking Man, Or, Cosmic Dignitarianism. Robert Hanna.