The second Critique re-deploys the dichotomy phenomena/noumena.59 With the first Critique Kant had to employ the term noumenon to avoid Berkeley's idealism. The employment of this term meant that, in effect, a nothing was required to speak of objects. Objects were required to be mere appearances and there was to be, practically speaking, nothing outside them: a nothing because every experiential category is rendered inapplicable. Hence the object is literally no-thing. This nothing can be taken, on one reading, as merely a limiting concept - that is, as something nominal: noumena would have then only a negative existence.60 In the second Critique, however, Kant utilises noumena to escape the mechanistic determinism of the phenomenal world. Nature is to be rendered merely phenomenal in order to allow for another realm which underlies it. This indeterminate realm allows the Kantian subject the latitude necessary to carry out an action, for to do something is to do something free. Indeed, without this requisite freedom there could not be a subject as such, or rather the subject would merely be an 'object', if we think of this as something lacking volition or self-determination.
In his second Critique Kant wishes to establish a pure faculty of practical reason. The first Critique limited our theoretical reason to appearance alone; we were to deal solely with the phenomenal. Yet this inhibition now becomes opportunity, since in dealing only with appearances we are left with another realm. In other words, theory concerns only phenomena, which means that theory no longer gives access to the whole realm of being. Here we find all our actions begin on the brink of this demise. Practice discloses the deeper realities beneath appearances.
Likewise the theoretical self, in being merely phenomenal, disappears. Yet for there to be a subject who acts there must be a noumenal self who has experience, if only at a phenomenal level. Kant asks us to regard this self in-itself in terms of freedom. Freedom arises, for Kant, already in this subject who has experience where it gives objective reality to the ideas of reason such as God and immortality. Inversely, freedom is itself an idea of reason; the only one which can be established a priori by pure practical reason and revealed by the moral law. Yet the use of such ideas does not extend theoretical knowledge but merely enables our actions to be 'ours', and only in the negation of the causal order and the phenomenal self can we regard ourselves in such a manner and affirm a causa noumenon,61 which (somehow) interrupts the apparent causal order.
All moral action, which is action for which we are responsible, is issued by this noumenal self which escapes the restraints of phenomenality and is autonomous. In this way the determining ground of our will is transferred to an intelligible order of things, instead of an empirical order. In free will, the numinous surfaces, since will is self-given and produces even the reality to which its decrees or autonomous laws are to correspond.62 For this reason the moral law is a formal law.63 This circumstance frees the law from any empirical conditions which would have to be heteronomously presupposed, thus compromising its self-determination. In this fashion empirical conditions are formally ignored. The will can be self-determined by a number of practical rules: these comprise subjective rules which Kant refers to as maxims, and objective rules, or imperatives. Imperatives are hypothetical if they causally determine the will in relation to an effect, while they are categorical if they determine the will without recourse to the question of adequate causality, and are consequent on freedom as such. They alone enact the moral law. At this point Kant introduces the famous definition of a categorical imperative: 'Act such that the maxim of your will could always hold at the same time as the principle giving universal law.'64
In the second Critique we see that Kant posits the existence of certain practical postulates, which are prerequisites of moral law. The first of these is freedom, which we have already mentioned. The second is that of immortality, for only this postulate provides the 'requisite duration' for the fulfilment of the moral law. The last postulate is that of God, as the highest independent good. These are pure concepts of reason; consequently they cannot be accompanied by an intuition, for this would be a matter of cognitive significance which would relate to the extension of theoretical knowledge.65 A noumenal self 'causes' moral actions by acting according to the categorical imperative, along with the practical postulates of freedom, immortality and the existence of God. The world to which we give such moral law is that of appearance. This world is not created by God, who is a practical postulate. God can only be said to create the noumenal, and indeed only noumenal beings can be said to be created.66 (This is somewhat similar to the Neoplatonism of Avicenna for whom only the first intelligence is created by God.) Yet this uncreated phenomenal realm of the senses requires 'man' to give it meaning and in this sense to give creation meaning. Indeed, according to Kant, of the third Critique, without man nature would be in vain.67
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