Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Philosophical Aesthetics and Simms's Poetry and the Practical >> Page 64

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 64 THE SIMMS REVIEW

objects in the world of time and space, i.e., the world that is made avail-
able to us by means of physical sensations or sense-data. Kant concluded
that the objects of interest associated with moral philosophy, theology,
and metaphysics could not be apprehended or deduced from our physi-
cal sensations of persons, objects, and events in the empirical world. A
strictly empirical knowledge could not be anything more than a knowl-
edge that something happens to be the case or that some describable state
of affairs happens to exist in physical space and time. Such a knowledge,
strictly construed, would be entirely without moral or theological signifi-
cance, apart from ideas associated with it whose source happens to be
outside the domain of sensuous perception.
One implication of Kant's first critique seemed to be that empiri-
cal reality could appear only as a gigantic spectacle of physical causes
and physical effects, known not in themselves as they truly are but only
in terms of the impressions they make on us as we experience them.
Ultimately, this was a dismal view, because it implied that the natural
sciences could not account for the world of human interests except by
construing that world as a fictional construct masking the physical world
(itself a mask in relation to the unknowable reality behind it). Indeed,
natural science had apparently nothing to say about human being about
ethics or politics or aesthetic experience. As though lobotomized, it could
only produce descriptions of perceptible states of affairs and could say
nothing about the desirability of any particular state of affairs, without
attaching to its descriptions concepts drawn from ethics, political phi-
losophy, and aesthetics. Henceforth, science would have to be regarded
as a body of knowledge, or as an instrument, wielded by persons whose
interests and goals could not be accounted for, or even conceived of, by
science itself. As a tool, science must be wielded by something or some-
one, and it must be wielded for a purpose or purposes. Kant's second and
third critiques get their impetus from the perceived need to explain our
knowledge of persons and purposes, on the assumption that such knowl-
edge cannot be generated from sense-data.
In his second critique, The Critique of Practical Reason, Kant
proceeded to investigate human being in terms of man's capacity to be
a moral being, to act one way or another in a fashion that is guided by
purposes or intentions. As he describes it, the realm of practical reason is
a realm of purpose-governed action, which is actually a sphere of moral
freedom and moral awareness, a sort of spiritual kingdom in which per-