After spending countless hours reading and re-reading text from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (this time spent just to comprehend the preface to its Transcendental Doctrine), I decided it would be helpful to listen to lectures online that have been given with the intent of deciphering the Critique. Knowing what the book is about, yet knowing little of its content beyond the introduction, I couldn’t help but wonder what would lead a person to consider the ideas that would eventually surmount to the text at hand, and what kind of life someone could live with such demanding ponderances constantly blurring the lines that separate reality, actuality, and their concepts—as it has already done to me. In wake of another hour long grapple over a single paragraph of text, I decided to lay back on my bed with my fan humming above me, and close my eyes for a bit. Moments later I opened them to an epiphanic sight that loomed directly above me, which I now call Fan-bade clarity.
The idea begins with the knowledge of Immanuel Kant’s daily life (also given in the introduction) in relation to his academic and philosophical merits. At first, I found it to be ironic that Kant, world renown expert in the field of metaphysics and ambassador of the modern understanding of universal knowledge, was a man who had never left the place in which he was born, raised, and eventually died. Königsberg, Prussia was the theatre where Kant battled relentlessly over the nature of being. Not only was Königsber the town where Kant was born, he also attended University there, tutored there afterwards, and as mentioned previously, died there. In fact, it is rumored that Kant had not traveled more than 150 km away from his home town. That said, there is more to the seemingly absurd nature that makes up the philosophers reported life. It is also known that Kant was extremely meticulous in his daily routines, so much, that his daily walks could be measured almost to the exact second. Meaning that if one were an observer, one might notice that every single day Kant would walk by–whatever point of reference–at the same time as the day before, down to the second. So here we have a man who is arguably structured to the point of clockwork, has never left the comfort of his home town, and possesses the ability to think critically beyond the boundaries of anyone before him, which subsequently allows him to reason equally as objectively.
Ironic? I don’t think so anymore, and here is why:
To me, being completely new to the metaphysical world of concepts and theories, it is strangely difficult to grasp on to a concept such as time, space, or existence. Sometimes I can hold onto a line of thought or reasoning for an hour, but eventually the line is blurred and my thoughts spin astray, arousing a whirlwind of incoherent and fragmented ideas in its trail. Over time I’ve realized that certain daily variables, when accounted for and equated, determine the level of brain power I can muster and sustain. A simple example would be rest. Physiologically I am able to think with more clarity and precision when I am well rested. Knowing the relationship of physiology and its cognitive causalities, one might deduct that controlling these physiological variances might subsequently yield a more managed mental focus. Treating one’s body like a science experiment and calculating nutrition, rest, exercise, stress, and all other daily activities, will eventually show a trend in regards to sharpness of mind—if diligently and appropriately measured. This idea is exactly the approach I think Kant took with his lifestyle.
The best way I can describe his incredible level of persistent focus is to explain the metaphor, which hangs right above me. As described earlier, in metaphysics it is easy to get lost in the blur of a concept simply from thinking critically about it too long. When I look up at my ceiling fan—without focus—there appears a similar blur of spinning blades, each as indistinguishable as they are difficult to count, but if I look to the blade’s ends and focus my eyes in the same circular pattern, eventually I am able to catch up and focus on a blade and peripherally able to account for the others. Just like my focus with metaphysics, I can not sustain that level of focus long. Here is how this relates to Kant: Essentially Kant systematically turned the dials—so to speak— which synced his eyes with the ceiling fan. By controlling every aspect of his life through structure and calculation (turning the fan speed down) and never leaving the place which he found the most focus (training his eyes), he mindfully allowed himself to sustain and retain very powerful levels of thought. Keeping up with the metaphor, while I am only able to periodically see flashes of a single blade, Kant was able to maintain clarity throughout his entire adult life.
This is the premise of fan-blade clarity, and its reciprocal principles are self-defining. Managing the body will lead to more control over the mind, and control over the mind will allow better management of the body.
Andrew T. Ramirez