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...the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me...

It was close to midnight before Major Albert Knag called home to wish Hilde a happy birthday. Hilde\'s mother answered the telephone.

"It\'s for you, Hilde."


"It\'s Dad."

"Are you crazy? It\'s nearly midnight!"

"I just wanted to say Happy Birthday ..."

"You\'ve been doing that all day."

"... but I didn\'t want to call before the day was over."


"Didn\'t you get my present?"

"Yes, I did. Thank you very much."

"I can\'t wait to hear what you think of it."

"It\'s terrific. I have hardly eaten all day, it\'s so exciting."

"I have to know how far you\'ve gotten."

"They just went inside the major\'s cabin because you started teasing them with a sea serpent."

"The Enlightenment."

"And Olympe de Gouges."

"So I didn\'t get it completely wrong."

"Wrong in what way?"

"I think there\'s one more birthday greeting to come. But that one is set to music."

 "I\'d better read a little more before I go to sleep."

"You haven\'t given up, then?"

"I\'ve learned more in this one day than ever before. I can hardly believe that it\'s less than twenty-four hours since Sophie got home from school and found the first envelope."

"It\'s strange how little time it takes to read."

"But I can\'t help feeling sorry for her."

"For Mom?"

"No, for Sophie, of course."


"The poor girl is totally confused."

"But she\'s only ..."

"You were going to say she\'s only made up."

"Yes, something like that."

"I think Sophie and Alberto really exist."

"We\'ll talk more about it when I get home."


"Have a nice day."


"I mean good night."

"Good night."

When Hilde went to bed half an hour later it was still so light that she could see the garden and the little bay. It never got really dark at this time of the year.

She played with the idea that she was inside a picture hanging on the wall of the little cabin in the woods. She wondered if one could look out of the picture into what surrounded it.

Before she fell asleep, she read a few more pages in the big ring binder.

Sophie put the letter from Hilde\'s father back on the mantel.

"What he says about the UN is not unimportant," said Alberto, "but I don\'t like him interfering in my presentation."

"I don\'t think you should worry too much about that." "Nevertheless, from now on I intend to ignore all extraordinary phenomena such as sea serpents and the like. Let\'s sit here by the window while I tell you about Kant."

Sophie noticed a pair of glasses lying on a small table between two armchairs. She also noticed that the lenses were red.

Maybe they were strong sunglasses . . .

"It\'s almost two o\'clock," she said. "I have to be home before five. Mom has probably made plans for my birthday."

"That gives us three hours."

"Let\'s start."

"Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 in the East Prussian town of Konigsberg, the son of a master saddler. He lived there practically all his life until he died at the age of eighty. His family was deeply pious, and his own religious conviction formed a significant background to his philosophy. Like Berkeley, he felt it was essential to preserve the foundations of Christian belief."

"I\'ve heard enough about Berkeley, thanks."

"Kant was the first of the philosophers we have heard about so far to have taught philosophy at a university. He was a professor of philosophy."


"There are two kinds of philosopher. One is a person who seeks his own answers to philosophical questions. The other is someone who is an expert on the history of philosophy but does not necessarily construct his own philosophy."

"And Kant was that kind?"

"Kant was both. If he had simply been a brilliant professor and an expert on the ideas of other philosophers, he would never have carved a place for himself in the history of philosophy. But it is important to note that Kant had a solid grounding in the philosophic tradition of the past. He was familiar both with the rationalism of Descartes and Spinoza and the empiricism of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume."

"I asked you not to mention Berkeley again."

"Remember that the rationalists believed that the basis for all human knowledge lay in the mind. And that the empiricists believed all knowledge of the world proceeded from the senses. Moreover, Hume had pointed out that there are clear limits regarding which conclusions we could reach through our sense perceptions."

"And who did Kant agree with?"

"He thought both views were partly right, but he thought both were partly wrong, too. The question everybody was concerned with was what we can know about the world. This philosophical project had been preoccupying all philosophers since Descartes.

"Two main possibilities were drawn up: either the world is exactly as we perceive it, or it is the way it appears to our reason."

"And what did Kant think?"

"Kant thought that both \'sensing\' and \'reason\' come into play in our conception of the world. But he thought the rationalists went too far in their claims as to how much reason can contribute, and he also thought the empiricists placed too much emphasis on sensory experience."

"If you don\'t give me an example soon, it will all be just a bunch of words."

"In his point of departure Kant agrees with Hume and the empiricists that all our knowledge of the world comes from our sensations. But--and here Kant stretches his hand out to the rationalists--in our reason there are also decisive factors that determine how we perceive the world around us. In other words, there are certain conditions in the human mind that are contributive to our conception of the world."

"You call that an example?"

"Let us rather do a little experiment. Could you bring those glasses from the table over there? Thank you. Now, put them on."

Sophie put the glasses on. Everything around her became red. The pale colors became pink and the dark colors became crimson.

"What do you see?"

"I see exactly the same as before, except that it\'s all red."

"That\'s because the glasses limit the way you perceive reality. Everything you see is part of the world around you, but how you see it is determined by the glasses you are wearing. So you cannot say the world is red even though you conceive it as being so."

 "No, naturally."

"If you now took a walk in the woods, or home to Captain\'s Bend, you would see everything the way you normally do. But whatever you saw, it would all be red."

"As long as I didn\'t take the glasses off, yes."

"And that, Sophie, is precisely what Kant meant when he said that there are certain conditions governing the mind\'s operation which influence the way we experience the world."

"What kind of conditions?"

"Whatever we see will first and foremost be perceived as phenomena in time and space. Kant called \'time\' and \'space\' our two \'forms of intuition.\' And he emphasized that these two \'forms\' in our own mind precede every experience. In other words, we can know before we experience things that we will perceive them as phenomena in time and space. For we are not able to take off the \'glasses\' of reason."

"So he thought that perceiving things in time and space was innate?"

"Yes, in a way. What we see may depend on whether we are raised in India or Greenland, but wherever we are, we experience the world as a series of processes in time and space. This is something we can say beforehand."

"But aren\'t time and space things that exist beyond ourselves?"

"No. Kant\'s idea was that time and space belong to the human condition. Time and space are first and foremost modes of perception and not attributes or the physical world."

"That was a whole new way of looking at things."

"For the mind of man is not just \'passive wax\' which simply receives sensations from outside. The mind leaves its imprint on the way we apprehend the world. You could compare it with what happens when you pour water into a glass pitcher. The water adapts itself to the pitcher\'s form. In the same way our perceptions adapt themselves to our \'forms of intuition.\' "

"I think I understand what you mean."

"Kant claimed that it is not only mind which conforms to things. Things also conform to the mind. Kant called this the Copernican Revolution in the problem of human knowledge.

"By that he meant that it was just as new and just as radically different from former thinking as when Copernicus claimed that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa."

"I see now how he could think both the rationalists and the empiricists were right up to a point. The rationalists had almost forgotten the importance of experience, and the empiricists had shut their eyes to the way our own mind influences the way we see the world."

"And even the law of causality--which Hume believed man could not experience--belongs to the mind, according to Kant."

"Explain that, please."

"You remember how Hume claimed that it was only force of habit that made us see a causal link behind all natural processes. According to Hume, we cannot per-ceive the black billiard ball as being the cause of the white ball\'s movement. Therefore, we cannot prove that the black billiard ball will always set the white one in motion."

"Yes, I remember."

"But that very thing which Hume says we cannot prove is what Kant makes into an attribute of human reason. The law of causality is eternal and absolute simply because human reason perceives everything that happens as a matter of cause and effect."

"Again, I would have thought that the law of causality lay in the physical world itself, not in our minds."

"Kant\'s philosophy states that it is inherent in us. He agreed with Hume that we cannot know with certainty what the world is like \'in itself.\' We can only know what the world is like \'for me\'--or for everybody. Kant\'s greatest contribution to philosophy is the dividing line he draws between things in themselves--das Ding an sich-- and things as they appear to us."

"I\'m not so good at German."

"Kant made an important distinction between \'the thing in itself and \'the thing for me.\' We can never have certain knowledge of things \'in themselves.\' We can only know how things \'appear\' to us. On the other hand, prior to any particular experience we can say something about how things will be perceived by the human mind."

"We can?"

"Before you go out in the morning, you cannot know what you will see or experience during the day. But you can know that what you see and experience will be perceived as happening in time and space. You can moreover be confident that the law of cause and effect will apply, simply because you carry it with you as part of your consciousness."

"But you mean we could have been made differently?"

"Yes, we could have had a different sensory apparatus. And we could have had a different sense or time and a different feeling about space. We could even have been created in such a way that we would not go around searching for the cause of things that happen around us."

"How do you mean?"

"Imagine there\'s a cat lying on the floor in the living room. A ball comes rolling into the room. What does the cat do?"

"I\'ve tried that lots of times. The cat will run after the ball."

"All right. Now imagine that you were sitting in that same room. If you suddenly see a ball come rolling in, would you also start running after it?"

"First, I would turn around to see where the ball came from."

"Yes, because you are a human being, you will inevitably look for the cause of every event, because the law of causality is part of your makeup."

"So Kant says."

"Hume showed that we can neither perceive nor prove natural laws. That made Kant uneasy. But he believed he could prove their absolute validity by showing that in reality we are talking about the laws of human cognition."

"Will a child also turn around to see where the ball came from?"

"Maybe not. But Kant pointed out that a child\'s reason is not fully developed until it has had some sensory material to work with. It is altogether senseless to talk about an empty mind."

"No, that would be a very strange mind."

"So now let\'s sum up. According to Kant, there are two elements that contribute to man\'s knowledge of the world. One is the external conditions that we cannot know of before we have perceived them through the senses. We can call this the material of knowledge. The other is the internal conditions in man himself--such as the perception of events as happening in time and space and as processes conforming to an unbreakable law of causality. We can call this the form of knowledge."

Alberto and Sophie remained seated for a while gazing out of the window. Suddenly Sophie saw a little girl between the trees on the opposite side of the lake.

"Look!" said Sophie. "Who\'s that?"

"I\'m sure I don\'t know."

The girl was only visible for a few seconds, then she was gone. Sophie noticed that she was wearing some kind of red hat.

"We shall under no circumstances let ourselves be distracted."

"Go on, then."

"Kant believed that there are clear limits to what we can know. You could perhaps say that the mind\'s \'glasses\' set these limits."

"In what way?"

"You remember that philosophers before Kant had discussed the really \'big\' questions--for instance, whether man has an immortal soul, whether there is a God, whether nature consists of tiny indivisible particles, and whether the universe is finite or infinite."


"Kant believed there was no certain knowledge to be obtained on these questions. Not that he rejected this type of argument. On the contrary. If he had just brushed these questions aside, he could hardly have been called a philosopher."

"What did he do?"

"Be patient. In such great philosophical questions, Kant believed that reason operates beyond the limits of what we humans can comprehend. At the same time, there is in our nature a basic desire to pose these same questions. But when, for example, we ask whether the universe is finite or infinite, we are asking about a totality of which we ourselves are a tiny part. We can therefore never completely know this totality."

"Why not?"

"When you put the red glasses on, we demonstrated that according to Kant there are two elements that contribute to our knowledge of the world."

"Sensory perception and reason."

"Yes, the material of our knowledge comes to us through the senses, but this material must conform to the attributes of reason. For example, one of the attributes of reason is to seek the cause of an event."

"Like the ball rolling across the floor."

"If you like. But when we wonder where the world came from--and then discuss possible answers--reason is in a sense \'on hold.\' For it has no sensory material to process, no experience to make use of, because we have never experienced the whole of the great reality that we are a tiny part of."

"We are--in a way--a tiny part of the ball that comes rolling across the floor. So we can\'t know where it came from."

"But it will always be an attribute of human reason to ask where the ball comes from. That\'s why we ask and ask, we exert ourselves to the fullest to find answers to all the deepest questions. But we never get anything firm to bite on; we never get a satisfactory answer because reason is not locked on."

"I know exactly how that feels, thank you very much."

"In such weighty questions as to the nature of reality, Kant showed that there will always be two contrasting viewpoints that are equally likely or unlikely, depending on what our reason tells us."

"Examples, please."

"It is just as meaningful to say that the world must have had a beginning in time as to say that it had no such beginning. Reason cannot decide between them. We can allege that the world has always existed, but con anything always have existed if there was never any beginning? So now we are forced to adopt the opposite view.

"We say that the world must have begun sometime-- and it must have begun from nothing, unless we want to talk about a change from one state to another. But can something come from nothing, Sophie?"

"No, both possibilities are equally problematic. Yet it seems one of them must be right and the other wrong."

"You probably remember that Democritus and the materialists said that nature must consist of minimal parts that everything is made up of. Others, like Descartes, believed that it must always be possible to divide extended reality into ever smaller parts. But which of them was right?"

"Both. Neither."

"Further, many philosophers named freedom as one of man\'s most important values. At the same time we saw philosophers like the Stoics, for example, and Spinoza, who said that everything happens through the necessity of natural law. This was another case of human reason being unable to make a certain judgment, according to Kant."

"Both views are equally reasonable and unreasonable."

"Finally, we are bound to fail if we attempt to prove the existence of God with the aid of reason. Here the rationalists, like Descartes, had tried to prove that there must be a God simply because we have the idea of a \'supreme being.\' Others, like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, decided that there must be a God because every-thing must have a first cause."

"What did Kant think?"

"He rejected both these proofs of the existence of God. Neither reason nor experience is any certain basis for claiming the existence of God. As far as reason goes, it is just as likely as it is unlikely that God exists."

"But you started by saying that Kant wanted to preserve the basis for Christian faith."

"Yes, he opened up a religious dimension. There, where both reason and experience fall short, there occurs a vacuum that can be filled by faith."

"That\'s how he saved Christianity?"

 "If you will. Now, it might be worth noting that Kant was a Protestant. Since the days ............
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