Reconciling Our Minds

Kant, for those who don’t already know, is considered to be the original source of the modern separation between fact and value. He envisioned a clean break between that which can be known through the senses, and that which cannot.

This black and white view has been thoroughly absorbed by modern thought. Secular materialists have based their entire position on it, of course, but it seems no less prevalent among the romantics. They argue that the realm of meaning and value are purely matters of emotional and aesthetic experience.

As is probably obvious, I’m increasingly convinced that we need to reject the idea of a simple divide between fact and value. Empiricists have long pointed out that there is a great deal of practical biological consideration which goes into our concept of ethics. Romantics, in turn, have pointed out that a great deal of abstraction and interpretation goes into our science.

To me, it seems obvious that the attempts of one side of the fact/value split at dismissing the other have been failures. Rather than sit with the romantics, denying the importance of science, or with the materialists, denying the reality of moral fact, we need to question the idea of a clean divide altogether.

This would take us back to something like the notion of truth in the middle ages, in which neither the validity of the senses nor of moral and spiritual experience are singularly trusted. In that world, this would be a key part of the doctrine of the incarnation (that the bridge between the physical and the non-physical can be crossed).

This idea, so often contemptuously dismissed by modern people, is far more probable than the alternatives on offer. The longer I’ve examined it, the more inescapable it seems.


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