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Kant and the Transcendental Argument

Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg, the capital of Prussia, and spent his entire life within 50 miles of his birthplace. I mention this for two reasons: First, my ancestors were living near the Prussian city of Danzig during that time, a city only 80 miles away from Königsberg, and I still speak a low German dialect very much like the one that Kant spoke. In addition, Kant was raised in a strict Pietist home. Similarly, I was brought up as a conservative Mennonite. Thus, I come from a cultural, linguistic, and religious background quite similar to that of Kant. Second, notice that Kant lived primarily within the realm of ideas. He never married, his lifestyle was quite predictable, and he did very little travelling. In other words, he lived mainly within Teacher thought and Teacher feelings and he was neither troubled nor motivated by strong Mercy feelings.

As I know from personal experience, these two points are related. The average person lives in a world of Mercy experiences and is driven by Mercy feelings. Such emotional memories are required for developing the mind of the child, but they also form the core of childish identity and childish stupidity. Someone who is raised in a strict Christian home is told in no uncertain terms that following God means denying yourself and avoiding a life of hedonism and personal pleasure.

When it comes to developing an understanding of the mind, this type of upbringing is both good and bad. On the good side, one grows up with a mind that is relatively uncluttered by the wishful thinking and foolish actions of childish idolatry. In addition, One is taught that the world is governed by a Being that is based in universal truth, and if one also receive an education that emphasizes critical thinking, as Kant did, then one emerges into adulthood with a mind that is both able and free to think rationally and coherently. Of course, a strict Pietist upbringing also has its negative side, because it views personal identity more as something to be denied than something that should be saved and enjoyed.

It appears that we find both of these qualities in Kant. Of all the modern philosophers, his concepts appear to be the most complete, the most coherent, and the most moral. But, while he describes extensively what it means to think and live rationally, and while he even works out a rational code of moral ethics, one gets the sense that Mercy emotions are being left behind.

Transcendental Reasoning

When I see a chair, is it really there, or is my mind fooling me into thinking that a chair is there? As a practical engineer, my instinctive reaction is to kick the chair with my foot, say ouch, and respond that obviously the chair is there. But, it is fairly easy to come up with examples where the mind does put a false interpretation upon reality.

For instance, which of the two squares on the checkerboard is darker, square A or B? If you examine these two squares very carefully, you will see that they are actually the same shade of gray. Or for one more example, is there a face in this drawing? Even though there is no face, our mind tells us that it is there. In this case, the ‘chair’ really is an imaginary one and does not physically exist.

That forms the crux of Kant’s transcendental argument. Scientists like Newton insisted that space and time are inherent qualities of the physical world, whereas Leibniz stated that this was all a product of the mind. Kant resolved this by saying that we observe the world through the lens of our mind and that our mind makes certain assumptions about the external world.

Thus, we think that square A is darker than square B because our mind adjusts for light and shadow when interpreting colors. Similarly, we see the face in the picture because our mind is programmed to recognize faces.

Kant makes a list of the primary qualities which he suggests that the mind is imposing upon what it observes in the natural world. The main items on that list are unity, space, time, structure, and cause and effect. We assume that the mind is capable of analyzing objects and experiences, we assume objects can be represented spatially, we assume that objects are connected over time, we assume that we can make general statements about objects and experiences, and we assume that experiences are connected by cause and effect.

The theory of mental symmetry says the same thing, except it calls these assumptions Mercy, Perceiver, Server, Teacher and practical Contributor. (Contributor thought can operate in one of two modes. Practical Contributor thought deals with objects and actions.) Mercy thought stores the experiences; Perceiver thought analyzes them for objects; Server strategy sees how they change over time; Teacher thought looks for order and structure; and practical Contributor strategy looks for cause and effect. Even though each of the seven cognitive modules begins life devoid of content, each interprets the world according to the bias of its method of operation. A mental mode cannot step outside of its mode of operation and can only understand itself and other modes if this knowledge is described using the ‘language’ of that mode of thought.

Cognitive style adds an additional twist to this by saying that each person is conscious in only one of the seven modes of thought. So, not only does my mind as a whole impose a set of assumptions on what it sees, but I as a conscious person will emphasize one of these seven sets of operating assumptions.

For instance, as a Perceiver person, I am conscious in Perceiver thought. Perceiver strategy works with objects, facts, and spatial connections. Everything that I sense or think about must be translated into this framework, or else I as a Perceiver person, cannot comprehend it or work with it.

A Priori Synthetic Thought

Because we can replace Kant’s mental assumptions with an actual mental model, we can take this concept further and take a look at second order effects.

Kant describes this type of thinking as a priori synthetic logic. It is a priori because it begins with mental assumptions. It is synthetic because it uses these assumptions to analyze something that comes from another source, in this case the external world.

My brother Lane began our research into cognitive styles with this same type of thinking. Back in the 1970s, he heard someone teaching about motivational insights and was told that this scheme of seven cognitive styles originally came from the Bible. Being raised in a conservative Christian home, he was willing to accept a list with such a pedigree as an operating mental assumption. He then spent several years analyzing hundreds of biographies through the lens of this mental framework. Others read the same biographies but saw no pattern. He saw the ‘hidden face’ because he was looking for it.

My mental assumption is the diagram of mental symmetry. For almost three decades, I have been viewing everything through this lens. As a result, I continually ‘see’ things that other do not notice and ignore things that others see. But, doesn’t everyone interpret the world through the lens of their weltanshauung or worldview? Yes, but the seven thinking styles of mental symmetry appear to correspond to seven different functioning modes in the physical brain. I present the evidence for this in the section on neurology. Thus, we really are dealing with a description of Kant’s transcendental argument. Why do I interpret the world in certain ways? Because, the wiring of my brain forces me to interpret the world in those ways.

But if that is true, then why doesn’t everyone believe in the theory of mental symmetry? Now we get to the secondary level of mental assumptions, something which Kant does not appear to cover. The primary level of mental assumptions are based in brain hardware. Each module of the mind is prewired to interpret reality in a certain way. But, that mental mode will only be able to analyze reality if it is awake and functioning independently. However, mental modes do not operate in isolation from each other. Instead, they are interconnected, and it is possible for one mode of thought to control the functioning of another mode. And, when one mode of thought is controlled by another, then its natural processing will become twisted. But, it will not realize that it is functioning in a twisted fashion because it is not functioning normally enough to come to this conclusion. Instead, it is only once it becomes ‘awake’ and operating independently that it will be able to look back and realize that it used to be ‘asleep’.

In the human mind, there are two main ways in which one mental mode can be controlled by another: First, emotions from Mercy strategy can overwhelm Perceiver thought and fool it into treating some specific piece of information as universal truth. This describes the mind of the child, which does not analyze its social world in terms of what and where, but rather in terms of who said what and how important is he or she. When such a mind examines human behavior, it will not see spatial patterns. Instead, it will notice emotional status: Do I respect him? What will he think about me? Will they like me? How can I get them to notice me?

Second, actions that are performed by Server strategy put a spin upon Teacher understanding. When I analyze my environment for patterns and search for intellectual order, I may think that I am beginning with a tabula rasa and that I am applying pure rational thought, but my theorizing is actually being channeled by my actions and my skills. For instance, my father spent most of his life as a merchant and store owner. Therefore, he thinks in terms of economic opportunity. I, in contrast, spent much of my formative years at home living with a schizophrenic brother (not the brother who began the research in cognitive styles). Therefore, I learned the skill of clinging to rational thought in the midst of an irrational emotionally driven environment.

That brings us back to the upbringing of Kant. A person who is raised in a strict moralistic home does not dare to do actions or experience pleasures that are disapproved, because he is too scared of being punished by God and parents. Instead, he is taught that there is a God of universal order who reveals himself in solid truth, who demands obedience, and who punishes and rewards individuals through the conscience of moral cause and effect. Notice how such mental programming is consistent with the primary assumptions of space, time, order, and cause and effect.

Compare this with the thinking of Sigmund Freud, who took his childhood neuroses and built them up into a general theory of human personality. He too was searching for truth, cause and effect, and order, but his theories were strongly warped by the emotions and actions of his childhood.

Stating this more succinctly, it is very difficult for a person to hold on to Perceiver facts that make him feel bad in Mercy strategy, and it is very difficult for a person to develop a Teacher theory that is inconsistent with the way that he acts in Server strategy. For instance, if it makes a person feel bad to believe that he has a mental module that works with facts, then he will hold on to the fact that he has no mental module that works with facts, even though he is using that very module to hold on to this fact. But, because this fact is being imposed by strong feelings, the module that works with facts will hold on to facts without realizing what it is doing. That, I suggest, describes what is happening mentally when a person believes that there are no absolutes.

These two principles are summarized by MBTI® as the split between Thinking and Feeling and the division between iNtuition and Sensing, which state that a person can only thinking logically in areas where emotions are weak, and that he is only free to develop general theories in areas where he does not act.

And this brings us to Hegel’s concept of unfolding truth. According to Hegel, it is not possible to learn about all truth instantly. Instead, truth is revealed step by step as people and groups go through successive stages of dialectic. I am suggesting something similar. If a person or group wants to develop the Perceiver confidence that is required to think logically within a region of strong emotions, then he must exist within a situation of emotional tension long enough to know who he is and how he differ from others.

Notice how these two mental programming issues end up disturbing the five hardware assumptions of space, time, order and cause and effect. Perceiver thought cannot analyze the world for spatial connections because it is mesmerized by Mercy feelings. And, because each defining experiences lives within its own isolated world, there is no mental sense of time. Instead, there is only now and the feelings and experiences of this moment. As for order, the emotions associated with defining experiences fool Teacher thought into feeling that a concept is general, when it is in fact nothing more than a specific incident with strong feelings. Even the defining experience itself within Mercy thought is vulnerable to being replaced by a new and different defining experience. And, it is difficult to learn about cause and effect when my actions suggest a different answer. For instance, how can I know that smoking cause cancer when I smoke and I know that I am not going to get cancer?

Scientific research recognizes these two mental traps and attempts to avoid them by observing the actions of others. Observation stops my Server actions from contaminating my Teacher theories, while staying objective prevents my Mercy feelings from determining my Perceiver facts. As a second layer of defense, science uses peer review combined with the repeatable experiment. Peer review avoids Mercy feelings by subjecting my Perceiver facts to the review of other individuals who presumably possess other Mercy biases. And, the repeatable experiment ensures that other people with other Server skills can perform their own Server actions and come up with the same Teacher generalization.

So far, we have looked at the situation in which one mental mode dominates another. When this happens, the mind will not interpret the world using a set of prewired biases. Instead, it will filter the environment using a set of prewired, malfunctioning biases. Kant was able to able to zero in upon the actual mental bias because his moral upbringing combined with his theoretical training helped to minimize this second level malfunctioning. I strongly suspect that the same principle applies in my case.

Mental Balance

We have looked at the mental malfunctioning that happens when one mental strategy imposes itself on another. In this case, part of the mind is being shut down. A more subtle bias emerges when one mental strategy is used to the exclusion of other mental strategies. Here the error is the result of using a mental strategy too much instead of too little.

For instance, I am a Perceiver person; my brother Lane is a Teacher person. We worked intensively together for about a decade, deciphering basic principles of human thought and behavior. This interaction was very fruitful, but also very tiring and frustrating. That is because whenever one of us made progress, it would automatically stress the thinking of the other. If Lane came up with a Teacher theory, then I would have to examine the Perceiver facts in order to check this theory. If I came up with some new facts, then this would mean adjusting the Teacher theory.

Stating this in general terms, there is a continual struggle between Teacher theories and Perceiver facts. Theories extrapolate from facts but also give rise to new facts; facts attack theories but also help to construct more solid theories. There is a strong temptation to focus upon either Perceiver or Teacher thought to the exclusion of the other. For instance, I suggest in my analysis of Christianity that Buddhism is pure Teacher theory without any accompanying Perceiver facts. Modern research tends to suffer from the opposite problem, insisting upon data and facts while being very suspicious of general theory.

Perceiver and Teacher strategies are the two abstract modes of thought. A similar struggle appears to occur between Server and Mercy thinking, the two concrete modes of thought. For instance, as a professionally trained violinist, I continually encounter the tension between technique and musicality. Technique perfects Server skills, but too much technique destroys musicality. Mercy feeling and expression leads to musicality but too much emoting destroys technique.

For both abstract and concrete thought, I suggest that the challenge is to continue to develop both aspects of thought in a balanced manner. If one does not, then input from the environment will be pre-interpreted in a Kantian fashion in the light of this mental imbalance.

For instance, I have tried over the years to develop a theory of human personality that is both universal and rigorous. My Teacher brother forced my mind—and continues to force my mind—in the direction of universality, whereas I as a Perceiver person do my best to learn the facts and think rationally. However, when one is attempting to integrate half a dozen different fields of thought, it is simply not possible to become an expert in every field. Instead, at best one can try to become competent and hope to avoid making egregious errors.

So what happens when I show my theory to today’s typical professor, with his technical expertise in some narrow field? He zeros in on one specific area of my broad tapestry, examines the logical stitching with a microscope, and then declares that I must be wrong because a few threads are out of place. When I ask him about the rest of the picture, he replies that he is not qualified to evaluate those scenes. That is what happens when Perceiver thought is pursued to the exclusion of Teacher strategy.

A similar process occurs with many practical professions. Here, the Server skills have been refined to level of a high art, but the Mercy goal and the emotional purpose seem to be lost. For instance, I spent several years in Korea, and most of the musicians there can play all of the notes perfectly, but they don’t know how to make music. And, when I tell them that I would like to improvise musically, then they tend to look at me with a blank stare, because they do not know how to let go of Server technique and be driven by spontaneous Mercy emotions.

The Leap of Faith

What happens when abstract thought insists upon sticking with pure Perceiver logic and refuses to take the liberty of ‘improvising’ with Teacher theory? You get the Kierkegaardian leap of faith in which logic is abandoned completely and irrational universal thought is embraced. In other words, if Perceiver and Teacher thought are not permitted to function together, then they will function separately.

In general, it is always difficult to switch from one dominant mode of thought to another. Such a transition usually, if not always, involves some sort of step of faith. For example, as a Perceiver person, I find it easy to gathering and labeling information. But, doing something with those facts is much harder, because that means letting go of Perceiver thought and allowing subconscious Contributor strategy to function.

However, these mental transitions will eventually occur, if not in the individual, then in society. Anytime a mental strategy is being suppressed or downplayed, then those who are conscious in this mode of thought will ultimately rebel and demand that their mode of thought be recognized.

In essence we are back to another form of Hegelian dialectic. If people insist upon holding on to one form of thought, then eventually a grand leap will be taken in order to embrace its opposite. However, if people allow mental strategies to complement one another, then the grand leap of faith becomes reduced to a number of small steps of faith, and the Hegelian dialectic no longer involves opposite modes of thought but rather complementary ways of thinking and functioning.

In summary, Kant suggested that the mind is predisposed to interpret sensory input in specific ways. I suggest that this bias corresponds to the various modes of thought and the way in which they function.

I then suggested that this hardware bias will be modified either when certain mental strategies shut down other modes of thought or when certain modes are used to the exclusion of other modes. This software bias can be partially avoided with an upbringing that suppresses childish identity combined with a training that develops rational thought. However, I discuss a more complete solution in my analysis of Christianity.

Finally, I suggest that switching from one dominant mode of thought to another involves a sort of Hegelian dialectic. If this switching occurs frequently, then only small steps of faith are required. However, if the dialectic resolution is postponed, then it will require a massive leap of faith and result in major intellectual or societal disruption.

So, how do I know that my model of the mind actually describes the real world? As Kant stated, we only have access to appearance and phenomena; we cannot peer into the essence of people or experiences in order to determine noumena. Again, I suggest that the only possible solution is the step of faith. I have to make a mental model of reality and then test this model by seeing how well it holds together and how successfully it predicts future situations. If my model is simple and logically consistent, if it allows me to explain and predict how people or events behave, then it is a good model. However, if the model is complicated, if it is logically incomplete, if it is continually caught by surprise, or if it there are many situations that it cannot handle, then my model of reality needs revising. In the language of mental symmetry, if my model contains Teacher simplicity, Perceiver consistency, Server sequence, and includes all Mercy experiences, then it is a good model.

But, what if I don’t want to build a mental model of reality; what if I don’t want to take that step of faith? Then, I am, by definition, taking a blind leap of faith. As long as I have both a mind that thinks and a body that lives in the world, I am building and living by a mental model of reality. So, do I want to follow a blind model that I swallowed blindly from important people and defining events, or do I want to model reality intelligently? After all, what I am staking upon this model is only my very existence.

Kant’s Transcendental Ideas

When Kant looks at the metaphysical realm, he says that there are three concepts which we assume to exist, but we cannot prove. First, there is the psychological idea that the human soul lives forever. Second, there is the cosmological idea regarding the ultimate nature of the cosmos. Finally, there is the theological idea regarding the existence and nature of God.

In each of these situations, I suggest that the diagram of mental symmetry provides a transcendental type of solution. You cannot prove any of these three points, but you can predict the nature of them with reasonable certainty, reducing the leap of faith to a much smaller step of faith.

The basic reason for this has to do with the fractal nature of each mental strategy. For instance, Server strategy deals with sequences. A sequence could be pressing ‘t’, then ‘w’, then ‘o’ on the keyboard. It could be a recipe for dinner. It could be the sequence of birth, life and death. In other words, the sequence could be big, small, short, long, auditory or visual, dealing with the next few seconds or the history of civilization. If it is a sequence, then Server strategy compare one sequence with another and look for what is the same and what is different. (In the brain, it appears that the back of the brain does deal with specific kinds of sequences, but as one moves to the front, brain regions increasingly tie together these diverse regions.)

In addition, symmetry can be used to compare the operation of one mental mode with another. Thus, Perceiver is the mirror-image of Server, and Teacher the mirror-image of Mercy.

With that in mind, let us look at the specifics. The average person on the street cannot conceive of an immortal soul because he is surrounded by experiences and objects that only last for a short time before being replaced by something else. Plus, he lives in a decaying physical body that is getting old and will eventually die.

The theory of mental symmetry ties these isolated experiences together into a unified mental whole: I am not just brushing my teeth, I am carrying out a practical Server sequence. I am not just learning rules of grammar, I am searching for the Server sequences that are common to sentences. I am not just moving my body, I am using Server strategy to impose sequences upon the physical world. Likewise, when I see a chair, I am not just seeing a chair, but I am using Perceiver thought to perform object recognition; and, I am not just using Perceiver thought, but I am applying the mirror-image of Server strategy. Similarly, I am not just carrying out a plan, I am using Contributor thought. And, I am not just using Contributor thought, I am bridging Perceiver and Server strategy.

Thus, through the medium of similarity and symmetry, I gradually build up a coherent, stable internal image of what it means to be a human being. Before, I found it difficult to conceive of anything remaining constant amidst the random bustle of life, now I find it equally difficult to conceive of my mind ceasing to function. Not only do I conceive of myself as something which remains constant over time and space, but I also have a specific image of the nature of this internal identity, as illustrated by the diagram of mental symmetry.

Once internal identity reaches this stage, then it becomes a reasonable hypothesis to suggest that the human soul can exist as a finite immortal being which survives the demise of the body, especially when there is strong anecdotal evidence that the essence of a person does survive death.

Note the transcendental nature of this argument. By programming the mind using the diagram of mental symmetry, you build an internal concept of self. This mental structure then interprets all experience from the pre-conceived notion of the existence of immortal souls.

But, why would the theory of mental symmetry acquire this status? Wouldn’t any other theory of personality do something similar? To some extent, yes. But, I still remember how mental symmetry literally ‘ate up my mind’ when I first was using it. I would respond in some way, and then one instant later, the stupid theory would pipe up and mentally analyze why I was acting in that way. And then, this same stupid theory kept swallowing up one field of thought after another, to the point where I now enter a new field of thought expecting that it will, once again, explain the essence of what is happening.

Second, there is the nature of the universe. No, I have not managed to come up with a unified field theory and I don’t know exactly how quarks, electrons, subatomic particles and weak and strong forces relate to the theory of mental symmetry. I have done some thinking on the subject and have some ideas, but that is all. What I have found, though, is that it is possible to make definite statements about the interaction between the mind and the brain. First, if you apply the steps of reaching mental wholeness as described by mental symmetry, you end up with a mind that is capable of pursuing rational, scientific thought in all areas of thought, and not just within the natural and the physical. Second, if you look at the interaction between the mind and the physical body, you discover a major asymmetry. (Server handles output, but its mirror image of Perceiver works with input.) This leads to the hypothesis of a mirror image universe which provides a rational basis for the supernatural. Thus, one ends up with a view of the universe that includes the objective, the natural and the material but extends to include the subjective, and the supernatural as well.

Finally, there is the question of the existence and nature of God. In Kantian fashion, I have tried to follow a transcendental approach. Does God really exist? I don’t know. I can’t prove it. But, the theory of mental symmetry allows me to analyze my perception of God; it permits me to describe how an image of God forms within the mind. And, if I program my mind so that all parts work together, what emerges is the mental image of a Trinitarian God that corresponds to the God of Christianity, while incomplete stages of mental programming become associated with other images of God. Not only that, but when one examines the theory of mental symmetry to work out the steps that are needed to program the mind, one ends up with something that is completely consistent with the doctrines of orthodox Christianity.

Thus, it becomes a reasonable hypothesis to take the step of faith and accept Christianity as the complete religion and the God of Christianity as the ultimate God.

In each of these three cases, all that can be constructed is a mental model of phenomena. One cannot not know the ultimate nature of the soul, the universe, or God. But, by using the theory of mental symmetry, one can come up with a consistent, coherent model of how the mind interacts with these three, and according to Kant, that is all that it is possible to construct. From there, one makes, not a transcendental leap of faith from vague concepts, like Kant, but rather a transcendental step of reasoned faith from a consistent mental model. Like Kant, I can only postulate that the external corresponds to the external. But, unlike Kant, I can use my model to predict its structure and not just its mere existence.