4. The Anatomy of Truth: Literary Modes as a Kantian Model for Understanding the Openness of Knowledge and Morality to Faith
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90 four The Anatomy of Truth Literary Modes as a Kantian Model for Understanding the Openness of Knowledge and Morality to Faith Gene Fendt I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith. —CPR Bxxx1 This famous sentence from the first Critique seems to render more plausible than most Kant criticism acknowledges that the entire critical project has a theological or religious telos. However, when the religious motive in Kant is pointed out, interpreters often assume it reduces to an entirely negative theology , Modernism, or perhaps even humanism.2 Kant’s way of putting this point about faith and knowledge is rather more purposive and, one might say these days, more ideologically revealing, than is necessary, for there is an old philosophical problem at its root, namely, the problem of the grounding of first principles and the relation of their truth to the truth of secondary (but first used) principles.3 Alternatively, one may, as Kant does in Streit der Facultäten, present the issue as one of the relation of subordinate sciences to those sciences that provide their principles and so under whose judgment they stand. What I would like to outline is a way of understanding the series of relations of ‘‘knowledge’’ to ‘‘faith’’ in the architectonic repetitions with variation of the Critiques leading into the Religion. In this essay I will attempt to show how the question of truth is deployed in various aspects of Kant’s enterprise and how these deployments are related to each other and presume a kind of faith or The Anatomy of Truth 91 trust all the way along. I take the series of deployments of ‘‘truth’’ Kant explicates to be rigorous if incomplete. It should go without saying that I believe it is true. ‘‘What Is Truth?’’ (CPR A∑∫/B∫≤) I will start seemingly far afield. In a justly famous book, Northrop Frye outlines a history of Western literature based on five fictional modes: myth, romance, high mimetic tragedy, low mimetic realism, and irony.4 I would like to begin with an account of truth that borrows heavily from this well-known plot. Frye’s account exhibits the devolution of literature from myth through romance and realism to irony; it is a great story, one that itself bears readings that are mythic, romantic, realistic, and ironic with equanimity and poise. It bears plurality of significance, and it bears such plurality because it has a structured openness; I find this same kind of structure and openness in Kant. The work of both is open in that it allows all these different readings (from mythic to ironic) entrance and purchase; it is structured in that these readings are mutually implicated and run across each other in ways that deny ownership of the whole to any one of them and allow some very clear views of their mutual relations. Frye suggests further that (a) the history of literature displays a shift in the center of gravity from the first to the last mode; (b) at the depths of irony we approach the mythic again, exhibiting that the pharmakos of one person is the god of another,5 and this circularity suggests either (1) a parasitic dependence of each mode upon the mode above it, or (2) a more Hegelian mutual interdependence, or self-development and exfoliation of each from or within the whole that is the body of literature. We might say of these final options that in the first case everything depends upon (is parasitic on) myth, or in the second, that no one mode can be ripped from the body of the whole without fatally compromising its own viability. I suppose this latter view to be what Hegel saw operating in Kant’s philosophy and requiring completion, though I am not myself convinced that he makes the matter clearer. First let us trace out the supposed pattern of devolution in truth talk. According to Frye, the world of myth is ‘‘a world of total metaphor, in which everything is potentially identical with everything else, as though it were all inside a single infinite body.’’6 One thinks of Socrates’ myth in Republic whereby the Good makes all things be what they are (including the knower) and be known as they are, or his myth in Symposium, whereby all beautiful things— bodies, souls, ideas—participate in and lead to the Beautiful. This infinite, allencompassing Eternal Idea is what the demi-urge in...


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