The wheel breaks the butterfly — prelude

A four-part series on the science of the human condition.

Derived from a line in Coldplay’s song Paradise, it makes me wonder, what are we but a wheel in the clockwork of life?

Welcome to this series on Immanuel Kant’s basic questions about humanity, and what science can do to help us find answers. For those not involved in philosophy, Immanuel Kant was one of the influential superstars of the art. What Elvis Presley was for Rock’n’Roll, or Albert Einstein for physics, Immanuel Kant was for modern philosophy. He transformed forever the way we would think about the human condition, perpetuated the power of reason to find a priori truth and derived frameworks to investigate and dissect problems within moral, ethic, aesthetic to political, rational and spiritual domains. His methodology of mind was of sharp and analytical precision, and his ideas are fresh and engaging even centuries after he passed. A true giant.

In Kant’s opinion, all human aspirations for truth boil down to four big questions:

What should I do?

What can I hope for?

What can I even know?

What is the human species?

Although these questions are thought to comprise the distillation point of almost every philosophical question, it would be wrong to assume they are not interrelated, especially the first three and the forth are unable to be separated. If we would be able to understand our own species, we might be able to answer the first three questions, however we cannot understand our species without giving a priori answers to the first three. This philosophical dispute alone filled countless books without even addressing the questions, just the composition. If we would understand, what exactly the human species is, we would have a better imperative for guiding our actions (What should I do?), or be wary of our limitations (What can I even know?). Centuries have past with no answer that could withstand the test of time, but with scientific knowledge, especially in physical, computer- and life sciences, exploding in the last decades, I feel it is time to re-examine.

Check out:

Part-1 — What should I do?

Part 2 — What can I hope for?

Part 3 — What can I even know?

Part 4 — coming soon.

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