Dr. Adam Johns
Seminar in Composition 0200
September 3, 2014
Immanuel Kant, 18th century German philosopher, stood out among many of him time with his belief in the foundation of metaphysics and empiricism. Kant described human knowledge as being constrained to science of the natural world. In one of Kant’s most famous works, The Critique of Pure Reason, he said, “in whatever way and by whatever means an item of knowledge may relate to objects, what relates it to them immediately is intuition. This happens only if the object is given to us, and that happens only when the object affects the mind in a certain way…so objects are given to us by means of sensibility and that’s our only way of getting intuition (28, Kant).” He asserted that a new experience can never be a completely new experience and newly formed ideas can never be completely newly formed because intuition, the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning, is a human characteristic that we all possess. It is cited that human discernment is the main origin of the generic laws of nature that construct our blue print of experience.
When Abbey opens early on stating, “I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree, a piece of quartz, a vulture, a spider, and see it as it is in itself, devoid of all humanly ascribed qualities, anti-Kantian, even the categories of scientific description (6, Abbey),” he is refuting the idea that there is no such thing as a, “mind-independent world.” Being the only inhabitant in a 33,000 acre desert surrounded entirely by sand, rocks, original plant species and a variety of animals, Abbey wants to be able approach and learn about the non-human occupants with zero preconceived notions of their mental, emotional and physical capacities. He wishes and intends to make no judgments about the others based on his own prior experiences.
While Abbey’s official job title is a park ranger on duty in Arches National Monument, he makes it clear that his purpose there is to, “not only evade for a while the clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus, but also to confront, immediately and directly if it is possible, the bare bones of existence, the elemental and fundamental, the bedrock which sustain us (6, Abbey).” Abbey will strive to reconstruct his internal database plagued with non-proven opinions and biased theories, to start from a new base creating his own personal relationships with the desert inhabitants while in solitaire. Without mechanical man-made gadgets and electronic devices which tend to, “separate a man from the world around him,” Abbey plans to live simple and without such advancements so that the, “mighty stillness,” of the natural world, “embraces and incudes [him] (14, Abbey).”
Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: The First Morning & A Season in the Wilderness. New York: Touchstone, 1990.
Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Pure Reason: Transcendental Aesthetic. Jonathan Bennett, 2007.
"Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Kant, Immanuel: Metaphysics . N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2014.