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Kant vs Hinduism Essay

There are many similarities between the analyses of religious works of Hinduism (the Gita being used in this case) and the philosophical work of Kant, or even Buddhism and Hume for that matter. Both argue from similar premises about personal identity and share similar conclusions about human action. Their metaphysical models are similar, as are their rules of logic, and some feelings towards one’s duty. They make their claims from different perspectives, but there is little difference in the content of their claims when looked at from either point of view.

For Kant, freedom is freeing the will from temporal desires, and directing it with reason alone. When the will is directed by a desire, it is part of a temporal primary chain that stretches back to the first instant. When the will is directed by pure reason, action is being caused by the rational subject or atman (to bring in the Gita’s philosophy). As ‘will’ may exist outside of time, it acts as a first cause when it motivates an action within time. This power to be a first-cause leads to a comparison with a possible first-cause of the temporal universe. Kant believes that this comparison necessarily arises from the first-person perspective.

This comparison is reminiscent of the relationship between Brahman and atman. However, he makes the point that we cannot know whether there is a God, or Brahman, from the third person perspective. This is because we cannot know the universe as it exists independently of subject-object relationships. Indeed, there is a great difference is between the philosophies of Kant and Hume, or Krishna and Buddha. Having said that, a difference in perspective is not simply a difference in the nature of the claims made, it is also a difference in the possible implications of those claims.

The third-person perspective enabled Kant to provide content to the notion of duty. The first-person perspective showed Buddha a way to be free from desire. The difference between the third- and first-person perspectives is like thinking outside the square. A difference in perspective is more than just a difference in the nature of the claims made. It is also a difference between the implications arising from those claims. References Miller transl. , Barbara Stoler. The Bhagavad-Gita. New York: Bantam, 1986. Transl. , Lewis White Beck. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals 2nd edition. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall, 1997.


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