The Necessary Illusions
A transcendental paralogism has a transcendental foundation, and concludes falsely, while the form is correct and unexceptionable.
In this manner the paralogisms has its foundation in the nature of human reason, and is the parent of unavoidable, though not insoluble, mental illusion. (Kant, 1787, Critique of Pure Reason, Transcendental dialectic II. 1, p. 43)
Using a particular set of definitions and terms, Kant describes a mind that has a structure that follows procedures. With these procedures, the mind actively constructs representations on sensory data that has been extracted from the reality it explores. These procedures have limits that generate illusions. Consequently, the antinomy of time makes it possible to conceive (a) that there is always a beginning, (b) that there can always be a moment before the beginning, and (c) nothing else. The human spirit is not able to imagine other possibilities, even if the other possibilities could be relevant.
The constraints of theses algorithms necessarily lead to a constructed reduction32 of what is perceived. The reality is filtered through the structure of the senses, the nervous system, and the mind. Reality is then re-created. This creativity necessarily generates illusions. In some cases, illusions falsify reality without pertinence, whereas in other cases they are a construction that differs from reality to facilitate the adaptation of the organism This second mechanism is what I call necessary illusions. The following is an example. By means of the external sense (a property of the mind), we represent to ourselves objects as without us, and these all in spaceâ (Kant, 1787, 1.1.2, p. 43). This illusion functions in two different steps:
1. Our organism is part of the physical, biological, and social world, and the mind has the impression that it understands and containsâ the world. In certain moments, it dissociates from the sensation of its existence to be able to concentrate on what is perceived.
2. Our perceptions are constructed within the cranium, but we have the spontaneous impression that what we perceive is situated outside of the organism, in the place where the perceived object is. This capacity follows from the preceding point.
It goes without saying that having the impression that objects are outside of the confines of the body does allow us to act as if we see things such as they are. In practical, ordinary daily life, this makes our life so much easier.
As I mention in the Glossary, the Kantian notion of subject,â highly valued by French psychoanalysts since Lacan, is an example of an inevitable impression that does not necessarily correspond to an existing psychological entity. In the sections dedicated to Darwin we will see that the organism is replete with innate tools that are of little use or even counterproductive. The notion of subject is associated to the impression of being a coherent person who thinks, feels, and acts. The reinforcement of this impression can serve as a protection against anxiety, but also reinforces the illusion that the center of our being is situated in the mind. In this my yoga blog, I give examples that show (1) that the organism probably has no center, and (2) that if such a center existed, it would not necessarily be conscious. The same analysis can be used for the current impression of having a self.â