Doumit A. Salameh
The Kantian Questions and Twenty-First Century Man



What am I supposed to do?

"What the world should expect of us today is that we should continue to speak out, loud and clear, and that we should voice our condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man; (...) that we should get away from petty politics and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today." (Camus - modified) (1)

Taking a look at what we are doing and what we have been doing, while keeping in focus the ultimate human purpose, we must definitely develop a clear idea about what we should be doing. One cannot help but notice that the trends that are profoundly marking world society nowadays may be divided into two basic and extreme categories: the fundamentalists and the secularists. The fundamentalists, from whatever religious background they may come, have high jacked God to their side and reduced Him to a simple idol of their own making. Meanwhile the secularists have developed a tunnel vision which denies any vertical approach, and accordingly flattened humanity and emptied it from its most precious and most essential dimension; all that because of a pumped up yet shallow and blind pride, and a false and empty sense of autonomy. "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious", to quote Einstein. "It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead."(2)

While the fundamentalists, all fundamentalists use God to discriminate, destroy, kill or terrorize, the secularists use a subtle approach, which is no less lethal than the former, by affirming man's autonomy to the exclusion of any relation to God, and of any divine affinity in man. While the former attack the body, the latter attack the soul. And because of the common understanding of man being a composite of body and soul, the fundamentalists and the secularists, though at the surface very different from each other, not to say even arch enemies, have proven in fact to be allies in this case. Their actions have converged on the killing of the image of God in man by abolishing the most sacred values he stands for and lives by. As a result of this attack, wrote Gabriel Marcel, "man has been led to see himself more and more as a mere assemblage of functions (...) in such a world the ontological need, the need of being, is exhausted in exact proportion to the breaking-up of personality on the one hand, and, on the other, to the triumph of the category of the purely secular and the consequent atrophy of the faculty of wonder."(3) (...)

We want to help those in need but only so long as this serves our own interest. This misguided approach is, unfortunately, not only a personal pattern of behavior but also that of nations. We are shifting our relationships from inter human to inter interests. Thus, what is supposed to strengthen our human ties and human feeling toward each others is now leading to alienation from each others and from our own humanity, and to use Kant's words, instead of being each other's end we have reduced ourselves to each others means, degrading the others and ourselves, all for the sake of blind and dehumanizing greed. (...)

Even though one would not want to ignore the Mother Theresa, the John Paul II, the Nelson Mandela, and the many other happy islands in the human labyrinth, the stage still belongs to the criminals, the mass murderers, who de facto place all society at their mercy. They pick and choose and attack at will in strong and weak countries alike, in wealthy and poor countries alike. In the absence of absolute values, in a world where relativism is the norm, what is perceived as a crime by one may be valued as a virtue by another. Isn't that the condition of our present world?

"There are not two kinds of human beings", wrote Martin Buber, "but there are two poles of humanity. No human being is pure reason, and none is pure ego; none is entirely actual, none entirely lacking in actuality. Each lives in a twofold. But some men are so person-oriented that one may call them persons, while others are so ego-oriented that one may call them egos. Between these and those true history takes place."(4) (...)

(1) mod. Albert Camus, in: The World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought, Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., London 1990, p. 31
(2) Albert Einstein, in: ibid. p. 204
(3) Gabriel Marcel, in: The Philosophy of Existentialism, New York 1971
(4) Martin Buber, in: The World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought, Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., London 1990, p. 119

Doumit A. Salameh
The Kantian Questions and Twenty-First Century Man

© Salameh 2006

weltfragen in lebanon

weltfragen im libanon
edited by Andrea Schwarzkopf & Roland Kreuzer
Berlin 2006
With contributions of Sélim Abou, Henry Cremona, Richard C. Dean, Roland Kreuzer, Fitnat Messaiké, Angelika Neuwirth, Doumit Salameh, Ridwan al-Sayyid, Andrea Schwarzkopf, Georges Zeynati.
English, German and Arabic, 80 pages, 50 photographs., 21 x 25 cm, costs including delivery: 10 €