The End of All Things (Kant, 1794)

You-wanted-endtimes

It is a common expression, used chiefly in pious language, to speak of a person who is dying as going out of time into eternity

This expression would in fact say nothing if eternity is understood here to mean a time proceeding to infinity; for then the person would indeed never get outside time but would always progress only from one time into another. Thus what must be meant is an end of all time along with the person’s uninterrupted duration; but this duration (considering its existence as a magnitude) as a magnitude (duratio Noumenon) wholly incomparable with time, of which we are obviously able to form no concept (except a merely negative one). This thought has something horrifying about it because it leads us as it were to the edge of an abyss: for anyone who sinks into it no return is possible (“But in that earnest place/ Him who holds nothing back! Eternity holds fast in its strong arms.” Haller); and yet there is something attractive there too: for one cannot cease turning his terrified gaze back to it again and again (nequeunt expleri corda tuendoVirgil). It is frighteningly sublime partly because it is obscure, for the imagination works harder in darkness than it does in bright light. Yet in the end it must also be woven in a wondrous way into universal human reason, because it is encountered among all reasoning peoples at all times, clothed in one way or another. – Now when we pursue the transition from time into eternity (whether or not this idea, considered theoretically as extending cognition, has objective reality), as reason does in a moral regard, then we come up against the end of all things as temporal beings and as objects of possible experience – which end, however, in the moral order of ends, is at the same time the beginning of a duration of just those same beings as supersensible, and consequently as not standing under conditions of time; thus that duration and its state will be capable of no determination of its nature other than a moral one.

Days are as it were the children of time, because the following day, with what it contains, is an offspring of the previous one. Now just as the last child of its parents is called the youngest child, so the German language likes to call the last day (the point in time which closes all time) the youngest day. The last day thus still belongs to time, for on it something or other  happens (and not to eternity, where nothing happens any more, because that would belong to the progress of time): namely, the settling of accounts for human beings, based on their conduct in their whole lifetime. It is a judgment day; thus the judgment of grace or damnation by the world’s judge is therefore the real end of all things in time, and at the same time the beginning of the (blessed or cursed) eternity, in which the lot that has fallen to each remains just as it was in the moment of its pronouncement (of the sentence). Thus the last day also contains in itself simultaneously the  last judgment. – Now if among the  last things there should yet be counted the end of the world as it appears in its present shape, namely the falling of the stars from heaven, considered as a vault, and the collapse of this heaven itself (or its disappearance, as a scroll when it is rolled up),  both being consumed in flames, with the creation of a new earth and a new heaven as the seat of the blessed and of hell as that of the damned, then that judgment day would obviously not be the last day; instead, different days would follow upon it, one after another. Yet since the idea of an end of all things takes its origin from reasonings not about the  physical but rather about the moral course of things in the world, and is occasioned only by it, while the latter alone can be referred to the supersensible (which is to be understood only morally) – and it is the same with the idea of eternity – so consequently the representation of those last things which are supposed to come  after the last day are to be regarded only as a way of making sensible this latter together with its moral consequences, which are otherwise not theoretically comprehensible to us.

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