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Why Immanuel Kant?

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Rand singled out Kant more than once as the worst figure in human history, but why? This is something I had never fully grasped, as I never read a full work from Kant. I tried reading " Critique of Pure Reason " but it is indeed a tough nut to crack.

So what is so terrible about Kant that cannot be said for another philosopher? I know that Kant defended the epistemological idea of a priori concepts, and he defended Altruism with an ethics of moral duty. My response is; so what? Many philosophers defended the age-old argument of man's knowledge being based a priori. And as for moral duty, Kant was not primarily an Ethics-based philosopher, but based heavily around epistemology and metaphysics. He really didn't have any positive affect on German philosophy. Much of what was written in the 19th century was a critique in some way of Kant, not an embrace of his thick-booked, badly written philosophy. And if you ask most philosophy professors now they won't claim that they agree with the totality of his philosophy, or even much of it at all. In fact, anyone who bases their ideas on a philosophy that will soon enough be 300 years old is nuts.

Why didn't Rand target another figurehead in Rationalist philosophy, such as the father of the damn school of thought; Rene Descartes, who was much more hostile to the idea of sense perception than Immanuel Kant. Why not Hume, who was a hard Empiricist which led him to Skepticism? Hume's questions are still considered profound ( Why I don't know ). The Is-Ought problem puzzles philosophers to this day, with Rand and a few others as an exception. Hume also attacked causality, and thus took a hammer to induction and science.

Rand considers Nietzsche an influence in some ways, but outside of his praise for the ego, Nietzsche was disgusting as a philosopher. I like his fiction, and I may be one of the few, but his philosophy is so contra-Objectivism.

Kierkergard? ( Sp? ) Schopenhauer? These men had just as much wrong as Kant, and had an even heavier affect on Nazism and race-based collectivism. Hitler was often seen with works of Schopenhauer.

Kant is no saint. His philosophy was irrational and a terribly boring read. But no one considers themselves a Kantian anymore. Perhaps a Rationalist, and certainly most people consider Altruism something admirable but these things didn't originate with Kant.

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Rand singled out Kant more than once as the worst figure in human history, but why? This is something I had never fully grasped, as I never read a full work from Kant. I tried reading " Critique of Pure Reason " but it is indeed a tough nut to crack.

So what is so terrible about Kant that cannot be said for another philosopher?

Kant made possible men like Hegel and Schopenhauer and all of the German Romantics and postmodernists that followed. What he did was claim to be a defender of reason and science, when in fact he undermined it. He turned reason on its head. If you follow Kant's idea of what reason is, you end up doing the opposite of what is necessary to properly think. So, he undermined the human mind in a very effective way. At the same time he supplied a moral philosophy and made room for religion. Rand is not the only one to have recognized the importance of Kant in philosophy. Lots of philosophers realize he was a seminal figure that could not be ignored.

I'd always thought that Hume effectively attacked science, thinking and morality, because he attacked cause and effect, concepts and the is-ought relationship.

Cause and effect --- what does A have to follow B? What in A makes this necessary? Why does the flame have to be attendant with the candle?

concepts -- I see the house, but I can't see the "houseness" in the house. I walk around it, and see it from different angles, but I see no houseness.

is-ought -- What is the relationship between is and ought? Why ought I do something? Ethics is arbitrary.

Those Hume-ian ideas were all accepted by Kant as premises to his work. He then claimed to be a defender of science and religion by "solving" these problems. He "solved" them by turning the world inward and dividing it into the noumenal and phenomenal realms.

And if you ask most philosophy professors now they won't claim that they agree with the totality of his philosophy, or even much of it at all.

They'll agree with core issues, though. There is no such thing as objectivity. The idea of social metaphysics, where lots of people agree with something and that's what makes reality is alive and well. The idea of putting the form above the object is still big. Kant is very much alive and well in modern culture.

In fact, anyone who bases their ideas on a philosophy that will soon enough be 300 years old is nuts.

Why do you say that? Aristotle had a lot of great things to say and he lived 2000+ years ago.

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In fact, anyone who bases their ideas on a philosophy that will soon enough be 300 years old is nuts.

That's a pragmatic thing to say. Are you proposing that we dispose of "old" principles for new ones, regardless as to whether or not the old principles were timeless truths? And what would you say if you were alive in a time when Rand's philosophy has been around the century-block a few times?

To give a concise answer: A is A. What is, is, and will always be.

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In response to questioning my statement that anyone who believes in the complete philosophy of someone from 250+ years ago, I will say this.

There are certain things that no philosopher can ever debate. Aristotle set up a lot of these absolutes and defended them quite well. You simply can't question causality, or identity. And there can never exist in the world a contradiction. These things make Aristotle such a great philosopher, but he also existed in a pre-science era. We know so much more about the human mind now than we did before. We know so much more about matter and existence, and how it is composed. We've been able to debunk those from the ancient Greek world and on who claimed that man did not have free will through science.

Aristotle was great in some areas, and he was revolutionary in the world of early science but you also must look at many of his fundamental flaws, and the flaws of many great men who simply do not have the knowledge we have today. This is not to say that there is a separation between truths some analytic-synthetic dichotomy, but simply that humans were very limited in their knowledge of neurology, psychology, biology ETC. We have to integrate the facts of science with our philosophy, and vice versa.

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We have to integrate the facts of science with our philosophy, and vice versa.

We have to apply philosophy to science not the other way around. Natur sciences are nothing but data points, statistics and interpretation and in mathematics no data can invalidate the results and no formula is based on data - everything is based on an axiomatic system.

And I see Objectivism as a form of advanced/generalized mathematics in its early stages. What is missing is more formalization that allows to apply philosophy on real life problems more easily / more accurately.

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Scientists must work by means of correct metaphysical interpretations of reality. For example, quantum physicists must realize that for there to be a contradiction at any realm of reality is simply impossible. Something cannot both and A and Non-A.

However, philosophers must take in facts science comes to, I believe. Neurology and the study of the human mind can help us better understand the complexities of epistemology.

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In response to questioning my statement that anyone who believes in the complete philosophy of someone from 250+ years ago, I will say this.

There are certain things that no philosopher can ever debate. Aristotle set up a lot of these absolutes and defended them quite well. You simply can't question causality, or identity. And there can never exist in the world a contradiction. These things make Aristotle such a great philosopher, but he also existed in a pre-science era. We know so much more about the human mind now than we did before. We know so much more about matter and existence, and how it is composed. We've been able to debunk those from the ancient Greek world and on who claimed that man did not have free will through science.

It's true that we know a lot more, but Aristotle developed the basic method of science. He is the father of science. He had the idea of hypothesizing and re-hypothesizing and looking to the evidence as the final say in what is so. The method is as follows, this is as I remember it, so it may not be precise, but it's close. You first look at the thing you are to study -- you look at it in nature --, then you read what others have written on it. You then hypothesize by employing logic. You then look at the stuff in nature to see how it compares to your hypotheses, in effect testing the hypothesis against nature, nature being the final arbiter always. If your hypothesis is wrong you change it again, and continue the cycle over and over again. The goal is to understand the essence of that stuff you are studying, in other words, you are looking for a principle of operation. This is the core of the scientific method.

Later thinkers, such as Francis Bacon, came up with the experimental method and the method of careful measurement, thereby greatly improving the scientific method, but Aristotle did the most important work.

Aristotle, IIRC, also came up with the idea of specialized branches of science. He was the first ever biologist and brilliant at it, no less.

Getting back to your point about what we can learn from the past. In many ways many of the thinkers of the past are better and more right than more modern thinkers and are therefore much more worthwhile reading than more modern thinkers. Many of the more modern thinkers have led us in bad directions and we're only doing well today because of the better thinkers of the past. Kant and Popper have harmed us. Aristotle and Thales have helped us.

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I cannot say I disagree with anything you've said, especially about how modern ( read; postmodern ) thought has driven us further away from progress, and that ancient Greeks like Aristotle stand above those now dedicated to disfiguring science.

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Many of the more modern thinkers have led us in bad directions and we're only doing well today because of the better thinkers of the past. Kant and Popper have harmed us. Aristotle and Thales have helped us.

I'm not quite sure that this is entirely true. It is conceivable that without Kant there would have been no Rand. Surely there wouldn't have been a Marx, a Lenin, or a Stalin. I don't know if human history could have progressed from Aristotle to Rand without passing every philosopher in between, and my guess is that you don't either. After all, one can't go progress from arithmetic to the differential calculus without learning all the requisite material in between.

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It is conceivable that without Kant there would have been no Rand.

It is also conceivable that without Kant, the ideas we now call Objectivism would have been developed much sooner and would be much more widespread by now. And I am inclined to think that it is probable, too, because far from being "requisite material," Kant has served more to make people un-learn the Aristotelian ideas of the Enlightenment.

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It is also conceivable that without Kant, the ideas we now call Objectivism would have been developed much sooner and would be much more widespread by now. And I am inclined to think that it is probable, too, because far from being "requisite material," Kant has served more to make people un-learn the Aristotelian ideas of the Enlightenment.

You would be right if you were not completely ignoring the development of Romanticism and its many important literary and philosophic figures, including Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Hugo, Byron, Emerson, all the figures from the German Romanticist movement, etc, etc. Many early proponents of Romanticism were admirers of Kant and other irrational philosophers. With that said, I don't think it is necessary to question the place of Romanticism within Objectivist thought. I'm sure we both acknowledge its role in Rand's life. However, I do suppose it conceivable that Romanticism could have taken form based solely on the writings of Aristotle. But I find it unlikely, in reference to all of my studies on Romanticism and its late 18th century/early 19th century development.

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It's true that we know a lot more, but Aristotle developed the basic method of science. He is the father of science. He had the idea of hypothesizing and re-hypothesizing and looking to the evidence as the final say in what is so. The method is as follows, this is as I remember it, so it may not be precise, but it's close. You first look at the thing you are to study -- you look at it in nature --, then you read what others have written on it. You then hypothesize by employing logic. You then look at the stuff in nature to see how it compares to your hypotheses, in effect testing the hypothesis against nature, nature being the final arbiter always. If your hypothesis is wrong you change it again, and continue the cycle over and over again. The goal is to understand the essence of that stuff you are studying, in other words, you are looking for a principle of operation. This is the core of the scientific method.

If I remember correctly, was it not Socrates who first came up with the basis for the scientific method? The idea of learning by questioning, i.e. by testing ideas against reality constantly, is often called the "Socratic" method, after all. Most people I know credit Socrates with the birth of science and modern logic.

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I'm not quite sure that this is entirely true. It is conceivable that without Kant there would have been no Rand. Surely there wouldn't have been a Marx, a Lenin, or a Stalin. I don't know if human history could have progressed from Aristotle to Rand without passing every philosopher in between, and my guess is that you don't either. After all, one can't go progress from arithmetic to the differential calculus without learning all the requisite material in between.

Whoa! I didn't say anything about passing every philosopher in between. I was just giving examples of earlier philosophers who did positive work and later philosophers who did negative work. In fact, I even mentioned Francis Bacon as a positive contributor to the scientific method.

If I remember correctly, was it not Socrates who first came up with the basis for the scientific method? The idea of learning by questioning, i.e. by testing ideas against reality constantly, is often called the "Socratic" method, after all. Most people I know credit Socrates with the birth of science and modern logic.

No. Socrates came up with the dialectical method, the idea of dialoguing to hammer out problems.

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Romanticism in philosophy is something entirely different from romanticism in literature.

I haven't heard this before. Romanticism is a particular category of art; there is/was no 'Romantic philosophy' movement. However, my point is to say that the development of Romanticism, as a category of art, was completed by intellectuals from many different fields of thought who cited (as a basis for their art) philosophers such as Rousseau, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schelling, and the other "German Idealists", plus many many more (i.e. Spinoza, Schopenhauer, etc).

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You might try using the search feature to find the many identical threads to this one.

Why not Hume, who was a hard Empiricist which led him to Skepticism? Hume's questions are still considered profound ( Why I don't know ). The Is-Ought problem puzzles philosophers to this day, with Rand and a few others as an exception. Hume also attacked causality, and thus took a hammer to induction and science.

Criticisms of Hume abound in Ayn Rands writings (notably in her essay For the New Intellectual and in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology). But she considered Kant the worst because he made much of Hume's skepticism academically acceptable and introduced "solutions" to his problems so weak that they quickly collapsed into the subsequent skepticism of German Romanticism etc. [edit: Oops, I should have read post#2 before I wrote this lol.]

Rand considers Nietzsche an influence in some ways, but outside of his praise for the ego, Nietzsche was disgusting as a philosopher. I like his fiction, and I may be one of the few, but his philosophy is so contra-Objectivism.
If you look up her comments on Nietzsche in the Ayn Rand Lexicon, you will see she expressed very similar opinions about Nietzsche. She hated him as a philosopher, and liked him primarily as a writer and poet.

Kierkergard? ( Sp? ) Schopenhauer? These men had just as much wrong as Kant, and had an even heavier affect on Nazism and race-based collectivism. Hitler was often seen with works of Schopenhauer.

If you are interested in Kant's influence on Nazism, there is much about it in Leonard Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels, which is a very interesting read. I'm curious in what way Kierkegaard was a direct influence on the Nazis? I'm not aware of a specific connection, but they did attempt to sell themselves as being consistent with every popular philosopher no matter how disparate, in order to give themselves credibility in the public eye. Kierkegaard was an individualist (somewhat) despite his hatred of reason and his religiosity.

Kant is no saint. His philosophy was irrational and a terribly boring read. But no one considers themselves a Kantian anymore. Perhaps a Rationalist, and certainly most people consider Altruism something admirable but these things didn't originate with Kant.

The term 'altruism' was coined by August Compte as a description of Kant's moral philosophy, so in that sense he was the origin of altruism as an ethical doctrine. Kant's Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals is a much easier, much shorter read than CPR, and in it he lays down most of his ethical philosophy. I'd recommend reading that, if you're more interested in his influence on moral philosophy.

I haven't heard this before. Romanticism is a particular category of art; there is/was no 'Romantic philosophy' movement. However, my point is to say that the development of Romanticism, as a category of art, was completed by intellectuals from many different fields of thought who cited (as a basis for their art) philosophers such as Rousseau, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schelling, and the other "German Idealists", plus many many more (i.e. Spinoza, Schopenhauer, etc).

German Romanticism [as a term in philosophy, as opposed to 'romanticism' in literature] is the name given to those German philosophers mostly in the 19th century who believed the mind was divorced from reality, and opposed "system building" in philosophy, ie, opposed any systematic approach to philosophy.

Edited by Bold Standard

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Kant made possible men like Hegel and Schopenhauer and all of the German Romantics and postmodernists that followed.
You cant judge philosophers based on those who claim to have been inspired by them - this is the same logic that leads to the 'Nietzsche was a nazi' nonsense. Kant explicitly opposed the extension of his philosophy by later people such as Schelling/Fichte, and it was more their ideas which inspired Hegel than Kant's directly. Any comparasion of Kant and Hegel will show a vast number of fundamental differences in their beliefs, and Kant would have disagreed with Hegel on many things.

I dont think the Romantic movement was overtly Kantian in nature: it tended to be based on very artistic/dubious interpretations of Kant's third critique which placed a large emphasis on aesthetic judgements, while ignoring his first one. But the third critique doesnt really cohere well with his first two anyway, and the Romantics tended to be against what they saw as the stifling hyper-rationality of the CPR (which is what he's most famous for now). Again, I suppose it depends on whether you judge someone based on the effects they had, or on what they were actually committed to. If someone handpicks various ideas from Kant while ignoring/misinterpreting his fundamental points, I dont think you can really blame Kant for influencing them. Yeah, you can observe the historical effects that Kant had by looking at the people who followed him, but that doesnt mean that he would have agreed with them or that they agreed with him (Kant and Hegel both viewed Aristotle as being one of their major influences).

'Postmodernists' (whatever that means) would probably disagree with Kant on everything.

They'll agree with core issues, though. There is no such thing as objectivity.
Kant believed in objectivity and I'd imagine most philosophy professors in England/America do too, although it depends on precisely what you mean by 'objectivity' I guess.

The idea of social metaphysics, where lots of people agree with something and that's what makes reality is alive and well
Again, very few major Anglo-American philosophers would agree with this. There are a few exceptions such as Rorty, but on the whole I'd say that excessive devotion to science/positivism is actually one of the main problems with analytic philosophy rather than social relativity. The kind of thing youre talking about is much more common in Studies Studies departments than philosophy ones. Edited by eriatarka

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You cant judge philosophers based on those who claim to have been inspired by them - this is the same logic that leads to the 'Nietzsche was a nazi' nonsense. Kant explicitly opposed the extension of his philosophy by later people such as Schelling/Fichte, and it was more their ideas which inspired Hegel than Kant's directly. Any comparasion of Kant and Hegel will show a vast number of fundamental differences in their beliefs, and Kant would have disagreed with Hegel on many things.

I don't think that philosophers' claims of inspiration by Kant is the issue. The reason that Kant lead to Hegel and German Romanticism etc. is not because he somehow prophetically agreed with their philosophies before they were formulated. It's because some of Kant's unprecedented arguments served as key premises in their philosophies. I do think it's legitimate to judge a philosopher based on that criteria*. It's really not legitimate to say that Nietzsche led to Nazism, because there is very little in Nietzsche's philosophy that bears any resemblance to Nazism, and those ideas which are consonant with Nazism were not unique to Nietzsche's philosophy but were mostly derivative ideas that were already popular at the time. But it is legitimate to say, for instance, that Plato led to Christianity, because philosophically Christianity was in essence, as Nietzsche once put it, "Platonism for the masses." In particular, many of Plato's unprecedented arguments for the existence of a supernatural world of forms served as a key premise for Plotinus, who's arguments served as a model for many of the church fathers and therefore for the early philosophical development of Christianity.

*[Edit: I think don't think it's legitimate to judge a philosopher based exclusively on the criteria of his influence on later philosophers. But I do think it's legitimate to judge philosophers based on that criteria in certain contexts, especially when studying the historical development of philosophy.]

It doesn't matter if a philosopher claims to be influenced by another philosopher. It only matters if an essential aspect of a philosopher is derivative of some essential aspect of the other philosopher. It doesn't matter much that Kant claimed to be inspired by Aristotle, because in essence his view was more Platonic than Aristotelian.

It's true that there are significant, essential differences between Kant and Hegel. But it's also true that Kant lead to Hegel, because once Kant provided his unprecedented argument of the minds inability to know the noumenal world, Hegel had a foundation he wouldn't have otherwise had to do away with the noumenal world and project his new brand of idealism, which was in turn highly influential on other philosophers who did not necessarily agree with the totality of his philosophy.

I dont think the Romantic movement was overtly Kantian in nature: it tended to be based on very artistic/dubious interpretations of Kant's third critique which placed a large emphasis on aesthetic judgements, while ignoring his first one. But the third critique doesnt really cohere well with his first two anyway, and the Romantics tended to be against what they saw as the stifling hyper-rationality of the CPR (which is what he's most famous for now).

If it's true that the third critique doesn't cohere with the first two, then how could a philosophical movement possibly derive itself from Kant without contradicting either the third or the first two?

Again, I suppose it depends on whether you judge someone based on the effects they had, or on what they were actually committed to. If someone handpicks various ideas from Kant while ignoring/misinterpreting his fundamental points, I dont think you can really blame Kant for influencing them.
I think what's in dispute are which of his points are more fundamental. Edited by Bold Standard

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Rand singled out Kant more than once as the worst figure in human history, but why? This is something I had never fully grasped, as I never read a full work from Kant. I tried reading " Critique of Pure Reason " but it is indeed a tough nut to crack.

Plato made ideas and mind primary. I never quite understood why Ayn Rand did not target Plato more than Kant.

ruveyn

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Plato made ideas and mind primary. I never quite understood why Ayn Rand did not target Plato more than Kant.

ruveyn

I think, for one thing, Plato's achievement of being the first systematic philosopher in history earned him at least a degree of admiration from Ayn Rand. This is my personal view on the subject.. Plato came onto the scene amidst, as far as we can tell today, mostly fragmented, factional bickering of sophists and skeptics and various cults. And he steered philosophy into the direction of a systematic approach. His system was tragically flawed, of course, but I think it's in this respect that he paved the road for Aristotle and the birth of science and philosophy as we know it. Kant, on the other hand, came onto the scene amidst the Enlightenment, at a time when religion was fading, and attempts were being made to understand the world according to reason. He saved religion, suspended reason to make room for faith, dealt a near fatal blow to the study of metaphysics as such, and basically steered philosophy *away* from the Enlightenment approach and away from the attempts to grasp reality by means of reason.

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