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Nicko0301

Immanuel Kant

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(I should preface this inquiry by saying that I am new to Objectivism. I have only read The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue Of Selfishness, and For The New Intellectual; so obviously I have only a somewhat superficial understanding of Objectivism and philosophy in general. Nevertheless, Miss Rand's philosophy has been extremely helpful to me in many ways, and I certainly plan on further study.)

Rand is extremely critical of Immanuel Kant. From what I gather she was antithetical to his view on the mind and its functions. Essentially, Rand says of Kant's view, the mind is responsible for distorting the material provided by one's senses, thus, in effect, creating reality (if I am incorrect in describing her interpretation, please let me know). My question is this: is her assessment correct? Is there anyone who has read Kant and can explain why Miss Rand came to this conclusion?

Thanks all.

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Read the first post in the thread notes on "The Evidence of the Senses" for a very brief extract of Kelley's essentialized review of philosophical history. Dr. Kelly got his doctorate under Richard Rorty, Dr. Peikoff under Sidney Hook. These were mainstream and highly regarded academic philosophers and they would not permit doctoral students they were advising graduate with an inadequate or incorrect understanding of what Kant wrote and his influence. This interpretation is correct and in no way unique or idiosyncratic to Rand, and it predates Rand. Rand picked it up by reading on her own in the original german, and reading other philosophers that came after him. What is unique to Rand is her critique of Kant.

Compare with the Wiki entry on Kant. Yes Kant actually wrote those crazy things and people swallowed it.

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Read the first post in the thread notes on "The Evidence of the Senses" for a very brief extract of Kelley's essentialized review of philosophical history. Dr. Kelly got his doctorate under Richard Rorty, Dr. Peikoff under Sidney Hook. These were mainstream and highly regarded academic philosophers and they would not permit doctoral students they were advising graduate with an inadequate or incorrect understanding of what Kant wrote and his influence. This interpretation is correct and in no way unique or idiosyncratic to Rand, and it predates Rand. Rand picked it up by reading on her own in the original german, and reading other philosophers that came after him. What is unique to Rand is her critique of Kant.

Compare with the Wiki entry on Kant. Yes Kant actually wrote those crazy things and people swallowed it.

Thank you, Grames. I suppose I was just astonished when I originally read Rand's synopsis of Kant: I couldn't believe that what she was describing was actually an accepted philosophy. But apparently she was indeed correct.

(Incidentally, Kant's philosophy was the inspiration for "The Matrix.")

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I haven't read Kant so I have no first-hand knowledge of whether Rand's presentation of Kant's ideas is accurate, but I did find this article by George Walsh that investigates that question: http://enlightenment.supersaturated.com/objectivity/walsh1/

John Link

Looking over that paper, I cannot comment on the author's interpretation of the Astronaut parable, but it seems to me he misunderstands Rand's comments. When she states things like "because you have eyes, you are blind" she is making a very concise arguement ad absurdem. He summary at the end seems to do the conflict justice, but I feel his characterizing and over emphasizing of the "collective dellusion" comment show a misunderstanding of what Ayn Rand meant with that statement. He does identify the essence of it later though:

(3) Kant maintains that we can know with certainty only a small subsection of that which is thinkable. This requires the introduction of a special concept called pure intuition, which guarantees that certainty, and which is the form of all empirical knowledge, or knowledge of empirical reality. But since empirical reality thus necessarily conforms to the mind of man and since the mind of man could not dictate to things in themselves, we must conclude that empirical reality is the only appearance or the mode in which things in themselves appear to us. Rand, by contrast, maintains that the kinds of objects that exist are a matter for science to determine, subject only to the three very general axiomatic concepts. Rand acknowledges that while man’s senses each have forms of perception, these do not narrow the conceptual elaboration of his knowledge.

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(I should preface this inquiry by saying that I am new to Objectivism. I have only read The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue Of Selfishness, and For The New Intellectual; so obviously I have only a somewhat superficial understanding of Objectivism and philosophy in general. Nevertheless, Miss Rand's philosophy has been extremely helpful to me in many ways, and I certainly plan on further study.)

Rand is extremely critical of Immanuel Kant. From what I gather she was antithetical to his view on the mind and its functions. Essentially, Rand says of Kant's view, the mind is responsible for distorting the material provided by one's senses, thus, in effect, creating reality (if I am incorrect in describing her interpretation, please let me know). My question is this: is her assessment correct? Is there anyone who has read Kant and can explain why Miss Rand came to this conclusion?

Thanks all.

Just in case you want another testimonial, I have read not only the Critique but also several other books, including his primary works on ethics. I was a graduate student in philosophy. I remember a class in which I was talking to another student about Kant's stand on ethics. The professor heard my comments and said that yes Kant wrote that, but that it was too extreme and he (Kant) didn't really mean it.

I suspect that reading Kant in English actually tones down his philosophy. In the German, I would expect it to sound more extreme.

It pays to remember that Kant had a purpose in his philosophy. He was very concerned by Hume's "empiricism". Kant was afraid that Hume's influence would undermine Christianity and its ethics. His intent was to disconnect the ethics from the physical world and strengthen it. I think one reason why Kant was as influential as he has been is because he had a strong position in ethics that was consistent with the generally accepted Christian beliefs. Of course, he had little opposition (until now).

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Not long ago I decided to dig in and read some of Kant's work. My attitude was essentially "I'll see for myself". However, I quickly became unsatisfied and unsure with that approach. Not necessarily because I felt overwhelmed or confused by his writing. But because it became apparent that I lacked a lot of crucial information about the time period and context he worked in. His definitions and the philosophic view when he uses the word "reason" and "freedom" I suspect are surprisingly different than what I'd assume them to be today. I haven't given up on ever reading his work, but it's something I realize I'm not properly prepared for and it's best to set it aside for now.

Does anyone have recommendations regarding reading or a companion to help grasp Kant's work in it's total context?

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Not long ago I decided to dig in and read some of Kant's work. My attitude was essentially "I'll see for myself". However, I quickly became unsatisfied and unsure with that approach. Not necessarily because I felt overwhelmed or confused by his writing. But because it became apparent that I lacked a lot of crucial information about the time period and context he worked in. His definitions and the philosophic view when he uses the word "reason" and "freedom" I suspect are surprisingly different than what I'd assume them to be today. I haven't given up on ever reading his work, but it's something I realize I'm not properly prepared for and it's best to set it aside for now.

Does anyone have recommendations regarding reading or a companion to help grasp Kant's work in it's total context?

Although I haven't read it myself, I do know of a succinct primer on Kant's work. It is entitled Kant: A Very Short Introduction. It is available on Amazon for about ten dollars. It's about 160 pages in length and contains information on his uprbringing and ideas. :P

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Not long ago I decided to dig in and read some of Kant's work. My attitude was essentially "I'll see for myself". However, I quickly became unsatisfied and unsure with that approach. Not necessarily because I felt overwhelmed or confused by his writing. But because it became apparent that I lacked a lot of crucial information about the time period and context he worked in. His definitions and the philosophic view when he uses the word "reason" and "freedom" I suspect are surprisingly different than what I'd assume them to be today. I haven't given up on ever reading his work, but it's something I realize I'm not properly prepared for and it's best to set it aside for now.

Does anyone have recommendations regarding reading or a companion to help grasp Kant's work in it's total context?

A history of philosophy will also give you some context. Dr. Leonard Peikoff's tape series will do an excellent job. Start with Descartes to see what Kant started with.

For this period, reason tends to be a subjective adherence to logic and internal consistency. It is very Platonic. The person who introduced this view was Descartes, as in "I think therefore I am". Today we call it Rationalism. It is also a sort of Disney version. Leibniz was using "reason" when he came up with monads and "the best of all possible worlds". One thing it doesn't do is connect with sense perception.

To understand Kant's ethics the book I think you have to read is Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. It discusses the categorical imparative and duty. Freedom for Kant is that your moral choice is not tied to the object or the physical world. It is also cut off from yourself. You receive no benefit at all from doing your duty. This includes even a feeling of satisfaction or fulfillment. You will feel nothing.

I am sorry to say that all of that nonsense is right there in his writings. His style is one of the most difficult to read and understand. Sentences can go on for a page or more. Have fun!

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Not long ago I decided to dig in and read some of Kant's work. My attitude was essentially "I'll see for myself". However, I quickly became unsatisfied and unsure with that approach. Not necessarily because I felt overwhelmed or confused by his writing. But because it became apparent that I lacked a lot of crucial information about the time period and context he worked in. His definitions and the philosophic view when he uses the word "reason" and "freedom" I suspect are surprisingly different than what I'd assume them to be today. I haven't given up on ever reading his work, but it's something I realize I'm not properly prepared for and it's best to set it aside for now.

Does anyone have recommendations regarding reading or a companion to help grasp Kant's work in it's total context?

I did a readings course on the Critique of Pure Reason, and we prepared for it with the book "German Philosophy 1760-1860" by Pinkard. I already had an idea of Kant being a philosophy major and an Objectivist but I found this book a very good primer. I think one ought to be somewhat familiar with Hume before they read the Critique, as well.

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A history of philosophy will also give you some context. Dr. Leonard Peikoff's tape series will do an excellent job. Start with Descartes to see what Kant started with.

I'd suggest using a text somewhat closer to the philosophical mainstream as an introduction to the history of philosophy.

To understand Kant's ethics the book I think you have to read is Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. It discusses the categorical imparative and duty. Freedom for Kant is that your moral choice is not tied to the object or the physical world. It is also cut off from yourself. You receive no benefit at all from doing your duty. This includes even a feeling of satisfaction or fulfillment. You will feel nothing.

You cite the right text to go to, but you grossly misread it. Kant doesn't thnk that "you receive no benefit at all from doing your duty" but rather that actions that you perform motivated by your own benefit don't express a good will or moral worth.

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I'd suggest using a text somewhat closer to the philosophical mainstream as an introduction to the history of philosophy.

You cite the right text to go to, but you grossly misread it. Kant doesn't thnk that "you receive no benefit at all from doing your duty" but rather that actions that you perform motivated by your own benefit don't express a good will or moral worth.

I don't see the distinction. Kant is still attacking the notion of self-interest, which is congruous to the position Objectivists hold toward him. He is saying, in essence, "It's alright if one fortuitously accrues some benefit, but personal gain shouldn't be what induces one to action."

I still think that is pretty despicable.

Edited by Nicko0301

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Well, if you do something from duty, the action may get you a benefit--but once you know that this kind of action results in this benefit, then the next time you do it, to the extent you are motivated by the anticipation of the benefit, you aren't acting from duty anymore.

So the only way to be sure you are acting from duty is for you to expect no benefit at all (and preferably expect a lot of suffering instead).

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Kant's conception of morality seems even more disastrous than any religious morality of which I've ever heard. I mean, can you imagine living a life wherein you did absolutely nothing for yourself? I shudder at the thought.

His metaphysics/epistemology are more consternating, though.

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The fact that he claimed reason was not trustworthy (because of some mystical reasons) makes him the most evil philosopher ever. Many, if not most, of the world's evils today can be attributed to his evil ideas. Kant, Hegel, Marx: the most evil persons the world has seen. Their evil damage can be seen even today in the guise of socialism which most American political parties follow with blind faith. Hardly any party ever follows true free market capitalist principles, but are completely socialist (Democrats) or partially so (republicans). To think a lot of this evil can be traced back to Kant makes my blood boil whenever I hear of him.

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I'd suggest using a text somewhat closer to the philosophical mainstream as an introduction to the history of philosophy.

If your purpose is to understand Kant a mainstream history does not necessarily give you an accurate view. Dr. Peikoff does give you an unadultrated view as close to Kant as is possible.

You cite the right text to go to, but you grossly misread it. Kant doesn't thnk that "you receive no benefit at all from doing your duty" but rather that actions that you perform motivated by your own benefit don't express a good will or moral worth.

If I was talking about actions performed from your own motivation you would be right. Since I was referring to Kant's view of ethical actions you have misread my statement. It is true that I am going on memory some years old I will allow for some inaccruacies. Yet, I am quite sure that Kant explicitly said that a moral action should elicit no emotion in the actor. A moral action would be performed solely because it is moral and have no consequence for the actor.

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I don't see the distinction. Kant is still attacking the notion of self-interest, which is congruous to the position Objectivists hold toward him. He is saying, in essence, "It's alright if one fortuitously accrues some benefit, but personal gain shouldn't be what induces one to action."

I still think that is pretty despicable.

You are quit right.

Kant is worse because he would say that a fortuitously accrued benetif would undercut the morality of the action.

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Nicko0301

"I don't see the distinction."

Really? BogG's reading ("You receive no benefit at all from doing your duty. This includes even a feeling of satisfaction or fulfillment. You will feel nothing.") entails that no action of a moral agent which is required by duty can be beneficial to that agent. But Kant isn't saying that doing your duty can't benefit you. In fact, in the Groundwork he explicitly mentions a case where one could act in a way that benefits oneself and be moral: a shopkeeper who offers inexperienced customers the same prices as experienced customers has two possible motivations - he may be acting out of duty to his fellow man or he may be worried about losing customers if he takes advantage of their ignorance. If the shopkeeper is fully motivated by his duty to his fellow man, then his actions express moral worth, regardless of the fact that he accrues some benefit by his actions.

"Kant is still attacking the notion of self-interest."

I'm making a point about the content of what Kant is saying, not about the truth of what Kant is saying. That Objectivists will disagree with Kant's view regardless of whether one accepts my reading or BobG's isn't really relevant.

"I mean, can you imagine living a life wherein you did absolutely nothing for yourself?"

Kant doesn't argue for this. It is entirely permissible in a Kantian framework to do things that are in your own interest. In fact, Kant writes in the Groundwork that "To secure one’s own happiness is a duty". It's just that such acts usually aren't expressions of moral worth because they generally aren't undertaken out of duty. That doesn't mean they're forbidden. Kant even writes that "we should praise and encourage" actions that comport with duty but which are undertaken for selfish reasons.

BobG

"If your purpose is to understand Kant a mainstream history does not necessarily give you an accurate view. Dr. Peikoff does give you an unadultrated view as close to Kant as is possible."

If your purpose is to understand Kant as opposed to strawmanning him, the work of somebody who basically considers Kant a proto-Nazi is not the best place to begin. Even if Peikoff were somehow right about Kant, it would be better to begin with a more charitable reading. That's just a principle of good philosophical scholarship.

"If I was talking about actions performed from your own motivation you would be right. Since I was referring to Kant's view of ethical actions you have misread my statement."

I'm not quite sure I understand your counterclaim here.

"Yet, I am quite sure that Kant explicitly said that a moral action should elicit no emotion in the actor."

Kant does not say this. Kant says that to the extent that one acts on the basis of desires and preferences rather than out of respect for duty, one's actions are not expressions of moral worth. (http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/pdf/kantgw.pdf p10) You can have emotions, it's even permissible to act on the basis of them so long as you are also acting in accordance with duty. It's just that to the extent you act on the basis of those emotions, your actions don't have moral worth.

"A moral action would be performed solely because it is moral and have no consequence for the actor."

The first half of this sentence is true, that actions which express moral worth are those actions performed solely because of duty. But the not having any consequence stuff isn't in the Groundwork. Kant flatly doesn't care about the consequences of actions, and he repeats over and over again the Groundwork that they are irrelevant to determinations of the moral worth expressed by actions. What Kant cares about is the reasons for action.

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I don't think it is so much that Kant wanting to enshrine selflessness, but rationality. He fails, of course, but his ethics is based on what he thinks you can derive as an ethical code from pure reason, with no appeal to the empirical.

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Nicko0301

"I don't see the distinction."

Really? BogG's reading ("You receive no benefit at all from doing your duty. This includes even a feeling of satisfaction or fulfillment. You will feel nothing.") entails that no action of a moral agent which is required by duty can be beneficial to that agent. But Kant isn't saying that doing your duty can't benefit you. In fact, in the Groundwork he explicitly mentions a case where one could act in a way that benefits oneself and be moral: a shopkeeper who offers inexperienced customers the same prices as experienced customers has two possible motivations - he may be acting out of duty to his fellow man or he may be worried about losing customers if he takes advantage of their ignorance. If the shopkeeper is fully motivated by his duty to his fellow man, then his actions express moral worth, regardless of the fact that he accrues some benefit by his actions.

"Kant is still attacking the notion of self-interest."

I'm making a point about the content of what Kant is saying, not about the truth of what Kant is saying. That Objectivists will disagree with Kant's view regardless of whether one accepts my reading or BobG's isn't really relevant.

"I mean, can you imagine living a life wherein you did absolutely nothing for yourself?"

Kant doesn't argue for this. It is entirely permissible in a Kantian framework to do things that are in your own interest. In fact, Kant writes in the Groundwork that "To secure one’s own happiness is a duty". It's just that such acts usually aren't expressions of moral worth because they generally aren't undertaken out of duty. That doesn't mean they're forbidden. Kant even writes that "we should praise and encourage" actions that comport with duty but which are undertaken for selfish reasons.

BobG

"If your purpose is to understand Kant a mainstream history does not necessarily give you an accurate view. Dr. Peikoff does give you an unadultrated view as close to Kant as is possible."

If your purpose is to understand Kant as opposed to strawmanning him, the work of somebody who basically considers Kant a proto-Nazi is not the best place to begin. Even if Peikoff were somehow right about Kant, it would be better to begin with a more charitable reading. That's just a principle of good philosophical scholarship.

"If I was talking about actions performed from your own motivation you would be right. Since I was referring to Kant's view of ethical actions you have misread my statement."

I'm not quite sure I understand your counterclaim here.

"Yet, I am quite sure that Kant explicitly said that a moral action should elicit no emotion in the actor."

Kant does not say this. Kant says that to the extent that one acts on the basis of desires and preferences rather than out of respect for duty, one's actions are not expressions of moral worth. (http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/pdf/kantgw.pdf p10) You can have emotions, it's even permissible to act on the basis of them so long as you are also acting in accordance with duty. It's just that to the extent you act on the basis of those emotions, your actions don't have moral worth.

"A moral action would be performed solely because it is moral and have no consequence for the actor."

The first half of this sentence is true, that actions which express moral worth are those actions performed solely because of duty. But the not having any consequence stuff isn't in the Groundwork. Kant flatly doesn't care about the consequences of actions, and he repeats over and over again the Groundwork that they are irrelevant to determinations of the moral worth expressed by actions. What Kant cares about is the reasons for action.

But the quintessence of Kant's ethics is still a subordination of self-interest. From the elucidation you have so generously offered (and I thank you very much for it!), I still gather that Kant held that one's actions are only moral so long as they are impelled by a sense of duty. I understand that Kant was not averse to some sort of consequent benefit, but--again, from your own explanation--he seems to have disparaged any action done in self-interest: it was, in his view, not comparable to an action done out of duty.

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Kant writes in the Groundwork that "To secure one’s own happiness is a duty". It's just that such acts usually aren't expressions of moral worth because they generally aren't undertaken out of duty. That doesn't mean they're forbidden. Kant even writes that "we should praise and encourage" actions that comport with duty but which are undertaken for selfish reasons.

Could you provide the relevant quotes please?

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Could you provide the relevant quotes please?

Yes, please! And the quotes ought to be of what Kant wrote, rather than what someone else wrote what Kant meant by what he wrote.

John Link

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"To secure one's own happiness is a duty, at least indirectly; for discontent with one's condition, under a pressure of many anxieties and amidst unsatisfied wants, might easily become a great temptation to transgression of duty. But here again, without looking to duty, all men have already the strongest and most intimate inclination to happiness, because it is just in this idea that all inclinations are combined in one total. But the precept of happiness is often of such a sort that it greatly interferes with some inclinations, and yet a man cannot form any definite and certain conception of the sum of satisfaction of all of them which is called happiness. It is not then to be wondered at that a single inclination, definite both as to what it promises and as to the time within which it can be gratified, is often able to overcome such a fluctuating idea, and that a gouty patient, for instance, can choose to enjoy what he likes, and to suffer what he may, since, according to his calculation, on this occasion at least, he has not sacrificed the enjoyment of the present moment to a possibly mistaken expectation of a happiness which is supposed to be found in health. But even in this case, if the general desire for happiness did not influence his will, and supposing that in his particular case health was not a necessary element in this calculation, there yet remains in this, as in all other cases, this law, namely, that he should promote his happiness not from inclination but from duty, and by this would his conduct first acquire true moral worth."

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Let us provide som further context for the bizarre suggestion that Kant was in any relevant sense "pro-happiness". Because, in fact, when Kant says that it is our duty to pursue happiness, then that is actually, within the larger context, proof of how depraved Kant's moral philosophy is. After all, what he is saying is that if you do not pursue your happiness INDIRECTLY, then you will not be eager to do your duty. Why would one not be eager to do one's duty? Because it is in conflict with one's happiness.

In The Groundwork of the Metaphyhics of Morals, Kant makes it very clear that your duty is in conflict with your happiness:

"Against all the commands of duty which reason represents to man as so deserving of respect, he feels in himself a powerful counterpoise in his wants and inclinations, the entire satisfaction of which he sums up under the name of happiness. Now reason issues its commands unyieldingly, without promising anything to the inclinations, and, as it were, with disregard and contempt for these claims, which are so impetuous, and at the same time so plausible, and which will not allow themselves to be suppressed by any command. Hence there arises a natural dialectic, i.e., a disposition, to argue against these strict laws of duty and to question their validity, or at least their purity and strictness; and, if possible, to make them more accordant with our wishes and inclinations, that is to say, to corrupt them at their very source, and entirely to destroy their worth- a thing which even common practical reason cannot ultimately call good." (http://philosophy.eserver.org/kant/metaphys-of-morals.txt)

Kant also makes it clear on more than one occation that you can never know for sure if you are acting from duty or merely in accordance with duty. Kant writes:

"In fact, it is absolutely impossible to make out by experience with complete certainty a single case in which the maxim of an action, however right in itself, rested simply on moral grounds and on the conception of duty. Sometimes it happens that with the sharpest self-examination we can find nothing beside the moral principle of duty which could have been powerful enough to move us to this or that action and to so great a sacrifice; yet we cannot from this infer with certainty that it was not really some secret impulse of self-love, under the false appearance of duty, that was the actual determining cause of the will. We like them to flatter ourselves by falsely taking credit for a more noble motive; whereas in fact we can never, even by the strictest examination, get completely behind the secret springs of action; since, when the question is of moral worth, it is not with the actions which we see that we are concerned, but with those inward principles of them which we do not see."

And: "... I am willing to admit out of love of humanity that even most of our actions are correct, but if we look closer at them we everywhere come upon the dear self which is always prominent, and it is this they have in view and not the strict command of duty which would often require self-denial. Without being an enemy of virtue, a cool observer, one that does not mistake the wish for good, however lively, for its reality, may sometimes doubt whether true virtue is actually found anywhere in the world, and this especially as years increase and the judgement is partly made wiser by experience and partly, also, more acute in observation..."

Consequently he also writes:

"It is much harder to make this distinction when the action accords with duty and the subject has besides a direct inclination to it. For example, it is always a matter of duty that a dealer should not over charge an inexperienced purchaser; and wherever there is much commerce the prudent tradesman does not overcharge... Men are thus honestly served; but this is not enough to make us believe that the tradesman has so acted from duty and from principles of honesty: his own advantage required it; it is out of the question in this case to suppose that he might besides have a direct inclination in favour of the buyers, so that, as it were, from love he should give no advantage to one over another. Accordingly the action was done neither from duty nor from direct inclination, but merely with a selfish view."

The only way you can be sure you are acting from duty is through your own suffering. In The Critique of Practical Reason Kant writes:

"...the moral law as a motive is only negative, and this motive can be known a priori to be such. For all inclination and every sensible impulse is founded on feeling, and the negative effect produced on feeling (by the check on the inclinations) is itself feeling; consequently, we can see a priori that the moral law, as a determining principle of the will, must by thwarting all our inclinations produce a feeling which may be called pain..." (http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/ikcpr10.txt)

Rand and Peikoff have not created a "straw man". They knew what they were talking about. I know because I have read and study Kant in original for years. Every single claim by them have been verified by reading Kant. And I know that everybody, who are honest, and who spend some time to study Kant, in original, will come to the same conclusion.

Edited by knast

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Let us provide som further context for the bizarre suggestion that Kant was in any relevant sense "pro-happiness". Because, in fact, when Kant says that it is our duty to pursue happiness, then that is actually, within the larger context, proof of how depraved Kant's moral philosophy is. After all, what he is saying is that if you do not pursue your happiness INDIRECTLY, then you will not be eager to do your duty. Why would one not be eager to do one's duty? Because it is in conflict with one's happiness.

In The Groundwork of the Metaphyhics of Morals, Kant makes it very clear that your duty is in conflict with your happiness:

"Against all the commands of duty which reason represents to man as so deserving of respect, he feels in himself a powerful counterpoise in his wants and inclinations, the entire satisfaction of which he sums up under the name of happiness. Now reason issues its commands unyieldingly, without promising anything to the inclinations, and, as it were, with disregard and contempt for these claims, which are so impetuous, and at the same time so plausible, and which will not allow themselves to be suppressed by any command. Hence there arises a natural dialectic, i.e., a disposition, to argue against these strict laws of duty and to question their validity, or at least their purity and strictness; and, if possible, to make them more accordant with our wishes and inclinations, that is to say, to corrupt them at their very source, and entirely to destroy their worth- a thing which even common practical reason cannot ultimately call good." (http://philosophy.eserver.org/kant/metaphys-of-morals.txt)

Kant also makes it clear on more than one occation that you can never know for sure if you are acting from duty or merely in accordance with duty. Kant writes:

"In fact, it is absolutely impossible to make out by experience with complete certainty a single case in which the maxim of an action, however right in itself, rested simply on moral grounds and on the conception of duty. Sometimes it happens that with the sharpest self-examination we can find nothing beside the moral principle of duty which could have been powerful enough to move us to this or that action and to so great a sacrifice; yet we cannot from this infer with certainty that it was not really some secret impulse of self-love, under the false appearance of duty, that was the actual determining cause of the will. We like them to flatter ourselves by falsely taking credit for a more noble motive; whereas in fact we can never, even by the strictest examination, get completely behind the secret springs of action; since, when the question is of moral worth, it is not with the actions which we see that we are concerned, but with those inward principles of them which we do not see."

And: "... I am willing to admit out of love of humanity that even most of our actions are correct, but if we look closer at them we everywhere come upon the dear self which is always prominent, and it is this they have in view and not the strict command of duty which would often require self-denial. Without being an enemy of virtue, a cool observer, one that does not mistake the wish for good, however lively, for its reality, may sometimes doubt whether true virtue is actually found anywhere in the world, and this especially as years increase and the judgement is partly made wiser by experience and partly, also, more acute in observation..."

Consequently he also writes:

"It is much harder to make this distinction when the action accords with duty and the subject has besides a direct inclination to it. For example, it is always a matter of duty that a dealer should not over charge an inexperienced purchaser; and wherever there is much commerce the prudent tradesman does not overcharge... Men are thus honestly served; but this is not enough to make us believe that the tradesman has so acted from duty and from principles of honesty: his own advantage required it; it is out of the question in this case to suppose that he might besides have a direct inclination in favour of the buyers, so that, as it were, from love he should give no advantage to one over another. Accordingly the action was done neither from duty nor from direct inclination, but merely with a selfish view."

The only way you can be sure you are acting from duty is through your own suffering. In The Critique of Practical Reason Kant writes:

"...the moral law as a motive is only negative, and this motive can be known a priori to be such. For all inclination and every sensible impulse is founded on feeling, and the negative effect produced on feeling (by the check on the inclinations) is itself feeling; consequently, we can see a priori that the moral law, as a determining principle of the will, must by thwarting all our inclinations produce a feeling which may be called pain..." (http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/ikcpr10.txt)

Rand and Peikoff have not created a "straw man". They knew what they were talking about. I know because I have read and study Kant in original for years. Every single claim by them have been verified by reading Kant. And I know that everybody, who are honest, and who spend some time to study Kant, in original, will come to the same conclusion.

Excellent work, Knast. And thank you for the references.

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