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Why did Rand view Kant as evil?

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I've never understood why Ayn hated Kant so much. But she had a mind for philosophy and understood things that I don't. Kant contributed much to scientific methodology, particularly theoretical science. Kant is the theoretical scientist who questions the data from manmade instruments, where Ayn is the engineer who is only concerned with practical application. I guess I can see there would be a disagreement there, but she called him evil and blamed him for people like Hitler and Stalin. I don't understand that part.

tab.gifI know most of that is wrong, but I haven’t read anything by Kant, and I’m not sure how to properly explain how Kant caused Nazism and Communism. How would you answer such questions?

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Kant was the father of the "mystics of muscle" as Ayn Rand refers to them; my understanding is that his writings purport to "prove" that the mind cannot perceive reality, that knowledge is a sham, that volition is an "appearance" brought on by the random functioning of glands, muscles, organs, and blood, that knowledge is a lie and man is impotent.

Why? A body without a mind is meat for anyone's table.

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As I understand it, Kant was primarily intent on proving the existence of god with philosophy. Up until Kant’s time philosophy had been moving more and more into Atheism and thus Kant was embraced as a Hero who saved religion.

Essentially he believed that our senses contributed as much to our understanding of reality as the objects themselves that we sense, therefore a true understanding of the nature of reality is unlikely via our senses.

Additionally, he believes that we have access to a world of “a priori” knowledge, or Knowledge that we are born with. This knowledge consists of math & logic. The primary proof of this is that we must use logic to discover everything in our world, however you cannot use logic to discover logic, so we must be born with an understanding of “if this then that” already in our minds.

With these two points stated he draws some conclusions that science cannot ever rule out God because we have a limited understanding of reality and that the evidence of “a priori” knowledge is a kind of watermark left by our creator.

Personally I really don’t think Kant’s ideas really are as “ingenius” as they are portrayed. I believe that Kant is very often cited as the “greatest philosopher” by other philosophers because some people out there desperately want to believe in a god, and Kant erected the walls around religion that haave successfully protected it from science for many, many years. (perhaps even until today for many people)

Needless to say, Ayn Rand wasn’t a fan of any philosophy that saved religion by crippling the human mind.

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I haven’t read anything by Kant,

My advice: Don't. It's an extremely unpleasant experience.

I've said before that one of the great things about Ayn Rand is that she didn't write so that you needed a secret decoder ring to figure out what she was saying. Kant did. "Critique of Pure Reason" is all but indecipherable. It's almost impossible to hold the congnitive context of his writing, because everthing is confused by a mish-mash of parentheticals, clauses, subclauses, and subclauses within subclauses; on top of all that, it's flawed from the start. When I was reading it, I found that I had to go over each paragraph from 8-10 times before I was able to extract any meaning. Unless you plan to be a philosopher, I can't imagine how understanding Kant's Philosophy could be of any value to you whatsoever.

He was particularly noted for the a priori/a posteriori & analytic/synthetic dichotomies, and his analysis of all of the different types of knowledge that can be concieved from different combinations of the two (e.g. analytic a priori, synthetic a posteriori, etc.). A priori knowledge is said to be knowledge prior to experience (pure reason), while a posteriori knowledge is said to be knowledge after experience (emprical). Analytic knowledge is inherent in the concept, whereas synthetic knowledge is new knowledge that must be discovered.

Objectivism rejects both dichotomies, rendering the rest of Kant's philosohpy completely useless. You can read the refutation of the dichotomies in Dr. Peikoff's essay at the end of IOE.

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I'm sorry. I didn't address your questions.

Kant was THE subjectivist. To the best of my knowledge, all subjectivist philosophies are based on his. As hangnail said, his subjectivism really did a lot to protect from philosophical refutation. Without his work, it is extremely unlikely that altruism would have been able to maintain it's place in so many succeeding philosophies. Nazism and Communism are clearly built on a collectivist-altruist base.

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tab.gifThank you. This should be enough, I’ll just give her a link to this thread. I appreciate the information and hope to see more. I will eventually have to read Kant because I would like to be a philosophy professor. I’d love to read any information that an Objectivist with a wider context of knowledge than myself has to offer pertaining to Kantianism or any other philosophy. All such information is greatly appreciated.thumb2.gif

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For a telling flavor of Kant, here is a quote from his Critique of Pure Reason:

"Thus even after reason has failed in all its ambitious attempts to pass beyond the limits of all experience, there is still enough left to satisfy us, so far as our practical stand point is concerned. No one, indeed, will be able to boast that he knows that there is a God, and a future life... No, my conviction is not logical, but moral certainty; and since it rests on subjective grounds (of the moral sentiment), I must not even say, 'It is morally certain that there is a God, etc.', but 'I am morally certain, etc.' " [A828f-B856f]

Kant admits that reason cannot prove the existence of God, but rather than draw the logical conclusion that there is no God, he concludes that it is a failure of reason. His objective is to preserve the belief in God at all costs. In the historical context of the Enlightenment, as people were moving away from religion because they realized the power of reason, Kant was determined to reverse this trend. Unfortunately, he succeeded.

Edited by Sparrow

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My advice is quite the opposite. DO read Kant. There's nothing worse than a bunch of people talking about something without knowing anything about it; I'm not saying it's happening here, but it often does occur in beginning circles, where people go around waving around AR's opinion on the subject. If you don't want to, or can't, read Kant, read a summary or something like that. But above all, if you're a beginner, don't worry about Kant at all, because he's extremely advanced, both his language and his theories, so if you won't get him, that's ok. I had to take a class on Descartes, Hume, and Kant, in order to be even introduced to his thought in a proper academic setting. I haven't gone further than that in my Kant studies, but I'm glad at least for having a first-hand introduction.

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tab.gifI don’t argue what I don’t know. And I agree that no one should. I’m something of a beginner, compared to a lot of the people here, but I’m learning more everyday. Thanks for the advise, I’ll put any in depth study of Kant off for now and start myself off on summarys of his work when I do get into it.

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For a telling flavor of Kant, here is a quote from his Critique of Pure Reason:

"Thus even after reason has failed in all its ambitious attempts to pass beyond the limits of all experience, there is still enough left to satisfy us, so far as our practical stand point is concerned. No one, indeed, will be able to boast that he knows that there is a God, and a future life... No, my conviction is not logical, but moral certainty; and since it rests on subjective grounds (of the moral sentiment), I must not even say, 'It is morally certain that there is a God, etc.', but 'I am morally certain, etc.' " [A828f-B856f]

How can *anybody* even get any meaning whatsoever out of nonsensical passages like this.

I only took one philosophy course in my life and it was an intro. course and never plan to take another unless its in Objectivism or a study of Aristotle. Of course there was no Rand in that course and the only good I got out of it was from Aristotle and a few of the other Greek philosophers.

A good portion of the course had to do with Kant and Hume and I understood little of what they said and the parts I did understand I hated. All this and I still got an A in the class and was by far one of the best students.

The instructor was supposed to be a philosopher but was one of the worst *thinkers* I've ever met. He spoke in generalities and was never clear in his speach.

He went through all the history of philosphy with the class but when I directly asked him which type of philosophy he directly endorced he simply evaded the question.

From what I could glean it was some mixture of Aquinas/Kantian/subjectivism.

My point is this *is* the type of philosophic "education" you get at a standard university. I would recommend it to nobody. And I think by far the best education you can get in philosophy is reading the Objectivist literature yourself and participating in groups like this when you have questions.

Do NOT read Kant. Doing so will possibly make you dumber because you might think his endless words strung together in non-sensical paragraghs might actually mean something.

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Actually, I'm taking a class on the philosophy of science right now and I'm diving into Kant, Hume, Descartes, etc. I think it's imperative that one should learn whatever they can about even dissenting ideas.

I refer to Andrew Bernstein who illustrates that although Kant has very little truth value in his philosophy, it is great because of its influence on today and his system building that qualifies him as a giant of philosophy (The Four Giants of Philosophy, tape 1).

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I know most of that is wrong, but I haven’t read anything by Kant, and I’m not sure how to properly explain how Kant caused Nazism and Communism. How would you answer such questions?

This exact topic is the subject of Leonard Peikoff's, The Ominous Parallels. I can't recommend enough that you read this book.

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How can *anybody* even get any meaning whatsoever out of nonsensical passages like this.

Unfortunately, many people did and still do. Saying that they were illogical and followed their emotions is not sufficient to reverse Kant's predominance in our culture. I recommend Adam Mossoff's audiotape "Emanuel Kant's Gimmick" as an introductory analysis of Kant's method.

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Why do you recommend reading a criticism of Kant before reading the author himself first? That's like recommending someone to read Branden's "Judgment Day" before giving them AR's works. Regardless of whether the criticism is fair or not, the fact that it comes first means that it imposes its judgment on all future understanding of the author. I still stand by my recommendation that if you are seriously interested in Kant, and believe your understanding of philosophy to be adequate for the task (because his words are not meaningless gibberish, contrary to some claims), that you should either read one of his books, or an explanatory book by a modern author.

And by the way, the solution to Kant is not to read less of him, but more, in order to understand what he said and where he was wrong. Similarly, the best way to know what's wrong with Nazism is not by banning Mein Kampf, but by making sure everyone reads, analyzes, and understands it. Ignorance is never the answer.

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How can *anybody* even get any meaning whatsoever out of nonsensical passages like this.

The passage you're referring to certainly does have meaning, and it is easier to interpret than many other passages to be found within Kant. However, if what you mean is that the view in the passage is false, then obviously, I agree. The first philosopher of whom I am aware to develop the concept of "moral certainty" was Descartes. With that philosophic background, and with some basic knowledge of Kant's thought, the passage is easy to follow. We cannot prove the existence of God, of free will, or of an immortal soul by reason. But we CAN, Kant says, be morally certain of these things (by what Kant calls practical reason); just as Descartes, when he doubted even the existence of the world, could not simultaenously take his skepticism seriously and stay alive, so too does Kant think that one must grant God, freedom, and immortality if one is to allow for a moral life at all. (Freedom is the easiest to explain; if we were merely determined, we could not be blamed for evil or praised for good actions.)

Notice that this view is actually common today. Many Christians believe that atheism implies amorality, that if one denies God, one must deny morality along with Him.

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I still stand by my recommendation that if you are seriously interested in Kant, and believe your understanding of philosophy to be adequate for the task (because his words are not meaningless gibberish, contrary to some claims), that you should either read one of his books, or an explanatory book by a modern author.

I agree with this 100%. Kant's writing is not entirely meaningless, but it is extremely difficult to extract the meaning. My general prodedure is as follows:

1. Read through a given passage, discarding all parentheticals and clauses.

2. Read through the passage several more times. Each time add one of the previously ignored clauses and integrate it into the main idea.

3. At the end read through the passage in it's entirety, taking care to keep your contextual focus on the main idea you gathered in step 1.

If you intend to do some serious Philosohpical study, it is important to understand Kant. Most succeeding philosophies have a Kantian base, and in order to understand their roots, you must understand Kant. That said, for the average Joe, who is strictly interested in a Philosophy to guide his own choices and actions and will not be engaging in much discussion and analysis outside of it's proper application to his own life, Kant's writing is all but useless.

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Why do you recommend reading a criticism of Kant before reading the author himself first? That's like recommending someone to read Branden's "Judgment Day" before giving them AR's works. Regardless of whether the criticism is fair or not, the fact that it comes first means that it imposes its judgment on all future understanding of the author. I still stand by my recommendation that if you are seriously interested in Kant, and believe your understanding of philosophy to be adequate for the task (because his words are not meaningless gibberish, contrary to some claims), that you should either read one of his books, or an explanatory book by a modern author.

Adam Mossoff's tape certainly qualifies as an explanatory analysis by a modern author. Mossoff explains Kant's method of obfuscating his meaning, so that one can figure out what he says.

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It's important to remember that secondary sources, to some extent, give one merely hypothetical knowledge. Be careful about reading a history of philosophy and going around showing off your knowledge of Kant; my general practice is, if I have not studied an author directly but have studied him indirectly, to preface my thoughts and words about the author with: "IF, as such-and-such a book reports, this philosophy argues X, THEN..." Now, although the knowledge is hypothetical in this respect, in another respect it is not. Reading secondary sources alone is enough to give one a basic idea of what other people have taken from Kant and, hence, to get a basic idea of Kant's influence.

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I'm sorry. I didn't address your questions.

Kant was THE subjectivist. To the best of my knowledge, all subjectivist philosophies are based on his. As hangnail said, his subjectivism really did a lot to protect from philosophical refutation. Without his work, it is extremely unlikely that altruism would have been able to maintain it's place in so many succeeding philosophies. Nazism and Communism are clearly built on a collectivist-altruist base.

One should keep in mind that Kant never intended to be against individualism. It is an interpretation of others on him that has led to this. Many philosophers are misinterpreted, including Ayn Rand. Some people go so far as to state that Ayn Rand is a fascist.

Here, Free Capitalist puts it correctly:

My advice is quite the opposite. DO read Kant. There's nothing worse than a bunch of people talking about something without knowing anything about it; I'm not saying it's happening here, but it often does occur in beginning circles, where people go around waving around AR's opinion on the subject.

Why do you recommend reading a criticism of Kant before reading the author himself first?

--Brian

Edited by Brian

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danielshrugged: It's important to remember that secondary sources, to some extent, give one merely hypothetical knowledge. Be careful about reading a history of philosophy and going around showing off your knowledge of Kant; my general practice is, if I have not studied an author directly but have studied him indirectly, to preface my thoughts and words about the author with: "IF, as such-and-such a book reports, this philosophy argues X, THEN..." Now, although the knowledge is hypothetical in this respect, in another respect it is not. Reading secondary sources alone is enough to give one a basic idea of what other people have taken from Kant and, hence, to get a basic idea of Kant's influence.

:) It was Kant who was famous for formalizing the hypothetical imperatives (IF X THEN Y) and categorical imperatives (X is - no questions)! But Im guessing you already knew that... hehehe

danielshrugged: We cannot prove the existence of God, of free will, or of an immortal soul by reason.

On a more serious note - are you sure freewill cannot be understood in rational terms? As a Neuroscience student I'm led to think otherwise.

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A student of philosophy should certainly read Kant and not rely on secondary sources, although even an English translation of Kant is a secondary source to a certain extent.

Someone who is interested in Objectivism but is not in academia or not in the field on philosophy, however, may need a guide on how to read Kant before delving into the Critique. Consider this quote:

"There is of reason, as there is of the understanding, a purely formal, that is logical use, in which no account is taken of the contents of knowledge; but there is also a real use, in so far as reason itself contains the origin of certain concepts and principles; which it has not borrowed either from the senses or from the understanding. The former faculty has been long defined by logicians as the faculty of mediate conclusions, in contradistinctions to immediate ones; but this does not help us to understand the latter which itself produces concepts. As this brings us face to face with the division of reason into a logical and a transcendental faculty, we must look for a higher concept for this source of knowledge..." (A;294-298; B:350-354)

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tab.gifI know most of that is wrong, but I haven’t read anything by Kant, and I’m not sure how to properly explain how Kant caused Nazism and Communism. How would you answer such questions?

I was going to let the others in this forum answer your question, but now I've changed my mind.

If you want my advice, go to the library, get everything you can on Kant, and read it. Just to warn you, I tried to read Critique of Pure Reason years ago and was shocked by Kant’s awful writing style. Even so, you ought to know where Kant was coming from in his own words. After you have read most of his major works, post specific questions here about them. Perhaps the more knowledgeable people can help you then.

Once you have gotten a taste of Kant’s work, I would then read The Ominous Parallels.

Also, to further your study of Objectivism, you should sign up for the Objectivist Academic Center this spring. If you really want to be an Objectivist philosopher, the OAC is a must. I have heard nothing but good things about it, and am planning on signing up myself.

-Patrick

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"There is of reason, as there is of the understanding, a purely formal, that is logical use, in which no account is taken of the contents of knowledge; but there is also a real use, in so far as reason itself contains the origin of certain concepts and principles; which it has not borrowed either from the senses or from the understanding. The former faculty has been long defined by logicians as the faculty of mediate conclusions, in contradistinctions to immediate ones; but this does not help us to understand the latter which itself produces concepts. As this brings us face to face with the division of reason into a logical and a transcendental faculty, we must look for a higher concept for this source of knowledge..." (A;294-298; B:350-354)

This is exactly what I mean. I had to read each sentence several times before I got any meaning out of it. This is what I got from it: We have Reason then there is some other undefined alternative to reason that seems somewhat Platonic in nature.

How does writing like the above represent clear thinking and therefore philosophy? I understand that people used to read this crap and think, that's philosophy. I understand modern philosophy draws on these non-sensical passages. But why should a student of a rational philosophy study the history of non-sensical philosophies in detail. It's not the job of a rational student of philosophy to refute nonsense, but to learn to think rationaly. How does reading the above help lead to that end?

A real philosopher should explain the virtues of his rational philosophy, in this case Objectivism, rather than learn to refute the non-sensical philosophies of people who sought to negate the rational.

And on a practical note, why would you want to clutter your brain with that stuff. I understand having a need for a passing knowledge of these philosophers and their history, but what can be gained from a detailed study of such nearly incomprehensible passages? How to write poorly? How NOT to think? So you can be accepted by the so-called "intellectuals".

What knowledge can be gained from a negative other than don't make these mistakes too?

If you can see that there is something wrong with a body of writing and first glance, why study its details?

Sorry for ranting here, but I just don't understand studying negatives in detail in order to gain some sort of positive, when you can just study the positive. Should I study the Bible and the Koran in detail to know they are non-sense? Or should I reject them as arbitrary and wrong after first glance? This analogy parallels almost perfectly to writing's such as Kant's.

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I found this online article about Kant's life and his ideas which is easy to understand and is even entertaining:

http://www.philosophynow.org/issue49/49steinbauer.htm

The author is an admirer of Kant, so it's amazing how her presentation of his ideas is similar to Rand's, with the opposite evaluation.

Edited by Sparrow

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