Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Lord Poppycock

Why did Rand view Kant as evil?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Yes it does, via principles. Every is implies an ought in the relevant context, as where-ever there is choice the outcome will have at least some effect on one's life.

Perhaps for some extraordinarily straitjacketed notion of "choice". I can think of loads of morally neutral choices. Shall I have the chicken or the steak? Shall I play chess or scrabble this afternoon? Shall I listen to Bach or Sigur Ros in about 10 seconds after finishing this post? In all these cases, I have basically no dominating preference in the matter, and neither choice would seem to do me more harm or bring me greater value. It just doesn't matter. I get the same value regardless of which option of choice. I'd be perfectly happy flipping a coin or using some other arbitrary decision procedure for these decisions.

If one need to make a choice then one must apply a standard of value to make that choice. A morally neutral choice is a contradiction in terms.

Please. I can apply the same standard or rule and find two options, both of which maximize value. The choice between them would be morally neutral. Unless you're saying I just can't realize the vast impact on my life that choosing the steak over the chicken is going to have.

Where did you get that?

http://www.jeffcomp.com/faq/murder.html is the source for the Rand quote. It's from a radio interview with her.

Edited by cmdownes

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I can think of loads of morally neutral choices. ... It just doesn't matter. I get the same value regardless of which option of choice. I'd be perfectly happy flipping a coin or using some other arbitrary decision procedure for these decisions.

They're not morally neutral, they're legitimate options whose values are all morally positive. They are apparently equal as far as reason can tell - but Objectivism does not say and never has said to go strictly by reason like some anemic Vulcan. The "choose strictly by reason alone" method implied by your reference to rules and straitjackets is rationalism, which Objectivism actually rejects.

Just because reason cannot further pick between them that doesn't mean they are of equal value. In such cases your feelings are a perfectly satisfactory method of determining that last bit of value difference here. This is fully principled: life is still the standard of value, where life includes happiness as its goal; so, where reason says that as far is it can tell both options are equally life-affirming, the moral thing to do is to pick which you feel will make you happier.

The fact that you can flip a coin and not really notice any difference means the difference is trivial and wouldn't bother a jot if you later thought you'd rather have done Y than X, or that anything more elaborate than that is more effort than the difference warrants. It does not mean that a difference in value between X and Y does not exist. Trivial != neutral. What I wrote stands: there are no morally neutral choices, that a proper moral code will provide a system to help you make all your choices, and Objectivism provides this.

Unless you're saying I just can't realize the vast impact on my life that choosing the steak over the chicken is going to have.

I never said the impact had to be immense, nor even identifiable by reason alone for that matter, I only said that there was an impact. Your flippancy is causing you to read things that aren't there into what I wrote.

Thanks for the link.

JJM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
They're not morally neutral, they're legitimate options whose values are all morally positive. They are apparently equal as far as reason can tell ... In such cases your feelings are a perfectly satisfactory method of determining that last bit of value difference here.

Sure, I understand, and I'm not trying to push some reading of value that doesn't take into account the fact that I just prefer salmon to french fries on the basis of nothing more than bare taste or my feelings or what have you. But there really do exist cases where even with a full and rich understanding of value, sometimes I can't discern a difference in value. I really have flipped a coin in a restaurant on occasion, because the veal marsala and the salmon both seem equally appetizing. While I was being flippant, your reply seems to basically be the position I caricatured, that I'm just not seeing the difference that's really there. Why should this be the case? What reasons do you have for thinking there are no morally neutral choices, when the evidence of my senses and mind seem to say otherwise?

What I wrote stands: there are no morally neutral choices, that a proper moral code will provide a system to help you make all your choices, and Objectivism provides this.

Come on now! The link I provided has Rand showing that there exists at least one choice such that the Objectivist ethics wouldn't be able to tell you which alternative to choose, namely a choice made when under the threat of force.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*** Mod's note: Merged with an similar, earlier topic - sN ***

Has any Objectivist written a detailed criticism of Kant? The only places in Rand's writings where she talks about him are when she accuses him of dropping reality and holding on to reason alone (which later got dropped by his followers). I feel she is right about him, but after having read a bit of Kant myself, I need to read the arguments against his philosophy from an Objectivist view-point.

Edited by softwareNerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Has any Objectivist written a detailed criticism of Kant?
The problem is that nobody understands what he means, and Objectivists are the least likely to actually care enough about his philosophy to bother with such an investment of energy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Plenty of philosophers have written detailed criticisms of Kant. He died 200 years ago! Why do we need an Objectivist to write even more detailed criticisms? The importance of Ayn Rand's critique of Kant is her distillation of the essential error behind his many details.

If there's some particular point of his that you find in need of special criticism from an Objectivist perspective, why not post it here and see what people have to say.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The problem is that nobody understands what he means, and Objectivists are the least likely to actually care enough about his philosophy to bother with such an investment of energy.

Last year I took a class in logic from John Burgess who is currently the head of the philosophy department at Princeton. He told me that one of the early manuscripts of Kant's -Critique of Pure Reason- was submitted to the publisher with some pages in transposed order. For the first printing no one caught the error.

Kant's prose is so turgid that there is a cottage industry in philosophical circles. People publish books which purport to tell the reader

a. What Kant said

and

b. What Kant meant.

Several of these books are not in total agreement with each other.

Bob Kolker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The problem is that nobody understands what he means, and Objectivists are the least likely to actually care enough about his philosophy to bother with such an investment of energy.

Well come now. There is plenty of stuff in Kant that is difficult if not impossible to understand. But he would not have been as influential a philosopher as he was if his position did not have some communicable veneer of plausibility to it. Responsible Objectivist intellectuals do need to know why Kantianism is appealing, and what's wrong with it. They just don't need a detailed understanding of him to know this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have not read any of the books [primarily] dedicated to criticizing Kant, but I would wager a great deal of them would do more to muddy the waters than anything else, which I gather would be just what Kant would have wanted.

Well come now. There is plenty of stuff in Kant that is difficult if not impossible to understand. But he would not have been as influential a philosopher as he was if his position did not have some communicable veneer of plausibility to it. Responsible Objectivist intellectuals do need to know why Kantianism is appealing, and what's wrong with it. They just don't need a detailed understanding of him to know this.

I think the most that could be said is that any good Objectivist interested in convincing others of proper ideas should be able to present the right ideas if they have any reason to convince another person of them and any chance of success. If they meet anyone talking about Kant and his ideas, it might be beneficial for them to have a basic understanding of them, so that if he is trying to dispute them he better understands his opponents ideas . But he also might not see any reason to argue with such people, and personally I dont.

But I dont think it is necessary for many Objectivists to be able to compose a detailed criticism -as this would be a massive undertaking and those really dedicated to Kants ideas are unlikely to take heed of such a criticism anyway. Assuming the author could actually make enough sense of even a fraction what Kant talks about in his works (Ive read a little and often I wondered what the hell he was on about).

t would be a better investmentt of his time to present Objectivist ideas and hope to help anyone that thinks Kant contains an ounce of plausibility sees his errors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But he would not have been as influential a philosopher as he was if his position did not have some communicable veneer of plausibility to it.
And Derrida would not have been as influential a whatever the hell he was if there were not some scent of plausibility to him. Especially enough of a vague scent that people might think "Hmmm... is there something there?? Can we endow a Chair of Derrida Studies?" I really liked the role "The Sphinx" that Wes Studi played in the movie Mystery Men. It just so epitomized the profoundly ineffable semi-insight of the post-Kantians, speaking meaningless words brimming with multiple meanings at all levels of the text. I just don't think we ever, ever need to directly engage Kant himself -- that is a massive mistake. The burden must be on the proponent of the post-Kantian idea to state his ideas, and prove its validity from the ground up. No rational intellectual could seriously propose such ideas, because they are incomprehensible mind-soup. To make this concrete: any question about the "categorical imperative" (this is just one example) should be met with nothing but bewilderment, until your interlocutor will nail that jelly to the tree and you can see if there actually is anything left after about a minute. I don't advocate doing this from a position of historical ignorance, but in my opinion, a read through the relevant Wiki entry on your favorite topic is really enough for one to get a pretty fair idea of the range of things that Kant is saying, so that you (one) won't be tricked into thinking that he actually made coherent and answerable philosophical statements.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the second edition of "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" Leonard Peikoff has an article on the analytic-synthetic dichotomy that basically destroys Kant's entire view of Epistemology, pretty much hampering the rest of his philosophy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The problem is that nobody understands what he means, and Objectivists are the least likely to actually care enough about his philosophy to bother with such an investment of energy.

I take it a step further. They don't understand what he means, they just read what someone else wrote about it and think they can refute it all over the Internet.

When saying the earth was round, people still had to provide sufficient evidence for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I take it a step further. They don't understand what he means, they just read what someone else wrote about it and think they can refute it all over the Internet.

When saying the earth was round, people still had to provide sufficient evidence for it.

Which is part of what he relied on. People reading his books, not really knowing what he was talking about though and writing some ineffectual attack of if it or some half-assed praise. Then other people would read that poor explanation, get even less idea what it was about and then get it even more wrong and quite possibly do some of Kant's work to make it appear as confusing as possible for him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Which is part of what he relied on. People reading his books, not really knowing what he was talking about though and writing some ineffectual attack of if it or some half-assed praise. Then other people would read that poor explanation, get even less idea what it was about and then get it even more wrong and quite possibly do some of Kant's work to make it appear as confusing as possible for him.

:o

So this was all part of his plan?

Kantseid would love the Internet and Youtube then... :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
:o

So this was all part of his plan?

Kantseid would love the Internet and Youtube then... :P

Well I am not be completely certain of what his plans were, nor am I am an expert on such. However as far as I can from his works, it would seem to be that it would had to have been.

Yeah I think he would have loved Wikipedia too. He would have loved how any old idiot can change the article on his stuff, then how some other person could change it to make different claims, and how someone else could add contradictory content....etc etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My suggestion is not in written form, but from Peikoff's The History of Philosophy lecture series. He not only goes into detail about Kant, but smashes him to bits as well. This is done through the fundamentals of Kant's philosophy, but also attacks the buttresses of Kant's main principles.

Now if you are looking for something that pecks him bit to bit like a one on one antithesis to his Metaphysics of Morals, there is no such thing in the Objectivist corpus. And such an undertaking would be futile anyway because they would have to wind their way through torturous miles of verbiage and BS, just to get to one point. A succinct writer, Kant was not.

Also it wouldn't hurt to read him in the context of a regular history of philosophy series (WT Jones is a good start). I would survey Kant like I would survey a strange planet that I can't make sense of, but have some evidence from those who have landed before me. You can get lost on the sick planet of Kant in a single, 15 comma, 2 semi-colon, 4 colon, ten parenthesis, 19 line sentence! And that sentence may be one of three for a paragraph that goes on for 6 pages. I may be exaggerating a bit, but that is one of things I remember from that unpleasant ride.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Peikoff's History of Philosophy part II Course provides a very good overview of Kant's philosophy. He spends 3-5 hours just on Kant, if I remember correctly. Peikoff's aim with those lectures was to give a summary of Kant's ideas, not necessarily criticize them, but as one can imagine there is a huge amount of implied criticism. He also spends a good 30-45 minutes focused on refuting the worst of Kant's arguments. I highly recommend this lecture series and the History of Philosophy part 1 lectures as well.

--Dan Edge

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest AtlasShruggedtheMovie

*** Mod's note: Merged with an similar, earlier topic - sN ***

Was Kant a collectivist? Since he seemed to elevate "duty" as the determination of what is moral, does that mean that he elevated the benefit of the community over the individual?

Please help me get bearings on this one.

Edited by softwareNerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I assume you're the director for the new film. ;) Others here will be able to elaborate for you, but I believe your statements are accurate so far.

Edited by brian0918

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know much about Kant's political leanings as a collectivist. I think he may have supported capitalism to some extent, though certainly not from a philosophic standpoint.

And since you have correctly identified Kant's underlying premise being duty to others, and not an obligation to your own well-being, yes, it would be quite obvious that he is a collectivist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Check out the write-up on the Standford web-site. Here's a quote:

"There is only one innate right," says Kant, "Freedom (independence from being constrained by another's choice), insofar as it can coexist with the freedom of every other in accordance with a universal law" (6:237). Kant rejects any other basis for the state, in particular arguing that the welfare of citizens cannot be the basis of state power. He argues that a state cannot legitimately impose any particular conception of happiness upon its citizens (8:290-91). To do so would be for the ruler to treat citizens as children, assuming that they are unable to understand what is truly useful or harmful to themselves.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He was actually a nihilist as far as morality is concerned. He did not hold that you owe a duty to your nation or mankind etc.; he held that you owe a duty to dutifulness itself. Even if no one at all benefits from your action, and even if it causes the deaths of billions of people, it is still a moral action as long as you do it "from duty."

(He did not explicitly write this. It's implied in his writings.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest AtlasShruggedtheMovie

Thanks for the clarification, but I think the duty has to have an object. If, as you say, Kant supported the primacy of duty as an ideal, not the collective, why not duty to oneself?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*** Mod's note: Merged with an similar, earlier topic - sN ***

I am fairly familiar with Kant, and less familiar with Rand, so I apologize if this is a stupid question. I know that Rand vehemently opposes Kant, and I can see, reading her, some sizable areas of disagreement. But frequently Rand directs a sheer vitriol towards Kant that I am having trouble understanding - she seems to view him as the be-all and end-all of evil in philosophy. This is strange to me, as I do not see what is so much more opposed to Rand in Kant than in, say, Plato, Hume, or Descartes. (Descartes, in particular, with his suggestion that the believability of sensory perspective is possible only through the grace of God seems wildly more antithetical to Rand than anything in Kant).

What, exactly, are Rand's objections to Kant?

Edited by softwareNerd
Added 'merged' notice

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...