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Why did Rand view Kant as evil?

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Essentially, Kant made a very convincing argument for why faith is reason and all perceivable reality a lie. Furthermore, he took this into ethics and claimed true self-interest consisted of doing what everyone else thought was true. It's not so much that he attacked reason, realty or self-interest -- it was that he claimed to be defending them, all the while kicking them into a pit it has taken centuries for man-kind to begin recovering from.

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Essentially, Kant made a very convincing argument for why faith is reason and all perceivable reality a lie. Furthermore, he took this into ethics and claimed true self-interest consisted of doing what everyone else thought was true. It's not so much that he attacked reason, realty or self-interest -- it was that he claimed to be defending them, all the while kicking them into a pit it has taken centuries for man-kind to begin recovering from.

That's fairly far from how Kant has generally been presented and understood in my experience. With the "all perceivable reality is a lie," I assume you're referring to the phenomena/noumena distinction? But in my understanding, that distinction isn't so much a declaration that perceivable reality is a lie as an observation that hypothesizing about some inaccessible and unknowable meta-reality is stupid, and that perceivable reality is all we actually have to go on. Is this a misunderstanding of Kant?

Similarly, Kant's ethics, at least as I understood them in Intro Philosophy, weren't about a social convention but about objective reason - that is, ethical action is action that is consistent with the absolute force of reason...

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(I've merged a few earlier threads on Kant, because this is a topic that comes up every now and then. For those just joining, there's some good stuff in the earlier threads, above.) In addition, for more on Kant see this topic, and this one, and this one.

From "The Ayn Rand Letter", (Oct 1975), it appears that Rand read a book by a Kantian scholar, Friedrich Paulsen,title "Immanuel Kant: His Life and Doctrine" [apparently published in German sometime around 1898-1902, and then translated into English in 1963. Here is a quote:

There are three attitudes of the mind towards reality which lay claim to truth,—Religion, Philosophy, and Science....In general, philosophy occupies an intermediate place between science and religion....The history of philosophy shows that its task consists simply in mediating between science and religion. It seeks to unite knowledge and faith, and in this way to restore the unity of the mental life .... As in the case of the individual, it mediates between the head and the heart, so in society it prevents science and religion from becoming entirely strange and indifferent to each other, and hinders also the mental life of the people from being split up into a faith-hating science and a science-hating faith or superstition.(New York, Ungar, 1963, pp. 1-2.)

..., Kant's ethics, at least as I understood them in Intro Philosophy, weren't about a social convention but about objective reason ...
But, reason cannot get you there unless one has a standard to work with. For instance, if service to God is the standard, or service to fellow man, or service to self, then one can try using reason to achieve that ultimate goal. What was Kant's standard of ethical action? Edited by softwareNerd

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That's fairly far from how Kant has generally been presented and understood in my experience. With the "all perceivable reality is a lie," I assume you're referring to the phenomena/noumena distinction? But in my understanding, that distinction isn't so much a declaration that perceivable reality is a lie as an observation that hypothesizing about some inaccessible and unknowable meta-reality is stupid, and that perceivable reality is all we actually have to go on.
Something that I find very interesting about all discussions of Kant is that, strangely, nobody ever lets Kant's words speak for themself. Instead, what I see is mention of individual beliefs about how they are interpreted, presented, understood. Did he really have no ability to say literally, directly and efficiently what he had in mind, such that we still centuries later have to randomly guess what he said, based on what The Intellectual Masses think he said? These days, an undergrad in 101 would fail the course for such behavior.

So, like, can you insert quotes from Kant to show that your interpretation is more faithful to the text?

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But, reason cannot get you there unless one has a standard to work with. For instance, if service to God is the standard, or service to fellow man, or service to self, then one can try using reason to achieve that ultimate goal. What was Kant's standard of ethical action?

My understanding is that ethics are defined almost tautologically here - that it really is simply a matter of whether the underlying maxim can be universalized without logical contradiction.

Something that I find very interesting about all discussions of Kant is that, strangely, nobody ever lets Kant's words speak for themself. Instead, what I see is mention of individual beliefs about how they are interpreted, presented, understood. Did he really have no ability to say literally, directly and efficiently what he had in mind, such that we still centuries later have to randomly guess what he said, based on what The Intellectual Masses think he said? These days, an undergrad in 101 would fail the course for such behavior.

So, like, can you insert quotes from Kant to show that your interpretation is more faithful to the text?

With all due respect, I would think that the onus for specific quotes would be on the more marginal view that Kant is evil and a monster. I mean, I assume that Rand, Peikoff, or another prominent Objectivist did a close reading or annotation of Kant, or at the very least a sustained engagement with his writing, no? What quotes do they present?

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With all due respect, I would think that the onus for specific quotes would be on the more marginal view that Kant is evil and a monster.
Meh. His writing is proof that he is evil. Personally, I think he should be ignored completely and absolutely; the appeal to popular opinion should hold no serious sway, since we know the masses are quite capable of self-delusion. I was just wondering if you thought is was possible in any instance whatsoever to establish that Rand's understanding of Kant was in error, by referring to the writings of Kant (and not the meta-writings about Kant).

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My understanding is that ethics are defined almost tautologically here - that it really is simply a matter of whether the underlying maxim can be universalized without logical contradiction.
I have no idea what you mean. Can you express that idea more simply?

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Meh. His writing is proof that he is evil. Personally, I think he should be ignored completely and absolutely; the appeal to popular opinion should hold no serious sway, since we know the masses are quite capable of self-delusion. I was just wondering if you thought is was possible in any instance whatsoever to establish that Rand's understanding of Kant was in error, by referring to the writings of Kant (and not the meta-writings about Kant).

I'm wondering why Rand objects so much to Kant, because her objections seem disproportionate with what I know of Kant. I find an answer turning that around on me to defend Kant unsatisfying, for what should be obvious reasons.

I have no idea what you mean. Can you express that idea more simply?

In my understanding, an action is ethical if the underlying reason for taking the action could be universally applied without contradiction.

The example I remember is against killing in self-defense. The underlying reason there is "I must take your life in order to protect my own." Or, to expand, "I must terminate your existence as a rational free agent in order to prolong my existence as a rational free agent." Which, when universalized, involves either an inconsistent prioritizing of the importance of existence as a rational free agent (sometimes my existence is more important than yours, other times yours is more important than mine), or it involves megalomania (my existence is all that matters).

Hence that action is rejected as unethical because the underlying reason is logically contradictory.

Which does not depend on any appeal to an outside authority that I can see - it just depends on the supremacy of logic.

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Hence that action is rejected as unethical because the underlying reason is logically contradictory.
I don't see any contradiction in a principle that says, for instance: "you may kill someone who is trying to murder you". It is easy enough for all people to practice this principle universally, without conflict of principle. All one has to do is not attempt to murder people. If, on the other hand, one takes a principle like "murder anyone you like, for any reason", then that can obviously not be practiced universally.

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I don't see any contradiction in a principle that says, for instance: "you may kill someone who is trying to murder you". It is easy enough for all people to practice this principle universally, without conflict of principle. All one has to do is not attempt to murder people. If, on the other hand, one takes a principle like "murder anyone you like, for any reason", then that can obviously not be practiced universally.

The problem seems to me to come up in whether the moral worth of a human being is situational or absolute. If it's situational then yes - you could decide that in certain individual cases a person's worth as a human being has been devalued such that you can kill them to protect your presumably still valuable life. But that seems to me a headlong slide into the ethical mess of utilitarianism, because suddenly you need to figure out how you're going to measure worth - worth to whom? How do we deal with predicted future worth, which is a part of the value of any object? (As, in this logic, the decision to kill someone is an active rejection of all future worth they may have) What unit of measurement do we propose for moral worth?

I mean, that's not to say that there isn't a system of ethics that could be constructed around a measure of moral worth. Just that it's a tarpit that is not actually necessary in this case - you can just as easily construct a system of ethics that decides to value all human life equally. (Or, as the Kantian ethics I was taught would have it, simply ignores the question of value and treats the action as "permanently destroying rational free will" without any attempt to measure the quantity of rational free will being destroyed.

But this is somewhat off-topic. I still want to know - what does Rand object to in Kant? Where can I find an extended Objectivist reading of Kant that demonstrates this evil that mainstream philosophy doesn't seem to see (not only in the sense of not criticizing, but in the sense of describing Kant totally differently)?

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I'm wondering why Rand objects so much to Kant, because her objections seem disproportionate with what I know of Kant. I find an answer turning that around on me to defend Kant unsatisfying, for what should be obvious reasons.
I'm not asking you to defend Kant, I'm asking whether you can use Kant's words to make a credible case that presents Kant in a positive light. I have attempted to read a little bit of Kant, and concluded that it would not be a useful activity for myself. However, I know that Rand went to the bother of reading Kant, so given that she has established her credibility for reading and dissecting philosophical works, I have no reason to doubt her report. I conclude that you don't actually have a substantive objection to her interpretation of Kant (i.e. you can't point to lines of the text where he states X and Rand asserts that he says not-X). As far as I know, no Objectivist scholar has enough interest in Kant to engage in an in-depth study of his works.

I don't not how to explain the received opinion of Kant, and how that diverges from Rand's. She is willing to call a spade a spade (more precisely: she is willing to condemn Kant where others are satisfy to criticize him) -- academics and politicians have this tendency to talk nice. I think the puzzle lies not in why Rand is so critical, but why Kant is considered so important. A fortiori he was influential, just as Hitler and Britney Spears have been influential. From what I can tell, the main impetus for her opposing Kant is his epistemology, especially his view that reason can be detached from reality and that it is sensible to talk of a noumenal world beside the phenomenal world. You would have to ask those personally acquainted with her to identify a single basic "why".

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But this is somewhat off-topic. ...
Yes, I agree it is close to veering off topic. The point I was trying to make is this: the part about the system being "internally consistent" is not all that Kant said. I'm not talking Objectivist interpretation here; just mainstream interpretation. Kant did not say "the ethical system should be internally consistent and logical" and leave it at that. That's why I gave the two examples of internally consistent system. The point is: a mainstream Kantian would easily be able to choose between those two options.

... I still want to know - what does Rand object to in Kant? Where can I find an extended Objectivist reading of Kant that demonstrates this evil that mainstream philosophy doesn't seem to see (not only in the sense of not criticizing, but in the sense of describing Kant totally differently)?
Actually, rather than reading Rand's comments, I suggest reading mainstream philosophy to understand why and how they see Kant as advocating duty, and how and why they interpret Kant as saying that if one does something from "inclination" rather than duty, only the duty part counts toward the actions morality.

If you agree with that mainstream interpretation, Rand's anathema toward Kant should become clear. I think you may come back, wondering: why Kant in particular, why not Jesus? or so many others philosophers who said similar things? However, I think the first step is to that Rand did not have some radically unique understanding of Kant's morality. So, best to read a Kantian expert.

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I have attempted to read a little bit of Kant, and concluded that it would not be a useful activity for myself.

So it sounds like you can't answer my question of what passages in Kant Rand cites as being so objectionable. Pity.

I conclude that you don't actually have a substantive objection to her interpretation of Kant (i.e. you can't point to lines of the text where he states X and Rand asserts that he says not-X). As far as I know, no Objectivist scholar has enough interest in Kant to engage in an in-depth study of his works.

That's very surprising to me. I can't imagine, given the seeming importance that is attached to Kant as the root of so much evil, that nobody has done a detailed study of Kant, taking Rand's conclusions seemingly as an article of faith based on a little bit of reading.

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That's very surprising to me. I can't imagine, given the seeming importance that is attached to Kant as the root of so much evil, that nobody has done a detailed study of Kant, taking Rand's conclusions seemingly as an article of faith based on a little bit of reading.
Do you realize that Rand's view about what Kant said is completely in line with mainstream commentators, including his fans, even though her evaluation of him is negative?

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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?

Your thinking is too un-Kantian for this. ;) It's certainly true that, in objective reason, "duty" would have to have a beneficiary, just like values do. But Kant never let this stop him from preaching about intrinsic duties. In fact, its intrinsicism is the very essence of duty according to him; it's what distinguishes duty from mere prudence. Something like "If you want to live well, be productive" is prudent advice and it's all very nice by Kant, but because of that "if," it's just a "hypothetical imperative," not a "categorical" one, which makes it unsuitable as a basis for morality. According to Kant, morality is not asking why to do something, not having any benefit of anyone in mind, just doing it because it's a duty--period!

Read the chapter on "The Concentration Camps" in Dr. Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels to get a good sense of the mentality involved here. The Nazis made it a point to make the prisoners do useless work, work that achieved nothing for anyone other than exhausting and breaking the backs of the prisoners, and they shacked them with completely senseless prohibitions--like "don't touch that icicle." When asked why, they would say: "There is no 'why' here."

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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.

Kant is the worst because he was THE philosopher of the Primacy of Consciousness. Many others before him had made errors due to not recognizing the Primacy of Existence, but Kant was the first to take the Primacy of Consciousness and make it the theme of his philosophy. To get an idea of the extent to which Kantianism is steeped in the Primacy of Consciousness, consider that in his philosophy, epistemology precedes metaphysics. His "Copernican revolution" consisted of answering the question of "How can man know nature?" by saying that it is man's mind that creates what he calls "nature" (= the sum of the phenomena we perceive).

The essence of Objectivism is the Primacy of Existence, and Kant is its absolute antithesis.

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The example I remember is against killing in self-defense. [...]

Hence that action is rejected as unethical because the underlying reason is logically contradictory.

Which does not depend on any appeal to an outside authority that I can see - it just depends on the supremacy of logic.

Great example and I should think you have answered your own question with it.

What do you think, is it good or bad to kill in self defense?

If Kant's answer is that it is not good to defend yourself then he is obviously evil.

Logic must be grounded in reality.

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What type of logic? Pure logic? practical logic? or, pure practical logic? ;)

:lol: :lol: :lol:

I'm glad you said it and not the other guy.

I knew I'd either be opening up a can of worms or setting a trap.

Curious, what would be the appropriate answer? Aristotelian logic? Real logic? Actual logic? Logical logic? Rational logic?

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Great example and I should think you have answered your own question with it.

What do you think, is it good or bad to kill in self defense?

If Kant's answer is that it is not good to defend yourself then he is obviously evil.

Logic must be grounded in reality.

You are taking something as self-evident here that is not self-evident to me, but I can't actually figure out what, so I'm going to risk asking the stupid question. Why is it it is "obviously evil" to say that it is bad to kill in self defense?

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Kant is the worst because he was THE philosopher of the Primacy of Consciousness. Many others before him had made errors due to not recognizing the Primacy of Existence, but Kant was the first to take the Primacy of Consciousness and make it the theme of his philosophy. To get an idea of the extent to which Kantianism is steeped in the Primacy of Consciousness, consider that in his philosophy, epistemology precedes metaphysics. His "Copernican revolution" consisted of answering the question of "How can man know nature?" by saying that it is man's mind that creates what he calls "nature" (= the sum of the phenomena we perceive).

The essence of Objectivism is the Primacy of Existence, and Kant is its absolute antithesis.

Thank you - this is a helpful answer.

The problem seems to come very early on in the Critique of Pure Reason, and seems almost more a problem of Hume than Kant, since Hume is where the biggest blow to simply taking existence straightforwardly comes via his savaging of empiricism. Kant's turn to a priori knowledge and consciousness is totally unnecessary if you can get around Hume's objections some other way. Does Rand (or another Objectivist) have a refutation of Hume?

Or, perhaps more broadly, what is Rand's model of the relationship between perception and reality? Does she treat them as 100% equivalent? (In which case the question of how she gets around Hume comes up again) Or does she have a more complex model of that relationship?

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Why is it it is "obviously evil" to say that it is bad to kill in self defense?
Good is that which supports a man's life, evil it the opposite. Self-defense comes about when another person attempts to commit an evil act, of killing you. Now you are faced with a seeming contradiction, the mutual exclusivity of your life versus his. You must now make a choice -- kill or be killed -- which leads you to consult your moral code, which says that your life is the highest value for you, and is your goal. The only action that is compatible with your central purpose -- your life -- is killing the would-be killer. Therefore, self-defense is the good choice. Any moral principle which systematically contradicts good is the opposite of good, namely evil. It is thus evil to advocate such a principle. In come instances, if a person has never thought about what "good" and "evil" are, and has just a collection of phrases that they don't think about as their moral handbook, it might not seem obvious. Evasion is a form of evil, and it is often necessary to deliberately evade to not understand that advocating self-defensive pacifism is evil.

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