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Where are the Kantians?

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tito
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Many Objectvist scholars say the dominant philosophy of our age is that of Immanuel Kant.

I completely understand that most people have gained some implicit form of Kant's philosophy, but just where are its proponents?

Do there actually exist individuals and organisations pushing these ideas, or are they the bitter remains of dead and retired activists?

I ask because I have never encountered activists with a real philosophical position outside of Objectivism, except for the very last of the now-ignored Marxist breed. I'm looking for professional academics, think tanks with an actual impact, etc.

Can anyone shed some light on this?

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Many Objectvist scholars say the dominant philosophy of our age is that of Immanuel Kant.

There aren't "many" Objectivist scholars in existence. Objectivist scholars are a very new phenomena.

Who has said this? Provide a reference.

I doubt any prominent Objectivist have ever said this in the exact context you're using here.

If you want to understand how Kant has influenced modern philosophy, and what actual impact he has had and how; read Leonard Peikoff's chapters on how Kant impacted Nazi Germany in his book "The Ominous Parallels."

If you understand what an "anti-concept" is, you can think of Kant's entire philosophy as an "anti-concept."

L.Peikoff lays out, step by step, how Kant's ideas impacted the culture and what they gave rise too. He also catalogs how the ideas of Kant have spread and by what mechanism they have influence the culture in America.

"I completely understand that most people have gained some implicit form of Kant's philosophy, but just where are its proponents?"

Kant's so-called "ethics" are useless, and the other essential elements are useless. What is there to be a proponent of in practice? "What's good for people is if they would just shut up and do their duty!"

Pragmatism is basically the dominant attempt to put Kant's metaphysics into action.

Pragmatism is probably the "dominant" philosophy of our age, if we want to use such a phrase.

Pragmatism and pragmatists have a direct, lineage to Kant.

That is to say the pragmatist's habitual trial and error, expediency of the moment, "the true is what works" practices, are them attempting to live by Kant's philosophy, i.e., their attempt to act in a world where we can not really know the world as it "really".

It is in this manner of inheritance of Kant's fundamental ideas (and philosopher's/people's reaction to them), which one can view Kant's massive influence on the world's philosophical trends.

Also, I'd point you to Ayn Rand's articles on philosophical detection, to replace your method of looking for people claiming to be Kantians.

The old adage is relevant: "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are its a duck." In other words, concretetize what one would see when one sees a Kantian and/or Kantian descendant.

Today, most people, especially young people, cry out that they do not want to be judged, they don't want to be any thing specific. They don't want to be "labeled" or "classified", or "pigeon holed." This cultural trend makes it almost impossible to find people who want to be explicitly associated with some philosophy.

(Note: However, this kind of anti-identity, anti-judgement behavior is itself based in large part on philosophy. A philosophy in which people don't want to be anything specific, where they don't want to possess a specific identity, where each time someone (even themselves) get a whiff of what they "are" they attempt to change themselves into something else to throw themselves and others off the track.)

Edited by phibetakappa
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Today, most people, especially young people, cry out that they do not want to be judged, they don't want to be any thing specific. They don't want to be "labeled" or "classified", or "pigeon holed." This cultural trend makes it almost impossible to find people who want to be explicitly associated with some philosophy.

(Note: However, this kind of anti-identity, anti-judgement behavior is itself based in large part on philosophy. A philosophy in which people don't want to be anything specific, where they don't want to possess a specific identity, where each time someone (even themselves) get a whiff of what they "are" they attempt to change themselves into something else to throw themselves and others off the track.)

You did put your finger on something very true here. This fits the profile of 90% of people I've known or met. I've seen it as a desire to stand for nothing; it is a movement towards nothingness.

The big irony is that even their 'pragmatism', is not practical, or pragmatic. Without a rational philosophy behind it isn't even going to work beyond the short term.

(Hmm, something for me to think about -- the causal relationship from pragmatism to nihilism. Was Kant necessarily also a nihilist?)

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(Hmm, something for me to think about -- the causal relationship from pragmatism to nihilism. Was Kant necessarily also a nihilist?)

Peikoff's book is definitely good for understanding the kind of nihilism that Kant's philosophy leaves in its wake.

Kant's philosophy basically leaves a philosophical vacuum. Do your duty for duty sake. Any hint of self-interest in one's actions leave us without moral "credit." In fact, "credit" is selfish, Kant would say.

In pre-NAZI Germany Kant's philosophy of duty and his metaphysics left many people in a huge state of self-doubt and anxiety; and ripe for the power-lusting type to step in and fill the vacuum to tell the masses what there "duty" was.

Eventually, the Kantian vacuum was filled by a sort of social-pragmatism, giving NAZI's their own signature form of collectivism.

In particular, on the topic of "Nihilism" I'd recommend chapter "The Culture of Hatred" in "The Ominous Parallels."

In discussing the pre-NAZI culture of German's Wiemar Republic, he particularly talks about "nihilism" as the defining aspect of the their culture, and today's culture. He states:

When the leading voices of the emotionalist [Wiemar] Republic championed "feeling," it was not as a source of knowledge or of human happiness, but of freedom: the freedom from objectivity, method, logic, fact. It was feeling not as an alleged means to truth, but as the nullification of thought.

In a masterly essay analyzing the modern sense of life, Ayn Rand points to the pervasive twentieth-century attacks on intelligence, success, achievement, beauty, and identifies the essence and the evil of the spirit they reveal. That essence, she writes, is "hatred of the good for being the good."(18)

The modern cultural rebellion is an eloquent testament, on an all-encompassing scale, to the truth of her identification. "Modern culture" is institutionalized hatred of the good. "The good," in this context, includes reason, reality, and man.

This rebellion is not merely skepticism, which is an ancient theory denying that knowledge is possible; or pessimism, which denies that success is possible; or cynicism, which denies that virtue is possible; or decadence, which settles wearily for festering disintegration; or even sadism, which manufactures human pain. The term that captures twentieth-century culture; the term that includes all of these and every similar, value-annulling doctrine and attitude; the term that names the modern soul is: nihilism.

"Nihilism" in this context means hatred, the hatred of values and of their root, reason. Hatred is not the same as disapproval, contempt, or anger. Hatred is loathing combined with fear, and with the desire to lash out at the hated object, to wound, to disfigure, to destroy it.

The essence and impelling premise of the nihilist-modern is the quest for destruction, the destruction of all values, of values as such, and of the mind. It is a destruction he seeks for the sake of destruction, not as a means, but as an end.

This is what underlies, generates, and defines "Weimar culture'' ("The Ominous Parallels" pg 206).

Several pages later Peikoff makes Kant's role in the culture of "nihilism" more explicit. He even goes as far as to call Kant the "Father of Nihilism." On page 209 he states:

"Kant denies this world, not in the name of a glowing super-reality, but, in effect, of nothing, of a realm which is, by his own statement, unknowable to man and inconceivable. He rejects the human mind because of its very nature, while using the same kind of argument against every other possible form of cognition. He regards men, all men, as devoid of worth because they seek values, any values, in any realm.

Kant is the first major philosopher to turn against reality, reason, values, and man as such, not in the name of something allegedly higher, but in the name of pure destruction. He is not an otherworldly thinker, but an antiworldly one. He is the father of nihilism.

The moderate politicians of the Weimar Republic, anxious to combat the irrationalism of the entrenched professorate, created a new university at Hamburg, then elevated to the chair of philosophy Ernst Cassirer, one of the country's top neo-Kantians. This indicates what Germany's leaders grasped about the cause of their plight or about the effects of ideas.

The German intellectuals translated Kant's system into cultural terms in the only way it could be done. They created a culture in which the new consists of negation and obliteration" ("The Ominous Parallels", 209).

Edited by phibetakappa
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Michael, I accept and agree with what you say - and I am familiar with the texts mentioned.

Yet I'm still unable to point my finger at anyone seriously pushing for a type of Kantian or Kantian-descended philosophy. To some extent the church was enabled by Kant, given his justifications of sacrifice and mysticism, but even they aren't coming up with anything new. I simply don't see any philosophical movements outside of Objectivism.

Is it only a vacuum we are up against?

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Michael, I accept and agree with what you say - and I am familiar with the texts mentioned.

Yet I'm still unable to point my finger at anyone seriously pushing for a type of Kantian or Kantian-descended philosophy. To some extent the church was enabled by Kant, given his justifications of sacrifice and mysticism, but even they aren't coming up with anything new. I simply don't see any philosophical movements outside of Objectivism.

Is it only a vacuum we are up against?

How broad are you talking here? The U.S., the Western world or the whole world?

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Yet I'm still unable to point my finger at anyone seriously pushing for a type of Kantian or Kantian-descended philosophy. To some extent the church was enabled by Kant, given his justifications of sacrifice and mysticism, but even they aren't coming up with anything new. I simply don't see any philosophical movements outside of Objectivism.

How about the rationalist, anti-science philosophy underpinning the environmental movement? At least implicitly.

(especially apparent in the recent Climategate revelations)

<Φ>aj

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Yet I'm still unable to point my finger at anyone seriously pushing for a type of Kantian or Kantian-descended philosophy.

Ha! If Kantians were snakes you'd be long dead, bitten over and over. Here is an eloquent quote from The Evidence of the Senses, which I just happen to be re-familiarizing myself with. It describes how Kantian Idealism is a fountainhead of variations, creating an illusion of progress in philosophy. Kelley has just summarized Kant's theory of truth which dispenses with correspondence in favor of coherence, effectively equating objectivity to intersubjectivity. He continues:

Kant therefore represents the complete triumph of the primacy of consciousness. He has worked out the implications of Descartes' view in such a way that virtually every trace of realism has been eliminated, fulfilling the idealist program annonced in the preface to the Critique: "Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects. . . . We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success in the tasks of metaphysics, if we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge."

In this respect, Kant deserves the title of father of idealism. Much in his system was later abandoned, and there have been countless variations on his basic themes. The Idealists of the nineteenth century tried to eliminate the inconsistencies of the system by abandoning the realm of the noumena altogether. More important, the forms of perception and the categories, which Kant had thought fixed by the immutable nature of the mind, were relativized and seen instead as products of historical circumstance, pragmatic convenience, linguistic practice. But these are all variations of Kant's essential principles: that the subject of knowledge has a nature through which it constitutes it own object, and that standards of objectivity must be defined by reference to this activity of the subject. From this standpoint, it matters little whether the subject is conceived of as changing or unchanging, individual or social; it little matters whether the forms by which the object is constituted, and the objectivity defined, are held to be categories of a noumenal mind, or social practices, or conceptual frameworks, rules of language games, and the like. They are so many different ways of asserting the primacy of consciousness. Thus, although I will examine these other, more recent versions of idealism in due course, my defense of the primacy of existence will take Kant as its major foil.

There are limitless opportunities for further variations on asserting the primacy of consciousness: Chomsky, environmentalism, transnational progressivism, new age spirituality, the old time religion, Keynesian economics, post-modernism, post-normal science, and on and on.

Edited by Grames
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Michael, I accept and agree with what you say - and I am familiar with the texts mentioned.

Yet I'm still unable to point my finger at anyone seriously pushing for a type of Kantian or Kantian-descended philosophy. To some extent the church was enabled by Kant, given his justifications of sacrifice and mysticism, but even they aren't coming up with anything new. I simply don't see any philosophical movements outside of Objectivism.

Is it only a vacuum we are up against?

I don't think it is "movements" we need to be worried about. Philosophy does not dominate a culture through explicitly named, orchestrated movements.

The closest thing to “movements” we can see are political movements, but political movements are rooted in fundamental philosophical tenants, which give rise to them.

Also, remember these other philosophies are not alternative ways to live one’s life. Life and living as a man on earth has a finite set of factual requirements. There are not many options of how successfully living qua man is achieved. So, it is not as if there are a bunch of valid philosophies out there people can consistently live their lives by.

Further, people holding other philosophies usually don’t want us to know their agenda, because it usually involves making some group of men the slaves of some other group of men; and/or it involves getting someone to give into their mooching requests.

The way you speak about other philosophies is as if they are valid alternatives, and have a bunch of features and/or benefits some group could advertise.

This is not the case. Other philosophies don't lead to knowledge, don't have and individuals life qua man as their standard of value; don't believe that men should be left free from force because their minds require that condition to think/plan their own lives qua man.

On the contrary, other philosophies I've studied boil down to rationalizations for being pathetic, anxiety ridden, self-doubting, subjectivists and/or practicing mental/physical parasites.

There are very few people who are going to openly advocate eating their brothers, i.e., explicitly advocate parasitism.

In the news we can often hear pleas to political leaders for nearly naked parasitism, but often peoples intentions are obfuscated via package-deals, anti-concepts, emotionalism, and lies.

Edited by phibetakappa
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