virus: A taste of Kant

Thu, 11 Sep 1997 13:48:14 -0700

I've read much of Kant and his supposed denegration of reason on the
list over the past couple of days, and I suspect that some of the images
of Kant which form key elements in the postions of the participants in
this discussion were formed primarily on the basis of reading Kant's
detractors rather than as a direct response to first-hand exposure and
subsequent reflection on Kant's actual writing. I could be wrong, but
that's the impression I've gotten, so I thought I'd treat you all to a
hit of the unadulterated dope. As Ice-T said it, "I can't put any cut
on the product. I just can't live like that."

So here is the first paragraph of "Groundwork of the Metaphysic of
Morals," by Immanuel Kant (translated by H.J. Paton):


It is impossible to conceive anything at all in the world, or even out
of it, which can be taken as good without qualification, except a good
will. Intelligence, wit, judgement, and any other talents of the mind we
may care to name, or courage, resolution, and constancy of purpose, as
qualities of temperament, are without doubt good and desirable in many
respects; but they can also be extremely bad and hurtful when the will
is not good which has to make use of these gifts of nature, and which
for this reason has the term 'character' applied to its peculiar
quality. It is exactly the same with gifts of fortune. Power, wealth,
honour, even health and that complete well-being and contentment with
one's state which goes by the name of 'happiness', produce boldness, and
as a consequence often over-boldness as well, unless a good will is
present by which their influence on the mind - and so too the whole
principle of action -- may be corrected and adjusted to universal ends:
not to mention that a rational and impartial spectator can never feel
approval in contemplating the uninterrupted prosperity of a being graced
by no touch of a pure and good will, and that consequently a good will
seems to constitute the indispensable condition of our very worthiness
to be happy.


Make of that what you will. In response to the Objectivist claim that
Hegal was a communist, I'd like to simply present the historical note
that Karl Marx was 13 years old when Hegal died in 1831. You may argue
that Hegal was a communist, but such an argument would have much the
same character as an argument in support of the claim that Nietzsche was
a Nazi or that Spinoza was a New Ager.

Take care.