They Say We Kant, I Say We Kan

A man who had a significant impact on the life and philosophies of Thomas Jefferson, and therefore on the foundations of America, was the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant.

Over the past decade or so, I have read Kant’s works and have studied his influences on men like Jefferson and Marx. Kant was an exponent of enlightenment, which he defined in his seminal 1781 work, Kritik der reinen Vernunft or translated, Critique of Pure Reason.

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage [nonage = immaturity – Ed.]. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere aude.) “Have the courage to use your own understanding,” is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.

I believe that Kant’s work has been misappropriated by thinkers who do not adhere to Kant’s admonition that while we do perceive things through the filters of our own experiences, reason must be the basis for our decisions – we must be active decision makers, not choosing to be passively ignorant:

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance. They are the reasons why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor. If I have a book that thinks for me, a pastor who acts as my conscience, a physician who prescribes my diet, and so on–then I have no need to exert myself. I have no need to think, if only I can pay; others will take care of that disagreeable business for me. Those guardians who have kindly taken supervision upon themselves see to it that the overwhelming majority of mankind–among them the entire fair sex–should consider the step to maturity, not only as hard, but as extremely dangerous. First, these guardians make their domestic cattle stupid and carefully prevent the docile creatures from taking a single step without the leading-strings to which they have fastened them. Then they show them the danger that would threaten them if they should try to walk by themselves. Now this danger is really not very great; after stumbling a few times they would, at last, learn to walk. However, examples of such failures intimidate and generally discourage all further attempts.

Thus it is very difficult for the individual to work himself out of the nonage which has become almost second nature to him. He has even grown to like it, and is at first really incapable of using his own understanding because he has never been permitted to try it. Dogmas and formulas, these mechanical tools designed for reasonable use–or rather abuse–of his natural gifts, are the fetters of an everlasting nonage. The man who casts them off would make an uncertain leap over the narrowest ditch, because he is not used to such free movement. That is why there are only a few men who walk firmly, and who have emerged from nonage by cultivating their own minds.

There was a time in my life when I thought that Kant was a Godless figure, an enemy of religion – but that was until I applied his philosophy of Sapere aude because he actually asserted that, due to the limitations of argumentation in the absence of irrefutable evidence, no one could really know whether there is a God and an afterlife or not. For the sake of morality and as a ground for reason, Kant asserted, people are justified in believing in God, even though they could never know God’s presence empirically. He explained:

All the preparations of reason, therefore, in what may be called pure philosophy, are in reality directed to those three problems only [God, the soul, and freedom]. However, these three elements in themselves still hold independent, proportional, objective weight individually. Moreover, in a collective relational context; namely, to know what ought to be done: if the will is free, if there is a God, and if there is a future world. As this concerns our actions with reference to the highest aims of life, we see that the ultimate intention of nature in her wise provision was really, in the constitution of our reason, directed to moral interests only.

Kant’s philosophy constantly demanded reason in all things:

If one cannot prove that a thing is, he may try to prove that it is not. And if he succeeds in doing neither (as often occurs), he may still ask whether it is in his interest to accept one or the other of the alternatives hypothetically, from the theoretical or the practical point of view. Hence the question no longer is as to whether perpetual peace is a real thing or not a real thing, or as to whether we may not be deceiving ourselves when we adopt the former alternative, but we must act on the supposition of its being real.

Kant also proffers the proposition that man cannot stay stupid forever and should he submit to elective idiocy, he is an enemy of not only himself but all of mankind:

A man may postpone his own enlightenment, but only for a limited period of time. And to give up enlightenment altogether, either for oneself or one’s descendants, is to violate and to trample upon the sacred rights of man.

In other words, we ignore reality at our own peril as the fact that the world continues to turn and change is inevitable and is a simple consequence of natural law. What you refuse to learn on your own, Nature will teach you…and not always in a gentle or kind manner.

Kant is said that:

  • Man must pursue enlightenment relentlessly.
  • That it is each individual’s responsibility to cultivate their own minds.
  • We have a responsibility to ourselves to learn and to teach our progeny.
  • Remaining immature or ignorant is a choice that violates the very sacred rights of man.
  • Where reason is frustrated by inconclusive evidence, we must act if the condition was real (i.e. if the existence of God is not provable using reason and logic, we must act as if God is real).
  • Reason must be applied to all situations in the quest for answers as new evidence is developed (i.e. poverty exists, we act to end poverty, the act does not end poverty, therefore we must change the act)

It appears to me that Kant’s works have been used as the basis for the post modernism of today by people who seek to escape enlightenment and prefer to only apply reason until it reaches a point where they can agree with the conclusions, albeit they incomplete. They refuse to acknowledge that while Kant did propose that the understanding of our world is a function of our perception, he required that we never stop questioning that perception using our intellect in an attempt to convert synthetic propositions into analytic propositions.

13 thoughts on “They Say We Kant, I Say We Kan

  1. “people who seek to escape enlightenment and prefer to only apply reason until it reaches a point where they can agree with the conclusions, albeit they incomplete.”

    is this not something Kant did by saying even though there is no empirical evidence that god exists, but men should continue acting like there is one for morality’s sake.

    Post-modernism is the logical extension of the belief in free-will and objective ethics and morals/Natural law. Since all those ideas are actually based in subjective thought aka feelings. it opens up the door to replacing logic and reality with arbitrary subjective definitions and laws.

    • First of all, there is nothing logical about post-modernism. Post modernism is built solely on perception and relativism, not any hard logic. All ideas are not based on feelings, they are based on universal truths.

      That is not what Kant said. As far as I know, we are no closer to achieving an endpoint of the existence of God (or Satan for that matter) than we were in his day, therefore by Kantian measure, acting as if He does not exist is absent of reason. What Kant said is that we have an obligation to attempt to prove what something exists and if we can’t logically do that, we have a responsibility to act is if it does (not as if it doesn’t). What I tried to point out was that post modernism denies the existence of objective truth and by doing so, its adherents stop at any point along the path to that truth that best suits them – even though it is obvious that the path continues. Kant said that man must continue down the path.

      Thanks, though, for illustrating my point.

      • Post-modernism is derived from the unrecognized relativism of classical liberalism. The difference between both is that post-modernism abandons pretenses of objectivity. While classical liberalism claims to be objective, it is entirely subjective. there is no evidence for free-will much less, objective morality.

        It is pretty stupid to act like things that haven’t been disproven exists. Especially gods, who is to say the christian god exists and not the greek and muslim gods.

        • Karl states: “Post-modernism is derived from the unrecognized relativism of classical liberalism.”

          Wrong again.

          Classical Liberalism comes from John Locke and “his philosophical progeny” as espoused by Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence.

          Post-modernism, like “marxism”, comes from Thomas Hobbes and “his philosophical progeny”.

  2. Post-modernism says reality is perception and the world is entirely subjective. This goes against materialism. But not classical liberalism, which espouses ideals(morality, souls, gods), which do not originate from reality, to be not only true but also objective. Classical liberalism is trying to force a set of ideals to be part of a natural scientific order of the world. Post-modernism is pretending a set of ideals are part of the natural scientific world.

    • In other words, post modernism is fantastical, fairy-tale bullshit – just like I said.

      Funny that you say that gods do not exist in reality yet post modernism has never been able to explain the simple existence of life. Remember Kant’s justification for believing in God?

      As far as classic liberalism, you need to read this:

      “Classical liberalism” is the term used to designate the ideology advocating private property, an unhampered market economy, the rule of law, constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of the press, and international peace based on free trade. Up until around 1900, this ideology was generally known simply as liberalism. The qualifying “classical” is now usually necessary, in English-speaking countries at least (but not, for instance, in France), because liberalism has come to be associated with wide-ranging interferences with private property and the market on behalf of egalitarian goals. This version of liberalism — if such it can still be called — is sometimes designated as “social,” or (erroneously) “modern” or the “new,” liberalism. Here we shall use liberalism to signify the classical variety.”

      Because you have proven once again that not only do you not understand the basis for your own beliefs, you display an equal ignorance to the origins of mine.

        • Nope, my friend, classical liberalism rests solidly on natural law. It is your philosophy that subscribes to the fantasy of relative truths via dialectic materialism.

          • Natural law is a fantasy. The post-modernists saw this and said if classical liberalism is based in fantasy and legitimate why not anything anyone thinks up.

            You natural law believers are an unscientific idealist bunch, that do not understand human history before Locke or outside of Europe.

            Any thinking outside of materialism is unscientific and based in fantasy.

            Natural law is quite simply non-existent.

        • Sorry, Komrade Karl… I just figured out what I am doing wrong – what I am offering is mere bourgeois truth, concerned with tedious facts and provable propositions. The higher truth is your post modern “revolutionary truth,” which is any narrative that advances the revolution.

          • Shockingly unbelievable ignorance, or stupidity, or evil?

            For eternity, after spending “a man’s lifetime” seeking material wealth insearch of truth, happiness, and meaning; then failing in the quest; mankind always turns to the heavens and “a Creator” for understanding.

            From ancient history, “Adam & Eve” to abraham to moses to Sun Tzu & Miyamoto Musashi, from roman emperors & King David to Robert the Bruce & William Wallace, to Thomas Jefferson’s brethren, to Frederic Bastiat, to Eisenhower, to Robert Oppenheimer & Einstein, to Milton Friedman to Ronald Reagan; “mere mortals” always realize man’s follies in pursuits of materialism.

      • Karl’s ignorance of the origins if the philosophies he argues is truly “illuminating.”

        Clearly these untruths were created purposefully by someone who wished to defraud new pupils.

        One would think when the pupils realized they were taught lies, they’d abandon the aimless herd and join those seeking truth.

        Why is the journey of enlightenment
        …always the lonely path….?

  3. Pingback: The Second Crusade | The Rio Norte Line

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