Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Quote and Bitching

Here's a quote from Arthur Schopenhaur on Kant's ethical system:

"(W)e see no true portrait of human nature, or of our inner life; what we do discern is an artificial substitute for theological Morals, to which it stands in the same relation as a wooden leg to a living one."
-The Basis of Morality, Part II, Ch. VI.

Schopenhaur's point in the essay (although not quite clear here) is that Kant tries to pass of the tenets of theology, particuarly Christian theology, as the natural conclusions of philosophical reason. In other words, his is a moral system in philosophical language. And thus not only not 'nihilism', but essentially Christian morality.

Question: 'So, we're back to the "Kantian nihilism" again? Holy Moses! Rufus, why does this matter? Who cares that some Internet crank said something stupid? Isn't this getting boring and pedantic?'

a. Well, it's not pedantic, because we're not exactly talking about specialized nitpicking here. If you know nothing else about Kant, you should know this. It's not minutiae; this is the core of his work, and probably the first thing most people understand about him. This is Phil. 101 stuff.

b. It probably is boring. Sorry, this is the Internet.

c. What bothered me wasn't that the guy said something stupid. That's par for the course. It was that he was, and remains, indifferent to truth. He doesn't think it matters if Kant was, or was not, a nihilist. We should all 'get the point' and not worry about something like that. And if there's anything that characterizes our culture at this point it is this simple indifference to truth- this idea that facts are simply a means to an end and have no objective existence as such. That the point is to rush in with strong opinions, regardless of whether or not they have any basis in reality. Frankly, I'm sick of it. We can all have our own opinions, but we don't get to all have our own facts.

d. Kant was one of the great philosophers of the Enlightenment, and the idea of someone not reading his work because they heard it was 'nihilism' irritates me to no end. A philistine is not only unknowing about art, culture, philosophy, and so forth- but he is actively hostile to these things that he knows nothing about. I'm tired of that attitude as well.

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