(A reply to a friend on the subject of whether Kant was a great mind.)
One other point. To be a great thinker requires great integration. While dishonest people can integrate up to a point, for instance, if they tell a big lie, trying to juggle a lot of little lies, like remembering who was told what falsehood, trying to make falsehoods sound plausible, etc. The very essence of dishonesty is disintegration -- to sustain false assertions to other people or to one's self in the face of known contradictions.
It's something of a truism that lies can't be sustained, cause the contradictions become too overwhelming to juggle. Kant's philosophy is a massive set of contradictions and rationalizations that certainly can't. That he succeeded in deluding so many people wasn't so much that he really fooled them with his cleverness as it was that he appealed to their own corrupt values (faith and mysticism, essentially) with a particularly complicated and clever construct.
Not "brilliant". Merely "clever". Like any thief who schemes. He had an axe to grind to motivate him (the destruction of reason), but nothing that he wrote really involved any significant integration.
Kant's main skill was to hide behind the cloak of obfuscation and contradiction and massive output. More intelligent people of mixed premises and modest ability doubtless figured there had to be something behind all the bullshit and gunsmoke. Or there had to be something to all the assertions by Kant's fellow travelers who called him "brilliant".
Hell, how smart could these otherwise intelligent people be if they couldn't understand Kant when their friends and peers and teachers were calling him "brilliant" and Kant was pumping out endless drivel? Like many second-handers, they had to rationalize an "insight" into Kant's "depth".
And so it goes. To call Kant a "great thinker" of philosophy implies there is something worth studying, some insights into metaphysics, epistemology, ethics. But unless one is into forensic philosophy, there isn't. There is no insights to be gained into anything Kant wrote. He was a fraud. So I would definitely not call him "great" anything, except just that, fraud. To give him the recognition of being a thinker, when he is in fact the greatest destroyer of thinking in history, is to lend him support in his agenda, and to lend him credibility in duping the unschooled.
Sent: Tuesday, July 05, 2005 12:59 PM
Subject: Great Minds
Well, I agree that ultimately Kant was not a great mind. So, I'll explain what I meant.
Kant was anti-life. Yes. But he saw in a way what nobody else had, how to perform the ultimate dishonesty. He had a mind that did understand essentials, and he set about to rationalize his disgusting hatred point by point, so that, short of an Ayn Rand (or an Edmund Montgomery-more on him in a minute) reason would be destroyed.
In a perverse way, that makes him a heavyweight thinker. I didn't say that he was a good thinker, but his capacity for evil was of the highest level imaginable. He saw clearly what the essentials were. To do what he did suggests that he could have written a rational epistemology. He was so on point in attacking the essentials of rational cognition that he knew what rationality is- and went against it- that is a disgustingly evil act.
That's what I meant by putting him in a league with Aristotle and Rand. They are the heavyweight contenders, and Kant becomes a sniveling little piece of crap once he is exposed.
Now, I rejected him without Rand, but I suspect that I'm a rarity. As I said, I read that one sentence and knew that there was nothing worth reading there. But most college types whom I know have accepted some part of his rationalization in one form or another.
I should have been clearer. Again, Kant had talent, after all, he caused the near-collapse of rational philosophy by using a cheap dirty trick. But you are correct, he is of no value to anyone save rogues.
Edmund Montomery was a young Scotsman who attended the University of Heidelberg during the mid-eighteen hundreds. He wrote a paper that was called "A Refutation of Kant from the Standpoint of the Empirical." The paper is not without faults. But it is a little preface to Ayn Rand's demolition of Kant.
He basically attacks the a priori successfully. His contention is that the a priori does not exist. He points out that Kant's categories of space and time, plus mathematics, are NOT built into the brain, and simply and cleanly points to what should have been obvious: sensory evidence is behind every cognition, every concept. Space comes from the kinesthetic,or, in his terms, muscular sense. Time from the periodicity of heartbeat, breathing, etc., and mathematics from the observation of similarities among entities that leads to the idea of units. No sensory info, no concept. That pulls the rug out from under Kant at the outset. Kant's entire edifice was built on the a priori. Montgomery didn't go beyond that; Ayn Rand did, and brilliantly.