Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Theory vs. Reality.


The full title of the work is "The Popular Judgment: That May Be Right In Theory, But Does Not Hold Good In The Praxis".


Since I like to gripe, my main gripe here is that Librivox links to the works of Kant under Constitution.org.  This work does have a significant political content, yet it was written in 1793, several years after the US Constitution was complete.  To even suppose an indirect influence on the US Constitution of his earlier works is to stretch the limits of credibility.


Kant's political writings mostly seem to be echoes of Locke, although he references other writers who also seem to be echoing Locke.  The only distinction I can see is that Locke was an advocate of revolution as soon as a government appeared to no longer be working, whereas Kant wants more loyalty, patience and an orderly transition to avoid anarchy.  Kant argues that the position of immediate overthrow is one based on the philosophy of Happiness as the end goal of humanity, whereas his philosophy of Duty to the Moral Law requires a different response.  


Kant also claims that the current society is greatly improved morally compared to earlier centuries and that improvement in the future can be realistically be hoped for.  He then describes a global government - a bit like the UN - which would raise moral standards to a higher level.  I wonder how he would feel about those of us who have lived to see the UN, but then view it as a drag on the morals of civilization.

9 comments:

Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

Oh Kant, Kant...he was such an optimistic: had he lived to see the UN, he would've been extremely disappointed; because the UN has not even raised moral standards to a middle level, let alone a higher one. I am yet to see a more corrupt and biased institution...and we, citizens, sponsor it *nodding*.

In some things society has morally improved, but in many others it has digressed (e.g. family values, respect for the elderly, civil responsibility, honour and so on).

I agree with Kant when he defends a more patient and orderly approach to an incompetent government; however I do not discard revolutions either (in the proper timing and when all other resources have been exhausted).

Excellent piece.

Cheers

Looney said...

Max,

I was just figuring out that the extra comments on your blog weren't being sent to me automatically. There seems to be another button I needed to push. My apologies for not checking back like I should have.

How much time did you spend studying Kant? You seem to have a lot more knowledge of him than most college educated folk.

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

"I was just figuring out that the extra comments on your blog weren't being sent to me automatically. There seems to be another button I needed to push. My apologies for not checking back like I should have."

Do you mean the "subscribe to comments" on the right side below the comment box? No need to apologise at all :).

"How much time did you spend studying Kant? You seem to have a lot more knowledge of him than most college educated folk."

In the Portuguese educational system, we have (or at least had) to study Kant in Philosophy classes from the 10th grade onwards (now, I don't know, because kids seem to know little about whatsoever). After that, I continued reading his work on my own - in Business School we did not take philosophy classes.
Aaah, you are too generous...thank you *bowing*.

Looney, I wish you a blessed weekend :D.

Cheers

Looney said...

We didn't have anything close to a philosophy class in high school. My nephew is at a Catholic college now and they require all the students to study philosophy and theology, although he is in a pre-medical program.

I feel it is a problem for me to study Kant on my own, because there is no one to interact with and his difficult language can result in a lot of confusion or a complete misunderstanding. Looking back, there were a few times in my reading where I had him (or his idea) pegged as one thing but he was another.

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

"We didn't have anything close to a philosophy class in high school."

You can't imagine how many Portuguese students wished they could say the same. Does the same still happen in today's American educational system?

"My nephew is at a Catholic college now and they require all the students to study philosophy and theology, although he is in a pre-medical program."

Seriously? I understand the philosophy class, but theology; what for?

"I feel it is a problem for me to study Kant on my own, because there is no one to interact with and his difficult language can result in a lot of confusion or a complete misunderstanding. Looking back, there were a few times in my reading where I had him (or his idea) pegged as one thing but he was another."

Now you have me to interact with ;). That is true: many times, when reading Kant, I have to go back and re-read certain passages to get the real meaning (or at least a glimpse of the real meaning) behind Kant's words. But again, that is the beauty of reading philosophy outside the educational system (where they impose on us a line of thought and interpretation) - creative thought and interpretation of the author's intentions...

Looney said...

Max,

"Seriously? I understand the philosophy class, but theology; what for?"

They studied various religions also. Traditionally (i.e for the last 2,000 years) philosophy and theology were tied together. Since it is a Catholic university, the theology is what makes more sense. My nephew already got to see some life and death along with the interactions with families by doctors as part of his pre-med shadowing. Thus, I think religion and philosophy are important for medical students.

My family does bible reading together after dinners. Since my nephew was living with me before going to college, we spent the last few months going through the book of Job before he went to college.

Regarding Kant, are you able to comprehend all of his technical vocabulary? I had to set aside the Critique of Pure Reason once again to consider how I might become fluent with all the terms.

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

"Since it is a Catholic university, the theology is what makes more sense."

Catholics appreciate philosophy as well (at least in the Portuguese Catholic University, philosophy is all over each course, but not theology).

"My nephew already got to see some life and death along with the interactions with families by doctors as part of his pre-med shadowing. Thus, I think religion and philosophy are important for medical students."

I agree with you.

"My family does bible reading together after dinners. Since my nephew was living with me before going to college, we spent the last few months going through the book of Job before he went to college."

That is wonderful! Teaching him about patience, eh?

"Regarding Kant, are you able to comprehend all of his technical vocabulary? I had to set aside the Critique of Pure Reason once again to consider how I might become fluent with all the terms."

Since the books I have bear footnotes explaining his technical vocabulary, it makes it easier to try comprehending his thoughts. If your books do not have explanatory footnotes, then it might take you some time...I search in the web and if I find anything good I will leave the link here. But what terms are you struggling with?

Looney said...

I can't remember all the vocabulary at the moment, but terms like "synthetic cognition" jump out. Part of the problem is processing the meaning in quick succession. What is needed is a set of memory cards like are used for studying a foreign language!

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

"I can't remember all the vocabulary at the moment, but terms like "synthetic cognition" jump out."

Like in the theory of judgement? To better understand it, in my opinion, we are to break the term in two and analyse (through Kant's point of view, which differ from others') the meaning of the two words:
Synthetic (according to Kant): organised.
Cognition (according to Kant): representation with consciousness (or objective perception). There are two types of cognition - intuitions and concepts.

But I have always asked whether perceptions can be objective since I tend to think that they are rather subjective. What do you think of perceptions?

"Part of the problem is processing the meaning in quick succession. What is needed is a set of memory cards like are used for studying a foreign language!"

I hear you. lol well, I don't use memory cards when studying languages, but they are quite useful for philosophy indeed.

You may have had access to this information, but I took the liberty to search for a "philosophy dictionary" that might help:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-judgment/#PowJudOthFacCog