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Thursday, October 14, 2004 at 18:11:00 mdt
I think a big part of judging someone's intellectual honesty has to do with judging their *method* of thinking and/or writing. Does the person strive for clarity, precision, and essentialization? Does he clearly define terms? Does he carefully make important, relevant distinctions? Does he admit or point out when something isn't quite clear to him, or when he hasn't quite proven something? Aristotle's writings exhibit *all* these traits -- and it's breathtaking to watch a brilliant mind in the systematic pursuit of truth.
Kant's writing style could not be more opposite than this. I first encountered Kant second-hand, where the authors/teachers substantially clarify, essentialize, and sanitize Kant's ideas. I was *shocked* when I read him firsthand for the first time. He coins concepts and distinctions out of thin air, never really defining them and never indicating what their connection to reality is, nor why such distinctions are required; and then he proceeds to build rationalistic castles in the air by relating these words to one another. He writes endless sentences with meaningless digressions and irrelevant tangents. When a writer is this obtuse, it's impossible not to think it is deliberate -- and that he has something to hide.
Then, he writes a very brief little 'prolegomena' that summarizes the conclusions very clearly, and leaves the reader with the impression that the detailed proofs must be somewhere in that weighty and massive book that 90% of even philosophy students will never read. Just gotta take it on 'faith' that the answers are in there somewhere.
I once heard Dr. Onkar Ghate say in a lecture something that really stuck with me: all evil philosophies are perpetrated by the corruption of concepts. Ever since then, I've been on the lookout for the corrupt concepts, and the methods by which the villains pass them off. If they were honest, they would define the issues *clearly*, and argue against them *directly*.
This they never do.
They don't say, "here's what rational selfishness means, and here's my argument against it". Instead, they define it out of existence by package-dealing it with "the brute" version of egoism. And then they set up the false alternative that either you think it's right to rape, pillage, and murder -- or you accept altruism; either-or. And, on this package deal, 'respecting the rights of others' falls on the altruist side -- since it means *sacrificing* your desires to rape, pillage, and murder others. Which side would you choose to be on?
If you examine Kant carefully, you'll see the same kind of process at work.
Thursday, October 14, 2004 at 19:54:29 mdt
Name: Kate Herrick
I haven't heard Peikoff's HP or UA lectures on Kant and on inherently, i.e., necessarily, dishonest ideas, but I wonder why this is the question regarding Kant, rather than just whether Kant was dishonest in formulating his philosophy. That would be something to build an inductive case for, not deductive, since acts of will are primaries.
Could you relate the case, in a nutshell, the deductive proof that an idea can be proven inherently dishonest? The mind is capable of contradictions, so what is supposed to be impossible to it barring evasion?
I can imagine (which of course I don't say as proof it's possible, but) that someone somewhere could be momentarily stumped by some argument that there is no existence, only consciousness. Does Peikoff just say he couldn't honestly maintain this for long? If so, isn't the argument inductive, not deductive, so that we aren't talking about a necessary quality?
Friday, October 15, 2004 at 9:26:12 mdt
Name: A. West
I agree with RT. I don't find anything at all polite about Kant's style of writing. When I first tried to read Kant, I felt like I was getting purposefully brutalized by the neologisms, the sentence structures, and the obscurity of the points. It's like a professor scrawling a huge number of purposefully incomprehensible and overly complex mathematical formulas on the blackboard and then at the end writing as a summary "thus 1+1 = 3". The whole point of the exercise was to intimidate you into accepting that untruth, and that's fundamentally dishonest.
I'm not even close to a professional philosopher. It seems that Kant was pretty close to the first major philosopher whose works were totally out of the realm of understanding for an intelligent layman.
Friday, October 15, 2004 at 9:46:19 mdt
It's not simply a case of taking an idea out of context, describing the idea, and asking "is this an inherently dishonest idea?" As Ayn Rand has always held, *how* and *why* you uphold an idea, is of crucial importance.
In the case of the most irrational ideas (e.g. reality and causality are a myth; self-sacrifice is man's only moral imperative), we can't just take these at face-value and ask if they are inherently dishonest or not. The crucial question is how someone justifies and validates these ideas. In the case of these most irrational ideas, such massive evasions and contortions are required in order to give them plausibility, stealing concepts on a huge scale, that it is not possible that a high-level philosopher could *honestly* think he had rationally proven them. In fact, Kant provides precisely the fantastical contortions and evasions that are required to make these ideas plausible.
If someone has the ideas pop into his head, that doesn't mean he's dishonest. If a freshman philosophy student tries to construct an argument for them, unfamiliar with many of the deeper issues involved (due to naivete and lack of experience), he's probably not dishonest. But Kant has no such excuses.
Friday, October 15, 2004 at 13:01:34 mdt
Name: David Rehm
So let me get this straight, the question is: Was Kant necessarily dishonest or was he actually stupid enough to honestly believe it?
It is fair to say that the latter is possible qua a man (this would subsume a fair amount of his followers), but I can't imagine he could be that way whilst being able to create the number of works that he did _all consistant with each other_ (even though not with reality). I suppose you could make the monkeys-with-typewriters claim, but it would remain as implausible if not moreso.
Friday, October 15, 2004 at 13:08:12 mdt
Name: David Rehm
Actually, I can't even say what just did about his followers (see below) -- that is to say, I cannot prove that they aren't all just dishonest.
Friday, October 15, 2004 at 13:34:24 mdt
Name: Michelle Fram Cohen
Re: Was Kant Necessarily Dishonest?
Reading in Kant’s biography may be helpful in assessing his own attitude toward the Critique. The following is what I found in "Kant: A Biography" by Manfred Kuehn, published by Cambridge University Press in 2001. (Note: Mendelssohn was a Jewish colleague of Kant who attempted to reconcile reason and religion in the tradition of Aquinas and was opposed to skepticism.)
"When the Critique first appeared, Kant expected not only that he would be understood, but also that other scholars would rally to support his project. He was eager to hear Mendelssohn's judgment about it. When he heard that Mendelssohn had put the book away and was not going to get back to it, he was 'very uncomfortable,' hoping it would 'not be forever.' Mendelssohn was, he thought, 'the most important of all the people who could explain this theory to the world.'...
"In the same vein he wrote to Mendelssohn 'to encourage an examination of [his] theses,' because in this way, 'the critical philosophy would gain acceptability and become a promenade through a labyrinth, but with a reliable guide book to help us find our way out as often as we get lost..."
"Mendelssohn himself claimed that a nervous disability had made it impossible for him to analyze and think through the works of 'the all-crushing Kant.’” (pp 250-251)
The question to ask here is: What type of a philosopher would ask a colleague to explain his magnum opus to the world so that his readers could find their way out of a labyrinth as often as they get lost?
-- Michelle Fram Cohen
Friday, October 15, 2004 at 18:23:24 mdt
Name: Jonathan Powers
As Peikoff states in OPAR, "One of Kant's major goals was to save religion (including the essence of religious morality) from the onslaughts of science." [p. 31.]. I have read the passage from Kant in which he clearly states this, but I can't remember where it is; in "The Critique", purhaps?
It seems quite believable to me that Kant felt that the idea of the supernatural must not be allowed to perish, and then proceeded to make up some sort of argument to support it, no matter what the consequences.
This reminds me of something called "pious fraud" that skeptic debunkers encounter. The term refers to someone who truly believes that some phenomenon is real, but engages in fakery of the phenomenon in order to convince other people to believe, usually because they know that the non-believer's reliance on reason combined with a lack of any sensory evidence or experience is what's keeping them from believing. There have been cases of devout Catholics who fake visions of Mary or crying statues, while fully believing that such things actually exist, so that others might "come to God". There are UFO enthusiasts who fake UFO sightings, photos, and landing sites, hoping that the study of UFOs will gain the credibilty, manpower, and funding that it needs to find the actual UFOs that they "just know" are out there.
Purhaps Kant was doing this same sort of thing in an intellectual context?
Saturday, October 16, 2004 at 1:09:34 mdt
Name: Kalle (kafir forever)
I find it impossible to *understand* dishonest and evil opinions. It just doesn't make sense, and I haven't met anyone who can be honest while arguing for fundamentally false and evil ideas. They always lie, obfuscate, or try to hit you when they see that they can't win.
Having read Kant in German, and tried various translations in other languages, I am convinced that the author knew very well what he was doing to the mind of his readers. Dishonest is a polite assessment.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004 at 10:43:47 mdt
Name: Dan Desfosses
Germans are a tall race as our the English and Scandiavians, but Kant, though German, came into the world as a dwarf. He never left his hometown. I'm sure most Germans bumped into Kant before seeing him or even knowing he was present, as though Kant as a person didn't exist since he wasn't at eye level when among men. Therefore it is easy to understand how Kant reached the rebellious conclusion that the world and everybody else in it doesn't exist. "I, Kant alone am the world and everyone in it" would be the result of being a dwarf among men. Having a dwarfish mind as well.
Friday, March 3, 2006 at 12:27:37 mst
I would like if those who have read Kant in the original would reproduce the some of longest 'word' / 'sentence' to demonstrate his overloading the crow technique. Thanks.
Friday, March 3, 2006 at 16:19:50 mst
Not the longest, I'm sure, but a couple that popped out from a quick scan of The Critique of Pure Reason:
"A substance which would be per-
manently present in space, but without filling it (like that
mode of existence intermediate between matter and thinking
being which some would seek to introduce), or a special ulti-
mate mental power of intuitively anticipating the future (and
not merely inferring it), or lastly a power of standing in com-
munity of thought with other men, however distant they may
be -- are concepts the possibility of which is altogether ground-
less, as they cannot be based on experience and its known laws;
and without such confirmation they are arbitrary combinations
of thoughts, which, although indeed free from contradiction,
can make no claim to objective reality, and none, therefore, as
to the possibility of an object such as we here profess to think."
"But if the rationalist is bold enough,
out of the mere faculty of thought, without any permanent intuition
whereby an object might be given, to construct a self-subsistent being,
and this merely on the ground that the unity of apperception in thought
does not allow of its being explained [as arising] out of the composite,
instead of admitting, as he ought to do, that he is unable to explain
the possibility of a thinking nature, why should not the materialist,
though he can as little appeal to experience in support of his [con-
jectured] possibilities, be justified in being equally daring, and in
using his principle to establish the opposite conclusion, while still
preserving the formal unity upon which his opponent has relied."
Saturday, April 19, 2008 at 2:07:24 mdt
This reminds me of something called "pious fraud" that skeptic debunkers encounter. The term refers to someone who truly believes that some phenomenon is real, but engages in fakery of the phenomenon in order to convince other people to believe, usually because they know that the non-believer's reliance on reason combined with a lack of any sensory evidence or experience is what's keeping them from believing.