Reason Suppresses Feelings? Or Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Written version of a paper
presented at Stellenbosch University
in Stellenbosch, South Africa,
24 April 2017
Reason Suppresses Feelings?
Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques
Abstract: A common claim is that the proper functioning of reason requires the suppression of feelings because feelings are a debilitating, merely subjective pathology that cloud and/or distort clear thinking. Frequently, as well, it is claimed that Enlightenment reason’s suppression of feelings is exemplified by Kant. This post argues to the contrary that for Kant’s Critical Idealism feelings, rather than being a pathological hindrance to reason, are positive and ubiquitous to all aspects of reason as they, not by their content but by their function, motivate creativity and the assumption of moral responsibility for the decisions driving, and the actions deriving from, such creativity. Mendelssohn’s Morgenstunden is examined as the source for the reflections that led to the three-element structure to Kant’s project of three Critiques.
“Was Kant a Racist? Can Critical Idealism Contribute to Combating Racism?” by Douglas R. McGaughey is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
PDF VERSION (with page #s): Was Kant a Racist with Addendum on South Sea Islanders 01 May 2017
Revised 20 January 2017 with the addition of a quote (page 17 below) from the Metaphysics of Morals (AA VI, 467-468): The statement here by Kant constitutes an explicit rejection not only of racism, ageism, sexism, power or weakness, status and prestige (e.g., aristocracy) as criteria for judging others, but it is also an implicit rejection of homophobia, nationalism, populism, and any other criteria for judging others, which are all based on merely empirical criteria of “theoretical reason” to the entire neglect of the capacities and moral significance of “practical reason.” Thanks to Birgit Recki who cited the second of the two paragraphs of this “Remark” from the MM for a very different but equally laudable purpose in her Ästhetik der Sitten. Die Affinität von ästhetischem Gefühl und praktischer Vernunft bei Kant (Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 2001): 255, n. 43.
Was Kant a Racist?
Can Critical Idealism Contribute to Combating Racism?
With an Addendum: On South Sea Islanders in
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
Overview: In which Kant’s comments on race are discussed in light of his philosophy of history, critiques of theoretical and practical reason, and his biological reflections on “evolution.” Humanity is seen as the “ultimate end” of nature. Although this sounds anthropocentric and suggests the justification of the indiscriminate exploitation of nature, it is manifest not by means of a culture of “skill”, but by a culture that promotes the individual’s assumption of moral responsibility for her/his decisions and actions.
“Critique, Not Emotionless Critical Thinking” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Revised version (04 May 2016) of “‘Critique,’ not ‘Criticism’”(8 March 2016) in response to Rob Jenkins’ “What is Critical Thinking, Anyway?”
Critique, Not Emotionless Critical Thinking
When one encounters the word “critique,” one readily thinks of a negative strategy, frequently of negative dismissal, in the spirit of “criticism,” or perhaps one thinks of emotionless “critical thinking.” As a consequence, it is easy to miss a profound difference between “critique” and “critical thinking.” Given the difference in what each does with respect to the phenomena that initiates them, the difference is so great that one can even speak of “critique” as 180 degrees opposite to both “criticism” and “critical thinking.”
Design: A Heuristic Strategy, not Metaphysical Doctrine by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
A Heuristic Strategy, Not Metaphysical Doctrine
Because there’s only indirect access to causes, given effects can be understood to have multiple causes, and the same cause can produce multiple effects, the criterion for the evaluation of a causal explanation is neither empirical proof nor disproof. Rather, the evaluation must be in terms of the consequences of holding the cause for an adequate explanation of the event. The Physico-Theological argument for design as a form of cause in nature cannot serve to give us any information about the Noumenon (God) that it presupposes – certainly not any information about anthropomorphic characteristics of that Noumenon. Rather, its value is to confirm our confidence in the intelligibility (the rule-governed character) of nature in contrast, for example, to the chaos of nocturnal dreams. To the extent of confidence in this intelligibility, our “explanations” of nature involve necessity, that is, a presumed necessity based upon the functional relationality that accounts for the phenomena. Because all our capacities both theoretical (science) and practical (religion) are dependent upon the material conditions of experience, this criterion is important not only for the furtherance of the natural scientific enterprise but also for religion. Drawing on pre-critical and critical writings of Kant, I reject the Naturalistic reading of Kant by P.F. Strawson et al. to argue that Kant’s Critical Idealism is beneficial for an investigating of the meaning and role of design in experience.
A Post-Factual World? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
A Post-Factual World?
The boogey-man is alive and well in our scientifically “enlightened” age: Knowledge is profoundly under siege by a threatening relativism called the “post-factual” and “post-truth” world. Even well-intended proponents of cultural relativism have been seduced by a “world view” that at first appears to be a challenge to all “dogmatisms” but in the end undermines the very confidence in understanding that is necessary for humanity to constructively and responsibly play its role in the order of things. The consistent relativist, like the radical skeptic, is left with no foot on which to stand to question anything, not least the injustices of her/his own society much less injustices in another society.
Zero Sum or Principles? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Zero Sum or Principles?
Abstract: If we refuse to accept materialistic reductionism that makes our social lives exhaustively the product of capricious genetics, the amygdala, and chemicals in the brain like oxytocin, we are the species that can ask what we should do. By playing a zero sum game, one knows who “won” whereas acting on principle gives one the satisfaction that one tried to do more than “win.” However, here it is claimed that the alternative of a zero sum game and principles represents not an exclusive dyad as if one can pursue one of the options only by exclusion of the other. Both are symptomatic of humanity’s “radical” evil and “radical” goodness. We can pursue one or the other only because we have the capacity to do both. Hence, deeper than decline, progress, or stagnation is an understanding of humanity as the source of a causal efficacy that is not reducible to physical causality and, therefore, this suggests that with humanity we find in degree an “openness” in nature that allows for creative change while demanding assumption of moral responsibility for the exercise of humanity’s creative power.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/deed.en_US.
The following paper was presented at at the Society for Ricoeur Studies at the University of Oregon, October 27, 2013
What is ‘Radical’ Evil?
A Reading of Ricoeur on Kant and Religion
What follows I can best describe as a “lover’s quarrel” anchored, for my part, in deep gratitude and respect. On the one hand, I will strenuously critique Ricoeur’s reading of Kant, particularly with respect to 1) the ontological status of “radical” evil, 2) the anchoring of morality in violence, 3) Ricoeur’s “deliberative,” hence, consequentialist ethic, and 4) his limiting of religion to historical religion. On the other hand, the “ontology” of his theory of metaphor as well as the centrality of the “productive imagination” in his theory of discourse are applauded vigorously and can be viewed as thoroughly in harmony with the “ground” of Kant’s ethical reflections, “autonomous freedom,” which will be proposed as a more comprehensive “ground” for morality, and a more adequate “ground” for understanding of religion.
Reflections on the Symbol: A Quasi-Transcendental Assumption that “Gives Rise to Thought”
I begin my investigation of Ricoeur’s reading of Kant by examining the notion of “symbol.” I will seek to demonstrate that the pre-figuration, which is the symbolic for Ricoeur, functions in a quasi-transcendental sense that makes symbols a posteriori synthetic judgments and, therefore, hypothetical, not, as for Kant, a priori synthetic judgments that are categorical (I will speak to the difference between a posteriori and a priori synthetic judgment below).
On Martha Nussbaum’s Reading of Kant by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
On Martha Nussbaum’s Reading of Kant: Aristotelian Teleology Meets Kantian Archaeology
The following is an email that was sent to Herman Waetjen, Emeritus Professor of the San Francisco Theological Seminary and Berkeley’s GTU. During a recent visit with him in San Anselmo, Herman shared with me passages from Martha Nussbaum’s Frontiers of Justice that offer her reading of Kant on reason, morality, and humanity’s responsibilities to nature, other species, and the physically and mentally challenged. Herman had written a paper on “The Theology of Animals” for the Spring 2016 meeting of the Pacific Coast Theological Society meeting. His paper is available on-line at the PCTS webpage. This email provides my response to what I take to be a serious but, unfortunately, all too frequent “mis-reading” of Kant. To be sure, every reading of a text is an interpretation, but that fact is no license to generate any whimsical reading that serves one’s purposes in the moment. As Paul Ricoeur proposed: A good reading is congruent with the text and generates a plenitude of rich meaning. A poor reading is narrow and far-fetched. In my judgment, Martha Nussbaum’s reading of Kant is incredibly narrow and far-fetched, even if there are powerful voices in the academy today who share her reading.
“Should Language Acquisition be Required” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Should Foreign Language Acquisition be Required?
29 December 2016
According to today’s NY Times (29 December 2016), Princeton University is making the learning of a new language a mandatory requirement of its General Education program — even for those already proficient in a second language. I’m commenting here because I don’t have a Facebook account, which the NY Times requires for commenting on their blog.
In our day, it is an incredible privilege as a US citizen to know a second language if you are not an immigrant or from a recently immigrated family. It is a privilege because foreign languages unlike in almost all other industrialized nations are not required in elementary school, and, increasingly, they are not required in high school even for those intending to go on to college because even colleges are rapidly dropping the requirement. After all, all one needs to get ahead in the world these days is English because the whole world has committed to English as the lingua franca of research and business. I am among the privileged able to afford two summers at Middlebury College’s Summer German School at the ripe age of 31. I know full well that the costs in time and money make such an experience simply impossible for most Americans. Continue reading “Should Foreign Language Acquisition be Required? 29 December 2016”