Sunday, 18 February 2018

On The Hellenistic Philosophical Schools

In her Introduction to The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics, Martha C. Nussbaum draws a comparison between the Hellenistic schools of philosophy and modern philosophy. Here's an excerpt:
The Hellenistic philosophical schools in Greece and Rome—Epicur­eans, Skeptics, and Stoics—all conceived of philosophy as a way of ad­dressing the most painful problems of human life. They saw the philoso­pher as a compassionate physician whose arts could heal many pervasive types of human suffering. They practiced philosophy not as a detached intellectual technique dedicated to the display of cleverness but as an im­mersed and worldly art of grappling with human misery. They focused their attention, in consequence, on issues of daily and urgent human significance—the fear of death, love and sexuality, anger and aggression­—issues that are sometimes avoided as embarrassingly messy and personal by the more detached varieties of philosophy. They confronted these issues as they arose in ordinary human lives, with a keen attention to the vicissitudes of those lives, and to what would be necessary and sufficient to make them better. On the one hand, these philosophers were still very much philosophers—dedicated to the careful argumentation, the explicitness, the comprehensiveness, and the rigor that have usually been sought by philosophy, in the tradition of ethical reflection that takes its start (in the West) with Socrates. (They opposed themselves, on this account, to the methods characteristic of popular religion and magic.) On the other hand, their intense focus on the state of desire and thought in the pupil made them seek a newly complex understanding of human psychology, and led them to adopt complex strategies—interactive, rhetorical, literary­—designed to enable them to grapple effectively with what they had under­stood. In the process they forge new conceptions of what philosophical rigor and precision require. In these ways Hellenistic ethics is unlike the more detached and academic moral philosophy that has sometimes been practiced in the Western tradition.
Twentieth-century philosophy, in both Europe and North America, has, until very recently, made less use of Hellenistic ethics than almost any other philosophical culture in the West since the fourth century B.C.E. Not only late antique and most varieties of Christian thought, but also the writings of modern writers as diverse as Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Adam Smith, Hume, Rousseau, the founding Fathers of the United States, Nietzsche, and Marx, owe in every case a considerable debt to the writings of Stoics, Epicureans, and/or Skeptics, and frequently far more than to the writings of Aristotle and Plato. Especially where philosophical conceptions of emo­tion are concerned, ignoring the Hellenistic period means ignoring not only the best material in the Western tradition, but also the central influ­ence on later philosophical developments.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Poggio’s Discovery of De Rerum Natura in 1417

A 1483 copy of De Rerum Natura
In his fascinating history book, The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began, Stephen Greenblatt posits that the Renaissance began when Lucretius’s 7,400-line poem De Rerum Natura was reintroduced in Europe. Here’s an excerpt from the book's Chapter 2, "The Moment of Discovery" (Greenblatt is describing Poggio Bracciolini’s discovery of De Rerum Natura in the library of a German monastery in Fulda in 1417):
Even the smallest of the finds that Poggio was making was highly significant—for anything at all to surface after so long seemed miraculous—but they were all eclipsed, from our own perspective if not immediately, by the discovery of a work still more ancient than any of the others that he had found. One of the manuscripts consisted of a long text written around 50 BCE by a poet and philosopher named Titus Lucretius Carus. The text’s title, De rerum natura—On the Nature of Things—was strikingly similar to the title of Rabanus Maurus’s celebrated encyclopedia, De rerum naturis. But where the monk’s work was dull and conventional, Lucretius’ work was dangerously radical.  
Poggio would almost certainly have recognized the name Lucretius from Ovid, Cicero, and other ancient sources he had painstakingly pored over, in the company of his humanist friends, but neither he nor anyone in his circle had encountered more than a scrap or two of his actual writing, which had, as far as anyone knew, been lost forever. 
Poggio may not have had time, in the gathering darkness of the monastic library, and under the wary eyes of the abbot or his librarian, to do more than read the opening lines. But he would have seen immediately that Lucretius’ Latin verses were astonishingly beautiful. Ordering his scribe to make a copy, he hurried to liberate it from the monastery. What is not clear is whether he had any intimation at all that he was releasing a book that would help in time to dismantle his entire world.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

The Significance of Renaissance Philosophy

Why is Renaissance philosophy significant for an intellectual historian? James Hankins answers this question in his essay, “The Significance of Renaissance Philosophy,” (Chapter 18; The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, Edited by James Hankins). Here’s an excerpt:
It is easy to see why the Renaissance attracts the intellectual historian. It was a period when fundamental changes occurred in Western societies across a wide range of beliefs, religious, scientific, political, historical, and anthropological. Christendom disintegrated and sovereign states emerged. The Catholic Church lost much of its authority and new Protestant churches and sects appeared. Religious divisions and wars led to the first tentative expressions of the need for tolerance and freedom of expression. Educational ideals and practice were transformed. Humanists arose to challenge the hegemony of scholastic culture. Christian culture underwent a major reorientation in its attitude to the pagan culture of Graeco-Roman antiquity. Republicanism and absolutism crystallized into distinct traditions of political thought. Major changes occurred in how Europeans saw and analyzed human nature, the cosmos, and natural processes. The sciences grew less interested in contemplating nature and more interested in controlling it. A New World was discovered full of societies, flora, and fauna utterly unknown to Western learned traditions. The invention of printing – the information revolution of the fifteenth century – altered fundamentally the conditions under which knowledge-workers operated, making possible the collection, collation and analysis of information in ways and on a scale hitherto unimaginable. The sheer volume of new information and the variety of perspectives on offer, the religious quarrels of the time, not to mention the seductive power of ancient thinkers like Cicero and Sextus Empiricus, inevitably led to a resurgence of skepticism and fideism, and pari passu to a new concern with method and the reliability of knowledge. So it is hardly surprising that the intellectual historian views the Renaissance as an extraordinarily well-stocked workshop for the practice of his craft. 
Here’s Hankins’s thoughts on the connection between Renaissance philosophy and the philosophy in our own time:
In short, Renaissance philosophy offers many parallels with the philosophy of our own time. In our era too we have seen the fracturing and crisis of authoritative traditions, a new pluralism of philosophical perspectives, an unsettling information revolution, and passionate aspirations to integrate into philosophical discourse the wisdom literature of non-Western traditions. We too have philosophers hostile to system and rigorous demonstration who doubt the possibility of apodictic argument, philosophers who would prefer to see philosophy become a form of psychic therapy or a civil conversation or a form of persuasion and edification. We too have our skeptics and fideists; we too have those who search in philosophy’s past for alternative visions of the philosophical life. We too have philosophers fiercely committed to a wide range of positions on the proper relationship between faith and reason. We too have philosophers who aim to influence public deliberation and shape public life. If Renaissance philosophy does not promise the immediate profit of some other periods in the history of thought, if it does not always offer ready-made arguments and insights useful in current academic debates, it nevertheless offers what can be the most revealing insight of all – the insight that comes from looking in a mirror.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Nussbaum on Kant’s Intellectual Debt to Roman Stoicism

Marcus Aurelius, Immanuel Kant, Cicero, Seneca
In Perpetual Peace, Immanuel Kant offers a profound defense of cosmopolitan values. The word “cosmopolitan” occurs frequently in this essay and in Kant’s other political writings. Martha C. Nussbaum, in her essay, “Kant and Stoic Cosmopolitanism,” notes that although Kant’s cosmopolitanism is overtly based on a tradition which belongs to the eighteenth-century, the tradition itself and Kant’s own approach to it is saturated with ideas of Greek and especially Roman Stoicism.

Here’s an excerpt from Nussbaum’s essay:
We may also recognize Stoic ideas as formative in the Second Critique, whose famous conclusion concerning the mind’s awe before the starry sky above and the moral law within closely echoes the imagery of Seneca’s Letter 41, expressing awe before the divinity of reason within us. We see a particularly important reference to Stoic ideas of world citizenship in the Anthropologie, where Kant—apparently following Marcus [Aurelius], or at least writing in the spirit of Marcus—insists that we owe it to other human beings to try to understand their ways of thinking, since only that attitude is consistent with seeing oneself as a “citizen of the world” (Anthropologie, 2). And we can see these core notions of humanity and world citizenship as formative in the political writings as well, above all in the Perpetual Peace.  
As do Marcus and Cicero, Kant stresses that the community of all human beings in reason entails a common participation in law (ius), and, by our very rational existence, a common participation in a virtual polity, a cosmopolis that has an implicit structure of claims and obligations regardless of whether or not there is an actual political organization in place to promote and vindicate these. When he refers to “the idea of a cosmopolitan law,” and assets that this law is “a necessary complement to the unwritten code of political and international law” (Perpetual Peace 108), he is following very closely the lines of analysis traced by Cicero and Marcus. So too when he insists on the organic interconnectedness of all our actions: “The peoples of the earth have thus entered in varying degrees into a universal community, and it has developed to the point where a violation of laws in one part of the world is felt everywhere” (Perpetual Peace 107-8). 
When we reach the detail of Kant’s political proposals, the debt to Cicero’s De Officiis is, as in the Groundwork, intimate and striking. Kant’s discussion of the relationship between morality and politics in the first Appendix follows closely Cicero’s discussions of the relation between morality and expediency. Both thinkers insist on the supreme importance of justice in the conduct of political life, giving similar reasons for their denial that morality should ever be weighed against expediency. There are close parallels between the two thinkers’ discussion of the hospitality right and between their extremely stringent accounts of proper moral conduct during wartime, and especially justice to the enemy… 
Nussbaum is of the view that Kant, under the influence of Stoic ideas, has developed a political theory which can lead to peace. She writes: “Kant, more influentially than any other Enlightenment thinker, defended a politics based upon reason rather than patriotism or group sentiment, a politics that was truly universal rather than communitarian, a politics that was active, reformist and optimistic, rather than given to contemplating the horrors, or waiting for the call of Being.” But she asserts that that Kant’s cosmopolitan ideas cannot triumph in USA, because the country is indifferent to cosmopolitan goals. She says that Kant (and Cicero and Marcus Aurelius) would be disappointed at the political culture of modern America. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Cicero’s Influence on Immanuel Kant’s Principle of Morality

The German philosopher Christian Garve published his book Philosophical Remarks and Essays on Cicero’s Books on Duties in 1783. In the same year, Immanuel Kant began working on his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.

The Groundwork does not have any explicit references to Cicero, but Kant’s friend J. G. Hamman has said that the Groundwork is a conscious response to Garve’s interpretation of Cicero’s On Duties.

In his article, published in Mind in 1939, Klaus Reich tries to show that Kant’s argument in Groundwork closely follows Cicero’s argument in On Duties. Reich points out that Kant was thinking of the classical list of virtues (justice, wisdom, courage, and self-control), which he may have discovered in Cicero’s ideas. Reich also makes the case that Kant’s principle of morality is inspired by Cicero’s stoic values.

Manfred Kuhen talks about the connection between Kant’s Groundwork and Garve’s Cicero in his essay, “Kant’s critical philosophy and its reception – the first five years (1781–1786)” (Chapter 18, The Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy, Edited by Paul Guyer). Here’s an excerpt:
Furthermore, Garve was important. He had dared to criticize Kant’s first Critique, and Kant was moved to criticize Garve in turn. Thus Hamann reported early in 1784 that Kant was working on a “counter-critique” of Garve. Though the title of the work was not determined yet, it was meant to become an attack not on Garve’s review but on Garve’s Cicero, constituting a kind of revenge. Hamann, who took great interest in literary feuds, was initially excited. But he was soon disappointed. For six weeks later he had to report that “the counter-critique of Garve’s Cicero had changed into a preliminary treatise on morals,” and that what he had wanted to call first “counter-critique” had become a predecessor (prodrome) to morals, although it was also to have “a relation to Garve.” The final version did not explicitly deal with Garve. It is significant, however, that Kant read Cicero in Garve’s translation, and that he carefully looked at Garve’s commentary while writing the Groundwork. Though he might have been more interested in Garve than in Cicero, the latter had a definite effect on his views concerning the foundations of moral philosophy. But several schol- ars have argued that Garve’s Cicero was actually important to Kant in dealing with fundamental moral issues.  
What was to be a mere textbook treatment of well-rehearsed issues became a much more programmatic treatise. It is therefore no accident that the terminology of the Groundwork turns out to be so similar to that of Cicero – that “will,” “dignity,” “autonomy,” “duty,” “virtue,” “freedom,” and several other central concepts play a similar foundational role in both Cicero and in Kant. One of the most interesting things about Cicero’s account in this context is that involves the claim that our own nature depends to a large extent on our social role. Sociability or communicability is for him the most important principle from which duty derives. This is clear from the very terms Cicero uses. “Honorableness” or “the honorable” are translations of “honestas” and “honestum.” Both have to do with the holding of an office or an honor. Duties are thus essentially related to one’s social standing. They are bound up with something that is public, part of the sphere of the res publica or the community. Duties make little sense outside society. They are not internal or subjective principles, but public demands on us. Insofar as some of these duties are based on sociability as such, some duties will be universal, but they remain duties we have as “citizens of the world.” 
It is worth noting that Kant had a good knowledge of Cicero and he has remarked that true popularity in philosophy can only be achieved by reading and imitating Cicero.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A House for Mr. Immanuel Kant

A recent picture of Kant's House near Kaliningrad
After living in rented quarters for most of his adult life, Immanuel Kant purchased a house of his own at the age of 59 (on December 30, 1783). Renting a house meant occasional moves, at times at the insistence of the landlord, and therefore Kant felt that a house of his own would provide him certain amount of security, especially in his declining years.

In Kant: A Biography, (Chapter: “The All Crushing Critic of Metaphysics"), Manfred Kuhen offers an account of Kant’s journey into his own house. Here’s an excerpt:
The house Kant bought had belonged to a portrait painter named Becker, who had recently died. Hippel, whose own property bordered on Becker's, was instrumental in the deal. He told Kant that the property was for sale, and he wrote to Kant on December 24, the day before Christmas, that he had found out that the house was not yet sold, and that if Kant were to make an offer, he would probably be successful. Kant acted right away. Indeed, he wrote down notes and questions about what had to be done on Hippel's very letter. Thus he asked whether there was only one stove in the house, where precisely the borderlines of the property lay, whether he should take out a wall between two smaller rooms and the room that was to become the lecture room, and when the house would be free. The answer to the last question was: "in March." Kant made notes about the costs of the necessary renovation on the back of a short letter, dated February 21, 1784. Work appears to have begun at that time….
Kant was able to move into his new house on May 22, 1784. Kuhen also offers an excerpt from Johann Gottfried Hasse’s idyllic vision of Kant’s house:
On coming closer to his house, everything announced a philosopher. The house was something of an antique. It stood in a street that could be walked but was not much used by carriages. Its back bordered on gardens and moats of the castle, as well as on the back buildings of the many hundred years old palace with its towers, its prisons and its owls. But spring and summer the surroundings were quite romantic. The only trouble was that he did not really enjoy them .. . but only saw them. Stepping into the house, one would notice the peaceful quiet. Had one not been convinced otherwise by the open kitchen, with the odors of food, a barking dog, or the meowing of a cat, the darlings of his female cook - she performed, as he put it, entire sermons for them - one might have thought the house was uninhabited. If one went up the stairs, one would have encountered the servant who was working on preparing the table. But if one went through the very simple, unadorned and somewhat smoky outbuilding into a greater room which represented the best room, but which was not luxurious. (What Nepos said of Attics: elegant, non magnifies, was quite true of Kant.) There was a sofa, some chairs, upholstered with linen, a glass cabinet with some porcelain, a secretary, which held his silver ware and his cash, and a thermometer. These were all the furnishings, which covered a part of the white walls. In this way, one reached through a very simple, even poor-looking, door a just as destitute sans-souci, into which one was invited by a glad "come in" as soon as one knocked. (How fast my heart beat, when this happened for the first time!) The entire room exuded simplicity and quiet isolation from the noises of the city and the world. Two common tables, a simple sofa, some chairs, including his study-seat, and a dresser, which left enough space in the middle of the room to get to the barometer and thermometer, which Kant consulted frequently. Here sat the thinker in his wooden chair, as if on a tripod…
Johann Gottfried Hasse was Kant’s colleague at the University of Königsberg. Kant did not like dining alone, he usually invited one or two table companions, whose number, on special occasions, could be increased to five or six. Hasse was one of the frequent dinnertime guest at Kant’s house. 

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

On Cicero’s Access To The Works Of Aristotle

Aristotle                                       Cicero
Did Cicero know the same Aristotle that Thomas Aquinas knew in the 13th century and we can know today? Did he have access to the same Aristotelian texts which Andronicus of Rhodes used in the First Century B.C. to create his Aristotelian corpus?

In his essay, “Cicero on Aristotle and Aristotelians,” Walter Nicgorski says that Cicero had more of Aristotle’s work available to him than most people before and after Cicero’s lifetime. Nicgorski points out that Cicero lived at the juncture of time and place when and where the Aristotelian corpus of Andronicus was being compiled and made available to scholars. But this was also the time and place when and where the writings of Aristotle started disappearing and many of the texts were completely lost.

Cicero was deeply interested in philosophy—it was his primary concern to bring Greek philosophy to Rome. He was in touch with other Roman scholars, and therefore it is likely that he had full knowledge of the enterprise of assembling the Aristotelian texts which was going on in Rome during his lifetime. According to Nicgorski, Cicero’s writings support the idea that he consulted Aristotle’s non-popular works (commentarios) which were then being recovered and assembled.

Here’s an excerpt from Nicgorski’s essay:
In the reference to these works at De Finibus v. 12, Cicero actually uses the Greek cognate (ἐξωτερικόν) for “exoteric” to describe the popular works which are contrasted with those (limatius) “more carefully composed” commentarii, usually translated as “notebooks”. In this passage, Cicero reveals that the distinction between the exoteric works and the notebooks is one which the Peripatetics themselves make, that it is a distinction which applies to various works of the school, not simply to Aristotle’s writings, and that he is sufficiently familiar with both the exoteric writings and the notebooks to comment on the appearance of inconsistency between them with respect to content.  
Cicero did not, it seems, know with assurance that our Nicomachean Ethics and Politics were works of Aristotle. Cicero cites neither of these works directly, though he mentions the Nicomachean Ethics and shows himself aware that this work is attributed to Aristotle; he himself is inclined to think it was authored by Aristotle’s son Nicomachus. Though the scholarly consensus is that Cicero did not know our Politics, there is a possibility, as the late Elizabeth Rawson suggests, that he knew the Politics or much of it as the work of Theophrastus, Aristotle’s successor as head of the Peripatetic school. Whether or not Cicero did give close attention to the texts of the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics or encountered their teachings in other sources, his work shows the impact of such teachings and appears largely consistent with them. The teaching of the Ethics is quite clearly reflected in De Finibus, especially in Book II where Cicero speaks in his own persona, and the De Finibus is a book that Cicero regards as his most important and that treats the topic which he holds to be foundational to all philosophy. Quite directly Cicero associates what he does in De Re Publica and De Legibus with the tradition of political inquiry in which Aristotle and his school are perceived as distinguishing themselves. Could not the Politics or some version of it be what Cicero has in mind when he so credits the Peripatetic heritage in political philosophy? 
It is also noteworthy that Cicero saw Aristotle as a follower of the Platonic and Socratic traditions. In De Officiis, he says, “[M]y philosophical writings differing very little from Peripatetic teachings, for both I and those men wish to follow in the socratic and Platonic tradition..."

Monday, 5 February 2018

Kant’s View of Hume’s Argument

Immanuel Kant saw David Hume as an ally or predecessor than an adversary. In his published works Kant has constantly emphasized the importance of Hume. He has said that Hume had interrupted his dogmatic slumber. In his Critique of Pure Reason he confesses that he is pursuing a line of thought that Hume has originally proposed but has failed to fully develop.

In his book Kant: A Biography (Chapter: "“All-Crushing” Critic of Metaphysics"), Manfred Kuhen gives a description of Kant’s view of the argument that Hume is offering. Kant believed that Hume’s argument consists of the following:
1)  Assume the causal relation to be rational. 

(2)  If a relation is rational, it can be thought a priori and on the basis of concepts. 

(3)  For objects to be causally related, they must stand in a necessary relation, such that if one object is posited, the other one must also be posited. 

(4)  It is impossible to see by reason alone how the existence of one object necessitates the existence of another. 

(5)  Therefore, "it is wholly impossible to think such a conjunction a priori and out of concepts." 

(6)  Therefore, the causal relation is not rational. 

7)  Therefore, it is impossible to understand "how the concept of such an a 
priori connection can be introduced." 

(8)  Therefore, it must have some other source or sources, and the most reasonable ones are imagination and custom. 

(9)  But imagination and custom can produce only "subjective" necessity. 

(10) Metaphysics requires necessity based on intersubjectively valid concepts.
(11) Therefore, metaphysics is impossible.  
Kant thinks that the argument ending with (6) as a conclusion is sound. Hume "proved," he says, "irrefutably: that it is wholly impossible for reason to think such a conjunction a priori and out of concepts." What Kant does not accept is (7) and the conclusions founded upon it. He cannot, if only because this would show that the science of metaphysics is impossible. In order to save the science of metaphysics, or to show how it is possible, he must show how it is possible to introduce the concept of such a connection a priori. There is no reason for Kant to accept (7), in any case. From the fact that the causal relation cannot be shown by reason to be a priori, it does not follow that it cannot be shown to be a priori in some other way, just as it does not follow from the fact that I cannot determine the smell of an open sewer by sight that I cannot determine its smell in any other way. Thus Kant thinks he can make a plausible case that the causal connections have "their origin in pure understanding." Thus he argues that  
(12) It is possible to introduce the concept of a priori connections by deducing them from the pure understanding.  
One can make a distinction between "local skepticism," or a skepticism that relates only to a certain class of propositions, and "universal skepticism," or a skepticism that involves the doubting of the justifiability of any knowledge claim. Kant believes that Hume essentially establishes a form of "local skepticism," with "universal skepticism" being a hasty conclusion founded upon the former. Moreover, Kant does not see Hume as denying the existence of necessary synthetic judgments, but only as denying a certain way of justifying them. So Kant thought that he needed to give only a limited answer to Hume. All he had to do was justify synthetic a priori judgments, whose existence was admitted by Hume. 
 Manfred Kuhen also points out that among his friends, Kant was known as the German Hume. Kant did not object to being regarded as close to Hume. 

Friday, 2 February 2018

Publication of Spinoza’s Ethics

Spinoza's Stature in The Hague
In his essay, “The Textual History of Spinoza’s Ethics” (Chapter 1, The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza’s Ethics), Piet Steenbakkers offers an interesting account of how Spinoza’s ethics got published.

Spinoza died in The Hague on 21st February, 1677, and within a matter days his publisher received a writing box containing Spinoza’s unpublished writings and correspondence.

Spinoza’s friends divided the editorial work among themselves, and within nine months of his demise, in December 1977, the manuscripts got published under the title B.d.S. Opera Posthuma, which contains his major works, including Ethica. The Dutch translation of B.d.S. Opera Posthuma was published in the same period.

Here’s an excerpt from Steenbakkers’s essay:
Publishing the Ethics was a precarious undertaking. Spinoza himself put the manuscript away in 1675, and when his friends did publish it in the Opera Posthuma, they took safety measures to cover their activities. The book appeared without the publisher’s name (Rieuwertsz), without mentioning the place of publication (Amsterdam), and with the philosopher’s name abbreviated to ‘B.d.S.’ In the correspondence, references to people who were still alive were generally avoided and many factual allusions were discreetly suppressed. This covertness makes it difficult to determine who the editors were and what they did with the manuscripts they had at their disposal.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

FEE’s Essential Guide to Cryptocurrency and Bitcoins

In the 36-page ebook “FEE’s Essential Guide to Cryptocurrency and Bitcoins,” Jeffery M. Tucker has contributed two essays (“Bitcoin for Beginners” and “What Gave Bitcoin its Value?”) which offer an interesting insight into the monetary theory on which the Bitcoin system is based. Tucker shows that the Bitcoins follow the economic ideas of Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises.

Menger has established that the market is the fountainhead of money.  Money gradually comes into existence when entrepreneurs seek out a commodity for conducting financial transactions. In his book The Theory of Money and Credit, Mises has shown that money gets its price in terms of the goods and services that it obtains. Bitcoin is something that is being accepted by the market as a system for indirect exchange and hence it is a money.

According to Tucker, a major, if not the primary purpose of developing Bitcoin was to have a protocol which weaves together the currency feature with a payment system. The two features are interlinked in the structure of the Bitcoin code.

Here’s an excerpt from the Tucker’s essay, “What Gave Bitcoin its Value?”:
Bitcoin is both a payment system and a money. The payment system is the source of value, while the accounting unit merely expresses that value in terms of price. The unity of money and payment is its most unusual feature, and the one that most commentators have had trouble wrapping their heads around.  
We are all used to thinking of currency as separate from payment systems. This thinking is a reflection of the technological limitations of history. There is the dollar and there are credit cards. There is the euro and there is PayPal. There is the yen and there are wire services. In each case, money transfer relies on third-party service providers. In order to use them, you need to establish what is called a “trust relationship” with them, which is to say that the institution arranging the deal has to believe that you are going to pay.  
This wedge between money and payment has always been with us, except for the case of physical proximity. If I give you a dollar for your pizza slice, there is no third party. But payment systems, third parties, and trust relationships become necessary once you leave geographic proximity. That’s when companies like Visa and institutions like banks become indispensable. They are the application that makes the monetary so ware do what you want it to do. 
The hitch is that the payment systems we have today are not available to just anyone. In fact, a vast majority of humanity does not have access to such tools, which is a major reason for poverty in the world. The financially disenfranchised are confined to only local trade and cannot extend their trading relationships with the world.  
A major, if not a primary, purpose of developing Bitcoin was to solve this problem. The protocol set out to weave together the currency feature with a payment system. The two are utterly interlinked in the structure of the code itself. This connection is what makes bitcoin different from any existing national currency, and, really, any currency in history. 
The ebook also has essays by Billy Silva (“From Bitcoin to Ether: Today’s Blockchain Basics”), Andreas Antonopoulos (“Bitcoin Technology: A Festival of the Commons”), Steve Patterson (“Bitcoin: Currency of Currencies”), and Skyler J. Collins (“What Cryptocurrency Can Teach Us About Political Governance”).

Monday, 29 January 2018

Immanuel Kant’s Meeting With Moses Mendelssohn

In his book Kant: A Biography, Manfred Kuhen gives a good account of the intellectual connection between Immanuel Kant and Moses Mendelssohn. Here’s an excerpt from the book (Chapter 5: "Silent Years") in which Kuhen is describing Kant’s reaction to Mendelssohn’s visit to Königsberg:
In July of 1777 ones Mendelssohn, one of the most important German philosophers of the late Enlightenment, came for a visit to Königsberg. He was perhaps the dominant force on the German philosophical scene between 1755 and 1785. His work in aesthetic theory and on the nature and role of sensibility was especially influential, and it would be difficult to understand the development of German thought from Wolffian rationalism to Kantian idealism without paying close attention to Mendelssohn. If he was received like royalty by the Jewish community, he was treated with almost equal respect by the philosophical community. Kant and Hamann were especially happy to see him. After a trip to Memel, Mendelssohn stayed another ten days in Königsberg (August 10-20). Kant wrote to Herz in Berlin:  
Today Mr. Mendelssohn, your worthy friend and mine (for so I flatter myself), is departing. To have a man like him in Königsberg on a permanent basis, as an intimate acquaintance, a man of such gentle temperament, good spirits, and Enlightenment - how that would give my soul the nourishment it has lacked so completely here, a nourishment I miss more and more as I grow older! I could not arrange, however, to take full advantage of this unique opportunity to enjoy so rare a man, partly from fear lest I might disturb him . . . in the business he had to attend to locally. Yesterday he did me the honor of being present at two of my lectures, d la fortune du pot, as one might say, since the table was not prepared for such a distinguished guest... I beg you to keep for me the friendship of this worthy man in the future...  
One may well wonder what difference such a Mendelssohnian influence might have made to Kant's critical enterprise. Would the Critique of Pure Reason — which Kant was busily writing at that time — have looked any different? We will, of course, never know the answer to such questions.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Lenz’s Poem For Celebrating Kant’s Professorship

Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz
In 1770, Immanuel Kant was appointed as the professor of logic and metaphysics at the University of Königsberg.

To celebrate Kant’s promotion, one of his students Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, who later became one of the famous writers of Sturm und Drang movement, wrote a poem entitled, “When His High and Noble Herr Professor Kant Disputed for the Honor of professor on August 21, 1770.”

In his poem, Lenz emphasizes that Kant is a man in whom both virtue and wisdom can be found and who has practiced in his own life all the principles which he preached to his students. The poem has twelve verses. Here’s one of the verses:

Whose clear eye never was bedazzled by the ostentatious
Who, never crawling, never called the fool sagacious
Who many a time reduced to shred
The folly's mask, which we must dread. 

Linz ends the poem with this verse:

You sons of France! Despise our Northern region
Ask if ever a genius has here arisen:
If Kant still lives, you will not hazard again
to ask this question.

********

(Information on Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz's poem is available in Manfred Kuehn's Kant: A Biography)

Monday, 22 January 2018

Miller’s Take on Walsh’s Assessment of Ayn Rand’s View of Kantian Metaphysics

Today I read Fred Miller’s article, “Comments on George Walsh, ‘Ayn Rand And The Metaphysics of Kant.’” (Originally delivered before the Ayn Rand Society at the American Philosophical Association Meeting, December 29, 1992). Miller’s article is a response to Walsh’s article, “Ayn Rand And The Metaphysics of Kant.”

Here’s an excerpt from Miller’s article:
As Walsh correctly observes, Rand here [1] ascribes a series of alleged statements to Kant but does not provide direct quotations in support of her interpretation. The source of the foregoing interpretation is Rand’s essay, “For the New Intellectual,” which is a polemic and a manifesto for Rand’s intellectual followers rather than a work of scholarly exegesis. This work offers a broad-brush history of philosophy containing a number of unflattering cameos of famous thinkers, of which the above sketch of Kant is typical. This approach leaves Rand open to the charge that she is misrepresenting Kant or misunderstanding him, or both. Indeed, I think that Walsh has compiled detailed and persuasive evidence that the explicit statements regarding reason and reality which Rand has attributed to Kant do not agree with Kant’s own characterization of his position.  
However, even if one agrees with Walsh that Rand attributes to Kant claims regarding reason and reality that he does not explicitly make, there remains the more important question: has Rand accurately identified the fundamental implications or presuppositions of Kant’s metaphysics and epistemology—regardless of whether Kant acknowledged them as such—when she asserts that “the entire apparatus of Kant’s system—[rests] on a single point: that man’s knowledge is not valid because his consciousness possesses identity.” [2] The first question, then is whether Rand is here offering a fundamental insight into Kantian epistemology or whether, as Walsh maintains, this is “a point of misinterpretation.” [3] The second question is whether Rand has good reasons for rejecting the Kantian view. These are the principal question which I wish to pursue in this commentary. 
Miller rejects Walsh's view that Rand has misinterpreted Kant. According to him, Rand has passed a correct judgement on Kantian metaphysics, even though she has not given any evidence to support her position.

But I am not convinced by Miller’s assessment of Kant’s metaphysics because his analysis is quite shallow. He has tried to analyze a couple of quotes from Kant’s works and he makes references to Aristotle, Plato and even Schopenhauer, but all this is not enough to dethrone Kantian metaphysics. Miller does not offer any concrete evidence to make his case.

***********

1. Miller refers to a paragraph on Kant in Ayn Rand’s essay, “For the New Intellectual.” 

2. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology

3. Essay by Walsh

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Kant’s Apology for Writing "Dreams of a Spirit-Seer"

In Kant: A Biography, Manfred Kuhen points out that Dreams of a Spirit-Seer is the only book for which Immanuel Kant came close to apologizing. The Book was published anonymously, but Kant accepted responsibility for it. In his letter (Dated: April 6, 1766) to Moses Mendelssohn, Kant said that he was a philosophical author of steadfast character and he apologized for the ambiguous style of his book.

Here’s an excerpt from Kant’s letter:
The estrangement you express about the tone of my little work proves to me that you have formed a good opinion of the sincerity of my character, and your very reluctance to see that character ambiguously expressed is both precious and pleasing to me. In fact, you will never have to change this opinion. For, though there may be flaws that even the most steadfast determination cannot eradicate completely, I shall certainly never become a fickle or fraudulent person, having, during what must have been the largest part of my life, learned to do without as well as to scorn most of the things that tend to corrupt one's character. The loss of self-respect, which originates from the consciousness of an undisguised way of thinking, would thus be the greatest evil that could befall me, but which most certainly never will befall me. Although I am personally convinced with the greatest clarity and satisfaction of many things which I will never have the courage to say, I will never say anything that I do not mean (dencke). 
Manfred Kuhen also sheds light on the peculiar manner in which Kant’s Dreams of a Spirit-Seer was published. The book’s publisher failed to send the manuscript to the censor, as he should have. Instead, he directly submitted a printed copy of the book. For this infraction, the publisher was fined 10 Thalers which was equivalent to one-sixth of Kant’s yearly income.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Schopenhauer On Dialectic and Logic

Arthur Schopenhauer
In his essay, “The Art of Controversy,” Arthur Schopenhauer says that the word “dialectic” was first used by Plato. By “dialectic,” Plato means the regular employment of the reason, and skill in the practice of it. Aristotle has used “dialectic,” as well as “logic” in the same sense. But “dialectic” seems to be an older word than “logic.”

According to Schopenhauer, such usage of “dialectic” and “logic” has lasted through the medieval period to the modern times.  He credits Immanuel Kant for using the word “dialectic” in a bad sense for the first time. Here’s an excerpt from “The Art of Controversy,” (Translation by: T. Bailey Saunders):
But more recently, and in particular by Kant, Dialectic has often been employed in a bad sense, as meaning “the art of sophistical controversy”; and hence Logic has been preferred, as of the two the more innocent designation. Nevertheless, both originally meant the same thing; and in the last few years they have again been recognizes as synonymous.
Here’s another excerpt in which Schopenhauer is describing Aristotle’s usage of “dialectic,” “logic,” and other related terms:
According to Diogenes Laertius, v., 28, Aristotle put Rhetoric and Dialectic together, as aiming at persuasion, [Greek: to pithanon]; and Analytic and Philosophy as aiming at truth. Aristotle does, indeed, distinguish between (1) Logic, or Analytic, as the theory or method of arriving at true or apodeictic conclusions; and (2) Dialectic as the method of arriving at conclusions that are accepted or pass current as true, [Greek: endoxa] probabilia; conclusions in regard to which it is not taken for granted that they are false, and also not taken for granted that they are true in themselves, since that is not the point. What is this but the art of being in the right, whether one has any reason for being so or not, in other words, the art of attaining the appearance of truth, regardless of its substance? That is, then, as I put it above.  
Aristotle divides all conclusions into logical and dialectical, in the manner described, and then into eristical. (3) Eristic is the method by which the form of the conclusion is correct, but the premisses, the materials from which it is drawn, are not true, but only appear to be true. Finally (4) Sophistic is the method in which the form of the conclusion is false, although it seems correct. These three last properly belong to the art of Controversial Dialectic, as they have no objective truth in view, but only the appearance of it, and pay no regard to truth itself; that is to say, they aim at victory. Aristotle’s book on Sophistic Conclusions was edited apart from the others, and at a later date. It was the last book of his Dialectic.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Lament of Kant’s Aristotelian Teacher

Immanuel Kant is believed to have attended the lecture of Johann Adam Gregorovius (1681—1749), an Aristotelian professor, in 1740, at the Königsberg University. Gregorovius’s primary concern was to defend Aristotle’s moral philosophy against more modern attempts at ethics. In the Wöchentliche Nachrichten of 1741, Gregorovius said, among other things:
I cannot make a secret of the fact that the philosophy of Aristotle has been so maligned and ridiculed since so many new systems have appeared after the beginning of this century… that no dog would take a piece of bread from an Aristotelian, even if it had not been fed for five days… This public disregard of antiquity led me entirely to abandon Aristotle from honest conviction. Subsequently, I had to learn every new system as soon as it appeared in order to teach it to the youthful students who were only interested in the newest (splitterneue) philosophers… I had… as great an attendance and applause as any. Yet after I got tired of the constant change… I began to compare all the new doctrines with the ancient one. Yet I had to learn that the hate and disregard which those inexperienced in these matters have against Aristotle also met me. (Source: Kant: A Biography by Manfred Kuehn; Chapter 2: “Student and Private Teacher”; Page 68)  
Gregorovius was acquainted with modern philosophy but he believed that Aristotle’s philosophy was much superior.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Is Ayn Rand’s Ethics an Exact Science?

Ayn Rand believed that Aristotle’s greatest achievement was in epistemology, and not in ethics or politics. In her essay, “The Objectivist Ethics,” she says: “The greatest of all philosophers, Aristotle, did not regard ethics as an exact science; he based his ethical system on observations of what the noble and wise men of his time chose to do, leaving unanswered the questions of: why they chose to do it and why he evaluated them as noble and wise”

But she has not clarified what she means by “exact science.” She has also not provided any evidence to show that her own objectivist ethics is an exact science.

Jack Wheeler, in his essay, “Rand and Aristotle: A Comparison of Objectivist Ethics and Aristotelian Ethics,” (Chapter 5; The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand; Edited by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen) comments on this issue. Here’s an excerpt:
Again, Rand’s criticism that Aristotle did not regard ethics as an “exact science” is equally odd, for this has nothing to do with “observing wise men,” but rather, as Aristotle notes: “It is the mark of an educated mind to expect that amount of exactness in each kind which the nature of the particular subject admits.” Or does Rand really wish to claim that one can have mathematical precision for ethics on a par with physics? 
What is doubly puzzling about all of this is that, upon close examination, there are extraordinary similarities between objectivist and Aristotelian ethics in both metaethical and normative categories. Thus we find the strange situation of Rand praising Aristotle above all other philosophers on the one hand and ignorantly criticizing his ethics on the other. At the same time she presents an ethical system of her own that she claims is original yet that is in many ways strikingly Aristotelian. 
I agree with Wheeler, Rand’s criticism of Aristotelian ethics is puzzling. She criticizes Aristotle for not regarding ethics as an exact science, but she does not offer any evidence to prove that an ethical system can be an exact science on a par with physics.

I think Rand had the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt in her mind when she wrote her commentary on objectivist ethics. Galt is perfect in every sense; there is not a single flaw in his philosophical and political ideas; his science is great; he has never fallen sick, he is always emotionally stable, and he never makes a single mistake in his life. He automatically knows what he must do in any situation. When Rand calls ethics an exact science, she is asserting that human beings can be (or ought to be) exactly like Galt.

But it is biologically impossible for a human being to be like Galt—nature does not allow such perfection to exist. 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Kant’s Account of Discipline of Reason

Immanuel Kant gives three requirements for the discipline of reason—reason must be negative, nonderivative, and lawlike. He says in the Critique of Pure Reason that reason requires a “wholly nonderivative and specifically negative law-giving.”

In her lecture, “Kant on Reason and Religion” (Delivered at Harvard University, April 1—3, 1996), Onora O’Neill gives the following account of Kant’s requirements for discipline of reason:
Kant’s account of the discipline of reason can be summarized in three claims. First, in calling reason a discipline, he is claiming that it is a negative constraint on the ways in which we think and act: there are no substantive axioms of reason, whose content can fully steer processes of reasoning; there are merely constraints. Reason is indeed merely formal.  
Second, the discipline of reason is nonderivative. Reason does not derive from any more fundamental standards. On the contrary, it appeals to no other premises, so can be turned on any claim or belief or proposal for action. Neither church nor state, nor other powers, can claim exemption from the scrutiny of reason for their pronouncements and assumptions. The authority of reason would be nullified by any supposition that it is subordinate to the claims of one or another happenstantial power… 
If reason has any authority, it must be its own rather than derivative.  
Although reason does not have derivative authority, authority it must have. Authority is needed to distinguish between ways of organizing thought and action that are to count as reasoned and those that are to be dismissed as unreasoned. Kant traces this nonderivative authority to the requirement that reasons be public, in the sense that they can be given or exchanged, shared or challenged. Nothing then can count as reasoned unless it is followable by others, that is, unless it is lawlike. Ways of organizing thought and action that are not lawlike will be unfollowable by at least some others, who will view them as arbitrary or incomprehensible.  
The minimal, modal requirement that reasons be followable by others, without being derivative from other standards, is Kant’s entire account of the authority of reason. Yet mere nonderivative lawlikeness has considerable implications for the organization of thought and action: in the domain of theory it amounts to the demand that reasons be intelligible to others; in the domain of action it amounts to the requirement that reasons for action be ones that others too could follow.
O’Neill also points out that “the supreme principle of practical reason is presented as a negative (formal) requirement that is underivative because it appeals to no other spurious “authorities” (that would be heteronomy) and demands adherence to lawlike maxims (i.e., to maxims that could be adopted by all).”

Thursday, 11 January 2018

On Ridpath’s “The Academic Deconstruction of Ayn Rand”

Yesterday I read John Ridpath’s 2-page review of Chris Matthew Sciabarra’s Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (“The Academic Deconstruction of Ayn Rand,” The Intellectual Activist, January 1996 issue).

Ridpath has written a nasty review—he ignores the book’s content, and tries to discredit its author. He begins with a tirade against the academics who he says are “using current academic standards, methods, and language, and playing today’s academic game.” The aim of this game, he claims, is to “impress their peers with books upholding Ayn Rand as a ‘serious’ thinker.”

But why does he think that it is malicious to project Rand as a “serious” thinker? It seems that in his lexicon, a “serious” thinker must be a “Kantian” and “Hegelian” thinker. He offers an over-enthusiastic and under-informed rant against Immanuel Kant. Here’s an excerpt:

“The fundamental context for nineteenth- and twentieth-century thought is Kant’s severance of the mind from reality. Kant destroyed the basis of objectivity, and what predictably followed was a myriad of subjectivist options, all arguing over which consciousness (cosmic, collective, tribal, or personal) ruled and whether mystical access to realty is possible.”

After wrestling Kant in two paragraphs, Ridpath pounces on Hegel who he says developed a notoriously convoluted version of post-Kantian subjectivism. He thunders that Hegel’s philosophy is a “massive assault on the very precondition of objectivity” and “it centers on the assertion that reality and mind are the same.” He excoriates the neo-Hegelian clique in academia for being anti-Western, postmodern, deconstructionist and multicultural.

The first half of Ridpath's piece is an autopsy of academia, Kant, and Hegel—in the second half he finally turns his eye towards Sciabarra’s Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Ridpath hammers home the point that Sciabarra’s book is “preposterous in its thesis, destructive in its purpose, and tortuously numbing in its content.”

Ridpath accuses Sciabarra of being at base a neo-Hegelian and attempting to force Rand into the Hegelian mold and then presenting her to the academic world for its consideration.

But Ridpath does not offer an iota of evidence to back his assertions. In his article, he has not included a single quote from Sciabarra’s book. He has not analyzed any position that Sciabarra has taken. About his suggestion that Sciabarra is a member of a clique of neo-Hegelian academics, one can only say that it sounds curiouser and curiouser!

Ridpath’s article is condescending, illogical, and preposterous. He thinks that he can take on philosophers like Kant and Hegel, and the academic establishment (including Sciabarra) with a silly article of just 2 pages! This is overconfidence of the worst kind. Well, his review doesn't seem to have had any impact on the credibility of Sciabarra’s book. In the last two decades, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical has become quite popular—it is now regarded as a valuable resource for those who are interested in Rand’s ideas.

PS: Here’s a link to an index of online and published reviews which do justice to Sciabarra’s Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Comrade Napoleon

Friend of fatherless!
Fountain of happiness!
Lord of the swill-bucket! Oh, how my soul is on
Fire when I gaze at thy
Calm and commanding eye,
Like the sun in the sky,
Comrade Napoleon!

Thou are the giver of
All that thy creatures love,
Full belly twice a day, clean straw to roll upon;
Every beast great or small
Sleeps at peace in his stall,
Thou watchest over all,
Comrade Napoleon!

Had I a sucking-pig,
Ere he had grown as big
Even as a pint bottle or as a rolling-pin,
He should have learned to be
Faithful and true to thee,
Yes, his first squeak should be
"Comrade Napoleon!"

~ from George Orwell's Animal Farm 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Heinrich Heine on Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant’s early biographers focused only on his philosophical works and not his personal life. This created the impression that Kant was all thought and no life. Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), a friend and distant relative of Karl Marx and himself a believer in socialism, summed up the prevailing view of Kant in these words:
The history of Immanuel Kant’s life is difficult to portray, for he had neither life nor history. He led a mechanically ordered, almost abstract bachelor existence in a quiet, remote little street in Koenigsberg, an old town on the northeastern border of Germany. I do not believe that the great clock of the cathedral there performed more dispassionately and methodically its outward routine of the day than did its fellow countryman Immanuel Kant. Getting up in the morning, drinking coffee, writing, giving lectures, eating, walking, everything had its appointed time, and the neighbors knew for certain that it was half-past three when Immanuel Kant, in his gray frock-coat, his Spanish cane in his hand, stepped out of his house and strolled to the little linden avenue called after him to this day the “Philosopher’s Path.” Eight times he walked up and down it, in every season of the year, and when the sky was overcast, or gray clouds announced a rain coming, old Lampe, his servant, was seen walking anxiously behind him with a big umbrella under his arm, like an image of providence.  
What a strange contrast between the outward life of the man and his destructive, world-crushing thoughts! Truly, if the citizens of Koenigsberg had had any premonition of the full significance of his ideas, they would have felt a far more terrifying dread at the presence of this man than at the sight of an executioner, an executioner who merely executes people. But the good folk saw in him nothing but a professor of philosophy, and as he passed by at his customary hour, they gave him a friendly greeting and perhaps set their watches by him. 
If, however, Immanuel Kant, the arch-destroyer in the realm of ideas, far surpassed Maximilian Robespierre in terrorism, yet he possessed many similarities with the latter which invite comparison of the two men. In the first place, we find in both the same stubborn, keen, unpoetic, sober integrity. We also find in both the same talent for suspicion, only that the one directs his suspicion toward ideas and calls it criticism, while the other applies it to people and entitles it republican virtue. But both represented in the highest degree the type of provincial bourgeois. Nature had destined them to weigh coffee and sugar, but Fate determined that they should weigh other things and placed on the scales of the one a king, on the scales of the other a god.  
And they gave the correct weight! 
~ Heinrich Heine in On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany (1835)

Monday, 8 January 2018

Will Ayn Rand Survive Postmodernism?

In his article, “Objectivism: An Autopsy, Part 3,” Greg Nyquist says that he sees Objectivism as an overreaction to the Soviet Union’s communist system of which Ayn Rand had a first hand experience. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, communism mutated into postmodernism which has acquired a powerful intellectual, cultural and political base in the world. As Rand did not have any first hand experience with postmodernism, her philosophy does not offer any clear solutions to the problems that the world faces today.

Here’s an excerpt from the final paragraph of Nyquist’s article:
Objectivism and libertarianism having been trying to convert people to their respective creeds for over sixty years, and they have little to show for it. With the surge of the radical left (at least terms of social and cultural influence) in recent years, the right is beginning to retrench into old forms of nationalism, both civic and, sometimes, in extreme cases, even racial. As the right-left ideological paradigm shifts and new factions on the right form to challenge globalism and non-white identitarianism, it's not clear how Objectivism and Rand-inspired libertarianism are going to maintain even a small sliver of relevance.
In his article Nyquist does not offer any solution, but, I think, he has made some interesting points. It is true that communism is yesterday’s problem—today’s problem is postmodernism. Rand’s philosophy is inspiring but her ideas cannot make headway in a society that is deeply divided between the postmodernist right and the postmodernist left. The Objectivists have to rework their philosophy and develop some fresh insights if they want to remain relevant. They cannot win support for their viewpoints if they continue to hitchhike on the theories and arguments that Rand developed more than 50 years ago.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Ayn Rand, the Hedgehog; Aristotle, the Fox

Peter Saint-Andre has done an analysis of Ayn Rand’s sayings on Aristotle in his article, “Our Man in Greece: On the Use and Abuse of Aristotle in the Works of Ayn Rand.”

He claims that even though Ayn Rand has stated that the only philosophical debt that she can acknowledge is to Aristotle, she has consistently misinterpreted Aristotle's philosophy in her articles. Taking a leaf out of Isaiah Berlin’s The Hedgehog and the Fox, Saint-Andre claims that there is a fundamental difference between Rand’s approach to philosophy and that of Aristotle. Rand, he says, is like the hedgehog, while Aristotle is like the Fox.

I think Saint-Andre is being excessively harsh on Rand. She has given a fairly accurate description of Aristotle’s philosophy and his role in history in her nonfiction and even in her fiction—the three parts of Atlas Shrugged are named in honor of Aristotle's laws of logic. Her bestselling novels have made many readers aware of Aristotle’s greatness.

However, I also think that there is a lot of wisdom in this article by Saint-Andre, and in the other articles that he offers on his website. His perspectives on Rand’s ideas and various aspects of her philosophical method and life can help the followers of Rand in getting rid of their dogmatism and developing a more balanced outlook on history, philosophy and politics.

Friday, 5 January 2018

An Explanation for Kant’s Bachelorhood

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction of Kant: Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime and Other Writings, edited by Paul Patrick Frierson and Paul Guyer:
During the 1760s Kant struggled with the issue of marriage, and one finds a personal pathos throughout these writings. Kant in Observations longs for a woman with whom to make a “united pair” that would “as it were constitute a single moral person,” a woman who would both “refine” and “ennoble” him, and, most of all, a female friend who would unite beauty and nobility of soul and who “can never be valued enough.” While Kant longs for this ideal woman, though, he also recognizes a danger in his ideal. In a partly autobiographical passage, he contrasts crude sexual inclination with “extremely refined taste,” which prevents excessive lust but often at the cost of happiness since such refined taste “commonly fails to attain the great final aim of nature” and results in “brooding.” Such brooding ends in one of two bad outcomes: “postponement and… renunciation of the marital bond or… sullen regret of a choice that… does not fulfill the great expectations that had been raised.” Within a few years, Kant will have fallen into the first of these tragic outcomes. Although he will later quip, "When I needed a woman, I couldn’t feed one; when I could feed one, I didn’t need one any more (1),” the analysis in Observations seems a more likely explanation for Kant’s lifelong bachelorhood. 
(1. Quoted in Kant, Herder and the Birth of Anthropology by John Zammito; Page 121)