Em oi! #395: I Kant Believe It


This started as more notes to myself on the noumenon, because I have been reading The Parallax View and had to look it up. I dragged through A Critique of Pure Reason in college and also parts of Critique of Judgement and (if I’m recalling correctly) The Metaphysics of Mortals, but I can’t say Kant’s theories ever really resonated with me. Yet since reading First as Tragedy, I’ve had a new respect for him. In particular, I was struck by this passage:

The recent Revolution of a people which is rich in spirit, may well either fail or succeed, accumulate misery and atrocity, it nevertheless arouses in the heart of all spectators (who are not themselves caught up in it) a taking of sides according to desires which borders on enthusiasm and which, since its very expression was not without danger, can only have been caused by a moral disposition within the human race.

Which is to say, while “actual history is confused” on the question of whether or not true [i.e. ethical] progress is possible, spectators across Europe were remarkably sympathetic to the French revolution (Zizek, First as Tragedy, then as Farce, 106).

I think now that this quote is less affecting out of context. Anyway, the remarkable thing was for me that I looked up the noumenon, made my notes, and then suddenly understood exactly the point Zizek was making and sailed on through another several pages. (Then he came to some argument rooted in Hegel and I got bogged down again.)

Anyway I should add that according to Wikipedia, the conflation of the noumenon and the ding-an-sich is not quite so straightforward as the Ziz makes it seem. But you probably already suspected as much.

At any rate, having read my comic, perhaps you are now in a position to appreciate this one by Zach Weiner.

Ok, I have now somehow passed an hour looking at pictures of cats on imagur. Probably time to call it a night.

We’ll file this one under B2799.N68 L86 2014, for Philosophy (General)–Modern (1450/1600-)–By region or country–Germany. Austria (German)–By period–Later 18th and early 19th centuries–Individual philosophers–Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804–Special topics, A-Z–Noumenon. Before you say “Don’t hurt yourself on that topic heading there,” I just want to let you know that PT2100.K3 is German literature–Individual authors or works–1700-ca. 1860/70–Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1749-1832–Biography and criticism–Biography–Personal relations–Relations to friends and contemporaries–Individual friends and contemporaries–Other friends and contemporaries, A-Z–Kant, Immanuel. So just be careful what you wish for.

By the way, I posted two reviews lately that you might have missed: this one of the play Red and this one of First as Tragedy. More reviews soon!

Okay, wait, I just remembered something I have to tell you about Kant. It’s a story my father told me when I was a kid: (and just to ruin it, I have forgotten the setup but) there is a guy in a neighborhood in Germany (well, Prussia). Every day he goes out for a walk at the same time. Every day he comes back at the same time. One day, his neighbor is raking leaves in the front yard and sees this guy walk past, and he has one foot on the sidewalk and one in the gutter. And half an hour later, sure as clockwork, back he comes, one foot on the sidewalk, one in the gutter. And that was Immanuel Kant. Later on, Dad told me that Kant broke philosophy, because he thought of it all. I don’t know if that is exactly true (philosophy has certainly continued after Kant, and gone down a lot of new and interesting alleys), but it perhaps explains to you what a huge and insurmountable obstacle he is in the study of philosophy. You Kant get there from here without going through him.

. . .

Ok, now I’m really going to bed.