John Enright’s “Kant”


kant-silhouetteI really want
To understand Kant
And all of his vaunted system.
But somehow my brain resists him.

I’d like to take up the helm
On a trip through his noumenal realm
And soak up all the glories
Of his cognitive categories.

But somehow my mind cries: “No!
It’s no place you want to go.
It’s just a Jurassic Park
Where monstrous thing lurk in the dark.”

Source: John Enright, More Fire and Other Poems, 2006, p. 24.
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3 thoughts on “John Enright’s “Kant”

  • June 1, 2014 at 12:38 am

    Not to worry John: the entire Kantian edifice is a feint to distract from the absurdity of his central argument i.e. that being is the criterion of knowing, and the ultimate payoff: the categorical imperative i.e. that self-lobotomization and self-castration are the acmes of ethical conduct.

  • June 1, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Btw found a great quote about Kant by, of all people, John Ralston Saul.

    “A swamp which has seeped into our minds and separated the intellect from reality. Genius. Well intentioned. Devoted to the supreme principle of morality. And yet this charming man became the Thomas Aquinas of Reason. Kant was the first major modern philosopher to spend his life closeted in a university. With him begins the confusion between thinking and teaching. Living in isolation from the realities of his day, he knew about ideas, but knew little about the world from which they sprang or to which they would eventually be applied. Although a talented teacher, he had no sense of the philosopher’s obligation to communicate with humanity and so wrote in the most obscure … language. Less than a century after others had made a concerted and partly successful attempt to free philosophy from the controls of medieval scholasticism, he dragged it back into hermetic dialect”
    — John Ralston Saul; The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense

    I quibble with his comparison to Aquinas, but understand he’s seeing Scholasticism at its most nit-picking and repressed, not as an important stage that set up the critiques against it and paved the way for scientists like Galileo and Copernicus.

    I charge that Kant “gelatinized philosophy.” One of the most important ways he did this was to attack definitions, for which he substituted “expositions.” This left generations of pundits to ponder the great question: “What the hell is the man trying to say?”

    Saul is a curious figure (as for that matter is Chomsky). I was so appalled by the title of his book ‘Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West’ I bought it – and found it surprisingly good. He himself acknowledges that there is a radical difference between the Enlightenment conception of reason and the modern. What he’s really talking about, among other things, is the rationalization of illegitimate power structures and the privilege behind them including corporatism and overweening bureaucracy. Also to my surprise I found that along with the experiment he considers the free market the most successful idea of the modern era, though has a more mainstream conception of it than I do.

  • June 1, 2014 at 12:59 am

    “Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple,” Einstein had said, “and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone.” If this is true for science, I think it is doubly so for philosophy, for, in contrast to the special sciences, philosophy ought to have been a guide for all men and women by identifying the self-evident first principles of their existence. When it becomes so convoluted, murky and abstruse as to befuddle even fellow philosophers I think suspicion is in order. But if much of modern philosophy was obscurantist nonsense, it may well be that the single greatest mistake modern man made was to assume it was harmless nonsense of no consequence in the real world – even as that world was collapsing into one inexplicable horror of collectivism after another. We knew vaguely that these had to do with something called “ideology,” but beyond that did not care to investigate – perhaps because we feared becoming lost in its labyrinthine coils of rationalization.

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