You are currently browsing the History of Philosophy category.
I’m happy to announce that my Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault has been translated into Swedish and will published as Postmodernismens Förklaring by Timbro and Stiftelsen Fritt Näringsliv in Stockholm.
Much thanks to Anders Johansson, who did the translation, and to Adam Cwejman, who initiated and oversaw the project.
When the book is released in April, I’ll post about its availability.
Information about other editions and translations is at the Explaining Postmodernism page.
Posted 4 days ago at 8:50 am. 1 comment
A discussion question, after a series of linked-to posts on Immanuel Kant:
On women — e.g., “woman betrays her secrets even though she is unable to keep those of others (owing to her love of gossip). Man is fond of domestic peace and submits easily to its governance so as to be unmolested in his business. Woman has no dislike for domestic war for which she is armed with her tongue …”
On Jews — e.g., the Jews are “sharp dealers” who are “bound together by superstition.” Their “immoral and vile” behavior in commerce shows that they “do not aspire to civic virtue,” for “the spirit of usury holds sway amongst them.” They are “a nation of swindlers” who benefit only “from deceiving their host’s culture.”
On war (and more fully here) — e.g., “At the stage of culture at which the human race still stands, war is an indispensable means for bringing it to a still higher stage.”
On race — e.g., “The mingling of stocks (due to great conquests), little by little erodes the character and it is not good for the human race.”
On education (and here) — e.g., “Above all things, obedience is an essential feature in the character of a child, especially of a school boy or girl.”
On reason (and more fully here [pdf]; HTML excerpt here) — e.g., “I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith.”
The question is:
Should Kant really be categorized as an Enlightenment liberal, as many standard historical accounts do?
Posted 6 days, 1 hour ago at 7:57 am. 13 comments
And they will no doubt ignite another round of debate about Martin Heidegger’s anti-Semitism and Nazism. History professor Robert Zaretsky summarizes the evolution of the debate to date.
My thoughts here.
Posted 1 week, 5 days ago at 8:19 am. Add a comment
In this extended interview, philosopher Nicholas Capaldi responds to a series of questions about his life and work. Capaldi is Legendre-Soulé Distinguished Chair in Business Ethics at Loyola University, New Orleans and co-author of The Two Narratives of Political Economy.
Why did you become a philosopher? [0:17]
Where did you get your education? [3:41]
What was your first academic position? [12:41]
What are the key themes of your book John Stuart Mill: A Biography (2004)? [15:49]
What are the key themes of The Two Narratives of Political Economy (2010, co-authored with Gordon Lloyd)? [31:28]
What are the key themes of America’s Spiritual Capital (2012, coauthored with Theodore Roosevelt Malloch)? [47:52]
What philosophers have you learned most from? [55:52]
What philosophers do you most disagree with? [1:11:11]
What is the state of liberal thought today among philosophers? [1:19:46]
To bring about a more liberal society, what key practical steps can and should be taken? [1:30:10]
Previous Profiles in Liberty:
Philosopher Douglas Den Uyl.
Philosopher Douglas Rasmussen.
Economist David R. Henderson.
Philosopher Tibor Machan.
Forthcoming: economist Robert Lawson.
The Profiles in Liberty main page.
Posted 1 month ago at 8:13 am. Add a comment
Przemysław Zientkowski (Nicholas Copernicus University) and I have a co-authored article (in English) now out in the Polish journal, Ruch Filozoficzny.
The full title of the article is “Friedrich Nietzsche’s Politics of Genius and Its Challenge for Liberal-Democratic Europe.”
Dr. Zientkowski recently (2013) published a book on the critique of human rights in Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy. Our collaboration came about as a result of my Nietzsche and the Nazis (2010).
Posted 1 month ago at 2:35 pm. 2 comments
According to Ernst Cassirer, Immanuel Kant was “the man who introduced anthropology as a branch of study in German universities.” And anthropologist W. E. Mühlmann calls Kant “the founder of the modern concept of race.”
All humans are members of the same species, Kant argues, since members of the different races are capable of interbreeding. Nonetheless, there are important sub-divisions — Kant believes there are four main races: white, copper-red, black, and olive-yellow. Yet within the races there are distinctive characteristics of various nationalities — e.g., French, English, German, Italian, and so on. Kant hypothesizes about the source of these differences: “it is here a question of innate, natural character which has, so to speak, its seat in the composition of the human blood.”
Spaniards, for example, must be of mixed blood: “as shown by bull-fights, his character is cruel, which is proved by the auto-da-fé of former times and this shows that his origin lies in part outside of Europe.”
Further afield from Europe, Kant’s method becomes increasingly speculative, as he never left the Königsberg area his whole life. A sample hypothesis about Negroes:
“We know now, for example, that human blood turns black (as is to be seen in blood coagulum) when it is overloaded with phlogiston. Now the strong body odor of the Negroes, not be avoided by any degree of cleanliness, gives reason to suppose that their skin absorbs a very large amount of phlogiston from the blood, and that nature must so have designed this skin that in them the blood can dephlogisticate [sic] itself through the skin to a far greater degree than is the case with us in whom the latter function is mostly performed by the lungs.”
Turning to breeding policy in particular: despite the fact that Kant believes we’re all members of the same species, he opposes reproduction across racial lines:
“The mingling of stocks (due to great conquests), little by little erodes the character and it is not good for the human race in spite of any so-called philanthropy.”
That general proposition was applied by Kant in a letter that he wrote to the governor of Mexico. The Spanish Crown was encouraging a policy of interbreeding and had ordered the Mexican governor to comply. The governor had, however, opposed the order, and Kant wrote this in congratulations:
“[Of the idea that] nature would develop new and better races of produce them through the commingling of two races there is little ground for hope in as much as nature has long since exhausted the forms appropriate to soil and climate, whilst cross-breeding (for example of the American with the European or of these with the Negro) has debased the good without raising proportionately the level of the worse — hence the governor of Mexico wisely rejected the order of the Spanish Court to encourage interbreeding.”
Kant’s account of race also includes the assumption that human perfection can be achieved only by the white race and that the others will become extinct. For details, see Wulf D. Hund’s “‘It must come from Europe’ The Racisms of Immanuel Kant,” which begins and ends with this disturbing quotation from Kant:
“All races will become exterminated …, except for the whites.”
(All of which — combined with Kant’s views on women, Jews, war, education (here and here), and reason — raises the question: Should Kant really be categorized as an Enlightenment liberal?)
 Cassirer quoted here.
 Mühlmann, quoted in Léon Poliakov, The Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalist Ideas in Europe (Meridien, 1977), p. 171. A more recent edition.
 Kant, in Poliakov, p. 171.
 Kant, in Poliakov, p. 172.
 Kant, quoted in John Greene, “Some Early Speculations on the Origin of Human Races,” American Anthropologist (1954), 56:31-41, p. 6. Greene gives the source as Kant’s 1785 Bestimmung des Begriffs einer Menschenrace, Gesammelte Schriften (Berlin, 1912), 8: 89-107.
 Kant, in Poliakov, p. 172.
 Kant, in Poliakov, p. 353.
 Wulf D. Hund, “‘It must come from Europe’ The Racisms of Immanuel Kant,” 2011, p. 91.
Posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago at 8:11 am. 7 comments
Professor Kant taught an anthropology course yearly from the early 1770s until his retirement in 1796. The lectures were published in 1798, six years before his death in 1804.
One nugget from his views on the differences between men and women:
“It is easy to analyse man; but woman betrays her secrets even though she is unable to keep those of others (owing to her love of gossip). Man is fond of domestic peace and submits easily to its governance so as to be unmolested in his business. Woman has no dislike for domestic war for which she is armed with her tongue …”
(Kant remained a bachelor his whole life — which follows as a maxim of practical reason.)
I wonder, though, if Kant isn’t implicitly praising women, given his explicit remarks elsewhere on the goodness of war.
In his “Idea for a Universal History with Cosmopolitan Intent” (1784), Kant argues that nature has a plan to improve the species. One of the methods nature uses is war — even though as individuals we prefer to live peacefully. In his own words:
“Man wills concord; but nature better knows what is good for the species: she wills discord.”
And here is Professor Kant again, on why war is necessary to improve the species:
“At the stage of culture at which the human race still stands, war is an indispensable means for bringing it to a still higher stage.”
So, in the Kantian universe, perhaps the woman’s way of war is in better keeping with nature’s plan?
 Immanuel Kant, Anthropology from the Pragmatic Point of View (1798). A recent edition. Interestingly, Foucault published a translation of the Anthropology, reviewed here.
 Quoted in Léon Poliakov’s The Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalist Ideas in Europe (Meridien, 1977), p. 171. A more recent edition.
 Kant, “Idea for a Universal History with Cosmopolitan Intent” (1784), 32/21. In Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, translated by Ted Humphrey (Hackett, 1983).
 Kant, “Speculative Beginning of Human History” (1786), 58/121, emphasis added. Also in the Humphrey edition.
Quotations from Kant and other German thinkers on the Jews.
Mussolini and Kant on war and the sacrifice of individuals.
More posts and publications on Kant at my Intellectual History page.
Posted 2 months ago at 8:11 am. Add a comment
Stoic Week 2013 is from November 25 to December 2. (Yes, that span includes the American Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Hedonism Day, but who says the scheduling gods are perfect.)
I occasionally teach Epictetus (55-135 CE) or Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) in my courses. So to help you prepare for next week, here are some sample quotations:
Epictetus on philosophy: “If you have an earnest desire toward philosophy, prepare yourself from the very first to have the multitude laugh and sneer.” (Enchiridion, XXII)
On what can be controlled: “There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.” (I)
On controlling one’s mind: “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things.” (V) Also: “As in walking you take care not to tread upon a nail, or turn your foot, so likewise take care not to hurt the ruling faculty of your mind.” (XXXVIII)
Including one’s thoughts on mortality: “If you wish your children and your wife and your friends to live forever, you are foolish, for you wish things to be in your power which are not so, and what belongs to others to be your own. So likewise, if you wish your servant to be without fault, you are foolish, for you wish vice not to be vice but something else.” (XIV)
On worrying about the opinions of others: “If a person had delivered up your body to some passer-by, you would certainly be angry. And do you feel no shame in delivering up your own mind to any reviler, to be disconcerted and confounded?” (XXVIII)
Marcus Aurelius on Man:
* “A little flesh, a little breath, and a Reason to rule all — that is myself.” (Meditations, 2,2)
* “In the life of man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful.” (2,17)
* “‘A poor soul burdened with a corpse,’ Epictetus calls you.” (4,41)
* “How small a fraction of all the measureless infinity of time is allotted to each one of us; an instant, and it vanishes into eternity. How puny, too, is your portion of the world’s substance; how puny too, is your portion of all the world’s substance; how insignificant your share of all the world’s soul; on how minute a speck of the whole earth do you creep. As you ponder these things, make up your mind that nothing is of any import save to do what your own nature directs, and to bear what the world’s Nature sends you.” (12,32)
Aurelius on self-mastery: “No one can stop you living according to the laws of your own personal nature, and nothing can happen to you against the laws of the World-Nature.” (6,58)
And on predestination: “Whatever may happen to you was prepared for you in advance from the beginning of time.” (10,5)
One more from Epictetus, quoting Cleanthes on our acceptance or not of destiny:
“Conduct me, Zeus, and thou, O Destiny,
Wherever your decrees have fixed my lot.
I follow cheerfully; and, did I not,
Wicked and wretched, I must follow still.”
Both Enchiridion and Meditations are well worth reading.
(My reading of Dominique Francon in The Fountainhead is that she’s a Stoic in her value philosophy; that is, she is trying to achieve apathia in a morally valueless world. Another compelling Stoic in contemporary literature is Conrad Hensley in Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full.)
Posted 3 months, 3 weeks ago at 7:24 am. 1 comment