Roots of German Philosophy, Part Three: Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
September 22, 2008
Immanuel Kant was a typical philosopher who wrote long, boring books and never had sex in his entire life. He also never traveled more than a hundred miles from his home town of Konigsberg. So it’s remarkable that he became a lecturer in anthropology at his local university and talked about primitive tribes like the Iks, Onges, Dusuns, Jarawas, Shompens, Juangs, Kormas, Kamars, Blungas, Gunkas, and other assorted grotty sub-humans that he never saw for himself but which are crawling all over my neighbourhood now, and if I so much as express an opinion about them, I’m a racist, not an anthropologist. But at least I’ve had sex, so I guess it’s a break-even. Kant’s friends (the few that he had) would throw pebbles at his window and call out to him, “Hey, Manny, come on out with us for a brewski and we’ll pick up some babes!” But Kant would say no, because he had to stay in and write his Critique of Pure Reason. In this book, which is about 800 pages long (and no pictures), he took a position between empiricism and rationalism, neither of which anybody uses anyway, and he explained that we organize sense data by using time, causality, and spatial relationships. For instance, let’s say I’m in the park, and there are all these pigeons. Are they a cause or an effect? Well, they’re both. The pigeons are there because idiots keep feeding them, so they’re an effect; but they’re the cause of all the pigeon shit. As for time and spatial relationships, if you walk up behind a pigeon very slowly, he thinks you’re going to go around him, and if you get close enough and time it right, you can kick his ass and send him flying! Understand? Good. I just saved you 800 pages of reading. The Konigsberg Times called Critique of Pure Reason “a ponderous, painful read…an absolute headache.” And this is the sort of thing you had to read in college in the 60’s if you were in liberal arts. And when you got your diploma, it was your reward for enduring four years of mental torture. Reading long, boring books is bad for your mental health. It makes you want to scream and break things. The only way to read something like Critique of Pure Reason is to read two or three pages a day for a year. Then you can say proudly that you’ve read it cover to cover, although I can guarantee you that you won’t remember any of it — like most philosophy. Kant also said that we should act by categorical imperative, which means that we should regard our actions as if they were universal laws. This is exactly what I do, but nobody agrees with me. The French Revolution probably started when the French read Kant and decided that overthrowing the aristocracy and cutting off their heads was a categorical imperative. This hypothesis has been overlooked by every historian in the world. One book Kant wrote that was only slightly boring was his General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens, in which he said the solar system condensed out of a big nebula. This is at least somewhat accurate and pretty good for a guy who just sat in his room. His barber later claimed that it was his idea and that Kant got it from him while getting a haircut, and the barber tried to sue him for half the royalties, but nothing ever came of it apparently. (This is a typical barber scam, and everyone knows it.) The Russians have adopted Kant as a Russian philosopher because Konigsberg is now Kaliningrad, and they renamed their university the Immanuel Kant State University. Of course, the Russians never had a philosopher of their own, and Stalin murdered anyone who even looked like a philosopher. But at least they put up a good statue of Kant at the university, and they keep it clean, too (no pigeon shit!).
1. Prussian Thunder — Kant and the Enlightenment, by Thelma Schraubenzieher, 1999, Death Valley Junior College Press.
2. Robots From the Crab Nebula, by Josef Tyubelyakh, 1964, Zip Paperbacks.
3. Titans of Transcendentalism, by Adrian Lyme-Schnauzer, 1970, Turnip Books.
Copyright@ 2008, by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada. E-mail: email@example.com