In this article Objectivist scholar Fred Seddon wishes to deal with the Randian critique of Kant. In one section in particular he concerns himself with infamous "make room for faith" quote found in the Critique of Pure Reason at page Bxxx. This quote is by far most often quoted by Objectivists, Randroids, as well as their libertarian cousins and cousines. It must seem to them both glib and damning at the same time - it seems the normally obscure Kant had an off-moment of sparkling clarity to take advantage of.
It is also a great excuse for out-of-context quoting, followed by the usual building up from this one E-vil little seed (or grain of sand) to the entire Kant universe. This is characteristic of the Randian way of thinking, which is (to quote from a Barbara Branden post on another forum) her ability "to see the universe in a grain of sand."
That's a wonderful and envious ability. However, what happens when you have misidentified the grain of sand? Then the entire universe that results rests on a false premise. So in dealing with this Objectivist issue it is only necessary to deal with that grain. And that is what Fred Seddon has done, or tried to do.
And so in analyzing the Kant quote "I have found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith," Seddon rightly follows the Aristotelian path of considering the context of the quote. And this he sets out to accomplish in dazzling detail. Seddon analyzes the phrases leading up to the quote, he analyzes various translations from the original German, he dissects key terms. He even delves into a little Kant theory which comes remarkably close to making the point that he should have set out to make in the beginning of this section. But he never quite gets around to making the key point that will dissolve the entire Randian critique in "the cheap acid of mere logical acumen."
And that point is this: Kant denied knowledge - of topics common to speculative metaphysics up until Kant's day. Those topics concerned the nature of God, of the simple soul, and other topics of "rational psychology" and theology.
Kant has limited reason's scope - but he has limited its scope to the material or empirical realm, while denying it access to the spiritual realm. In this, Kant has literally saved reason from itself, that is, from its inherent or innate tendency to "fly to the sun on wings of wax," that is, to attempt to comprehend the realm of spirit and always fail miserably.
And so it is as Kant wrote on the very next page of the Preface to the B edition, "It is therefore the first and most important task of philosophy to deprive metaphysics, once and for all, of its injurious influence, by attacking its errors at their very source."
But Kant also wants to make room for faith,
"...there is the inestimable benefit, that all objections to morality and
religion will be for ever silenced, and this in Socratic fashion, namely,
by the clearest proof of the ignorance of the objectors."
Thus in one stroke Kant has quelled both the dogmatists - the speculative metaphysicians of his era - and the empiricists who seek through the failures of the metaphysicians the destruction of morality and religion. In this, Kant has not destroyed reason, he has saved it from being torn apart in an endless quarrel between opponents who are both laying claim to "reason" while having no Critical ground to stand upon.
I'd like to go into detail as to how closely Seddon came in my estimation to creating a devastating critique.
I did enjoy this part of the Seddon article,
"God here serves for Kant the same function that the equator has for geography. The equator does not have objective reality, but it does have objective validity. That is, with its use as a regulative rather than constitutive concept, we are able to organize and integrate our knowledge of the earth. But we know that the equator is not a possible object of perception."
I myself couldn't think of a better way of putting the issue which is why I respect Seddon as a top-rate thinker.
However, in the same article he later claims that the Kant word "faith," originally "glauben," should best be translated "thought." Seddon writes:
“I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.” Or “I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for thought.”
I think this is where Seddon missed his opportunity to give the Randian anti-Kant critique a really good spanking, so caught up as he was on translating and interpreting the fairly non-controversial word glauben.
But I cut him some slack, because Seddon does write,
"In order to save morality, Kant critiques pure reason but his conclusions cut both at the rationalist and the skeptic. Since we cannot know the thing in itself, neither the rationalist nor the skeptic can make positive, constitutive claims. The rationalist is denied knowledge of freedom, God and the immortality of the soul. But so is the skeptic denied knowledge that there is no freedom, no God, no soul. Both are denied knowledge of the thing in itself."
As I said in the beginning, that's close to being an appropriate counter-thesis to bring against the Randites. But it doesn't quite cut to the quick. If only he had said something like:
'Thus in one stroke Kant has quelled both the dogmatists - the speculative metaphysicians of his era - and the empiricists who seek through the failures of the metaphysicians the destruction of morality and religion. In this, Kant has not destroyed reason, he has saved it from being torn apart in an endless quarrel between opponents who are both laying claim to "reason" while having no Critical ground to stand upon.'
This conclusion brings to the fore some history the Randites would like to evade - the fact that there were two sides of a great debate ranging over the centuries in which both sides lay claim to a superior form of reasoning. And that the Enlightenment era debate did not primarily concern reason vs. faith, but two very different expressions of reason commonly known as "rationalism" and "empiricism." (Epistemologically speaking, they are "dogmatism" and "skepticism," respectively.) They do share this in common, however: they both lack a critique of pure reason.