Sunday, September 17, 2023

Back to Objectivism Criticism: in Response to "Kant at the Masked Ball" Paper by Stephen R. C. Hicks

This blog post is in response to the text at

I am resposting this response from my Twitter account.

Thomas William Dowling @thomaswdowling tweeted: "Stephen Hicks thinks that the founder of the counter-Enlightenment was... Immanuel Kant. Don't waste your time or money."

In response to which I tweeted the following:

@thomaswdowling is correct in his criticism.

However, that doesn't mean you'd be wasting your money. It's necessary to learn from the errors of others in order to avoid making their mistakes.

According to Hicks, 'Moses Mendelssohn, Kant’s contemporary, identifies him as “the all-destroyer,” fearful that Kantian philosophy cuts off all access to true reality.'

I tweeted that Kant successfully argued that mankind never had access to "true reality" (noumena) to begin with.

Moses Mendelssohn, on the other hand, needed to prove that such access exists. If he never managed it, this fact doesn't prove Kant was right. It only means that Moses needed to provide more than rhetoric to the discussion.

However, Kant's philosophy does not necessarily rule out the existence of noumenal entities such as God or the soul. Kant simply argued that we cannot know these things through reason alone. He believed that faith is necessary to believe in these things. Kant limited reason to make room for faith.

A major problem with Mendelssohn's view is that it provides for only one understanding and truth about God. This view leads to intolerance and conflict between different religious groups. Kant's view, on the other hand, allows for speculation, thus tolerance versus division.

M's view that objective determinations about God can be made opposes Kant's view that such determinations are subjective, indeterminate (or, as he would say, they involve judgments of reflection). M's view thus denigrates moral autonomy. Because if there is only one absolute objective judgment to be made about God, then we are not free to live our lives in accordance to conscience or the autonomous will, but only in accordance to the decrees of an omniscient, omnipotent God's will.

M's view thus leads to religious statism. God Himself isn't able to stifle moral autonomy, so it is left up to an Earthly authority to take care of the matter in God's place. Freedom of religion is lost; freedom of speech is lost, freedom of the press is lost.

The progress made by the Enlightenment is lost.

I'm not saying that Mendelssohn advocated for religious statism. He was a strong believer in religious tolerance and freedom of conscience. However, his views could lead to religious statism if taken to their logical conclusion.

K, on the other hand, by delimiting reason while making room for faith, personal conscience, and moral autonomy, was intellectually consistent in his advocacy of religious freedom and tolerance. M was not. While he may have advocated for those things, his philosophy failed to provide support for them. Rather, we are left with a religious state such as found in medieval Europe, or the Middle East.

Kant's other detractors listed at rp_431_2.pdf simply failed to understand him. Or they lied. It's hard to say.

Not to single out Ayn Rand (actually, I am, but for a good reason), it is thought that she never read Kant at all, but merely followed along with his detractors, especially, Nietzsche, of whom she was a major fan during her college years.

Errors found so far in the text at rp_431_2.pdf. Kant did not argue that space and time are not objective. He argued that they are objective in the sense that they are the forms of our intuition and the conditions of the possibility of experience. However, he also argued that we cannot know anything about space and time as they are in themselves, independent of our intuition.

Kant did not argue that causality is a subjective creation of our minds. He argued that causality is a real principle of the world, but that we can only know about it as it applies to objects of experience. We cannot know whether or not causality applies to things in themselves.

Kant did not conclude that we cannot know anything about the objective world. He argued that we cannot know anything about the objective world as it is in itself, but that we can know about the objective world as it appears to us.


Ron Elam

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