Back to Kant: Jon Cogburn Edition


Jon is reacquainting himself with Kant and posting his notes online. I have to say that such monumental undertakings are awe-inspiring as I rarely attempt any such feats (knowing that I will give up early on). I’m hoping to follow Jon’s progress if only to do some reading (I admit that I haven’t read the whole of first critique in one sequence probably since I did it for the first time long time ago, it’s always been sections here and there since then).

The wisdom is collected here. I must add that Jon’s familiarity with the analytic tradition makes for a great read even if you have read Kant for many years (or do so on the regular basis, like reading the Bible).

9 thoughts on “Back to Kant: Jon Cogburn Edition

      • Fantastic! I hadn’t known that. My German right now is crap so this is a huge thing for me.

        You really have to hand it to Kant for being so positive about an unknown foreigner’s criticism. In Maimon’s autobiography it’s incredibly moving when he relates what it was like to get a public letter from Kant praising this book.

        I think that the stereotypical picture of Kant’s personality is wrong in almost every respect. He was neurotic to be sure (I forget where he gives the example of church choirs practicing and irritating philosophers as an example of violating the categorical imperative), but then so is Woody Allen. And from reports of what he was like at a party or in a bar (supposedly you could locate him by wherever people were laughing) and from the places where he is genuinely funny in his texts, it’s clear he was much more like Allen and not really at all like the stereotype encouraged by Nietzsche’s risible/offensive (though of course it was the 19th century so give him a break) “Chinaman of Koeningsburg” quip.

        But mostly the letter to Maimon amazes me. Kant really did rise above the idiocy of his (and our) age (as well as the kind of personal vanity he opposes in his philosophy) far more than anyone could reasonably expect. [I’ve been reading Faye’s book on Heidegger, which just becomes unbearably depressing when you read what H did and what he taught during and around his rectorship. . . so, in contrast, it means a lot to be able to love both the philosopher and the philosophy.]

      • If I remember correctly (must be from Manfred Kuehn’s book), Kant had a blast when Russians took over Konigsberg – not just the drinking (there’s one story that he almost got lost on the way home from a bar – who hasn’t been there?), but also teaching them philosophy (say something about education back there: “Hey, fellows, how about some beer and philosophy?”). I don’t know if Kant was more neurotic than your usual person – let’s face it, irritating philosophers are an abomination!

      • Oops, what I wrote was ambiguous. “Irritating” is supposed to be a verb there, not an adjective.

        But I think I anyone would get pretty irritated trying to craft a Dialectic when the yahoos down the street are going through “A Might Fortress is Our God” for the three hundredth time.

      • But yes I agree membership in the class of “irritating philosophers” involves violation of the the categorical imperative. On the other hand the activity of “irritating philosophers” may or may not. But church choirs doing so certainly does.

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