Kant and the Turn to Romanticism (from Kritike)

Here‘s an interesting essay on Kant and Romantics by Vinod Lakshmipathy – the opening sections give a decent review of Kant’s “problem” (how do rules of understanding apply to intuitions) and could be helpful for anyone interested in the post-Kantian developments:

The ontological specialty of human beings is that there is in “man a power of self-determination, independently of any coercion through sensuous impulses.” Human reason creates for itself the idea of spontaneity, which corresponds to the power of beginning a state spontaneously.8 This power of reason accounts for human freedom—the freedom to transcend the domain of the phenomenal, as it were. However, once a state is begun spontaneously, the consequent chain of actions is subject to the mechanical laws of the natural world of phenomena. That is, an effect “notwithstanding its being thus determined in accordance with nature, [may at the same time] be grounded in freedom.” Hence the peculiarity of human beings is that they are able to “bridge” the two realms— noumena and phenomena. But Kant is unclear about how exactly this interaction is possible. There is an irreducible dualism.

I like the phrase “ontological specialty” here – if objectology is correct and there’s no real ontological difference between humans and objects, then at the very least, one can emphasize some relations once in a while as a kind of menu specialty. “Today’s ontological specialty is the relationship between shoes and shoelaces with a side of cotton-on-fire action.”


Metaphysical Police.

A nice fragment from Kant, no time for real commentary, just came across it again this morning, thought I’d share (this is before the first critique, of course):

5112. 1776–78. M IL.

The mathematician, the beautiful spirit, the natural philosopher: what are they doing when they make arrogant jokes about metaphysics[?] In them lies the voice that always calls them to make an attempt in the field of metaphysics. As human beings who do not seek their final end in the satisfaction of the aims of this life, they cannot do otherwise than
ask: why am I here, why is it all here[?] The astronomer is even more challenged by these questions. He cannot dispense with searching for something that would satisfy him in this regard. With the first judgment that he makes about this he is in the territory of metaphysics.

Now will he here give himself over entirely, without any guidance, to the convictions that may grow upon him, although he has no map of the field through which he is to stride[?] In this darkness the critique of reason lights a torch, although it does not illuminate the regions unknown to us beyond the sensible world, but the dark space of our own understanding.

Metaphysics is as it were the police force of our reason with regard to the public security of morals and religion. [18:93]

Expectation Heightened, Suddenly Disappears Into Nothing: A Joke.

Justin E. H. Smith has a new post on “gelastics” – “a neologism coined by Mary Beard from the Greek ‘gelan’: ‘to laugh’” – my favorite section is on Kant:

Kant is generally held to have offered the most disappointing account of music in the history of philosophy, one that cordons it off to the margins of human society and human experience, while failing to charge it with that mysterian force that Plato gave it in arguing that it is something too powerful to be allowed to be permitted, unregulated, into the Republic. Certainly, the feature of Kant’s philosophy of music that disappoints the most is that, while for us music is supposed to be serious, for him it is of a pair with jokes. But those who are gravely serious about music should bear in mind that, even if he ranked the figurative arts higher than the aural, he does not seem to have known much, or cared much, about either. Kant was likely the greatest thinker ever to tackle the philosophy of art in the absence of any critical sensibility whatsoever for the object of his theorising.

His sense of humour was equally underdeveloped, as we’ll see. Yet, I want to argue, it is Kant who has given the strongest theoretical account ever offered of the structure and nature of jokes.  Kant is the most prominent representative of what has come to be known as the “incongruity theory of humour,” according to which instances of humour are generated out of the temporal experience of a mixing of incongruous conceptual categories, a mixing that, as he elegantly puts it, gives rise to “the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing [die plötzliche Verwandlung einer gespannten Erwartung in nichts].” Kant explains: “[W]e laugh, and it gives us a hearty pleasure: not because we find ourselves cleverer than this ignorant person, or because of any other pleasing thing that the understanding allows us to note here, but because our expectation was heightened and suddenly disappeared into nothing.”