Friday, July 1, 2022

RE: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Beyond Kantian Misogyny and Racism: Oscillations Between Inner and Outer Space in Comparative Kantian Hermeneutics Part 1

Dear Colleagues,


Please excuse me, that I am joining the discussion so late. I have read through to some of your messages, but please forgive me should I repeat something which has already been said or should I have missed that the discussion has long moved on!


Dear Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju, you wrote: "The ironic truth is that Kant is one of the world's greatest universalist thinkers. As I explained to Freter, what I'm trying to point out is the significance of Kant's insights beyond the limitations of Kant's personal cultural horizons. Beyond the ridiculousness of those views on Black people,  women and perhaps other demographics, his explorations strike to the heart of the meaning of what it is to be human."


I do not think, it is ironic that Kant was a universalist thinker. In fact, I would argue, that he is indeed a universalist. However, he is not a universalist in the sense that he found what unites all human beings, but in the sense that anyone who can be considered a (relevant) human being has to have. His philosophy prescribes universality instead of describing it. 


Again, there is, esteemed Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju, an artistic beauty in your Kant lecture. And it would be quite anti-philosophical to deny that. However, your philosophical ideas are in very loose accordance with Kant. The questions for me are:

Why it is so important to attach your ideas with Kant?

Why is it so important to glorify Kant?

Why is it so important to defend the racist, antisemitic, misogynist etc. Kant? How is saving him relevant for your philosophy?


The "West", wrote Richard Wright, "has never really been honest with itself about how it overcame its own traditions and blinding customs." We need to find this out. If we ignore this task, we are working towards the continued existence of the violence of superiorism. We need to ask us: Have we taken, for instance, the elitism in Kant (or Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hegel, Nietzsche etc.) seriously? And most importantly:


Have we made sure that when we adopt ideas from their philosophies we are not – involuntarily – continuing to philosophize in an elitist, superiorist way?


It is about 150 to 200 years ago, that the modern Western idea of human rights was brought to intellectual reality. However, the reality of the idea of human rights is still awaiting its practical realization. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that (Western) philosophers are constantly being excused for their superiorist ideas?


One of the most prominent excuses, which I read here in this exchange as well, is that Kant needs to be excused because it would be unfair or anachronistic to ask him to adhere to modern standards?


First of all: The philosopher who was able to revolutionize a nearly 2000 years of epistemology could not be asked to not be contemptuous towards those who are not like him? Is this really too much for a philosopher of this caliber?


And, secondly, and more importantly: It is simply not anachronistic to ask this of Kant. Theodor von Hippel was one of the regular guests in his house. Perhaps the most important German advocate of the rights of female human beings! And what about the abolitionist movements? Just think of what the Quaker David Cooper wrote in 1783 about the Declaration of Independence in his "Serious Address to the Rulers of America, on the Inconsistency of Their Conduct Respecting Slavery":


"IF these solemn truths, uttered at such an awful crisis, are self-evident: unless we can shew that the African race are not men, words can hardly express the amazement which naturally arises on reflecting, that the very people who make these pompous declarations are slave-holders, and, by their legislative, tell us, that these blessings were only meant to be the rights of white men, not of all men."


Jefferson owned a copy of this text! It WAS possible to think in a non-white supremacist, non-misogynist way!


We need to stop excusing the Western canon. And, we need to stop condemning it in a non-productive way. There might lots to find! But we need to find out if it is possible, and if so, how to do this first!


It might be possible, to avoid the superiorism of our past, but, perhaps, it might not be possible.


Perhaps one of the reasons why racism, sexism, speciesism and so many forms of superiorism are still so widespread, because we are fighting them while we – unbeknownst to ourselves – defending them by continuing our superiorist past?

But there is more we need to be aware of: We need to understand that, again and again, we decided to become violent, be it physically, psychologically, or epistemologically. We need to understand, that we decided to do so, because we wanted to do so. This is, no doubt, a tragedy, but we are not necessitated to want this, we are not necessitated to do this.




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