an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Pub philosopher is shot in row over Kant

A pair of Russians got into a beery discussion of the Critique of Pure Reason. One wound up with a bullet in the head. Happens.

Immanuel Kant - portrait


An English observer, Martin Shovel (@MartinShovel), thinks it may have gone something like this:

martin shovel

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Pure reason not quite enough this time.

  2. ScottieRoche says:

    I Kant with this.

  3. R. James Tobin says:

    In how many other pubs would philosophy arouse such intellectual passions>

  4. I do hope the victim lives. Is an air gun worse than a BB, or not as dangerous?

    This reminds me of the cap-pistol argument between Niels Bohr and another physicist (determining which other physicist it was is part of history and of the story of Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen). There were no casualties on that occasion, though I note that the very fact that Frayn’s Bohr (perhaps in contradistinction to the real Bohr) did not know which other physicist it was, is a provocative question of the same sort that appears in the two-slit experiment, which was the nature of the cap-pistol argument.

    Evidently, in some nearby universe where the two-slit experiment is being performed, there is within it a universe where the two-slit experiment is being performed…

    I will enter the Russians’ argument by saying the CPR is a reinvention of the Zodiac. That’s the real meaning of the twelve categories, arranged in four quadrants; Kant felt he was improving on the ancient teachings, but could not say so with religious authorities ready to “off” people at any moment. The background for this aspect of the CPR is Kant’s 1755 Treatise Universal of Natural History and Theory of the Heavens; there, he lays out his theory of where intelligence comes from: from the Sun and the stars. There is an excellent discussion of that book in Michael J. Crowe’s book, The Extraterrestrial Life Debate. I have begun an essay about Kant’s “Theory of Instauration” (which is what his frontispiece quotation from Bacon is about), but out of humility will leave interested parties to search for it at my site.

  5. “I will enter the Russians’ argument by saying the CPR is a reinvention of the Zodiac”

    Sheeze. No wonder someone got shot. Lucky you are out of range 8-)

    BTW: Theory of Insaturation ? I’ve read almost all his works and never saw that one. Also, Kant hated enthusiasts.

    • Instauration, it’s an antique word, you’re doing that on purpose, right? Please don’t make my reading more atypical than it already is… And you can’t wither me with the feeble scorn of the word “enthusiast,” I am reading the meaning he could not include because of persecution from the Prussian religious authorities. To begin with, before I came forward with my proposal, no one else in history seems ever to have had an explanation for the frontispiece that relates it directly to the content of the book. (If they did, someone please tell me about it, and of course I will never say that again.) The Critique of Pure Reason is a treatise on the science of instauration. The frontispiece is not a vague indicator of notions having romantically to do with the book. It is exactly on target of the purposes of the book.

      The words on Kant’s tomb are what he meant quite literally: “Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.” He meant for a genuine, physical, scientifically (if only it would be allowed – if not, philosophically) describable connection to be understood between these. He believed that we are linked to the stars. That’s what an instauration is. A making-to-be-one-with-the-stars. A “plumb line” between the heart and the stars… if you like. You dig, Doug? But this sort of Masonic metaphor is not “mere mysticism.” It is real. Kant was working, conceptually at least, with the same technology the ancients worked with when they worked with what we now study as archaeoastronomy.

      Kant was correct to believe he was working on an upgrade of Newton. But he was working in a place that would not permit him to speak.

      Kants Critiques are not written in German, they are written in Algebra. You have to read it on two sides of the equation at the same time: the literal words, and the meaning of the words. If you insist on being a fundamentalist, and trying to pry the meaning from the literal meanings, you will never, ever get it. That’s a lesson to fundamentalists. The “Transcendental” part is the part in the sky. The “transcendental deduction” is that one moment when you “get it.” You deduce that the deduction is about the sky. “Where is the transcendental, hm, let me look around and see where it is.” Then you realize what he’s talking about, and then, if you are under threat of enforcement of orthodoxy, you proceed forward in silence. But this silence is different than Wittgenstein’s. Wittgenstein, a bad guy, was trying to shut people up. Kant, a good guy, wanted them to know and say as much as possible. (It’s all right with me if you use my technical terms, “good guy,” and “bad guy.” I don’t feel proprietary about them.)

      But if you resist this meaning, and actively denigrate it, you are an enforcer of the Prussian religious view. The world is full of such enforcers, enforcing orthodoxies beyond their watch. People who would remove a parked car with a nuclear warhead if they could.

      We know that books by Bruno and other Hermetic writers passed through the bookstore downstairs next to the coffee shop in the building Kant lived in before he bought his house, that he moved into on Wagner’s birthday. I say there is a good chance he was reading Hermeticists there and also in that cold, infrequently visited library he worked in, too. And now we know that Hegel read hermeticists also; whether Kant would have liked Hegel or not, I say they were moving in the same intellectual extended circles, and that hermeticism was much more widely read than has been yet documented. And again, I say that Kant’s 1755 book was hermetic. Kant remained faithful to that view, he just began writing in such a way that if you didn’t know what he was talking about, you never would know. The religious authorities were correct to suspect him of unorthodoxy, but the king was correct to let him go with a one-time – and basically private – talking-to. Ultimately what mattered was what the king would allow. (Frederick probably would have loved it, and the 1755 book was written on his watch.) But a little documentation is enough to go on, if the material sustains the view, and I say it does.

an ArtsJournal blog