Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Is, too...

Kant, mustn't, won't.

I (have already mentioned this) am in college again, or near it, or something. How do you describe an experience that feels just like work, without the attendant lectures, seminars, hot angry discussions, etc? No cheerleaders either. So last week it was Aristotle and Nichomachean ethics. This week it's Immanuel Kant and a Grounding for a Metaphysics of Morals.


Normally, once our professor begins the week with a reading assignment (usually some contemporary or near-contemporary news story), even if they haven't done the reading yet, everyone weighs in with both feet in the discussion forums, yakking about The Golden Mean, or whether gambling can be considered an ethical act by Aristotle's standards, etc.

This week - zilch. No one is saying nothin'. I can understand why. We've been given a simple text by Immanuel Kant (who uses one very long word where eight short ones would do - apologies to Len Deighton) and an article about a European Union MP who wants to ban dwarf-tossing. But mostly it's about a particular dwarf and the pub owner who gets him tossed every night of the week. But the reading... Jeebus... from what I can tell, Kant was a rather dull fellow (you could set your clock by his daily walks) and a major effing egotist to boot. From what I'm reading, it's like he's thought this stuff up and has to write it down, and then proclaims himself an authority on this particular thing because he has arrived at these conclusions by using Pure Reason. And as I'm reading it, I keep thinking:

Spock Spock Spock
Not that Kant is wrong in his conclusions (who the hell am I to say that anyway, I've barely read the one little volume?), but damn. Lighten the f**k up a little! I can't tell if he thinks that art in and of itself is a good thing (as it is not derived from pure reason). He does mention that now that many types of labor (including the arts) have been divided between various skilled craftsmen that excellence is a more likely result than when one person tries to do everything, and bungles the job. I guess he's never worked on a government project...
The one thing that struck me that I thought interesting was the idea of Universal Law. Basically, don't do anything unless you think it would be a good idea if everyone did it. Do not make it a law for yourself, unless you think everyone should obey that law. It's not the Golden Rule deal "do unto others..." etc. It's more like, if everyone did it, would that be a good thing for everyone (including you)?

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