Rebirth of Reason


by Fred Seddon

When Roger Bissell writes a JARS review, he writes a review. 46 pages (160-204) of review on Peikoff’s DIM HYPOTHESIS book, to be exact. Longer than any article contained in the rest of the December, 2013 edition of JARS.
Since I’m not going to cover everything Bissell discusses, in this post I will focus on, your buddy and mine, Immanuel Kant. Bissell has written the most pro-Kant piece of any Objectivist I know with the exception of yours truly. I was pleased to find myself quoted twice and approvingly, and two of my works, including my book on Rand, in the References.
What does Bissell say in defense of Kant? In a section of the essay entitled, “Kant We Just Be Friends,” he suggests that if Peikoff was looking for a great philosopher who is also a D2 mode thinker, he would have done better to choose David Hume rather than Kant. In fact, he sees Kant as trying to defend reason and science in particular and the Enlightenment in general against the skepticism of Hume. (I disagree with Bissell’s reading of Hume and those interested may check out the Hume chapter in my Rand book.) Among other things, Kant fought to “secure the foundations of science and mathematics in the light of Hume’s skeptical denial of the power of reason to attain theoretical knowledge of the world. . .” (180)
In the next section, he quotes W. T. Jones, (whose HISTORY OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY was sold by the Nathaniel Branden Institute in the mid 60s when I first got into Objectivism), “Among Hume’s contemporaries Kant was almost alone in recognizing the destructive forces of this attack on reason . . . Kant was deeply committed to Enlightenment ideals.” (183) And Bissell closes the section by claiming that, “we have been subjected to over fifty years of trumped-up charges against Kant, some of which conflict with one another, some of which are context-dropping distortions, and many of which are simply not correct.” (187)
The next and final section on Kant bears the title, “The DIM Hyperbole: Peikoff’s Tortured Indictment of Kant.” His first argument is designed to show that Kant is not a D mode type thinker. If Kant were anti-integration (and truth be told, Kant is an integrator on steroids!!) one would expect him to be a “concrete bound mentality.” And a simple modus tollens shows Kant is definitely not an anti-integrator. He then points out that Rand’s description of a concrete bound mentality seems much more descriptive of Hume. And Peikoff admits as much when he writes, “The best example [of a philosopher giving up abstractions and focusing on concrete-bound points] would be David Hume.” (UO 240)
He then proceeds to quote passages from Kant, Rand and Peikoff to show how they agree with each other. Then on 195 he writes, “Rand once said that ‘on every fundamental issue, Kant’s philosophy is the exact opposite of Objectivism. . .This is not true. As Seddon has demonstrated, . . . one fundamental issue on which Kant and Rand agree is the fact that consciousness has identity; and there are others.” Amen.
He concludes, “. . . the unremitting Kant-bashing in DIM is my greatest (though not my only) concern.” (196) “DIM is a pathbreaking thesis of historical importance, but its current version needs considerable revision, particularly in the logical structure [I will address logical issue in a future post] of its theoretical model and in the identification of major philosophical figures in terms of that model.” (197)
I would hope that responders to this post have not only read DIM but also Bissell, and maybe even me. But alas, they may be too much to hope for. To be continued.
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