Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Today in Kant studies

A police spokeswoman in Rostov-on Don, Viktoria Safarova, said two men in their 20s were discussing [the philosopher Immanuel] Kant as they stood in line to buy beer at a small store on Sunday. The discussion deteriorated into a fistfight, and one participant pulled out the small, nonlethal pistol and fired repeatedly.
The victim was hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening. … It was not clear which of Kant's ideas may have triggered the violence.

Kant (1724-1804) is widely considered the most important philosopher of the European Enlightenment. The best-known element of his ethical theory is the categorical imperative: Act only according to principles that you can will to be universal laws. “Shoot people who disagree with you about Kant” pretty clearly fails that test.

People attack each other over Kant so rarely that it’s considered “weird news.” Imagine people coming to blows over a philosopher, we chuckle -- as if the decades of bloodshed over Marxism amounted to anything else. Not to mention the endless violence associated with religious disputes. It's strange that something so risible in one context seems so normal if you scale it up a bit. 

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