[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] The Frail Chain

David, I will surely have to defer to your superior knowledge in respect to the history of culture. My knowledge here is really restricted to German Philosophy. Yes of course, Kant was responding to Descartes, and Hegel to Kant. It was Kant who was the author of "What is Enlightenment?"  (1784)
It has been remarked that in writing this essay, in being able to step back and look at his own time as a point in history, Kant took himself out of the Enlightenment and prefigured Classicism. The essay is the last work of the Enlightenment and the first of Classicism. Indeed, any current of thinking is, as I see it, more defined by what it speaks against than by what it promotes. This is true of German Romantic Philosophy and Classical Philosophy. Both movements were obsessed with overcoming the aporias of Kant's philosophy. Kant remains one of the most authoritative philosophers to this very day. So most certainly he was not dethroned by the Romantic reaction or the Classical Movement which followed in a very short space of time. (I am talking only German philosophy here, David). One has only to read Hegel and Herder to see what exact criticisms they made of Kant.


kellogg wrote:



I realize that what you said was that people like me who reject the label "romantic science" and maintain the strong link between Vygotsky and Spinoza are those who wish to cling to elements of Kant, and that these elements are essential enlightenment universals (e.g. a belief, which I certainly do hold, in development).  It seems to me that this casts Kant as an essentially enlightenment figure. That is odd because I have always read him as an arch-romantic, for three reasons.


First of all, Kant was the real source of the idea that individual minds were logically prior to socialized ones. As you say, this involved fragmenting the mind into faculties, and Vygotsky's genetic law, tying the unity of psychic functions to real relations between actual people, is an attempt to undo this. But to me that makes the genetic law anti-romantic rather than romantic.


Secondly, Kant is really responding, not to Hegel, but to Descartes, as well as to the Anglo-Scottish empiricists (Berkeley, Hume). Cartesianism assumes there is some kind of physical link between body and soul (in the pineal gland, or in the "humors" of the nerves) which makes the unmediated action of reason on matter possible. Kant completely severs that link, in a way that seems to me anti-enlightenment (rather than anti-scholastic).The empiricists insist on a link between matter and consciousness (albeit rather the reverse of what Cartesians assume). They are skeptical about the idea of an independent consciousness, and Kant insists upon sovereign reason in a way that makes the romantic cult of individual inspiration not only possible but intellectually necessary. 


Thirdly, I guess I think the ultimate criterion for looking at the history of ideas is history, and not ideas, and historically we really have to place Kant among the romantics. Brown, for example, locates Kantianism even in the MUSIC of the time--the emphasis on establishing a sovereign consciousness quite independent of music as a social event that we find in nineteenth century symphonies rather than eighteenth century minuets.  But there is clearly no direct connection here; we don't think that Schumann read Kant and then composed. So what Kant is doing, in the late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth, as the world roils in the aftermath to the French Revolution, is articulating a kind of general Zeitgeist which is the same one which produced the Wagnerian belief in pre-existing "tones" at the foundations of the world--it's basically an intellectualistic and individualistic reaction to the death of revolutionary hope for social revolution across Europe.


Mutatis mutandis, the same thing happened in Russia, but it didn't happen uniformly. Reaction, as well as revolution, is always uneven and combined in its effects. So we can still clearly  hear the notes of  higher modernism of the Russian Revolution in Shostakovich's work (The Leningrad Symphony) but they are muted in Prokofiev (War and Peace).  Similarly, I think the "revolutionary" turning inward did happen to Luria's psychology--for understandable reasons, he had to retreat from cultural historical psychology to a brilliant career in neurology. I thnk it also happened to Leontiev: the intellectualism and the objectivism of his concept of activity, which you yourself have pointed out, is as much a response to the Moscow Trials as Merleau-Ponty's "Humanism and Terrorism" was.


But it never happened to Vygotsky. I think, had he survived and had we been able to read his later work, Vygotsky would have sounded to our ears more like Shostakovich than like Prokofiev.


David Kellogg

Hankuk University of Foreign Studies



*Andy Blunden*
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts
xmca mailing list