Kant as the cultural savant?

I spent some time reading Kant’s cultural writings a while back, and there are some interesting, and yet, surprising (to me, anyway) characteristics about Kant.

Kant was well-read, not as an academic philosopher or scientist, but as a European man of the 18thC. Kant was well versed in English literature and philosophy; it seems he was familiar with some French literary figures; Kant read a lot of the accounts of the European explorers who wrote about those of different nationalities around the world: the Chinese, the Native Americans and Africans. While Kant has eccentric-to-racist views about these people, it is of intellectual virtue and courage to learn about them all the same in a way that exhibits an open minded attitude (relative to the time).

It seems almost to have put forward this normative conception of the enlightenment intellectual status where knowing all sorts of different perspectives and ways of living that seems marks a good intellect. It is not a sign of a man of wisdom, for instance, to be locked into a single perspective and area (although that alone isn’t a bad thing) without any serious consideration.

To say my view is the right view with an a priori doubt about anyone else’s perspective being genuinely insightful, is, as an intellectual personality, a deadly vice. It is in this way, that being the Eurocentric explorer seems to be the more insightful view; being priviledged in having one view but willing to explore others. To be able to find insight in anything, no matter how unfamiliar, scary, vain, deep, shallow, or stupid. Appealing to the common man, the primate, or the philistine. It’s hard to do by admission, really hard; but it marks a personality commitment that makes one distinct. Some charitable insights can be made of Kant’s otherwise reprehensible cultural insights by looking at Kant in this way. Like the older person who means well but fucks it up unintentionall all too often.


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