Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Kant between freedom and truth

"I am myself by inclination a seeker after truth. I feel a consuming thirst for knowledge and a restless desire to advance in it, as well as a satisfaction in every step I take. There was a time when I thought that this alone could constitute the honor of mankind, and I despised the common man who knows nothing. Rousseau set me right. This pretended superiority vanished and I learned to respect humanity. I should consider myself far more useless than the common laborer if I did not believe that one consideration alone gives worth to all others, namely, to establish the rights of man." (Kant, Schriften XX, 44, quoted in Beiser, 1992, p. 30).

With this, as Beiser shows in his masterful study, Kant virtually abandons the search for truth and replaces it with a utilitarian conception of truth whereby truth becomes subservient to humanity.