Kant Trouble: The Obscurities of the Enlightened

Kant Trouble: The Obscurities of the Enlightened

Kant Trouble: The Obscurities of the Enlightened

Kant Trouble: The Obscurities of the Enlightened

Synopsis

Kant Trouble: The Obscurities of the Enlightened offers a highly original and incisive reading of some of the lesser known aspects of Kantian thought.Throughout Morgan challenges the widely held view of Kant as the exponent of concrete and rigid rationality and argues that his airtight 'architectonic' mode of reasoning overlooks certain topics which destabilise it. These include temporary forms of architecture, such as landscape gardening; examples which undermine the autonomy of the Kantian subject, for example, freemasonry; and the concept of radical evil, all of which suggest that Kant's thought was capable of accommodating troubling and subversive themes. Morgan's compelling discussion arrives at a fresh and ground breaking perspective on Kant whereby he is no longer to be regarded as a concrete rationalist, but as a daring thinker, not afraid to entertain ideas highly threatening to his own system and to the humanistic legacy of the enlightenment.

Excerpt

This book is a rewritten version of my doctoral thesis, entitled ‘The Obscurities of the Enlightened: Reflections on Kantian Blind Spots’ and submitted in 1993 to the University of Sussex. My supervisor was Geoffrey Bennington, and I take this opportunity to thank him for his helpful guidance. My examiners were Howard Caygill and George Craig, and I am also grateful to them both for their encouraging enthusiasm for the project. The first version of Chapter 1 was given as a paper to Jacques Derrida’s seminar at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris under the title ‘Trois cas de dédou-blement: Ka, Kant et Kantorowicz’ in February 1990. The concluding chapter was also given as a paper at Derrida’s seminar in March 1993 with the title ‘La Révélation de l’impossibilité de la révélation: Kant, Hamann et Hegel’. While researching this project, I benefited greatly from Derrida’s seminars and from others at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. Also indispensable was a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) scholarship for the academic year 1990-1, which permitted me to study at the Comparative Literature Institute (AVL) and Philosophy Department of the Freie Universität, Berlin.

My experience of reading Kant has been that he is at times most strange, sometimes even outlandish in his ideas, but consistently intriguing and even exciting. Having later read Kleist’s description of his strong reaction to Kantian philosophy, one that led to an existential crisis, I saw that his sense of compelling urgency, that here was a philosophy which was at times radically questioning the foundations we traditionally rely on to orient ourselves in the world, was missing from much Kantian commentary. Kant is far from being just the Königsberger eccentric whose movements were so regular that people set their watches by him and whose philosophy aims at all costs to establish domestic security.

This book draws on a wide range of Kant’s texts—some of them still not available in English translation—thereby overriding the distinction that commentators sometimes make between the pre-critical writings and what follows, and giving much attention to the Anthropology, often treated disparagingly as the late work of a senile old man. It also draws very widely . . .

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