October 27, 2002
You can hate but not ignore Kant
R. K. Gupta
Thoughts of Kant
by Julian Benda. Rupa, Delhi. Pages 228. Rs 150.
present work is part of a series aimed at presenting living thoughts
of various leading thinkers of the world. Julian Benda (1867-1956),
the author of this work, was a French novelist and philosopher. His
other works include The Yoke of Pity, The Youth of an
Intellectual and A Regulator in His Century.
The author maintains
that almost the whole of Kantís work is still living, either in
the sense that it has become part and parcel of our philosophical
thinking, or in the sense of there being staunch opposition to it.
"The basic theses of the Critique of Pure Reason and the
Critique of Judgement are still eminently living in the sense
that, explicitly or not, they are a vital element in all modern
philosophic writing which relates either to the study of cognition
or to speculation in aesthetics or biology." (p. 44) On the
other hand, Kantís ethical theses, "which fifty years ago
seemed definitely accepted by mankind, and for that very reason
deprived of vital quality inasmuch as life implies activity, are the
object of an opposition which is more organised and resolute than
ever before and that from this point of view they have acquired a
tremendous renewal of vitality." (p. 45) One should have no
difficulty in agreeing with the author that much of what Kant said
is still alive. This can be easily seen from the fact that, after
him, hardly has anyone been able to do his philosophical work
without taking into consideration what he has had to say. But,
unlike the authorís contention, much of what he said has had both
strong supporters and strong opponents.