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A View of Kant from the East

A View of Kant from the East

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My wife and I are in Kaliningrad, Russia – in what the Russians call ‘Little Russia’ as opposed to ‘Big Russia’ – where the ‘Kant 300’ conference (commemorating the 300th birthday of this great thinker) has just ended. As philosophers would know, Enlightenment thinker Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 in this city, which was then a part of Prussia and was called Königsberg (King’s Mountain). After the Second World War, it became part of Russia, in a relatively small patch of land – the Kaliningrad Region (Oblast) – wedged between Poland and Lithuania.

I submitted a paper proposal in September 2023, and was informed of its acceptance in February of this year. Soon afterward I received another letter informing me that the organising committee of the conference would cover my traveling costs (airfare) as well as my and my wife’s accommodation in Kaliningrad. I don’t think I have ever experienced such generous hospitality; the only possible reason for it, I assume, is that my colleagues at the Kant University in Kaliningrad like my published work on Kant’s philosophy.       

Although few people in the largely brainwashed world we now inhabit would admit it – even those who know about this major international conference – it is probably, as a philosophy professor from Serbia pointed out in her speech of acknowledgment during the concluding ceremony, the most important international philosophy conference of 2024. No less. There were more than 700 delegates at this conference, from countries that include Cameroon, the United States, Ireland, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, South Africa, Denmark, Argentina, and many others. What they all have in common is an unconditional respect for Immanuel Kant’s philosophical legacy, and an acknowledgment that he was probably the most significant thinker of the European Enlightenment. And for good reason.

It follows that Immanuel Kant – or rather, his intellectual legacy – belongs to the whole world. And yet, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, had the temerity to accuse President Vladimir Putin – whose opening address for the Kant conference was read to the delegates by one of the moderators – of illegitimately quoting Kant, claiming that the Russian leader had no right to ‘poach’ Kant. Putin is evidently a great supporter of Kant’s research – our hostess, Prof. Anna Belova, took us to what used to be a priest’s house where Kant taught in the Kaliningrad region, which has been restored and turned into a Kant museum (not to be confused with the Kant museum in the Kaliningrad Cathedral) with the help of funds provided by Putin.  

What Kant Did for Philosophy

Kant literally changed the way we think about ourselves; what Copernicus achieved for astronomy – altering the assumptions of the place of planet Earth in what we now understand as our solar system – Kant did for philosophy, which is why he thought of himself as bringing about a Copernican revolution in philosophy. In brief: Kant demonstrated, with thorough argumentation, that instead of humans experiencing the world ‘passively’ by merely registering on their senses the impressions of external ‘reality,’ we actually contribute to the way the world appears to us. We do this by supplying the rational structure of the world, which organizes the appearance, in space and time, of what he called the ‘manifold of experience,’ in an intelligible manner.

This was no mean feat. In the 17th century, there was a protracted epistemological battle between the so-called ‘rationalists’ (mainly in France and Germany) and the ‘empiricists,’ mainly in Britain, about the sources of true knowledge. The former included people like Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, and the latter well-known figures such as Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Kant, having been ‘awakened from his dogmatic slumber’ (as he himself put it) by the empiricist skepticism in which Hume’s thinking resulted – basically, that one cannot experience a cause as such, but only the events we believe to be causally connected – set out to explain where the (legitimate) notion of ‘cause’ comes from, without which all human knowledge would collapse. And, in my humble opinion (and that of many others) he succeeded, thus rescuing Newton’s macro-mechanics.

Kant did not only write epistemology (theory of knowledge), however. He was a universal thinker, but even if one sets aside, for the moment, his contributions to political philosophy, natural philosophy, geography and several other disciplines, his three Critiques alone (as they are known) – the Critique of Pure Reason (on epistemology, 1781), Critique of Practical Reason (on ethics, 1788) and Critique of Judgement (on art, taste and purposiveness in nature, 1790) would have been sufficient to guarantee his philosophical immortality.

My Paper: Perpetual Peace and the Ukraine/NATO Conflict

My own paper was on the relevance of Kant’s essay on Perpetual Peace for the Ukraine/NATO – Russia conflict, and led to an animated discussion, as could be expected. Here is the abstract:

The work that I wish to concentrate on here, Perpetual Peace, is situated at least in the converging fields of (international and constitutional) law and politics. Given its date of publication (1795), Kant’s preceding works may all safely be said to have prepared his thinking for the progressive ideas expressed there, but to disclose the specific threads that connect each of these twelve preceding works with Perpetual Peace would require far more than a mere article. For this reason, I have confined myself largely to drawing such connections between the latter work and Kant’s seminal (and famous) essay, What is Enlightenment? (1784) before elaborating on Perpetual Peace and its implications for the current global situation, which will, therefore, also have to be reconstructed, unavoidably, from my own perspective. This article, therefore, addresses the question of ‘lasting’ world peace through the lens of Kant’s essay on the conditions for ‘perpetual peace.’ This is done by listing each of the six ‘Preliminary Articles’ and three ‘Definitive Articles’ stated by Kant, in turn, and comparing their respective requirements to current events in the extant world, specifically those surrounding the Russia-Ukraine/NATO conflict. It is demonstrated that, although Kant admitted that the principles he listed comprised an ‘ideal,’ the present era marks a set of conditions further removed from lasting peace than ever before.

I do not want to go into the detail of my paper here – anyone interested in it can access it at the link provided above; suffice to say that I first listed the six ‘preliminary articles’ (conditions for the cessation of hostilities among nations) and the three ‘definite articles,’ before discussing how they apply to the present Russia/Ukraine (NATO) conflict, and unsurprisingly it appears that, while none of the warring parties come out of this Kantian ‘test’ unscathed, Russia has been much closer that its adversaries to satisfying Kant’s conditions. (Read my paper, linked above, for the intricacies of the argument.)

Some readers may find this conclusion surprising, which is to be expected in light of all the false information spread by mainstream media about Russia. Moreover, RT – the Russian international news website – has been blocked in the UK, Europe, and probably also in the US. Why? Because (as the official narrative censors know) RT provides far more reliable news coverage than any of the official media sources, partly because they have correspondents in most countries (including the UK and the US), so that the news and opinion pieces encountered there do not amount to one-sided propaganda.

Many people are aware of this, as papers by and discussions with other delegates at the Kant conference confirmed. More importantly, however, is the growing awareness, amply demonstrated by several presentations, that Russia is ‘getting (an extremely) bad rap’ today, and that the parties who are in the wrong, as it were, are Ukraine, the US and NATO – let us not forget that it was the latter group that reneged on their erstwhile promise, not to move NATO any closer to Russia’s borders, which left Russia no alternative but to act militarily when Ukraine appeared to be in line for NATO membership. Important light was shed on this statement in a paper by Prof. Bruce Matthews of Bard College, New York.

Robert Kagan’s Criticism of ‘Kantian’ Europe

Working from memory, I recall that Dr Matthews – referring to a paper by Robert Kagan, husband of neocon warmonger, Victoria Nuland (who orchestrated the pro-Western Maidan coup in Ukraine in 2014) – reminded his audience that Kagan has drawn a parallel between America and the Europe of a few years ago in terms relating directly to the Kant conference. America, Kagan argued at the time, represents Thomas Hobbes’s absolutist autocratic philosophy, affirming the one-sided right of the absolute ruler to engage in any action he (or she) deemed necessary to ensure the continued existence and security of the state, while Europe instantiated Immanuel Kant’s philosophy of universal peace and ethical co-existence. The implication, spelled out by Kagan, was that Europe should follow the example of the US.

Kagan also linked Hobbes’s philosophy, as embodied in American foreign policy, to a unipolar world operating according to the rules set by itself, and the ‘Kantian’ Europe to a multipolar world of different nations, each with its own distinct culture. Europe should follow America’s example by jettisoning the all-too-peaceful Kantian approach and adopting the glorification of bellicosity, modeled on Hobbes’s ‘man-is-a-wolf-to-man’ approach – a sort of avant la lettre political Darwinism of ‘the fittest will survive.’

I lack a copy of Dr Matthews’s conference paper, and I hope I have reported it accurately here, but at least I can quote from the paper by Robert Kagan which Matthews cited to confirm my mnemographic reconstruction. To put this in context, in a New Republic article from 2023 Samuel Moyn reports as follows on Kagan’s article:

In a Policy Review article in the summer of 2002, Kagan attacked Europeans for hesitating to join the war in Iraq. He did not trace their reluctance to the foreseeable effects of the crackpot scheme of attacking the country, or to Europe’s own commitment to a liberal order with rules. Instead, he proposed, the United States had remained manly through its militarism, while Europeans had turned feminine and passive under the chivalrous guardianship of their American protector. ‘On major strategic and international questions today,’ Kagan wrote, ‘Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus.’

The last sentence already articulates, albeit in less philosophical terms, what Kagan wrote (in 2022) comparatively in Hobbesian and Kantian terms of America and Europe (and alluded to by Dr Matthews in his paper):

It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power — the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power — American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s ‘Perpetual Peace.’ The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might.

Needless to point out, both Kagan and his wife belong to the group of individuals who are currently promoting the idea of a (totalitarian) one-world government of a neo-feudal type, where a few will supposedly lord it over those who survive their intended democide, like medieval feudal lords ruling over the serfs who are at their beck and call. It may come as a surprise, though, for those who are largely uninformed about Russia’s position in all of this, given the blackout of reliable news concerning Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, to learn a few (probably) unexpected things about the country and the man (on both of which I have written before).

Russia Has Chosen Life Over Death

To begin with, as I point out in one of the pieces linked above, Putin appears, as far as I can tell, to be diametrically opposed to the idea that the human species should be ‘culled’ in any way; on the contrary, he encourages Russians to have babies, lest the Russian people’s birth rate preclude viable future demographics. Isn’t this a far cry from the growing number of excess deaths in Europe and the US (together with the large number of babies lost by pregnant women) – presumably from the so-called ‘vaccines’ – let alone from the relentless campaign to entrench abortion, not merely as a right for women (the ‘personal choice’ doctrine), but virtually as a duty? Being in Russia at present, we can testify to the conspicuous visual evidence of young Russians having responded affirmatively to their president’s call, pushing their babies in perambulators along the promenade next to the Pregolya River in Kaliningrad.  

Several more relevant things should be mentioned; firstly the complete lack of any ‘chemtrails’ in the Russian skies, unlike South Africa, Europe, and the US, where they are ubiquitous, and given their chemical composition (which includes aluminum, barium, and strontium), must surely have a severely deleterious effect on the health of all living beings. When I discussed these with Russians, they were dumbfounded, as any human being should be. In the second place, there is abundant food in supermarkets, including meat, and no sign of the state or any corporation encouraging an insect-based diet.

Then there is the conspicuous absence of migrants, although we saw many people in Muslim garb, going about their daily business in a cheerful, civilized manner like other Russians. The streets are astonishingly clean (unlike many streets in South African cities), and we saw no sign of homelessness in Kaliningrad or the other towns we visited in the region, such as Zelenogradsk and Svetlogorsk. Add to this that Russians would be appalled at the conditions under which homeless people live on the streets of Los Angeles, for example (in one of the supposedly wealthiest countries in the world), which is today hardly recognizable as the city I knew in the 1980s.

In sum, there is every indication that Russia is not a participant in the deadly neo-fascist drive to subjugate humanity by means of ‘vaccine’ passports, 15-minute cities, and CBDCs – although the latter will be available for Russian citizens who wish to use them in addition to, or instead of electronic cards and cash. And indications are that the neo-fascists in the West are even prepared to unleash a ‘hot’ 3rd World War to achieve its nefarious ends. Despite all of this, Russia has evidently chosen life over death, and in so doing it is standing squarely in the way of the New World Order. This is the real reason why NATO is hellbent on destroying Russia by hook or by crook – it has nothing to do with ‘rescuing Ukraine.’

Republished from the author’s Substack



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Author

  • Bert Olivier

    Bert Olivier works at the Department of Philosophy, University of the Free State. Bert does research in Psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, ecological philosophy and the philosophy of technology, Literature, cinema, architecture and Aesthetics. His current project is 'Understanding the subject in relation to the hegemony of neoliberalism.'

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