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lundi, 20 mai 2013

The Enlightenment from a New Right Perspective

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The Enlightenment from a New Right Perspective

 

By Domitius Corbulo

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

“When Kant philosophizes, say on ethical ideas, he maintains the validity of his theses for men of all times and places. He does not say this in so many words, for, for himself and his readers, it is something that goes without saying. In his aesthetics he formulates the principles, not of Phidias’s art, of Rembrandt’s art, but of Art generally. But what he poses as necessary forms of thought are in reality only necessary forms of Western thought.” — Oswald Spengler 

“Humanity exists in its greatest perfection in the white race.” — Immanuel Kant

Every one either praises or blames the Enlightenment for the enshrinement of equality and cosmopolitanism as the moral pillars of our times. This is wrong. Enlightenment thinkers were racists who believe that only white Europeans could be fully rational, good citizens, and true cosmopolitans.

Leftists have brought attention to some racist beliefs among Enlightenment thinkers, but they have not successfully shown that racism was an integral part of Enlightenment philosophy, and their intention has been to denigrate the Enlightenment for representing the parochial values of European males. I argue here that they were the first to introduce a scientific conception of human nature structured by racial classifications. This conception culminated in Immanuel Kant’s anthropological justification of the superior/inferior classification of “races of men” and his “critical” argument that only European peoples were capable of becoming rational and free legislators of their own actions. The Enlightenment is a celebration of white reason and morality; therefore, it belongs to the New Right.

In an essay [2] in the New York Times (February 10, 2013), Justin Smith, another leftist with a grand title, Professeur des Universités, Département d’Histoire et Philosophie des Sciences, Université Paris Diderot – Paris VII, contrasted the intellectual “legacy” of Anton Wilhelm Amo, a West African student and former slave who defended a philosophy dissertation at the University of Halle in Saxony in 1734, with the “fundamentally racist” legacy of Enlightenment thinkers. Smith observed that a dedicatory letter was attached to Amo’s dissertation from the rector of the University of Wittenberg, Johannes Kraus, praising the “natural genius” of Africa and its “inestimable contribution to the knowledge of human affairs.” Smith juxtaposed Kraus’s broad-mindedness to the prevailing Enlightenment view “lazily echoed by Hume, Kant, and so many contemporaries” according to which Africans were naturally inferior to whites and beyond the pale of modernity.

Smith questioned “the supposedly universal aspiration to liberty, equality and fraternity” of Enlightenment thought. These values were “only ever conceived” for a European people deemed to be superior and therefore more equal than non-whites. He cited Hume: “I am apt to suspect the Negroes, and in general all other species of men to be naturally inferior to the whites.” He also cited Kant’s dismissal of a report of something intelligent that had once been uttered by an African: “this fellow was quite black from head to toe, a clear proof that what he said was stupid.” Smith asserted that it was counter-Enlightenment thinkers, such as Johann Herder, who would formulate anti-racist views in favor of human diversity. In the rest of his essay, Smith pondered why Westerners today “have chosen to stick with categories inherited from the century of the so-called Enlightenment” even though “since the mid-20th century no mainstream scientist has considered race a biologically significant category; no scientist believes any longer that ‘negroid,’ ‘caucasoid,’ and so on represent real natural kinds.” We should stop using labels that merely capture “something as trivial as skin color” and instead appreciate the legacy of Amo as much as that of any other European in a colorblind manner.

Smith’s article, which brought some 370 comments, a number from Steve Sailer, was challenged a few days later by Kenan Malik, ardent defender of the Enlightenment, in his blog Pandaemonium [3]. Malik’s argument that Enlightenment thinkers “were largely hostile to the idea of racial categorization” represents the general consensus on this question. Malik is an Indian-born English citizen, regular broadcaster at BBC, and noted writer for The GuardianFinancial TimesThe Independent, Sunday Times, New StatesmanProspectTLSThe Times Higher Education Supplement, and other venues. Once a Marxist, Malik is today a firm defender of the “universalist ideas of the Enlightenment,” freedom of speech, secularism, and scientific rationalism. He is best known for his strong opposition to multiculturalism.

Yet this staunch opponent of multiculturalism is a stauncher advocate of open door policies on immigration [4]. In one of his TV documentaries, tellingly titled Let ‘Em All In (2005), he demanded that Britain’s borders be opened to the world without restrictions. In response to a report published during the post-Olympic euphoria in Britain, “The Melting Pot Generation: How Britain became more relaxed about race [5],” he wrote: “news that those of mixed ethnicity are among the fastest-growing groups in the population is clearly to be welcomed [6].” He added that much work remains to be done “to change social perceptions of race.”

This work includes fighting against any immigration objection even from someone like David Goodhart, director of the left think tank Demos, whose just released book, The British Dream [7], modestly made the observation that immigration is eroding traditional identities and creating an England “increasingly full of mysterious and unfamiliar worlds.” In his review (The Independent [8], April 19, 2013) Malik insisted that not enough was being done to wear down the traditional identities of everyone including the native British. The solution is more immigration coupled with acculturation to the universal values of the Enlightenment. “I am hostile to multiculturalism not because I worry about immigration but because I welcome it.” The citizens of Britain must be asked to give up their ethnic and cultural individuality and make themselves into universal beings with rights equal to every newcomer.

It is essential, then, for Malik to disassociate the Enlightenment with any racist undertones. This may not seem difficult since the Enlightenment has consistently come to be seen — by all political ideologies from Left to Right — as the source of freedom, equality, and rationality against the “unreasonable and unnatural” prejudices of particular cultural groups. Malik acknowledges that in recent years some (he mentions George Mosse, Emmanuel Chuckwude Eze, and David Theo Goldberg) have blamed Enlightenment thinkers for articulating the modern idea of race and projecting a view of Europe as both culturally and racially superior. By and large, however, Malik manages (superficially speaking) to win the day arguing that the racist statements one encounters in some Enlightenment thinkers were marginally related to their overall philosophies.

A number of thinkers within the mainstream of the Enlightenment . . . dabbled with ideas of innate differences between human groups . . . Yet, with one or two exceptions, they did so only diffidently or in passing.

The botanist Carolus Linnaeus exhibited the cultural prejudices of his time when he described Europeans as “serious, very smart, inventive” and Africans as “impassive, lazy, ruled by caprice.” But let’s us not forget, Malik reasons, that Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae “is one of the landmarks of scientific thought,” the first “distinctly modern” classification of plants and animals, and of humans in rational and empirical terms as part of the natural order. The implication is that Linnaeus could not have offered a scientific classification of nature while seriously believing in racial differences. Science and race are incompatible.

Soon the more progressive ideas of Johann Blumenbach came; he complained about the prejudices of Linnaeus’ categories and called for a more objective differentiation between human groups based on skull shape and size. It is true that out of Blumenbach’s five-fold taxonomy (Caucasians, Mongolians, Ethiopians, Americans and Malays) the categories of race later emerged. But Malik insists that “it was in the 19th, not 18th, century that a racial view of the world took hold in Europe.”

Malik mentions Jonathan Israel’s argument that there were two Enlightenments, a mainstream one coming from Kant, Locke, Voltaire and Hume, and a radical one coming from “lesser known figures such as d’Holbach, Diderot, Condorcet and Spinoza.” This latter group pushed the ideas of reason, universality, and democracy “to their logical conclusion,” nurturing a radical egalitarianism extending across class, gender, and race. But, in a rather confusing way and possibly because he could not find any discussions of race in the radical group to back up his argument, Malik relies on the mainstream group. He cites David Hume: “It is universally acknowledged that there is a great uniformity among the acts of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains the same in its principles and operations.” And George-Louis Buffon, the French naturalist: “Every circumstance concurs in proving that mankind is not composed of species essentially different from each other.” While Enlightenment thinkers asked why there was so much cultural variety across the globe, Malik explains, “the answer was rarely that human groups were racially distinct . . . environmental differences and accidents of history had shaped societies in different ways.” Remedying these differences and contingencies was what the Enlightenment was about; as Diderot wrote, “everywhere a people should be educated, free, and virtuous.”

Malik’s essay is pedestrian, somewhat disorganized, but in tune with the established literature, and therefore seen by the public as a compilation of truisms against marginal complaints about racism in the Enlightenment. Almost all the books on the Enlightenment have either ignored this issue or addressed it as a peripheral theme. The emphasis has been, rather, on the Enlightenment’s promotion of universal values for the peoples of the world. Let me offer some examples. Leonard Krieger’s King and Philosopher, 1689–1789 (1970) highlights the way the Enlightenment produced “works in which the universal principles of reason were invoked to order vast reaches of the human experience,” Rousseau’s “anthropological history of the human species,” Hume’s “quest for uniform principles of human nature,” “the various tendencies of the philosophes’ thinking — skepticism, rationalism, humanism, and materialism” (152-207). Peter Gay’s The Enlightenment: An Interpretation (1966) is altogether about how “the men of the Enlightenment united on . . . a program of secularism, humanity, cosmopolitanism, and freedom . . . In 1784, when the Enlightenment had done most of its work, Kant defined it as man’s emergence from his self-imposed tutelage, and offered as its motto: Dare to know” (3). Norman Hampson’s The Enlightenment (1968) spends more time on the proponents of modern classifications of nature, particularly Buffon’s Natural History, but makes no mention of racial classifications or arguments opposing any notion of a common humanity.

kant.jpgRecent books are hardly different. Louis Dupre’s The Enlightenment and the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture (2004), traces our current critically progressive attitudes back to the Enlightenment “ideal of human emancipation.” Dupré argues (from a perspective influenced by Jurgen Habermas) that the original project of the Enlightenment is linked to “emancipatory action” today (335). Gertrude Himmelfarb’s The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments (2004), offers a neoconservative perspective of the British and the American “Enlightenments” contrasted to the more radical ideas of human perfectibility and the equality of mankind found in the French philosophes. She brings up Jefferson’s hope that in the future whites would “blend together, intermix” and become one people with the Indians (221). She quotes Madison on the “unnatural traffic” of slavery and its possible termination, and also Jefferson’s proposal that the slaves should be freed and sent abroad to colonize other lands as “free and independent people.” She implies that Jefferson thought that sending blacks abroad was the most humane solution given the “deep-rooted prejudices of whites and the memories of blacks of the injuries they had sustained” (224).

Dorinda Outram’s, The Enlightenment (1995) brings up directly the way Enlightenment thinkers responded to their encounters with very different cultures in an age characterized by extraordinary expeditions throughout the globe. She notes there “was no consensus in the Enlightenment on the definition of the races of man,” but, in a rather conjectural manner, maintains that “the idea of a universal human subject . . . could not be reconciled with seeing Negroes as inferior.” Buffon, we are safely informed, “argued that the human race was a unity.” Linnaeus divided humanity into different classificatory groups, but did so as members of the same human race, although he “was unsure whether pigmies qualified for membership of the human race.” Turgot and Condorcet believed that “human beings, by virtue of their common humanity, would all possess reason, and would gradually discard irrational superstitions” (55-8). Outram’s conclusion on this topic is typical: “The Enlightenment was trying to conceive a universal human subject, one possessed of rationality,” accordingly, it cannot be seen as a movement that stood against racial divisions (74). Roy Porter, in his exhaustively documented and opulent narrative, Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (2000), dedicates less than one page of his 600+ page book to discourses on “racial differentiation.” He mentions Lord Kames as “one of many who wrestled with the evidence of human variety . . . hinting that blacks might be related to orang-utans and similar great apes.” Apart from this quaint passage, there is only this: “debate was heated and unresolved, and there was no single Enlightenment party line” (357).

In my essay, “Enlightenment and Global History [9],” I mentioned a number of other books which view the Enlightenment as a European phenomenon and, for this reason, have been the subject of criticism by current multicultural historians who feel that this movement needs to be seen as global in origins. I defended the Eurocentrism of these books while suggesting that their view of the Enlightenment as an acclamation of universal values (comprehensible and extendable outside the European ethnic homeland) was itself accountable for the idea that its origins must not be restricted to Europe. Multicultural historians have merely carried to their logical conclusion the allegedly universal ideals of the Enlightenment. The standard interpretations of Tzvetan Todorov’s In Defence of the Enlightenment (2009), Stephen Bronner’s Reclaiming the Enlightenment (2004), and Robert Louden’s, The World We Want: How and Why the Ideals of the Enlightenment Still Eludes Us (2007), equally neglect the intense interest Enlightenment thinkers showed in the division of humanity into races. They similarly pretend that, insomuch as these thinkers spoke of “reason,” “humanity,” and “equality,” they were thinking outside or above the European experience and intellectual ancestry.

What about Justin Smith, or, since he has not published in this field, the left liberal authors on this topic? There is not that much; the two best known sources are two anthologies of writings on race, namely, Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader (1997), edited by Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze; and The Idea of Race (2000), edited by Robert Bernasconi and Tommy Lott. Eze’s book gathers into a short book the most provocative writings on race by some Enlightenment thinkers (Hume, Linnaeus, Kant, Buffon, Blumenbach, Jefferson and Cuvier). This anthology, valuable as it is, is intended for effect, to show how offensively racist these thinkers were. Eze does not disprove the commonly accepted idea that Enlightenment thinkers were proponents of a universal ethos (although, as we will see below, Eze does offer elsewhere a rather acute analysis of Kant’s racism). Bernasconi’s The Idea of Race is mostly a collection of nineteenth and 20th century writings, with short excerpts from Francois Bernier, Voltaire, Kant, and Blumenbach. The books that Malik mentions (see above) which connect the Enlightenment to racism are also insufficient: George Mosse’s Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism (1985) is just another book about European anti-Semitism, which directs culpability to the Enlightenment for carrying classifications and measurements of racial groups. David Goldberg’s Racist Culture (1993) is a study of the normalization of racialized discourses in the modern West in the 20th century.

There are, as we will see later, other publications which address in varying ways this topic, but, on the whole, the Enlightenment is normally seen as the most critical epoch in “mankind’s march” towards universal brotherhood. The leftist discussion of racist statements relies on the universal principles of the Enlightenment. Its goal is to uncover and challenge any idea among 18th century thinkers standing in the way of a future universal civilization. Leftist critics enjoy “exposing” white European males as racists and thereby re-appropriate the Enlightenment as their own from a cultural Marxist perspective. But what if we were to approach the racism and universalism of the Enlightenment from a New Right perspective that acknowledges straightaway the particular origins of the Enlightenment in a continent founded by Indo-European [10] speakers?

This would involve denying the automatic assumption that the ideas of the philosophes were articulated by mankind and commonly true for every culture. How can the ideas of the Enlightenment be seen as universal, representing the essence of humanity, if they were expressed only by European men? The Enlightenment is a product of Europe alone, and this fact alone contradicts its universality. Enlightenment thinkers are themselves to blame for this dilemma expressing their ideas as if “for men of all times and places.” Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), writing at the same time as Kant, did question the notion of a cosmopolitan world based on generic human values. He saw in the world the greatest possible variety of historical humans in different regions of the earth, in time and space. He formulated arguments against racial rankings not by questioning their scientific merits as much as their reduction of the diversity of humans to one matrix of measurement and judgment. It was illusory to postulate a universal philosophy for humanity in which the national character of peoples would disappear and each human on earth would “love each other and every one . . . being all equally polite, well-mannered and even-tempered . . . all philanthropic citizens of the world.”[1] Contrary to some interpretations, Herder was not rejecting the Enlightenment but subjecting it to critical evaluation from his own cosmopolitan education in the history and customs of the peoples of the earth. “Herder was among the men of the Enlightenment who were critical in their search for self-understanding; in short, he was part of the self-enlightening Enlightenment.”[2] He proposed a different universalism based on the actual variety and unique historical experiences and trajectories of each people (Volk). Every people had their own particular language, religion, songs, gestures, legends and customs. There was no common humanity but a division of peoples into language and ethnic groups. Each people were capable of achieving education and progress in its own way from its own cultural sources.

From this standpoint, the Enlightenment should be seen as an expression of a specific people, Europeans, made up of various nationalities but nevertheless in habitants of a common civilization who were actually conceiving the possibility of becoming good citizens of Europe at large. In the words of Edward Gibbon, Enlightenment philosophers were enlarging their views beyond their respective native countries “to consider Europe as a great republic, whose various inhabitants have attained almost the same level of politeness and cultivation” (in Gay, 13).

Beyond Herder, we also need to acknowledge that the Enlightenment inaugurated the study of race from a rational, empirical, and secular perspective consistent with its own principles. No one has been willing to admit this because this entire debate has been marred by the irrational, anti-Enlightenment dogma that race is a construct and that the postulation of a common humanity amounts to a view of human nature without racial distinctions. Contrary to Roy Porter, there was a party line, or, to be more precise, a consistently racial approach among Enlightenment thinkers. The same philosophes who announced that human nature was uniform everywhere, and united mankind as a subject capable of enlightenment, argued “in text after text . . . in the works of Hume, Diderot, Montesquieu, Kant, and many lesser lights” that men “are not uniform but are divided up into sexes, races, national characters . . . and many other categories” (Garret 2006). But because we have been approaching Enlightenment racism under the tutelage of our current belief that race is “a social myth” and that any division of mankind into races is based on malevolent “presumptions unsupported by available evidence [11],” we have failed to appreciate that this subject was part and parcel of what the philosophes meant by “enlightenment.” Why it is so difficult to accept the possibility that 18th century talk about “human nature” and the “unity of mankind” was less a political program for a universal civilization than a scientific program for the study of man in a way that was systematic in intent and universal in scope? It is quite legitimate, from a scientific point, to treat humans everywhere as uniformly constituted members of the same species while recognizing their racial and cultural variety across the world. Women were considered to be intrinsically different from men at the same time that they were considered to be human.

Not being an expert on the Enlightenment I found recently a book chapter titled “Human Nature” by Aaron Garrett in a two volume work, The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy [12] (2006). There is a section in this chapter dealing with “race and natural character”; it is short, 20 pages in a 1400 page work, but it is nevertheless well researched with close to 80 footnotes of mostly primary sources. One learns from these few pages that “in text after text” Enlightenment thinkers proposed a hierarchical view of the races. Mind you, Garrett is stereotypically liberal and thus writes of “the 18th century’s dubious contributions to the discussion of race,” startled by “the virulent denigrations of blacks . . . found in the works of Franklin, Raynal, Voltaire, Forster, and many others.” He also playacts the racial ideas of these works as if they were inconsistent with the scientific method, and makes the very unscientific error of assuming that there was an “apparent contradiction” with the Enlightenment’s notion of a hierarchy of races and its “vigorous attacks on the slave trade in the name of humanity.”

Just because most Enlightenment thinkers rejected polygenecism and asserted the fundamental (species) equality of humankind, it does not mean that they could not believe consistently in the hierarchical nature of the human races. There were polygenecists like Charles White who argued that blacks formed a race different from whites, and Voltaire who took some pleasure lampooning the vanity of the unity of mankind. But the prevailing view was that all races were members of the same human species, as all humans were capable of creating fertile offspring. Buffon, Cornelius de Pauw, Linnaeus, Blumenbach, Kant and others endorsed this view, and yet they distinctly ranked whites above other races.

Liberals have deliberately employed this view on the species unity of humanity in order to separate, misleadingly, the Enlightenment from any racial connotations. But Linnaeus did rank the races in their behavioral proclivities; and Buffon did argue that all the races descended from an original pair of whites, and that American Indians and Africans were degraded by their respective environmental habitats. De Pauw did say that Africans had been enfeebled in their intelligence and “disfigured” by their environment. Samuel Soemmering did conclude that blacks were intellectually inferior; Peter Camper and John Hunter did rank races in terms of their facial physiognomy. Blumenbach did emphasize the symmetrical balance of Caucasian skull features as the “most perfect.” Nevertheless, in accordance with the evidence collected at the time, all these scholars asserted the fundamental unity of mankind, monogenism, or the idea that all races have a common origin.

Garrett, seemingly unable to accept his own “in text after text” observation, repeats the standard line that Buffon’s and Blumenbach’s view, for example, on “the unity and structural similarity of races” precluded a racial conception. He generally evades racist phrases and arguments from Enlightenment thinkers, such as this one from Blumenbach: “I have allotted the first place to the Caucasian because this stock displays the most beautiful race of men” (Eze, 1997: 79). He makes no mention or almost ignores a number of other racialists [13]: Locke, Georges Cuvier, Johann Winckelmann, Diderot, Maupertuis, and Montesquieu. In the case of Kant, he says it would be “absurd” to take some “isolated remarks” he made about race as if they stood for his whole work. Kant “distinguish between character, temperament, and race in order to avoid biological determinism” for the sake of the “moral potential of the human race as a whole.”

kant-german-philosopher-from.jpgActually, Kant, the greatest thinker of the Enlightenment, “produced the most profound raciological thought of the 18th century.” These words come from Earl W. Count’s book This is Race, cited by Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze in what is a rather good analysis of Kant’s racism showing that it was not marginal but deeply embedded in his philosophy. Eze’s analysis comes in a chapter, “The Color of Reason: The Idea of ‘Race’ in Kant’s Anthropology [14]” (1997). We learn that Kant elaborated his racial thinking in his Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View [15] (1798); he introduced anthropology as a branch of study to the German universities together with the study of geography, and that through his career Kant offered 72 courses in Anthropology and/or Geography, more than in logic, metaphysics and moral philosophy. Although various scholars have shown interest in Kant’s anthropology, they have neglected its relation to Kant’s “pure philosophy.”

For Kant, anthropology and geography were inseparable; geography was the study of the natural conditions of the earth and of man’s physical attributes and location as part of this earth; whereas anthropology was the study of man’s soul, his psychological and moral character, as exhibited in different places on earth. In his geography Kant addressed racial classifications on the basis of physical traits such as skin color; in his anthropology he studied the internal structures of human psychology and the manner in which these internal attributes conditioned humans as moral and rational beings.

Kant believed that human beings were different from other natural beings in their capacity for consciousness and agency. Humans were naturally capable of experiencing themselves as self-reflecting egos capable of acting morally on the basis of their own self-generated norms (beyond the determinism which conditioned all other beings in the universe). It is part of our internal human nature to think and will as persons with moral agency. This uniquely human attribute is what allows humans to transcend the dictates of nature insofar as they are able to articulate norms as commandments for their own actions freed from unconscious physical contingencies and particular customs. As rational beings, humans are capable of creating a realm of ends, and these ends are a priori principles derived not from the study of geography and anthropology but from the internal structures of the mind, transcendental reason. What Kant means by “critical reason” is the ability of humans through the use of their minds to subject everything (bodily desires, empirical reality, and customs) to the judgments of values generated by the mind, such that the mind (reason) is the author of its own moral actions.

However, it was Kant’s estimation that his geographical and anthropological studies gave his moral philosophy an empirical grounding. This grounding consisted in the acquisition of knowledge about human beings “throughout the world,” to use Kant’s words, “from the point of view of the variety of their natural properties and the differences in that feature of the human which is moral in character.”[3] [16] Kant was the first thinker to sketch out a geographical and psychological (or anthropological) classification of humans. He classified humans naturally and racially into white (European), yellow (Asians), black (Africans) and red (American Indians). He also classified them psychologically and morally in terms of the mores, customs and aesthetic feelings held collectively by each of the races. Non-Europeans held unreflective mores and customs devoid of critical examination “because these people,” in the words of Eze, “lack the capacity for development of ‘character,’ and they lack character presumably because they lack adequate self-consciousness and rational will.” Within Kant’s psychological classification, non-Europeans “appear to be incapable of moral maturity because they lack ‘talent,’ which is a ‘gift’ of nature.” Eze quotes Kant: “the difference in natural gifts between various nations cannot be completely explained by means of causal [external, physical, climatic] causes but rather must lie in the [moral] nature of man.” The differences among races are permanent and transcend environmental factors. “The race of the American cannot be educated. It has no motivating force; for it lacks affect and passion . . . They hardly speak, do not caress each other, care about nothing and are lazy.” “The race of the Negroes . . .  is completely the opposite of the Americans; they are full of affect and passion, very lively, talkative and vain. They can be educated but only as servants . . . ” The Hindus “have a strong degree of passivity and all look like philosophers. They thus can be educated to the highest degree but only in the arts and not in the sciences. They can never arise to the level of abstract concepts . . . The Hindus always stay the way they are, they can never advance, although they began their education much earlier.”

Eze then explains that for Kant only “white” Europeans are educable and capable of progress in the arts and sciences. They are the “ideal model of universal humanity.” In other words, only the European exhibits the distinctly human capacity to behave as a rational creature in terms of “what he himself is willing to make himself” through his own ends. He is the only moral character consciously free to choose his own ends over and above the determinism of external nature and of unreflectively held customs. Eze, a Nigerian born academic, obviously criticizes Kant’s racism, citing and analyzing additional passages, including ones in which Kant states that non-Europeans lack “true” aesthetic feelings. He claims that Kant transcendentally hypostasized his concept of race simply on the basis of his belief that skin color by itself stands for the presence or absence of the natural ‘gift’ of talent and moral ‘character’. He says that Kant’s sources of information on non-European customs were travel books and stories he heard in Konigsberg, which was a bustling international seaport. Yet, this does not mean that he was simply “recycling ethnic stereotypes and prejudices.” Kant was, in Eze’s estimation, seriously proposing an anthropological and a geographical knowledge of the world as the empirical presupposition of his critical philosophy.

With the publication of this paper (and others in recent times) it has become ever harder to designate Kant’s thinking on race as marginal. Thomas Hill and Bernard Boxill dedicated a chapter, “Kant and Race [17],” to Eze’s paper in which they not only accepted that Kant expressed racist beliefs, but also that Eze was successful “in showing that Kant saw his racial theory as a serious philosophical project.” But Hill and Boxill counter that Kant’s philosophy should not be seen to be inherently “infected with racism . . . provided it is suitably supplemented with realistic awareness of the facts about racism and purged from association with certain false empirical beliefs.” These two liberals, however, think they have no obligation to provide their readers with one single fact proving that the races are equal. They don’t even mention a source in their favor such as Stephen J. Gould [18]. They take it as a given that no one has seriously challenged the liberal view of race but indeed assume that such a challenge would be racist ipso facto and therefore empirically unacceptable. They then excuse Kant on grounds that the evidence available in his time supported his claims; but that it would be racist today to make his claims for one would be “culpable” of neglecting the evidence that now disproves racial classifications. What evidence [19]?

They then argue that “racist attitudes are incompatible with Kant’s basic principle of respect for humanity in each person,” and in this vein refer to Kant’s denunciation, in his words, of the “wars, famine, insurrection, treachery and the whole litany of evils” which afflicted the peoples of the world who experience the “great injustice of the European powers in their conquests.” But why do liberals always assume that claims about racial differences constitute a call for the conquest and enslavement of non-whites? They forget the 100 million killed in Russia and China, or, conversely, the fact that most Enlightenment racists were opponents of the slave trade. The bottom logic of the Hill-Boxill counterargument is that Kant’s critical philosophy was/is intrinsically incompatible with any racial hierarchies which violate the principles of human freedom and dignity, even if his racism was deeply embedded in his philosophy. But it is not; and may well be the other way around; Kant’s belief in human perfectibility, the complete development of moral agency and rational freedom, may be seen as intrinsically in favor of a hierarchical way of thinking in terms of which race is the standard bearer of the ideal of a free and rational humanity.

It is quite revealing that an expert like Garrett, and the standard interpreters of the Enlightenment generally, including your highness Doctor Habermas, would ignore Kant’s anthropology. A recent essay by Stuart Elden, “Reassessing Kant’s geography [20]” (2009), examines the state of this debate, noting that Kant’s geography and anthropology are still glaringly neglected in most newer works on Kant. One reason for this, Elden believes, “is that philosophers have, by and large, not known what to make of the works.” I would specify that they don’t know what to make of Kant’s racism in light of the widely accepted view that he was a liberal progenitor of human equality and cosmopolitanism. Even Elden does not know what to make of this racism, though he brings attention to some recent efforts to incorporate fully Kant’s anthropology/geography into his overall philosophy, works by Robert Louden, Kant’s Impure Ethics (2000); John Zammito, Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthropology (2002), and Holly Wilson, Kant’s Pragmatic Anthropology (2006). Elden pairs off these standard (pro-Enlightenment, pro-Kant) works against the writings of leftist critics who have shown less misgivings designating Kant a racist. All of these works (leftists as well) are tainted by their unenlightened acceptance of human equality and universalism. They cannot come to terms with a Kant who proposed a critical philosophy only for the European race.

There is no space here for details; some of the main points these authors make are: Kant’s anthropology and geography lectures were part of Kant’s critical philosophy, “devoted to trying to enlighten his students more about the people and world around them in order that they might live (pragmatically as well as morally) better lives” (Louden, p. 65). The aim of these lectures, says Wilson, on the cultures and geography of the world was “to civilize young students to become ‘citizens of the world’” (p. 8). Kant was a humane teacher who cared for his students and expected them to become cognizant of the world and in this way acquire prudence and wisdom. “Kant explicitly argues that the anthropology is a type of cosmopolitan philosophy,” writes Wilson, intended to educate students to develop their rational powers so they could think for themselves and thus be free to actualize their full human potentiality (5, 115). This sounds very pleasant yet based on the infantile notion that knowledge of the world and cosmopolitanism, wisdom and prudence, are incompatible with a racial understanding. To the contrary, if Kant’s racial observations were consistent with the available evidence at the time, and if masses of new evidence have accumulated since validating his views, then a critical and worldly philosophy would require us to show understanding towards Kant’s racism, which does not mean one has to accept the subjective impressionistic descriptions Kant uses. Hiding from students the research of Philippe Rushton, Richard Lynn, Charles Murray, Arthur Jensen, among others, would negate their ability to become free enlightened thinkers.

Elden brings the writings of Bernasconi and David Harvey, agreeing with them that Kant played “a crucial role in establishing the term ‘race’ as the currency within which discussions of human variety would be conducted in the 19th century.” He agrees too that Kant’s racism is “deeply problematic” to his cosmopolitanism, and that earlier responses by Kantians to swept aside his racism as “irrelevant” or “not to be taken seriously” are inadequate. Elden thinks however that scholars like Louden and Wilson have risen to the leftist challenge. But what we get from Louden is the same supposition that Kant’s philosophy can be made to meet the requirements of humanitarianism and egalitarianism simply by discarding the racist components. This constitutes a confounding of the actual Enlightenment (and the authentic Kant) with our current cultural Marxist wish to create a progressive global civilization. Louden even makes the rather doleful argument that Kant’s monogenetic view of the races, the idea that all humans originated from a common ancestor, “help us reach our collective destiny.” Kant’s monogenetic view is not an adequate way to show that he believed in a common humanity. The monogenetic view is not only consistent with the eventual differentiation of this common species into unequal races due to migration to different environments, but it is also the case that Kant specifically rejected Buffon’s claim that racial differences could be reversed with the eventual adaptation of “inferior” races to climates and environments that would induce “superior” traits; Kant insisted that the differences among races were fixed and irreversible regardless of future adaptations to different environmental settings. Louden’s additional defense of Kant by noting that he believed that all members of the human species can cultivate, civilize, and moralize themselves does not invalidate Kant’s view that whites are the model of a universal humanity.

So many otherwise intelligent scholars have willfully misled themselves into believing that Enlightenment thinkers were promoters of egalitarianism and a race-less cosmopolitan public sphere. We do live in a time of major deceptions at the highest levels of Western intellectual culture. We are continually reminded that the central idea in Kant’s conception of enlightenment is that of “submitting all claims to authority to the free examination of reason.”[4] [21] Yet the very ideals of the Enlightenment have been misused to preclude anyone from examining freely and rationally the question of race differences even to the point that admirers of the Enlightenment have been engaged in a ubiquitous campaign to hide, twist beyond clarity, and confound what Enlightenment thinkers themselves said about such differences. White nationalists should no longer accept the standard interpretation of the Enlightenment. They should embrace the Enlightenment and Kant as their own.

Notes

[1] Gurutz Jáuregui Bereciartu, Decline of the Nation State (1986), p. 26.

[2] Hans Adler and Ernest Menze, Eds. “Introduction,” in On World History, Johan Gottfried Herder: An Anthology (1997): p. 5

[3] These words are cited in Stuart Elden’s “Reassessing Kant’s geography,” Journal of Historical Geography (2009), a paper I discuss later.

[4] Perpetual Peace. Essays on Kant’s Cosmopolitan Ideal, eds. Johan Bohman and Mathias Lutz Bachman. The MIT Press, 1997.

 


 

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URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/05/the-enlightenment-from-a-new-right-perspective/

 

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Kant_Portrait.jpeg

[2] essay: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/why-has-race-survived/

[3] Pandaemonium: http://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/on-the-enlightenments-race-problem/

[4] open door policies on immigration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenan_Malik

[5] The Melting Pot Generation: How Britain became more relaxed about race: http://www.britishfuture.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/The-melting-pot-generation.pdf

[6] welcomed: http://www.britishfuture.org/blog/mixed-britain-will-the-census-results-change-the-way-we-think-and-talk-about-race/

[7] The British Dream: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1843548054/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=1843548054&linkCode=as2&tag=kenanmalikcom-21

[8] The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-british-dream-by-david-goodhart-8578883.html

[9] Enlightenment and Global History: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/04/enlightenment-and-global-history/

[10] Indo-European: http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2012/12/where-is-the-historical-west-part-1-of-5/

[11] presumptions unsupported by available evidence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism

[12] The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy: http://www.amazon.com/Cambridge-History-Eighteenth-Century-Philosophy-Haakonssen/dp/0521418542

[13] other racialists: http://www.quodlibet.net/articles/foutz-racism.shtml

[14] The Color of Reason: The Idea of ‘Race’ in Kant’s Anthropology: http://books.google.ca/books?id=moH_07971gwC&pg=PA200&lpg=PA200&dq=%E2%80%9CThe+Color+of+Reason:+The+Idea+of+%E2%80%98Race%E2%80%99+in+Kant%E2%80%99s+Anthropology%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=Q9-oKv3Wks&sig=QDcpHumNboU6TrfmWYfZCdjPyss&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rHSOUbebCNWz4AP87YCwDA&sqi=2&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CThe%20Color%20of%20Reason%3A%20The%20Idea%20of%20%E2%80%98Race%E2%80%99%20in%20Kant%E2%80%99s%20Anthropology%E2%80%9D&f=false

[15] Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View: http://books.google.ca/books/about/Kant_Anthropology_from_a_Pragmatic_Point.html?id=MuS6WI_7xeYC&redir_esc=y

[16] [3]: http://www.counter-currents.comfile:///C:/Users/Owner/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.IE5/F9Q4VNXE/The%20Enlightenment%20from%20a%20New%20Right%20Perspective%20(1).rtf#_ftn3

[17] Kant and Race: http://www.faculty.umb.edu/lawrence_blum/courses/465_11/readings/Race_and_Racism.pdf

[18] Stephen J. Gould: http://menghusblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/stephen-jay-gould-myth-and-fraud/

[19] What evidence: http://www.jehsmith.com/philosophy/2008/09/phil-498629-rac.html

[20] Reassessing Kant’s geography: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305748808000613

[21] [4]: http://www.counter-currents.comfile:///C:/Users/Owner/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.IE5/F9Q4VNXE/The%20Enlightenment%20from%20a%20New%20Right%20Perspective%20(1).rtf#_ftn4