If you still have doubts that the world has gone mad, this will dispel them. The American firm Wilder Publication has seen fit to attach the following disclaimer to the title page of Kant’s three Critiques in one volume:
“This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.”
What a relief; I’m wiping my brow even as we speak. It’s good to see that someone cares about the spiritual wellbeing of our children so much.
Today’s children, and I bet you didn’t know this, are falling over themselves to get their hands on a copy of The Critique of Pure Reason – and as to Practical Reason, why, there’s a veritable stampede under way.
My impression was that they read nothing but text messages with the vowels left out for the sake of brevity. I’m happy to see I was wrong: apparently their young souls weaned on Twitter are reaching out, categorically if not imperatively, for moral philosophy refracted through the Kantian critical method.
In that they are far ahead of, say, Leo Tolstoy who – as a young man, not a child – ruefully admitted in his diary: “I read Kant and understood next to nothing…” That’s progress for you – today’s tots have no such problems.
True enough, once their spiritual thirst has been slaked, their impressionable minds can be corrupted by such Kantian aphorisms as “The yellow Indians do have a meagre talent. The Negroes are far below them, and at the lowest point are a part of the American people.” Especially those who work for Wilder Publications, the old Prussian would have added had that firm existed at the time – but we must refrain from such unfair remarks.
We must, however, be united in our desire to protect our young from Kant’s subversive tirades. Why, if he uttered them today, Kant would find himself in a prison cell faster than you can say ‘incitement to racial hatred’.
In the same spirit we must hail the removal of Huckleberry Finn from most school libraries in America. All American literature may have come out of that book, as Hemingway believed, but we know better.
After all, that objectionable scribble features a central character named Nigger Jim. In a country where a government official has to apologise publicly for using the word ‘niggardly’, there’s no room for such offensive stuff.
Of course, rather than removing Huck Finn from their libraries, US educators could have edited the text slightly. They could have re-Christened Jim as, say, “the socioeconomically disadvantaged Afro-American victim of racial oppression James.”
No doubt they considered this option and rejected it on the grounds of compromised readability. Getting rid of an American classic was much easier.
Personally, the idea of bringing great works of literature and philosophy up to date appeals to me. For example, Kant’s entreaty sapere aude (dare to be wise) could acquire a new lease on life if modified to read “sapere Audi” (dare to drive expensive cars in London traffic).
As to Kant’s views on matters amorous, they wouldn’t pass muster in any modern class on sex education, which makes them downright dangerous.
For Kant that whole area was purely an academic construct, for he remained a virgin until his old age, when his disciples insisted he should experience some hanky-panky. The old man was left unimpressed: “So many hectic movements and nothing more.”
It was no doubt from such truncated experience that Kant objected to what he spiffily called ‘objectification’, using another person merely for pleasure (the German word is even longer and therefore weightier).
Sex, he wrote, ought to be allowed only when serving a higher purpose, such as marriage. “Taken by itself,” he opined, “sexual love is a degradation of human nature”.
How wonderful that today’s children know better. They’ve been taught that the only purpose of sex is sex, because that’s what people like, and whatever people like is cool. The very same Hemingway did say “if it feels good, it’s moral,” proving that he wasn’t entirely reactionary.
Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that our innocent creatures, trained as they are from their pre-pubescent years in the more inventive ballistic possibilities of eroticism, must be protected from such antediluvian nonsense.
It has to be said that Kant wasn’t all bad. Specifically, our children should be invited to share his idea that it wasn’t God who created man but more or less vice versa. “God is not a creature outside me, but only my thought,” he wrote – and Richard Dawkins couldn’t have put it better.
Also, Kant’s views on the French Revolution are consonant with those of modern educators. “This revolution finds in the heart of all observers the kind of sympathy that borders on enthusiasm.” Obviously Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France wasn’t on Kant’s reading list – and neither should it be on our children’s.
Protecting children from what was bad in Kant while encouraging them to absorb what’s good, mainly agnosticism, is the way to go. Of course withdrawal is also possible, followed by a soul-warming bonfire. The Critiques would keep the flame going nicely, with the president of Wilder Publications on hand to stoke the fire.
I hope he’ll emigrate to England at some point. We need bright chaps like him to give our ‘educators’ a helping PC hand in guiding children through the perilous undercurrents of Kant. Those few children who know how to read, that is.