Wednesday, January 30, 2013

[Kant’s] Rationalism is Solipsistic Fascism

“It is the people’s duty to endure even the most intolerable of abuse of supreme authority. The reason for this is that resistance to the supreme legislation can itself only be unlawful; indeed it must be conceived as destroying the entire lawful constitution, because, in order for it to be allowed, there would have to be a public law that would permit the resistance. That is, the supreme legislation would have to contain a stipulation that it is not supreme and that in one and the same judgement the people as subjects should be made sovereign over him to whom they are subject; this is self-contradictory. The self-contradiction involved here is immediately evident if we ask who would act as judge in this controversy between the people and the sovereign (because, regarded juridically, they are still two distinct moral persons). [In such a controversy] it is plain that the people want to act as judge of their own cause [and that is absurd].”[1]
                                                 -          KANT

I read this excerpt from Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals to my comps class expecting that this would suffice as a damning indictment of Kant as a moral thinker. Apparently not. The objection raised was that Kant’s conclusion doesn’t stem from his Rationalism (nobody has read him but Habermas is nonetheless alive and well at York). The problem is that it precisely, exactly, logically does stem from his rationalism, and ultimately from his ‘correlationism:’ subjectivity is isolate and fascistic because it cannot, as Meillassoux demonstrates, conceive of “ancestrality,” or that which predates it, i.e. the material. That is, as Meillassoux writes:

“How are we to conceive of the empirical sciences’ capacity to yield knowledge of the ancestral realm?”[2]
Any attempt to ameliorate this (cough*communicativerationality*cough) has recourse only to what Kant forecloses as a grounds for moral philosophy: experience of the material. In denying experience as a grounds for ethics – that is to say in his being a ‘rationalist’ – Kant cuts his subject off from the material, from history, from others, from everything. As Graham Harman writes:

"If Immanuel Kant deserves credit for anything, it is for recognizing the trench-warfare conditions of the metaphysics of his time, with its increasingly pointless proofs and counterproofs. Kant’s unfortunate solution was to adopt an agnostic attitude toward the nature of things-in-themselves: the rough equivalent of escaping trench warfare by wearing earplugs."[3]
What is left is a transcendental dialectic which sees the subject tilting forwards towards the space where they’ve logically posited their freedom to reside, in law, in the kingdom of ends:

“A rational being belongs as a member to the kingdom of ends when, although giving universal laws in it, he is also himself subject to these laws. He belongs to it as sovereign when, while giving laws, he is not subject to the will of any other.”[4]
Or, as Nick Land puts it:

“Only that is moral which can be demanded of every rational being unconditionally, in the name of an ultra-empire that Kant names the ‘empire of ends’ (Reich der Zwecke). The law of this empire is called the ‘categorical imperative’, which means a law stemming solely from the purity of the concept, and thus dictated by the absolute monologue of colonial reason.”[5]
The suicide of the sovereign is impossible for Kant to think because it could never be rational, it could never be made into a categorical imperative as to do so would not simply oblige one particular sovereign, but rather the suicide of each and every subject and sovereign together – one law, one death. Which is why Alenka Zupančič writes that:

“‘Regicide’ is not really the right term, because what preoccupies Kant is precisely the difference between the murder of a monarch (regicide) and his formal execution. It is in relation to the latter that Kant says that ‘it is as if the state commits suicide,’ and describes it as a ‘radical evil.’”[6]
For Kant ‘regicide’ is what happens when some barbarous yet sensual infidels let all that icky ‘lived experience’ pollute their pure reason and go and murder the actual king. Whereas the ‘formal execution’ of the king is unthinkable as his law and rationally are legally/rationally self-identical with your own – so the sovereign never gets executed because for Kant there is nothing prior to the sovereign, no ‘you’ prior to the sovereign, to judge. The ‘formal execution’ of the king is unthinkable precisely because it would be, for Kant, tantamount to suicide. Fine, I’ll bite, call it a suicidal state, call it a suicidal war machine: some war machines need to die – for them and for us. I’ll remind all you neo-Kantians that the future is intimidatingly bright for the ‘hypothetical imperatives’ of the still-historical Marxists like Badiou, precisely because of the swan-song suicide of the Soviet Union.

Suicide to Kant, though, is absolutely anathema:

“By contrast, to preserve one’s life is a duty, and besides this everyone has an immediate inclination to it. But the often anxious care that the greatest part of humankind takes for its sake still has no inner worth, and its maxim has no moral content. They protect their life, to be sure, in conformity with duty, but not from duty. If, by contrast, adversities and hopeless grief have”[7]
Han Dynasty Materialist Wang Chong either reformulates or rather formulates thusly:

“To quit one’s own country, one must be under compulsion, as Po-Yi was, who yielded the State to his brother, lest he should be suspected of struggling with him for his share. When the Old King Tan Fu had fought several battles, his people all quitted the country. One gives up one’s dignity, when one’s principles prove impracticable, and one does not obtain one’s ends. As long as his principles are successful, and his aims attained, nobody thinks of renouncing his dignity. Thus, for quitting one’s country and giving up one’s dignity one always has reasons. If such persons be called Worthies, are those not affected by similar reasons, to be termed unworthy?” [8]
In other words, on what grounds would one ‘quit one’s country’? For Kant freedom is indissociable from legislation:

“Reason legislates a priori for freedom and its peculiar causality. . . The subjection of freedom under the legislation of pure reason. To go from the universal conditions of ends in general to the particular. Pure reason, i.e., reason separated from all sensible incentives, has legislative force with regard to freedom in general, which every rational being must acknowledge, since without conditions for universal consensus with regard to itself and others no use of reason with regard to itself would take place at all.”[9]
Or, as Chong phrases it:

“In case there is a State or dignity, they may be abandoned and parted with, but there being no State or any high dignity, how can they be rejected?”[10]
The notion of revolution is anathema to Kant precisely because he locates freedom in the rational legislation of the self, and for Kant, rational legislation is all that constitutes the self. You cannot be free save for your fidelity to the legislative will of Kant’s practical subject which inaugurates itself as being free in its subjection to law, duty, the munus. It is premised upon the law and, for Kant, to revolt would require a principle prior to that law, and for Kant, there is nothing prior to that law. For Kant nothing preceeds reason, hence nothing preceeds the legislative cognition of the subject and hence, as Kant writes:

“Regicide, in short, is regarded as a crime which always remains such and can never be expiated (crimen immortale, inexpliable); and it appears to resemble that sin which the theologians declare can neither be forgiven in this world nor in the next. . . considered as the source of the laws, the sovereign himself can do no wrong.”[11]
But the sovereign does do wrong, we know this.

How do we know this? Certainly not through reason, as if all were to reason according to reason alone in the absence of the empirical, as was both Plato and Kant’s masturbatory pipe-dream, then all would inevitably come to the same conclusion – to not would be merely having reasoned incorrectly. No, we know the sovereign is wrong – even the sovereign that we are and are subject to through reason – because of the freedom that precedes reason, the sensual contact with the material; we can judge the sovereign because of experience. As Jean-Luc Nancy writes:

“The Kantian fact of freedom cannot receive, in a rigorous Kantian logic, its status as fact. . . To use the terms that haunt all of Kant’s thought, there is no reason that there should not be chaos and no reason that anything should appear. If something appears, it is therefore not through ‘reason,’ but through its freely coming. And if existence, somewhere; appears to itself as subjectivity, which also means as ‘reason,’ this is also through its freely coming. . . Freedom is not a right, it is the right of what is ‘by rights’ without right: with this radicality it must be understood as fact, as initial and revolutionary. . . We therefore do not have to think in terms of new laws (even though we also have to make them), and we do not have to invent a ‘morality’ (with hardly any irony, we can say: don’t we have all we need in matter?). . . People die of hunger, drugs, wars, boredom, work, hatred, revolts, revolutions. They die or become mutilated in life, soul, and body. All liberations (national, social, moral, sexual, aesthetic) are ambiguous, and also arise from manipulations – and yet each has its truth. Freedom Manipulated (by powers, by capital): this could be the title of our half-century. Thinking freedom should mean: freeing freedom from manipulations, including, first of all, those of thinking. This requires something on the order of revolution, and also a revolution in thinking. . . There is no ‘experience of freedom’: freedom itself is experience.”[12]

What does Kant have to say to this? Because to think he hasn’t considered this possibility would be a mistake. What do you have, Kant? Can I get something in an ‘acknowledgement of anarchic freedom prior to reason with a healthy dose of bourgeois racism?’

“When we see the attachment of savages to their lawless freedom, preferring ceaseless combat to subjection to a lawful constraint which they might establish, and thus preferring senseless freedom to rational freedom, we regard it with deep contempt as barbarity, rudeness, and a brutish degradation of humanity. Accordingly, one would think that civilized people (each united in a state) would hasten all the more to escape, the sooner the better, from such a depraved condition. . . the splendour of its sovereign consists in the fact that many thousands stand at his command to sacrifice themselves for something that does not concern them and without his needing to place himself in the least danger.”[13]
For anyone who doubts that he is referring to literal First Nations he goes on shortly thereafter to accuse them of cannibalism.

No, invariably the beneficent Fuhrer is the one who will be, from time to time, obliged to shoot himself in the head. If their empirical, sensual, material subjects have to do it ‘Tyler Durden style’ with the gun facing inwards, guess what, Kant? That’s the ‘duty’ of a feeling, passionate subject who experiences freedom and hence can know when the rational legislation of freedom isn’t it. We’re not rational solipsists we’re each many wolves, we feel, and sometimes we will feel as though we have turned ugly and wrong, even when reason is incapable of concluding that it is so.

As per Goebbels’ ‘famous formulations’ that D & G cite in Thousand Plateaus:

“In the world of absolute fatality in which Hitler moves, nothing has meaning any longer, neither good nor bad, time nor space, and what other people call success cannot be used as a criterion. . . Hitler will probably end in catastrophe.”[14]
The absolute impossibility of the suicidal gesture of the sovereign is figured thusly in Kant – so far as this apologist logic runs –as because, as Zupančič phrases it, “people are only constituted as People in relation to the symbolic order. Outside it, they are nothing more than ‘masses’ with no proper status. It is the monarch (in his symbolic function) who gives the people their symbolic existence, be it ever so miserable.”[15]


Make of your socius an infinitely dynamic plane upon which filiation, alliance, pact, pack float and flutter like a knuckleball and dance; dance like the world is ending, because it is.

“Letter to Hitler: ‘Dear sir, In 1932 in the Ider Café in Berlin, on one of the evenings when I made your acquaintance and shortly before you took power, I showed you roadblocks on a map that was not just a map of geography, roadblocks against me, and act of force aimed in a certain number of directions you indicated to me. Today Hitler I lift the roadblocks I set down! The Parisians need gas. Yours, A.A. – p.s. Be it understood, dear sir, that this is hardly an invitation, it is above all a warning.’ That map that is not only a map of geography is something like a BwO intensity map, where the roadblocks designate thresholds and the gas, waves or flows.”[17]
What Kant's rationalism claims is that moral principles can be derived from reason absent experience, i.e. “synthetically and a priori”[18] - which of course they can, at least formally, ‘rationally,’ but if they are reasoned correctly they will not change, not range to circumstance, to reality, to the material, and hence even if you live an impoverished, immiserated life, you are obliged to it because it is 'rational' (because any claim relating to the consequences would be 'empirical' - i.e. ‘the results of this rationality are undesirable ends’ is an empirical claim, not a rational one).

Rationalism is solipsistic: Christological (i.e. “a transcendenetal Christ-subject”[19] as Laruelle writes), hermetic, isolate, and fascistic - and of course goes hand in hand with rascism and humanism which are diffusely solipsistic: christological, hermetic, isolate, and fascistic.

Edward was around the far end of the yard last night and offered the following, in a crisp, clear, punchy locution that seemed to slice out into the air:

“You know who was a ‘rationalist materialist’? Althusser. And you know what was chalked on the walls in 68 next to “sous les pavés la plage”? The words "où est althusser?" His ‘anti-humanism’ is a misnomer insofar as it is just exactly the profoundest humanism, this: ‘I reason better than you do, so I am better than you are.’ Anti-humanism all too humanism.”

[1] Immanuel Kant, Metaphysical Elements of Justice: Part I of The Metaphysics of Morals Tr. John Ladd (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1999), 126.
[2] Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency Tr. Ray Brassier (London: Continuum, 2008), 26.
[3] Graham Harman, Towards Speculative Realism (UK: Zero Books, 2010), 145
[4] Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals Tr. Thomas Kingsmill Abbott (Radford: A & D Publishing, 2008), 50.
[5] Nick Land, "Kant, Capital, and the Prohibition of Incest” Third Text, 2:5 1988, 91.
[6] Alenka Zupancic, “Kant with Don Juan and Sade” in Radical Evil Ed. Joan Copjec (London: Verso, 1996), 122.
[7] Immanuel Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals Tr. Allen Wood (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 14.
[8] Wang Chong, Lunheng: Philosophical Essays Tr. Alfred Forke (New York: Paragon Book Gallery, 1962), 68-69.
[9] Kant, Notes and Fragments (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 440.
[10] Chong, Lunheng, 69.
[11] Kant, The Science of Right (Stilwell: Digireads, 2005), 61.
[12] Jean-Luc Nancy, The Experience of Freedom Tr. Bridget McDonald (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), 25; 94; 107-108; 164; 169.
[13] Kant, Perpetual Peace (Minneapolis: Filiquarian Publishing, 2007), 17.
[14] Deleuze and Guattari, Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Tr. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 538n.
[15] Zupancic, Radical Evil, 122-123.
[16] Nancy, The Experience of Freedom, 23.
[17] Deleuze and Guattari, Thousand Plateaus, 163-164.
[18] Kant, Critique of Pure Reason Tr. J. M. D. Meilklejohn (London: Henry Bohn, 1855), 475.
[19] Francois Laruelle, Future Christ: A Lesson In Heresy Tr. Anthony Paul Smith (London: Continuum, 2002), 23.


  1. Or at least we deterritorialize into something like an inhuman anarcho-fascism, at any rate. He may have Kant's number but he's not much better himself, granted.

  2. He's about a hundred times worse, but whatever.