Kant, the Old Racist Reply

I can’t say I really have a problem with canceling Kant. If religion is the opium of the masses, then philosophical idealism, moral realism, and deontological ethics are the opium of the intellectuals.

By Norbert Bolz, TELOS

The art of scandalizing is inexhaustible. In Kant’s Anthropology, there are a few remarks familiar to anyone who has studied Kant. According to the standards of the spirit our time, one could characterize those as racist. That media attention can be sparked from this today is known since the leveling of similar accusations at Shakespeare and Mark Twain. Hegel praised war, Nietzsche proclaimed the necessity of slavery, the hypersensitive Walter Benjamin made use of the word “gypsy.” One could endlessly extend the proscription list of scandalous thinkers. For the block warden of thought, there is really not a single great mind before 1968 with whom some racist, militaristic, or misogynistic remark could not be substantiated.

One could call what is happening here tribalization of the past. Political correctness is spreading to thought itself and deep into history. In this connection, the hatred for old white men is now concentrated on old wise men. This is surely the most extreme form of cultural revolution since Mao. Steadfast, the guardians of virtue replace thinking with intolerance and self-righteousness. The victim status renders with its pathos of indignation any argumentation superfluous. The new Jacobins no longer content themselves here with language-hygienic measures. We are currently witnessing phase 2 of political correctness: fanatical iconoclasm. As though the past were still unfinished, history is being rewritten. Children’s books are being expurgated or censored; a gender-sensitive Bible frees God of the stain of being a father; streets are being renamed, holidays corrected, and statues toppled. The Taliban are among us.

In America, the word “woke” has come to serve as the trademark of this movement. This means that the moralistic standards of “snowflakes” are also being applied to the past. This woke and cancel culture is the most authoritarian that we have seen since the Second World War. One no longer wishes to understand, but to condemn. In this way, Zola’s “J’accuse” has become the global uniform of political agitation. “Racist” functions in this way worldwide as a passe-partout word that opens up for the new Jacobins access to media and politics. And unfortunately this also applies to scientists, who rely on brightly sparkling research funds.

The fact that it is now Kant, philosopher of the Enlightenment, who has fallen victim to the tribunalizers, should make it clear to everyone that the fate of occidental rationalism is at stake here. One can put Kant up “to debate,” without reading him. For reading Kant is very exacting—and this is something that even with the best of intentions can be avoided. After all, the tribunalization of the past has an important alleviating effect. A label is stuck to a great mind, and one no longer needs to deal with him. “Putting up for debate” replaces studying.

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