Introductions (III)

The Problem of Kant(H)

O.G. Rose
24 min readApr 1, 2023

Considering “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian” by James Conant

I’ve never read a book by Merold Westphal that I didn’t find extraordinary. In History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology, he opens making it clear that Hegel sees himself as saving philosophy from Kant:

‘Hegel defines the task of true philosophy as the absolute overcoming of all oppositions. This is accomplished only in knowing the Absolute. The Kantian philosophy, however, takes as its task not the knowing of the Absolute, but the critique of our knowing capacity. Thus it remains in the realm of opposition and in the strictest sense cannot be called philosophy. In fact it mistakes the death of philosophy for its highest fulfillment. We can therefore expect Hegel’s philosophy to take the form of a continuous debate with the critical philosophy: and we should not be too surprised when he defines philosophy as the refutation of Kant.’¹

Did Hegel misread Kant, though? I have heard arguments that Hegel may have, and I have thought that I should dive deep into the scholarship of Kant to see for myself. But how could I ever reach a point where I am confident enough that Hegel’s understanding of Kant is correct to be sure that I am not mistaken when I claim “Kant said this” or “Kant believed that?” At the same time, how can I not speak of Kant, seeing as Kant has so profoundly influenced the formation of the modern world? And is there not a prevalent understanding of Kant to which Hegel is responding? All of this makes me reflect on what exactly I’m doing when I speak of philosophers, a dilemma that constantly confronts me. What am I doing when I read someone, when I speak of them? How do I refer to a movement of thought that claims it emerged from someone (when that movement is (always) based on a possible misreading)? Should I stay silent? But thoughts are spreading, and arguably to remain silent is to surrender to that movement. What should be done?


Further backing the point that Hegel sees trouble in Kant, after telling us that the decades between Kant and Hegel ‘represent a breathtaking concentration of the intensity of thinking […] more happen[s] than in centuries or even millennia of the ‘normal’ development of human thought,’ Žižek tells us In Less Than Nothing:²

‘Hegel’s reproach to Kant is that he is too gentle with things: he locates antinomies in the limitation of our reason, instead of location them in things themselves, that is, instead of conceiving reality-in-itself as cracked and antinomic.’³

Things are not stable (A/A), but instead what Kant dismisses as problems to be avoided (contradictions) Hegel sees as essential: ‘the point of dialectical analysis is to demonstrate how every phenomenon, everything that happens, fails in its own way, implies a crack, antagonism, imbalance, in its very heart.’⁴ For Westphal, ‘Hegel is declaring his independence from the whole epistemological project as modern philosophy inherited it from Descartes,’ and Hegel was aware that ‘Kant called the Critique of Pure Reason a treatise on method.’⁵ ⁶ ‘Hegel [believes] the instrument metaphor pervades the epistemological tradition he is seeking to transcend,’ and ‘agrees with Schiller that ‘utility is the great idol of the times’ […]’ (a sentiment I think is still with us, as discussed in “The Value Isn’t the Utility” by O.G. Rose).⁷ ‘More concretely, Hegel is suggesting that what comes to expression in the Critique of Pure Reason is nothing less than society’s loss of substantial life and of a sense of the divine presence’ — the stakes are high.⁸

‘Knowledge conceived as an instrument is a means to the end of power,’ Hegel thought, but ‘[t]he goal of philosophy, however, is not to gain power over the Absolute but to know it as it truly is.’⁹ Philosophy is closer to aesthetics than it is to engineering (even if the conditions which allow for aesthetics must be engineered to be experienced), which is to say our work is more like “honoring” and “witnessing” then it is “harnessing” and “controlling.” We are to meet the “conditions” for experiencing the Absolute and at the same time be “conditioned” by the Absolute (which suggests “Conditionalism” by O.G. Rose), which matches the journey and development of the believer, it should be noted (as we believe in God, we are changed in our effort to know God more, which in turn changes how we experience God). The process of “seeking to know” changes “the one who seeks to know,” which changes how we “seek to know” (which is to say we can know and experience different things), which changes “the one who seeks to know” — on and on. Hegel argues a similar development in philosophy, hence why Hegel opposes ‘[how] Kant tended to equate the question — How is science possible? — with the question — How is experience possible?’¹⁰ Kant sought knowledge that doesn’t change us in our gaining of our knowledge, which basically leads to Modern Science and “bracketing out the subject” for the sake of gaining stable knowledge (a process described brilliantly in Kindly Inquisitors by Jonathan Rauch).¹¹ Hegel thinks this was a profound and beneficial evolution of consciousness, but not if we stay in this development and forsake the Absolute in the process — if we make this mistake, the advancement will prove to be an advancement against life itself.

‘Is method the way to truth? or does one pay too high a price for its services […] [given the] transformation of the transcendental question into the methodological question?’¹² Well, if we could stop ourselves from replacing the Absolute with epistemological structures, then we could benefit from the best of both worlds, but this doesn’t seem easy for us. ‘Faith has the content without insight, while Enlightenment has insight without the content,’ and so we need both (A/B) and yet seem naturally inclined to give up one for the other (A/A); worse yet, Modern and Postmodern epistemology suggests we should give up one for the other (suggesting that both still operate within A/A).¹³ The way of our world today is to moralize making a mistake which leaves us with nothing.

In his reflection “Bad Epistemology, Nietzsche’s Ontology, and Postmodernism,” Javier Rivera argued that Postmodernism has helped us eliminate “bad epistemology,” which is incredibly important, but Postmodernism “overfits” to suggest epistemology can replace ontology and/or that we can do without either in favor of scientism. Our task now is a redemption of ontology, which requires us to see how ontology and epistemology are indivisible as “ontoepistemology,” which for me is the work of “The Modern Counter-Enlightenment” and The Absolute Choice in general. Postmodernism helps us be “open” and deconstructs “autonomous rationality” or “autonomous A/A,” but it does not provide us with a new conception of the human being (which can address the sociological problems discussed in Belonging Again without being isolationist, atomized, and/or risking “shared intelligibility”). Lacking this, we face Artificial Intelligence and find it threatening to master the field of epistemology, which since we now see ourselves as basically just being epistemology, is a threat to our very identify at a profoundly existential level. Javier notes that in Eden, the man and women were good, but they wanted to know they were good, which means they sacrificed ontology for epistemology. We have made the same mistake, and now we find AI coming to take from us the epistemology (and derived sense of purpose, identity, and specialness) for which we gave up so much. Fortunately, the Gospel is a story of how there is always a chance for redemption…


Moving forward, to view Kant as Hegel’s archnemesis seems to be an accurate understanding of Hegel’s reading of Kant, and that leaves me with a problem: How should I discuss Kant? Do I take Hegel’s word for it, or should I revisit Kant myself and make sure that Hegel’s reading of Kant is right? How should I even discuss Kant? I find it impossible to constantly, in every conversation, clarify that I am discussing Kant as Hegel understood Kant. But who am I to say Hegel was wrong? To constantly make that clarification would suggest that Hegel “might be wrong,” and who am I to make that suggestion? We’re dealing with Hegel here, the Hegel.

Thanks to Joel Carini, a magnificent writer and thinker, I received an article by James Conant titled “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian,” which suggested that many interpretations of Kant are mistaken, because they consider Kant isolated from the entire movement of his thought. Dr. Conant writes that the aim of his essay ‘must rather be to communicate the movement of Kant’s thought — something that undergoes distortion the moment one attempts to freeze it into a thesis or set of theses deliverable by some more familiar form of intellectual demonstration.’¹⁴ Did Hegel make the mistake of considering Kant in light of only the Critique of Pure Reason? It’s absolutely possible, and yet Hegel still spoke to a real movement of thought that was spreading through his culture and that still haunts our culture to this very day. Yes, perhaps this “movement of thought” is based on a terrible misreading of Kant, but it also seems to have “enough overlap” with Kant to be fairly deemed “Kantianism.” Granted, a movement that lacks the nuance and precision of Kant seems unfairly titled “Kantianism,” but at the same time the “movement” wouldn’t exist had Kant never written. How could we speak of this “movement” then without calling it “Kantianism,” for the majority of people following this movement believe they are following Kant: to not speak of “Kantianism” would be to fail to speak to these people (and so what are we worried about?). This consideration will bring us to the topic of “KantH,” but let us first explore more of Dr. Conant.

There are too many great minds in this world who I know too little of, and at this point in March 2023, that assessment applies to James Conant, whose work impresses me. In (Re)constructing “A Is A” can be found a paper titled “Bridging the Kants” which attempts to interpret Kant with all of his Critiques together, though Dr. Conant’s work is far superior and can help us understand what might be a problem with “Hegel’s Kant,” even if Hegel still generates what I consider one of the world’s greatest philosophical achievements. Harold Bloom taught that misreadings are what great poets master, and the same applies easily to philosophy. If Hegel’s Kant isn’t Kant, that is no hit on Hegel, for the form of “Kantianism” he responded to is still prevalent. All the same, I feel a responsibility to make clear to readers that Kant might not be who he seems to be (at least not entirely).

Dr. James Conant begins his essay with a magnificent example of a layered cake, and notes how most people think of “rationality” as something just “added atop” our more animal nature, with each layer of the cake not impacting the others. There is an assumption ‘that the internal character of the manifold constituting the bottom layer remains unaffected by the introduction of the upper layer.’¹⁵ Conant elaborates:

‘Just as in a layer cake with a lower layer of chocolate and an upper layer of vanilla: the fact that there is a layer of vanilla sitting on top of the chocolate does not affect the internal character of what it is to be chocolate. So, too, according, to the deep-seated assumption: just because, in the human case, there happens to be a layer of cognitive functioning, which involves ‘additional’ capacities (say, the capacities to employ concepts and make judgments) sitting on top of our merely animal nature, does not alter or otherwise affect the internal character of the capacities which make up the lower level — the human animal’s capacities to be sensibly affected by and desire objects in the world.’¹⁶

The suggestion here is that animals are ‘just like us’ other than ‘lacking our capacities for rational thought and judgment,’ which Conant argues is not the case, for the addition of rationality transforms the whole of us (our dimensions are not independent even if irreducible).¹⁷ The presence of ‘rational cognition[] requires [for our] capacity for sensory affection [to] radically differ in its internal character from that of any nonrational animal,’ which is to say that an animal isn’t fundamentally “a human minus rationality,” for rationality leads to “the animalistic parts” of humans to be widely different (like “emergences”) from those very same parts in nonrational creatures.¹⁸ I think Hegel would agree with all this, for “parts of a whole” are not the same “parts” when integrated into a different whole or left alone.

For Conant, Kant doesn’t make the mistake of “thinking of humans as layered cakes,” and Kant understands that ‘our sentient cognitive faculty […] represents a faculty whose form is utterly distinct in character from any whose exercise might manifest itself in the sensory life of a nonrational animal.’¹⁹ ‘Such a conception of the dependence of our sensory capacity on our rational faculty is clearly present in Aristotle […] What is new with Kant is a concern to ward off a form of skepticism that he sees as a consequence of our having lost hold of the wisdom contained in this traditional idea.’²⁰ Unfortunately, Kant often ends up just being seen as ‘some sort of dogmatist. He is usually read as if he thought that he may accept the terms of the problem which the skeptics sets up, but then, operating within those terms, introduce[s] some additional requirement[s] or consideration[s] which save[] the day and allows us to conclude that certain bits of material knowledge are invulnerable to skeptical doubt.’²¹ This is not the role of the Transcendental Deduction in Kant, which is rather interested in ‘the critical question: what is the relation between the general form of what is and the general form of knowledge?’²² If this is missed, we end up with a Kant who is seen as basically positing no connection between thoughts and things, Notion and Nature, a possibility Hegel strongly opposes, for it means:

‘…the general form of thought and experience could [not] amount to anything other than a mere mirroring back to us of that which our merely subjective forms of cognition impose on that which is given to us — yielding a conception of how the world is which merely reflects the manner in which (given how we are constituted) we cannot help but think of it. Once fully thought through, this yields a form of skeptical worry even more dire than the one which originally confronted the Cartesian skeptic.’²³

Fortunately, this is not where Kant leads us, even if most “Kantianism” does (which suggests Hegel responds to “Kantianism” more than Kant, but aren’t we glad Hegel did?). It is “Kantianism” which ‘leaves us with a picture in which our forms of understanding always operate at an unbridgeable [distance] from the reality regarding which they seek to provide us knowledge,’ but not Kant, which is to say “Kantianism” (an interpretation of Kant that divides each Critique from all the others) leaves us, as Robert Pippin puts it, ‘devolving into a philosophically hopeless form of subjectivism.’²⁴ ²⁵ And yet in what sense can we speak of “Kantianism” if it doesn’t represent Kant? So is the trouble of interpretation, the difficulty of thinking the history of thought…

Far from Kant trying to avoid risk in separating “thoughts” and “things,” Kant ‘inquires into the grounds of the possibility of our being able to enjoy any experience or entertain a thought-content in the first place. The Kantian asks: What does it take to have thoughts that are vulnerable to how things are? [In other words,] what [is it] to stick []our neck out in thinking?’²⁶ How can thoughts be wrong, exactly? For all “practical purposes,” we know it is possible to be wrong, and thus thought must have something to do with the world, yes? And so on what grounds can we “take a risk” and do so well and meaningfully? Here, we see in Kant how the concern on the possibility of “wrongness” is just as important as the question of “rightness,” and recognizing the possibility of “error” can help us understand that the world for Kant is indeed real and “there,” and that what happens in the mind is part of the world. How exactly is the question, an inquiry which Kant himself can answer best.

To close this section, I would like to note a passage from Conant that suggests Hegel and Kant are more similar than Hegel might have realized (suggesting perhaps “the anxiety of influence” which Bloom often discussed):

‘[For Kant,] a quite different kind of exercise of our cognitive capacity is now called for. If we are to engage in (what Kant calls) transcendental philosophy then what is required is a capacity to become reflectively aware of the very capacities that are always already in act in our everyday exercises of our capacities for nonphilosophical thought and action. For Kant, such a philosophical attempt to achieve self-knowledge about the nature of our finite theoretical cognitive capacity calls for reflection on the conditions of the possibility of what can and cannot come into view for us as something that is really possible, thus on what can and cannot be grasped in thought and taken up in judgment, and hence on what does and what does not constitute a genuine exercise of our power for theoretical cognition.’²⁷

Both Kant and Hegel seem deeply concerned with “the limits of thought” precisely so that we might know those limits and master them. More could be said, and I’ve only touched on Conant’s magnificent article — please go and read the rest — and though I am tempted to quote it all here, my goal has only been to suggest that we cannot assume Hegel’s reading of Kant is correct even if Hegel is correct to critique “Kantianism.”


The “layered cake”-point in mind, for Conant, we can only understand Kant if we read all of his works as informing and changing one another. We cannot separate the Critiques: all three must be read together as works which change the nature of all the others. Conant writes:

‘It is clear that Kant’s aim in the First Critique is to elucidate the concept of a finite capacity for theoretical knowledge […] There is a tendency to elaborate it in (what I will call) restrictive terms — in accordance with a conception according to which the finite knower is pictured as if he were sealed into a delimited sphere.’²⁸

This is the common view of Kant which Hegel seems to be responding to, and for Conant it results from reading the First Critique mainly by itself. If we ‘understand[] Kant’s conception of finitude to be a restrictive one, [we almost inevitably] slide[] into (what [Conant] call[s]) an impositionist reading […] a reading according to which the categories of the understanding are taken to impose certain forms of unity on an exogenous matter.’²⁹ Conant associates this with ‘A Fairly Standard Reading of Kant,’ and contrasts this view with his ‘Alternative Reading of Kant’ (as listened out clearly in his essay).³⁰ In Conant’s reading, Kant ‘show[s] that the requirements of the understanding are not just subjective requirements but genuinely requirements on objects themselves.’³¹ If we understand “a cup as a cup,” it is because there are conditions in the object that so direct our subjectivity: there is a connection between “thought” and “thing,” Notion and Nature (as perhaps brought out through “action” and even “common life,” considering the Second Critique) — Kant is not as “Kantian” as he seems.

More could be said, but Conant’s article deserves its own reading, and I would prefer to feature “Bridging the Kants” elsewhere. Ultimately, the point of this work is to draw attention to the fact that Hegel may have misread Kant, just as Kant may have misread Hume (it’s Harold Bloom “all the way down”), though even those are claims I hesitate to make.³² Regardless, I believe Hegel is responding to a very real and problematic “movement of thought” that is commonly referred to as “Kantianism.” Perhaps we should always discuss Kant with a small “H” (KantH) to clarify that we are discussing “Hegel’s Kant” versus the Kant described by Dr. James Conant? I am tempted by that notion, but it also seems like it would open a can of worms. To discuss Kant as KantH would be bulky and cause trouble in publication, and furthermore Hegel discusses KantH “as Kant” — I am suggesting that I know something Hegel does not (which feels arrogant). Furthermore, in a live discussion, I couldn’t possible say “KantH” every time, so doing so here would risk confusion. I don’t know — it is a tough call.

In The Absolute Choice, when we discuss “Kant,” we will be discussing KantH, even when the small “H” is missing. I am tempted to write “KantH” whenever I mention Kant in this book, but I have ruled against that, for then I would feel a need to designate every thinker I ever mention (Hegel, Heidegger, etc.), and the world is not a place where references to thinkers are designated with such clarification. There are arguments against “trigger warnings” because they might make us fragile (I don’t know if this is true), and likewise “superscript interpretation designations” (SIDs) might train us to think it’s clear what constitutes an accurate interpretation and what constitutes a false one, when this is not true. We must do the work of looking into what we hear. The easy road can make us complacent and unprepared.

KantH is a very real force in the world, so it needs to be discussed, and the temptation to use KantH constantly would reflect a hope to respect Kant’s labor while at the same time referring to what most people call “Kantianism” (a problem that reminds me of how Platonism tends to be a problem and yet not a reflection of Plato: PlatoP isn’t Plato, per se). But if I made this move, why stop there? Why not discuss “Kant’s Hume” as HumeK or my Hegel as HegelO.G.? The great Pae Veo has brought to my attention the need to discuss “The Common Descartes” (DescartesC ) from Descartes to himself, but are we going to start adding superscript letters to all thinkers to designate an interpretation (which Medium and Substack might not allow)? This would risk a fragmentation which might suggest the Duginism which I hope to avoid, but I don’t know — writing is choosing.


It is very possible that Hegel has not given Kant all the credit he is due, and yet I still believe Hegel is responding to a very real “Kantianism” that has problematically defined our Modern World. Additionally, I think there are resources found in Hegel that are not found in Kant, as they likewise are not fount in Hume, but I say this while at the same time acknowledging that there are likely more resources in Kant then I realize. Of all philosophers, Kant has been the one who I have most struggled to define my relationship with, and here I want to draw attention to my uncertainty before advancing in The Absolute Choice, where the impression might be given that I am utterly antagonist toward Kant. I am against “Kantianism,” absolutely, but I don’t know to what degree that makes me against Kant. (How strange is life…)

Is Christianity the same as Jesus? Thousands and perhaps even millions of people believe that the Church errs and fails to teach what Jesus taught, and so what do we talk about when we talk about Christianity? What do we talk about when we talk about Platonism if it doesn’t relate to Plato? And yet it seems inadequate to discuss Kantianism without “Kant” in the title (say as Noumenaism or Mentalism), for indeed the supposed “Kantianism” will constantly reference Kant and refer to his work as the source for its thinking. Likewise, bad interpretations of Jesus Christ constantly refer to Christ and the Bible, and so the bad interpretations “of” Christianity see themselves as “Christ-ian,” and how can we claim with utmost authority that they aren’t unless we are “certain” of our reading of the Bible (which is impossible)? To even say “x take on Christianity isn’t Christian” is itself a Christian claim which requires textual backing, and no doubt those we disagree with will claim that it’s us who should drop the “Christ” from our “Christ-ian.” And if we didn’t call a set of beliefs “Christian” unless it was actually “like Christ,” then everyone would come into these discussions with countless different titles, and the discussion could not be “fenced in” within “a field of thinking” that would assist with “shared intelligibility.” By calling x, y, and z positions all “Christian” (because they see themselves “as Christian”), even if y and z are for some reason “not like Christ,” then we are still able to locate a “field” of understanding in which to situate and understand the dialogue. Without this “field” or “range,” the conversation would likely prove inefficient (like numerous people speaking in different languages), and if that occurred what chance would we have to approach “the best” understanding of Christianity (or to even recognize it when we arrived at it)? It seems as if “having the conversation” requires this problem and imprecision, and avoiding the problem would require bogging the conversation in technicalities, distinctions, and clarifications which would render the conversation inefficient and even unintelligible. By calling x, y, and z all “Christian,” it suggests all three share a commitment to “be like Christ” in their aim, even if they don’t agree on what constitutes “Christian.”

Perhaps this suggests what we should think when we think of a title or group designation: to call x, y, and z “Kantian” is not to say one of them has “the true reading” while the other two do not, but to say they are bound to “a shared commitment” to think like Kant. Perhaps they all fail, but to say, “This is Kantianism,” is to say, “I am engaged in an effort to understand Kant, to consider the consequences of Kant on myself and others, and the like,” as something similar is meant in discussing “Christianity.” Perhaps to speak of “Kantianism” is to step into a space where we are willing to conform our views and ideas of Kant to the best argument and understanding of Kant which is presented, however best we can (which would suggest an understanding of terms like “Kantianism” that aligns with the “communitive rationality” of Habermas). If I call myself a “Hegelian” versus a “Kantian,” perhaps it is to say that I am uniquely committed to understanding Hegel and his thinking compared to say Kant, though the moment I discuss “Kantianism,” I still must be willing to be guided anew by someone else’s “Kant” (perhaps even to a place where I consider a new commitment to “Kant”). In this way, perhaps terms like “Kantian, “Christian,” and “Hegelian” have more to do with “a commitment” than a “position” or “worldview” — hard to say.

And yet there is a tension we face here, for to believe we understand a thinker is to speak as if there is nothing more to think regarding that thinker (after all, we have arrived at what we believe is the right interpretation). What does it mean to “have a commitment to x” and yet “not think about x?” It would seem our relationship to a thinker is always one of “(re)starting and stopping,” and yet with each “stop” we genuinely believe we will not have to “restart” again (otherwise, we wouldn’t stop where we do). This makes me think of On Certainty by Wittgenstein, which also brings to mind “the resolute reading” proposed by Cora Diamond and James Conant, where it is suggested that ‘the saying/showing distinction […] is just one of the rungs of the Tractarian ladder that we must eventually throw away.’³³ Can we make sense of the idea of holding a position that we believe is true and yet at the same time are also committed to leaving the position behind if such proves “fitting?” What exactly does that mean? I’m not sure if it can be explained, only shown, which might suggest the possibility of “communicative rationality” requires practices which cannot be convincingly put into words. The “say/show distinction” itself is ineffable.

“A shared commitment” to a thinker must entail stages where we act “as if” we have reached the logical end of our commitment, and yet when we re-enter a conversation (under a label of “Kantianism,” “Christian,” etc.), we must be open again to change, which will be very difficult, because it might turn out that something we thought we were done with is something we realize we aren’t done with at all, meaning we have work to do (in this life where there always seems to be so little time). We could be tempted to avoid this work by shutting down the others we speak with through power, insult, dismissal, or the like, which often defines discussions between “Kantians,” “Christians,” or the like today, which further can seem justified because what if we do all this work and find out the person we spoke with was wrong? Wouldn’t we have started on this wild goose chase for no reason? Indeed, there is a great vulnerability required for “a shared commitment,” and yet this is necessary, though I myself can speak from experience that it is very tempting to ignore someone who suggests we need to revisit and reconsider a position or thinker we thought we were done with and understood. Time is short, and reconsidering a position can risk toppling over all the thinking we built upon that position, and yet this is what is required if thinking is to prove thoughtful. There are indeed incentives for treating “Kantianism” as a “claim of a true reading” versus “a claim to a commitment.”

Again, Hegel might have misread Kant, but I still believe Hegel responded to a real movement of KantH or “Kantianism” in the world, which arose out of “an understanding of Kant” which may have lacked the character of “a commitment to Kant” to arrive at a reading like what is found in Dr. Conant’s work. If KantH lacks this commitment, can we really call it “Kantianism,” considering what was just said? Perhaps, for I cannot say for sure that KantH lacks “commitment to Kant” — I can only suggest we might need to “commit to Kant” anew. If those of KantH were to prove themselves willing of this, then it will be “as if” they were always Kantians in the sense of a commitment which intellectual life requires. Perhaps we shouldn’t use the term “Kantian” at all? Again, I understand that sentiment, but then we couldn’t organize or “locate” the conversation — there is a kind of “willingness to err” we must accept in this finite life, it seems, suggesting this a work for the vulnerable, which is perhaps precisely why philosophy can house so much denial of vulnerability.


In closing, to stress, when I refer to Kant in this book, I will be referring to Kant as Hegel understood him. This might be “a Kantianism that isn’t Kant,” and I have no interest to speak as if I am a master scholar of Kant, and yet no doubt it is the nature of writing and speaking to create the impression that I “know the true Kant.” I have written this piece to clarify that I do not intend this even if I cannot escape this impression, and yet at the same time I find it impossible to avoid speaking of “Kant(ianism)” without risking unintelligibility.

As brought out by Merold Westphal, Hegel positions his work as against and as alternative to a certain interpretation of Kant that has gained a lot of currency with the culture, rightly or wrongly. Regardless, I do think Kant is the beginning of the emphasis of “epistemology” over “ontology,” and it is this tendency which we must work to correct through Hegel, for I agree with Hegel that it can lead to the death of philosophy (exactly as it seems to have done in our culture today). In moral action (Second Critique) and experiences of beauty (Third Critique), Kant would have us overcome the limits of our minds, but in Hegel thinking is more Absolute. I want to support an “ontoepistemology” (A/B), for this is what I believe we need, and this is what I think is uniquely found in Hegel, hence why this book is about Hegel and not Kant, even if Kant is not as problematic as Hegel takes him to be.

To close and looking head, Merold Westphal tells us that ‘we can meaningfully speak of the task of the Phenomenology; that there is a single coherent argument running through its entirety’ (it is not a “hash,” as he comically discusses elsewhere).³⁴ I agree, which begs the question: Is there a consistent and coherent line of thought which runs through all of Hegel, not just the Phenomenology? Is Hegel driven by something he’s “seen” that afterwards he can never “unsee” (to allude to Nabokov) that drives him from start to finish? Having given respect to Kant where respect is due, The Absolute Choice might suggest a vision of A/B drives Hegel throughout all his work, perhaps like Faulkner through The Sound and the Fury, consistently and always chasing after Caddy, even if he doesn’t know where Caddy might take him. For this is life.





¹Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 1.

²Žižek, Slavoj. Less Than Nothing. Paperback Edition. Brooklyn, New York: Verso Press, 2013: 8.

³Žižek, Slavoj. Less Than Nothing. Paperback Edition. Brooklyn, New York: Verso Press, 2013: 8.

⁴Žižek, Slavoj. Less Than Nothing. Paperback Edition. Brooklyn, New York: Verso Press, 2013: 8.

⁵Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 2.

⁶Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 4.

⁷Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 4.

⁸Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 39.

⁹Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 4.

¹⁰Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 94.

¹¹Funny enough, Quentin Meillassoux suggests Kant also unleashes Fideism, which is a world of faiths and beliefs which don’t need to test or justify themselves. Kant then would be the father both of Scientism and the “Pandora’s Rationality” which has bred so many conspiracies.

¹²Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 95.

¹³Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 167.

¹⁴Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1), Spring 2016: 76.

¹⁵Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 77.

¹⁶Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 77.

¹⁷Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 77–78.

¹⁸Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 79.

¹⁹Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 79.

²⁰Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 79.

²¹Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 82.

²²Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 83.

²³Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 83.

²⁴Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 84.

²⁵Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 88.

²⁶Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 83.

²⁷Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 102.

²⁸Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 86–87.

²⁹Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 88.

³⁰Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 87.

³¹Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 87.

³²If the Second and Third Critiques are how Kant addresses the First Critique (with something like “a real choice”), then Kant reads Hume to be like Hume, I think, though why must be left to “Deconstructing Common Life” by O.G. Rose.

³³As found in “The Resolute Reading and Its Critics.” Wittgenstein-Studies (Vol. 3, 2012): 56.

³⁴Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 1.




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