Talk:Immanuel Kant

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Racism revisions[edit]

I would like to suggest some edits to the treatment of Racism in this article. My basic concern is that the current critique only makes sense given a modern Western perspective on racism. It would not be a valid critique in Kant's time, nor would it make sense from other contemporary perspectives, e.g. Indian or Chinese. To avoid this problem I would avoid absolute statements e.g. "His cosmopolitan reputation, however, is stained by his promulgation of scientific racism..." and might prefer "Critics have recognized certain of Kant's works as deficient by modern Western standards of social equity, although in their 16th century context they were mainstream." Before I dive in though I am hoping for feedback from people who are more aware of the history of this page and the current material on racism. @PatrickJWelsh JBradleyChen (talk) 20:41, 16 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Your proposed alternative is not really an alternative, since it makes no reference to racism. I would have taken it to refer to his views on, maybe, women or democracy. It is, true, however, that scientific racism was ordinary in his time (not BTW the 16th century). How about an amendment to: "In today's eyes, however, his reputation is stained by his promulgation of ..."? Errantios (talk) 23:57, 16 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you for the prompt feedback. I meant 18th century of course; thanks for the correction. Regarding the term 'racism', part of my concern is that some of the current language suggests subjectivity ill-suited for this context. In particular, "racism" is charged language, pre-judging the subject in a modern Western context. Similarly, "stained" seems biased. I was attempting a factual statement to avoid these potential biases. Consider a hypothetical edit:
Critics recognize certain of Kant's works as deficient by modern Western standards of social equity,
Would you agree that this is an objective, factual statement? Do you think that replacing "social equity" with "racism" or "racial equity" improves the statement? Perhaps one might also need to add something about sexism, in that case. JBradleyChen (talk) 13:08, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Consider Wikipedia:Core content policies:
  1. Neutral point of view (WP:NPOV) – All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing significant views fairly, proportionately and without bias
My concern is that the current introductory text regarding reputation is not neutral and does not represent significant views fairly. JBradleyChen (talk) 13:16, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@JBradleyChen; cc: @Errantios.
Thanks for tagging me on this.
I do not see, though, what's wrong with the term "racism." Kant explicitly talks about race all the time in the Anthropology and related texts, and what he says about non-Europeans is often quite disparaging. A clause could be added to note his historical context, in which such views were commonplace, but the term is perfectly accurate.
If it sounds judgmental, that is because the multiple scholarly sources cited throughout this section are explicitly critical of Kant's views. Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 21:12, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Quite right, Patrick. "Racism" is well established in social science as a descriptive term. Errantios (talk) 23:19, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I acknowledge the legitimacy of the term 'racism' to refer to racism. I am concerned with the use of "Racism" as a section title, as it trivializes what appears to be an intellectual struggle throughout Kant's career, denies his final position, and ignores the importance of contributions to social equity such as the Categorical Imperative.
I am also concerned with terms like "cosmopolitain reputation" and "stained" in the introduction. These seem like ornamental language inconsistent with WP:NPOV.
To make the discussion more neutral, I would suggest the following:
  • Less ornamental language in the introductory material
  • Update section title to something less provocative
  • An introductory passage in the section on racial/social equity to contextualize Kant's views and explain their development over his career
  • Review by qualified Kant scholars to verify this treatment
I am not a qualified Kant scholar but do know a few people who might be able to help.
JBradleyChen (talk) 23:44, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Upon further review I would like next to give some attention to the paragraph that begins: "Kant was one of the most".
Here are some concerns:
  • The citation to Mills 2017 appears to be incorrect. It cites pages 169-193, but those pages do not concern Kant. I believe it should reference the chapter on Kant which in my copy is pages 91-112
  • The citation to Eze 1997b suggests Eze is the author, but the author is Kant, his article "On the Different Races of Man", p38-49. Eze doesn't identify the translator, and says it is the 1775 version, but it appears to use the 3rd chapter from the Kant's 1777 version of the essay, which is confusing. Eze's translation is from E.W. Count 1950 "This is Race" although I don't have access to that volume to identify the translator or related considerations. I would prefer to use the translation from Mikkelsen 2013, which includes translations of both the 1775 and 1777 versions of the essay and other useful context.
  • The next two sentences rely heavily on Mills 2017 "Black Rights / White Wrongs" but do not cite Mills. The third sentence uses identical grammar and quotations to Mills 2017 p.95, with minor changes to vocabulary. Apart from issues of plagiarism, they are in Mills voice, but are presented in Wikipedia voice, so at a minimum that needs to be corrected, either properly quoting Mills or rewriting to be neutral.
  • The reference to the four temperaments in the next sentence is misleading. It leads a reader to believe Kant spontaneously applied ancient Greek theory directly, which contradicts Kant's logical nature.[Tolley 2006, “Kant on the Nature of Logical Laws.” 2006,] It also fails to acknowledge similarity to theories presented by Linnaeus that anticipate Kant's essay, and concurrent work by Blumenbach and by Buffon, who is cited by Kant.
  • The closing sentence generally ignores the complexity of applying terms "scientific racisim" and "race" in this context. It requires applying an 18th century standard for science and a 21st century standard for racism. I'm wondering if there is a way to help readers.18th century science was still heavily influenced by theology. Indeed early theories by Linnaeus and Blumenbach were built on Creationism, so not very scientific. Note Kant's essay was almost a century before Darwin's "On the Origin of Species." Race was a very recent concept during this period [see Muller-Wille 2014, "Race and History: Comments from an Epistemological Point of View", doi:10.1177/0162243913517759] and not stable, for example the German words for "race" and "species" appear to have been interchangeable at the time [Zorn 2020, "Kant, a Racist?", DOI:]
I would appreciate feedback on how to best address these questions. JBradleyChen (talk) 16:43, 30 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@PatrickJWelsh @Errantios @Dumuzid
In case you missed this latest comment. JBradleyChen (talk) 21:19, 30 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I didn't miss it, but can't help on your specific points. All the best. Errantios (talk) 00:41, 1 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If you're sure the page-ranges are incorrect, there's no need to check in here before fixing them. If you happen to have pagination to the critical AA edition for the Kant material currently cited to another anthology, that would also be great to add (e.g., Kant APPV 7:xx).
I remain skeptical, however, with respect to your concerns about "Wikipedia voice" and speaking about the past from the perspective of the present. Thanks to your earlier contributions, there seems to me quite enough context.
The section is already long enough and amply well-sourced. If you are going continue to edit along these lines, I would encourage you to consider using endnotes for discussion of such technical matters as translational and methodological issues.
Also, remember that editors are not allowed to make their own arguments about material supported by reliable sources, which sounds like it is possibly what you are suggested with your comment, which I don't understand (did not read the article) about Kant's "logical nature."
You might also look at WP:TENDENTIOUS to be sure you do not cross any lines. I sympathize with your desire to boost/defend Kant, but editing with such a clear editorial point of view on a topic like race is an excellent way to get your account banned.
Cheers, Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 17:03, 1 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Understood; thanks for the feedback.
Is it a problem how the material in the article borrows from Mills? In case you don't have handy access, here is the relevant passage from pg. 95 of Mills 2017. The quotes and parenthetical are from Mills 2017:
Kant is also seen as one of the central figures in the birth of modern "scientific" racism.4 Whereas other contributors to early racial thought like Carolus Linnaeus and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach had offered only "empirical" (scare-quotes necessary!) observations, Kant produced a full-blown theory of race. JBradleyChen (talk) 17:17, 1 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I would not worry about closeness of paraphrase in anything cited. Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 17:42, 1 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've corrected the citations. For the sentence I quote above, seems like this situation might be improved by:
  • making it a quote by Mills, properly cited
  • leaving as-is, but citing Mills instead of all the others
  • leaving as-is
Which of these three options do you think would be the most appropriate here? JBradleyChen (talk) 20:03, 1 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Just use your judgment. There's no need to check in about little revisions like this. If someone has a problem with the change, they will just change it back and you can talk it out then.
Cheers, Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 18:35, 2 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks - makes sense. Is the normal practice revert and then talk, or talk and then revert? JBradleyChen (talk) 19:39, 2 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In most cases of incremental improvements (as opposed to overhauling, removing, or adding whole sections), people generally just revert or overwrite the existing copy on their own authority. The onus of reaching out to discuss would be on the original author/editor who thinks the revision weakens the article. Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 20:33, 2 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
True, but when the text is already controversial or can be anticipated to become so, it is advisable to notify any non-trivial revision in Talk and seek comment. If there is no objection within maybe a week, it can be assumed that the proposal is acceptable.
(Now can we please stop adding within this thread, or we'll make it unmanageable again.) Errantios (talk) 08:28, 3 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Noting some specific concerns in the section on Racism that seem like they need correction:

  • There are no citations to actual works by Kant, just criticism of Kant. There should be links to primary sources.
  • Most of the criticism of Kant seems to be from a single source, Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze, who was on the faculty at DePaul but passed away in 2007.
  • The citation attributed to "Kant 2010" is a book chapter by Eze, not Kant.
  • The link to the Eze article is to copyrighted material. That seems like a problem.

JBradleyChen (talk) 22:46, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I count eight scholarly sources. Also Kant (2010) consists of excerpts from Kant's writings, and so it is entirely appropriate to cite him as the author. I have also added an editor field to reference to clarify this.
Also, to your top point, this most certainly would be a valid criticism of Kant's philosophy in his own time. It is in considerable tension, if not possibly outright contradiction, with his declaredly universal principles of reason. Indeed, according to the Kleingeld article cited in the final paragraph, Kant himself seems to have recognized and accepted this shortcoming in his anthropological thought. Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 21:31, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks for the feedback! I obviously am not familiar with the Kleingeld article or the "Kant 2010" material so I will spend some time on that. Given some of my concerns are incorrect, what would normal practice be, for me to revise in place, or post corrections?
Regarding criticism of Kant in his own time, it would be helpful to understand who criticized the social equity of Kant's beliefs during his own time, apart from his self-directed scrutiny. Granted I need to spend some time with Kleingeld.
Do you happen to know who helped develop the section on Racism? It would be great to understand what consideration was given to alternative points of view, and who need to collaborate on developing a more inclusive discussion of the topic. JBradleyChen (talk) 22:45, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You're most welcome. The material on racism was here before I took an interest in the page. All I've done is to pare a few things back, where possible, and move some material to the footnotes. Everything was very well cited, but its length was disproportionate to what makes sense in an encyclopedia overview of Kant's life and philosophy. With a little patience, though, you should be able to track down the original author by paging back through the article history.
To draft something that other people can see without altering the article, use your Sandbox, which can be found in the pull-down menu under the little person icon in the upper right (assuming you are looking at this in a normal web browser; if not, I have no idea). Other editors will very much appreciate doing this before making a big edit.
A suggestion: rather than trying to eliminate the language of racism – for the term clearly applies to Kant's racial categorization – you might look for critical reviews of the authorities cited or other scholarly sources arguing that these claims in the Anthropology and private correspondence are simply irrelevant to Kant's philosophical contributions. I don't know this literature at all, but there are definitely scholars who think that. Try keyword searches on Google Scholar or, if you have access, databases like Project Muse or JStor. Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 23:19, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks - this is helpful. I will also use the Sandbox when I'm ready to attempt an edit. Thanks for the tip. That said, I think I have some research to do before I attempt anything major. If you and @Errantios might be open to some of the more superficial changes I've suggested I would be happy to start with that. JBradleyChen (talk) 23:49, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you, but I don't think I'm enough of a philosopher to contribute further on this. Good luck! Errantios (talk) 04:27, 18 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hi @JBradleyChen, I've made a few minor changes along the lines you suggest. If you can find some good sources addressing this issue from another perspective, perhaps the section title would then be best changed to something like "Controversies of Kant's views on race." As the section currently exists, however, I think "Racism" is perfectly appropriate. Unless you would prefer "Racist views" or something along those lines. Kant lectured on this subject annually for twenty years and wrote multiple short pieces about discriminating among the races. We would do ourselves a disservice to whitewash that. To your larger concerns, anyone who discounts Kant's other works on the basis of these views alone is probably hopeless as a philosopher anyway, and the rest of us can only benefit from being forced to reengage with his practical philosophy with all of this material in mind. I haven't taught since grad school, but if I were to teach Kant's moral thought again (intro level, not my specialty) I would probably include excerpts from some of the primary source material of this section. I expect I would get considerably more student engagement on the foundational issues than one ever gets with, canonically, the stupid question about lying to the murderer at the door. Please do tag me in your sandbox whenever you might have something for review. I'm on and off with editing, but if I get a notice I should be able to take a look without much delay. Best wishes with the research! Cheers, Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 16:28, 18 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Woah that was fast! I did a bunch of reading last night and was going to work on changes over the next week. Sorry I am not prepared to draft this stuff off the top of my head!
Your changes look helpful. Some things I was also thinking to address:
  • I am concerned that terms like "racism" and "scientific racism" are pejorative, reflecting our modern perspective on race, hence decontextualizing the topic and failing the standard of neutral point of view (WP:NPOV). To address this I was going to propose "Theory of Race" as a neutral heading, and avoid the term "scientific racism" except in reference specifically to the work of modern scholars characterizing historic work.
  • To contextualize Kant's theories of race, I was going to mention that the theory of human race was a fresh topic in 18th century science, and the period controversy on monogenism vs. polygenism, where Kant was an advocate for monogenism. I was going to point out the primitive state of science, lacking theories of evolution or molecular genetics, such that many commonly held theories are absurd and sometimes offensive from a modern perspective.
  • I suggest reducing discussions of miscegenation and anti-semitism to references within a sentence rather than full paragraphs. As presented, I worry it misrepresents Kant's relevance and impact. My sense is he was a participant repeating commonly held views, so small impact compared to his views that were groundbreaking, e.g. the Categorical Imperative.
I was going to finish reading more references before proposing changes, but if something along these lines sounds plausible to you I would be happy to start writing. That said it would take me a few days to turn around. JBradleyChen (talk) 17:14, 18 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
All of this just sounds like you are trying to undermine (and misrepresent) the arguments of the authorities cited. No one is pretending to speak in the voice of Kant's contemporaries, and that is entirely fine.
The issue with Kant is theoretical, rather than physical, but one would not describe a man beating his wife within an inch of her life simply as "reminding her of her place in the home"—even if, at the time, this is how such behavior was regarded and would have been described. So too with the physical discipline of children. When we look back, we are horrified—and only all the more horrified by the fact that regular beatings and humiliation were at the time considered A-okay. These examples might be extreme, but I believe the analogy is strong.
For these sorts of reasons, I think that it is actually what you are doing (though obviously with the best of intentions!) that violates NPOV, namely, attempting to explain away and euphemize unsavory facts about a figure you admire for other, excellent reasons.
If you can cite to other Kant scholars engaging on racial issues from an opposing perspective, that would be great. Otherwise, I advise leaving the section as is. (The changes you propose would almost certainly be reversed, in any case.)
Another even more productive way you might promote the many admirable aspects of Kant's thought would be to improve the sections that treat those. "Political philosophy" and "Religious writings," for instance, need a lot of work, and "Moral thought" could surely be improved as well.
Sorry that I can't support this, but I do very much appreciate your continuing to come here for discussion before editing away willy-nilly.
Cheers, Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 18:20, 18 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Just want to chime in briefly here to say I agree with Patrick J. Welsh; the section on racist thought is presented about as neutrally as I can imagine. Kant's early thought on the matter is objectively racist, even if that carries a different moral stigma today than it did in his time. I am glad we contextualize it with a bit concerning Perpetual Peace, and if, JBradleyChen, you wanted to try your hand at drafting a brief sentence or clause saying something like "it was the fashion at the time" (with apologies to Grandpa Simpson), then I'd happily consider it. Cheers. Dumuzid (talk) 18:27, 18 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you for the feedback. I will be coming back to this, but I would like to do some homework first.JBradleyChen (talk) 03:13, 19 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Okay! Please see User:JBradleyChen/sandbox for a proposed addition to Immanuel_Kant#Racism. The only change is the addition of a paragraph at the end. JBradleyChen (talk) 03:40, 19 April 2023 (UTC) @PatrickJWelsh@Dumuzid In case you didn't see this, I put a proposed addition to Immanuel_Kant#Racism in User:JBradleyChen/sandbox. JBradleyChen (talk) 16:19, 19 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hi @JBradleyChen,
This looks like a good source, and I have only a quibble with the paragraph you propose adding. Namely, I'm pretty sure the dialog format of the article is mostly a rhetorical conceit. Hume was dead, and the Kuehn biography of Kant mentions Foster only in noting that the 1788 "On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy" is partially intended as a rebuttal of the latter's views on race.
So, if you are going to say there was something akin to a "serialized debate" maybe check with another source to be sure you're characterizing it correctly? It's entirely possible that Kuehn (or his indexer) just omitted additional information about more of a back-and-forth. (The easiest solution, of course, is just to avoid specifically characterizing the medium of the debate.)
Thanks again for discussing all this and for being genuinely responsive to feedback.
Cheers, Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 17:01, 19 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I mostly agree, though I think this is a bit much -- maybe half the length? We want to get the point across, but remember, Wikipedia articles are written for a general audience. You might just be too smart for your own good! Cheers. Dumuzid (talk) 17:08, 19 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I will double check on 'serialized debate' and clarify the discussion. I believe the dialog was with Forster, although the prompt was from Hume.
Regarding length, I will review with regards to balancing the discussion of Kant's intent. That said, the point to be made here is contextualization, and at a certain point brevity destroy context.
If nobody objects I will incorporate this feedback and then post an edit in the next day or so. For some folks I figure that may be the only way to get engagement from all relevant stakeholders. JBradleyChen (talk) 17:48, 19 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have no problem with that. As I say, I think we could reduce the length and still get the relevant context in, but should consensus decide that more is better in this instance, I will not quibble. Cheers. Dumuzid (talk) 17:50, 19 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I plan to make an update later today with a new opening paragraph (preliminary version in sandbox) and a the new closing paragraph from the sandbox, revised to address feedback. Also, I am not okay with how "scientific racism" is currently used in this article. It commonly uses the Wikipedia's voice, implying a statement of fact. The problem is that "scientific racism" implies intent to use bad science to support racism, and that question of intent is opinion, not fact, and one of the main disagreements among modern Kant scholars. Also, Kleingeld never uses the term "scientific racism" in the cited article, and does not appear to agree regarding Kant's nefarious intent. So I may also make some adjustments there too. Geismann (in "Why Kant was not a Racist, Jahrbuch für Recht und Ethik, vol. 30 (2022) 263-357) questions the use of "scientific racism" in competent scholarship. As always, @Dumuzid and @PatrickJWelsh I'm keen for your feedback. JBradleyChen (talk) 12:48, 20 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Pls. review again the exchange above and see also scientific racism. Just because you don't like something and can find a scholar who doesn't either does not mean that you can simply remove or modify the views of well-established scholars whose position you do not want to be true.
If you go through with edits of the existing material, please do so on an individual basis. With so much outstanding disagreement, an edit that just pastes over what is currently there will be reverted.
That's it from me on this exchange — but my exhaustion does not signify any consensus beyond what I have already stated.
Best, Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 17:44, 20 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Posted. I held back on the scientific racism. I had understood mistakenly that scientific racism required intent to misuse science, but it appears to me that that is now how the term is used, at least in Wikipedia. I will come back to a further set of questions but for now I figure I should see how this lands.
I did remove a claim about Kleingeld and Kant's scientific racism. Having read the paper I believe it misrepresents her work. JBradleyChen (talk) 22:47, 20 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If you are interested in scientific racism, please have a look at the talk page for that topic. I don't think it is doing good service to the community at this time, so I have proposed some changes. JBradleyChen (talk) 20:06, 21 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You might also find interesting topics 51 and 54 in the Talk of Thomas Henry Huxley. Errantios (talk) 16:16, 22 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

punctuation query[edit]

Hi @Anomalocaris and @Errantios,

Thanks for your contributions correcting Wiki-syntax in the article!

One question, however: why have so many periods and commas been moved outside of quote marks? This is contrary to every style manual I've ever seen, and it is at odds with the practice standard across virtually all print media.

When it comes to something like American versus British spelling, I don't care so long as the article is consistent. Misplaced punctuation, however, distracts me from what I am reading.

If there is a good reason supporting this unusual practice, would you share?

The practice is currently inconsistent across the article, which is worse than committing to either one or the other. This is easy enough to fix with ctl-f, but I don't want to start an editing conflict over something inconsequential to the content of the article.

Oh, and sorry if this query belongs elsewhere. It's just that you both edited one after the other, and so it seemed easiest to keep it on the Kant Talk page.

Cheers, Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 16:29, 26 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Patrick J. Welsh: MOS:LQUOTEAnomalocaris (talk) 18:45, 26 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hi @Patrick J. Welsh and @Anomalocaris
If the quotation is a single word or a sentence fragment, place the terminal punctuation outside the closing quotation mark. When quoting a full sentence, the end of which coincides with the end of the sentence containing it, place terminal punctuation inside the closing quotation mark.
Miller wanted, he said, "to create something timeless".
Miller said: "I wanted to create something timeless."
Errantios (talk) 20:47, 26 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks to you both! I did look at the MOS, but apparently skimmed through much too quickly.
I'm pretty sure this convention is out-of-sync with academic publishing in the humanities even in the UK, but I will at least refrain from "correcting" folks who move punctuation outside of quote marks.
(Something tells me that computer science majors outnumbered the English majors in whatever committee decided this policy. But fine. This is in no way a hill I care to die on.)
Cheers, Patrick J. Welsh (talk) 21:43, 26 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have now gone through the whole article, attending to punctuation matters of this and other kinds, as well as making some minor clarifications of presentation. I am not qualified to proceed beyond that level—except as to legal theory, on which I hope to add something. Errantios (talk) 04:46, 27 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Kant's Relevance to Moral Epistemology and its Relation to Meta-Ethics[edit]

What is the relationship between Kant, Moral Epistemology, and Meta-Ethics? Thank you. :) :) :) Thephoenix 1689 (talk) 09:52, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]