Marxism and Morality: Neo-Kantianism

drmachinoff at drmachinoff at
Sun Jan 21 22:56:18 MST 2001

Reply to message from irldaly at
This is from John Landon, under a new ISP

I found this an interesting post, with a lot of ideas and material to check
The question of Neo-Kantians is of course somewhat ambiguous, I think your
depiction is important to keep in mind. It has been pointed out that they
do not really represent the real Kant. Etc...
As to Marx and Aristotle, you point is a good one. Marx was very nimble,
and found his way past many confusions  in the context of the rise of
positivism. Aristotle seems to have helped Marx find a natural solution to
the dilemmas of rising scientism, in a context where Kant's alternate
approach was caught up in many confusions. Kant is branded an idealist,
which is misleading. He is not at all like Hegel.
One might real Philip Kain's Marx and Ethics, with its chapter on Marx's
synthesis of Kant and Aristotle. Kain also controversially points to the
changes in Marx's thinking, with his early interest in Aristotle, then the
period of The German Ideology, then again his views around the Das Capital
period. Are you referring to the early Marx?

The problem with Aristotle of course is that he lived before Newton!  It is
nice that Marx learned from Aristotle, and Marx was quick on his feet, but
noone else seems to have gotten the point, and in the context of science,
Aristotle is virtually the enemy. All one needs to do now is get all
Marxists who are Darwinists to become ex-Darwinist Aristotelians!  Or flee
the country. It's a hanging offense. The concept of essence is the big
no-no in biology, witness Ernst Mayr's diatribes against essentialism. The
Neo-Darwinian synthesis is adamant on this point.
Here we see the value of Kant, and forget the Neo-Kantians, I am sorry I
mentioned them. He arrives in the generation after Newton and is the
clearing house for all concepts such as essence that won't make it in the
coming rise of science for anyone except a Marx. He tries to find a
solution. Unfortunately as a pietist at the onset of capitalist 'freedom',
the bourgeois 'revolution', he becomes colored by the moment in which he
lived. But that coloration doesn't really change the issues. We can see
Marx trying to rewrite the basic question.
Anyway, the point is not being a Kantian. But to solve the problem.
Consider Kant's Third Antinomy, as to freedom and causality. In a way
that's all that is needed to start. It amounts to the same as what Marx
gets from Aristotle,except that he is ready to do battle with physics. The
whole point became lost in the muddle created by 'noumena' and the attempts
to abolish the distinction from Fichte onwards.    Maybe Marx thought the
near equivalent "Aristotelian essence" would evade the problems and slipped
away from a debate that was endless.

John Landon
drmachinoff at
nemonemini at

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