[Marxism] Kant's Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime

Dogan Gocmen dgn.gcmn at googlemail.com
Mon Nov 2 04:07:32 MST 2009

Dear Michael,
I thank you very much for the thoughts and references below. They are very
useful indeed.


2009/10/30 Michael Perelman <michael at ecst.csuchico.edu>

> I am not sure this will be useful, but I hope so:
> Sohn-Rethel, Alfred. 1978. Intellectual and Manual Labour: A Critique of
> Epistemology (London: Macmillan).
>   35: Both Kant and Smith set out "to prove the perfect normalcy of
> bourgeois society."
> Smith concluded that the desire for luxury is little more than a "deception
> which rouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind" (Smith
> 1759, IV.i.9, p. 183).  Smith's contemporary, the philosopher, Immanuel
> Kant, told a young Russian nobleman, "Give a man everything  he desires and
> yet at this very moment he will feel that this  everything  is not
> everything " (Karamzin 1957, pp. 40-41).
> The following is very Smith-like.
> Kant, Immanuel, 1970. "An Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan
> Purpose." in Kant's Political Writings, ed. H.S. Reiss (Cambridge:
> Cambridge University Press): pp. 41-53.
>  44-5: "The means which nature employs to bring about the development of
> innate capacities is that of antagonism within society, in so far as this
> antagonism becomes in the long run the cause of a law-governed social
> order.  By antagonism, I mean in this context the unsocial sociability of
> men, that is, their tendency to come together in society, coupled, however,
> with a continual resistance which constantly threatens to break this
> society up.  This propensity is obviously rooted in human nature.  Man has
> an inclination to live in society, since he feels in this state more like a
> man, that is, he feels able to develop his natural capacities.  But he also
> has a great tendency to live as an individual, to isolate himself, since he
> also encounters in himself the unsocial characteristic of wanting to direct
> everything in accordance with his own ideas.  He therefore expects
> resistance all around, just as he knows of himself that he is in turn
> inclined to offer resistance to others.  It is this very resistance which
> awakens all man's powers and induces him to overcome his tendency to
> laziness.  Through the desire for honour, power or property, it drives him
> to seek status among his fellows, whom he cannot bear yet cannot bear to
> leave.  Then the first true steps are taken from barbarism to culture,
> which in fact consists in the social worthiness of man.  All man's talents
> are now gradually developed, his taste cultivated, and by a continued
> process of enlightenment, a beginning is made towards establishing a way of
> thinking which can with time transform the primitive natural capacity for
> moral discrimination into definite practical principles; and thus a
> pathologically enforced social union is transformed into a moral whole.
> Without these asocial qualities (far from admirable in themselves) which
> cause the resistance inevitably encountered by each individual as he
> furthers his self-seeking pretensions, man would live an Arcadian, pastoral
> existence of perfect concord, self-sufficiency and mutual love.  But all
> human talents would remain hidden for ever in a dormant state, and men, as
> good-natured as the sheep they tended, would scarcely render their
> existence more valuable that of their animals.  The end for which they were
> created, their rational nature, would be an unfilled void.  Nature should
> thus be thanked for fostering social incompatibility, enviously competitive
> vanity, and insatiable desires for possession or even power.  Without these
> desires, all man's excellent natural capacities would never be roused to
> develop.  Man wishes concord, but nature, knowing better what is good for
> his species, wishes discord.  man wishes to live comfortably and
> pleasantly, but nature intends that he should abandon idleness and inactive
> self-sufficiency and plunge instead into labour an hardships, so that he
> may by his own adroitness find means of liberating himself from them in
> turn.  The natural impulses which make this possible, the sources of the
> very unsociableness and continual resistance which cause so many evils, at
> the same time encourage man towards new exertions of his powers and thus
> towards further development of his natural capacities.  They would thus
> seem to indicate the design of a wise creator -- not, as it might seem, the
> hand of a malicious spirit who had meddled in the creator's glorious work
> or spoiled it out of envy."
> Less direct evidence:
> Lehmbruch, Gerhard. 2001. "The Institutional Embedding of Market Economies:
> The German "Model" and Its Impact on Japan." in Wolfgang Streeck and Kozo
> Yamamura, eds. The Origins of Nonliberal Capitalism: Germany and Japan in
> Comparison (Ithaca: Cornell University Press): pp. 39-93.
>  48: "The influence of Adam Smith's writings had progressively superseded
> the tradition of cameralism and mercantilism in the formation of Prussian
> civil servants (Hasek 1925, 117-21 ).  Some of the lost influential among
> them had been trained as students of Christian Jacob Kraus, Kant's disciple
> and successor at the University of Konigsberg.  Kraus was an ardent
> Smithian and taught his audience that "since the times of the New Testament
> no literary work has exercised a more beneficial influence than The Wealth
> of Nations" (Treue 1951).  The bureaucratic promoters of the Prussian
> reform since 1808 -- led by Karl August Baron von Hardenberg (1750-1822),
> who from 1810 was the kingdom's prime minister -- were devoted believers in
> Smith's ideas (Vogel 1983a)."
> --
> Michael Perelman
> Economics Department
> California State University
> Chico, CA 95929
> Tel. 530-898-5321
> E-Mail michael at ecst.csuchico.edu
> michaelperelman.wordpress.com
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Dogan Göcmen
Author of The Adam Smith Problem:
Reconciling Human Nature and Society in
The Theory of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations, I. B. Tauris,
London&New York 2007

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