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

Michael Perelman michael at ecst.csuchico.edu
Thu Oct 29 18:33:59 MDT 2009

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

More information about the Marxism mailing list