More than forty years ago, when I was teaching at Columbia University, I was asked to address a colloquium that met from time to time. Members of the faculty were given the opportunity to speak on any topic that interested them, and folks from the larger New York academic community formed the audience. I chose to speak on John Stuart Mill, and spent the better part of an hour lambasting him before pausing for questions. When it was all over, Hannah Arendt came up to say hello. She was pretty obviously not too thrilled with the talk, but she asked politely what I was working on currently. I replied, "Kant's ethics." [I was beginning what would eventually become The Autonomy of Reason: A Commentary on the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.] Her face broke into a broad smile and she said, "Ah, it is so much more pleasant to spend time with Kant."
I recalled that remark yesterday as I was once again trying to decide what to say about the endless Republican contest for the presidential nomination. It is depressing and, in the end, debasing to spend time in one's thoughts with the likes of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Perhaps, I reflected, it is time once again to spend some time with Kant. Since I have already written, posted, and archived on box.net a tutorial on the Critique of Pure Reason, it seems to me that I should attempt a mini-tutorial on Kant's ethical theories.
When I was unable to find my copy of the Grundlegung on my bookshelves, I realized that I had taken it to Paris with a box of other books on Kant's philosophy. Fortunately, Susie and I are headed for Paris on April 12th, so the tutorial will have to wait until then [I do not have Henri Pirenne's ability to write books entirely out of my memory.] Even so, the prospect of returning for a bit to Kant has cheered me considerably. Perhaps it will give me the heart to continue commenting on the political scene. [I am also reminded of Aristotle's observation that mud does not have a form. There are, as he said in another context, things that it is better that the Prime Mover not know. Very wise.]