My Preview of Coming Attractions triggered a number of interesting comments, so I am going to dedicate this post to replying to some of what has been said. As always, I thank you for your continuing participation in this blog. It has become, in effect, an endless seminar, with a large number of thoughtful participants, both those who comment and those who do not.
1. S. Wallerstein asks why a Marxist like me is fascinated by Kant. Well, Kant was my first love, which explains a part of it. But more than that, I do not choose my intellectual associates on the basis of their compatibility with my politics. I find Michael Oakeshott’s work fascinating and instructive, even though he is, or was, the intellectual guru of English conservatives, and I take the very greatest pleasure in reading Kierkegaard, even though I am an atheist. I am beguiled by the beauty of clear, profound, elegantly constructed arguments. I have strong political commitments, but at the very deepest level my response to ideas is aesthetic rather than ideological.
2. Jerry, not only do I underline books and write marginal comments, I also cannot read a student paper without doing the same, a fact that slows me up something awful when I am grading a stack of papers. Fortunately, I do not often have a truly rare book in my hands. I know that one can make marginal comments to an e-text, but I find that to be a barbaric custom. I also have an immediate sensory response to the feel and loo and smell of books. My favorite book – for sensory and for intellectual reasons – is the Selby-Bigge edition of Hume’s Treatise.
3. Anonymous – I was unaware of the Nietzsche passage you quote, but upon reading it, I am afraid I find it rather superficial and, dare I say it, juvenile. I understand why Nietzsche might have been irritated by the enormous respect paid to Kant in his day, but his comments do not seem to me to rise above the level of really class schoolboy snark.
4. S. Wallerstein again. I love the fact that cartesiano means exceptionally clear and logical. When I first got our Paris apartment, I decided that to improve my terrible French, I would read In Defense of Anarchism in the French edition. To my delight, I found that in French I was cartesiano – exceptionally clear and logical. Then it occurred to me that probably in French everyone sounds cartesianio!
5. mesnenor suggests that one read the Objections and Replies with the Meditations. Indeed! There is a lovely story associated with them. It seems that Descartes sent copies of the Meditations to all of the most important philosophers in Europe with precise instructions as to how to read them: First one day on each of the six Meditations, resting, as is appropriate, on the seventh day. Then spend a week re-reading and thinking about each Meditation, for a total of seven weeks in all. Then send comments. Descartes was very put out when comments began to arrive by return mail. What is more, the most serious objections to Descartes’ arguments, which first-rate philosophers have managed to cough up over the last four hundred years, were to be found in those instantaneous replies!
6. matt, it sounds to me as though you have gone way beyond what I would ever suggest! If you studied the Critique with Bob Howell and Paul Guyer, then you had the best there is. That is fabulous. As for Locke’s First Treatise, I agree that it is tediously dull, but it does put the important Second Treatise in an interesting light.
7. Tom, that is lovely about Kermit Roosevelt and the Penn connection. I must ask Tobias about him.
Well, that will do it for now.