Monday, 08 October 2007

On Uppity Little Snots Like all teachers, I have this one student essay that epitomizes the forbearance required to mold young minds. (I keep it in my pocket, for those not-so-rare moments when someone questions my commitment to the profession ... or pain.) Its author was a child whose belief in his own genius was only outstripped by the arrogance with which he communicated it. A sampling: Debunking Kant's argument in full is now a simple matter of proving the self-evident ... Refuting Kant is simple! Bet you didn't know that. All those professional philosophers who devoted years of their lives to understanding him must be embarrassed now. Had they but known that a lowly undergraduate could render Kant irrelevant! But wait! Our young savior thinks Kant may still merit a place our intellectual orbit: Kant could be defended on account of his belief that judgments of taste, inasmuch as they concern themselves with objects of beauty, are aconceptual, because aconceptuality effectively eliminates the need for education in determinations of beauty. Huzzah! We can keep Kant! Unless ... unless that "could be" is conditional. I fear this student's novel use of "aconceptual." (It would've caused an epiphanic recognition of the writer's brutal genius in any reasonably intelligent person. Lest ye be dull, the writer thwacks you with the cudgel of his savage brilliance by nouning his neologism.) By now I should know better; but still, I held out hope for dear Immanuel. Alas: But since I have shown that "common sense" and aconceptuality are both little more than the unconscious cultural constructions of an intellectual elite, it would be naive to mount a defense of Kant on this front. And it is, because he had: What if I were to see a pile of shit that, for whatever reason, satisfied me in that way particular to beauty? In Kant’s system of thought this example would be reckoned an impossibility, because "common sense" dictates that since I cannot reasonably believe that anyone else would consider this pile of shit beautiful, I cannot myself be satisfied by it. In all likelihood it would not be considered beautiful by the cultural elite, if for no other reason than its being a pile of shit. In this admittedly extreme example we can see the dynamic at work in the determination of the beautiful, in that, since I can only consider beautiful what I believe everyone else would, I am more than likely to find beautiful those things which I can safely consider to be beautiful. Inspired! Genius! Who among you refuses raving? The inspired genius speaks of piles of shit. To be so inspired, and by such genius, is the a feeling few among us will ever know. Treasure this, your memory of basking, then prepare yourself (as much as you, being you, can) for the reveal: The world that Kant unknowingly created is therefore one of arrogant institutions and a timid populace, reluctant to find beauty in extremes or satisfaction in the margins. Will someone get this...

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