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The Pillars of Unbelief -- Kant

Peter Kreeft

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Just as we have pillars of Christian faith, the saints, so are there individuals who have become pillars of unbelief. Peter Kreeft discusses six modern thinkers who've had an enormous impact on our everyday life. They have also done great harm to the Christian mind. Their names: Machiavelli, the inventor of "the new morality"; Kant, the subjectivizer of Truth; Nietzsche, the self-proclaimed "Anti-Christ"; Freud, the founder of the "sexual revolution"; Marx, the false Moses for the masses; and Sartre, the apostle of absurdity. The articles in this series constitute background to help us understand the main personalities, and those ideas they advocated, which have led us to the secular society.

Few philosophers in history have been so unreadable and dry as Immanuel Kant. Yet few have had a more devastating impact on human thought.

Kant's devoted servant, Lumppe, is said to have faithfully read each thing his master published, but when Kant published his most important work, "The Critique of Pure Reason," Lumppe began but did not finish it because, he said, if he were to finish it, it would have to be in a mental hospital. Many students since then have echoed his sentiments.

Yet this abstract professor, writing in abstract style about abstract questions, is, I believe, the primary source of the idea that today imperils faith (and thus souls) more than any other; the idea that truth is subjective.

The simple citizens of his native Konigsburg, Germany, where he lived and wrote in the latter half of the 18th century, understood this better than professional scholars, for they nicknamed Kant "The Destroyer" and named their dogs after him.

He was a good-tempered, sweet and pious man, so punctual that his neighbors set their clocks by his daily walk. The basic intention of his philosophy was noble: to restore human dignity amidst a skeptical world worshiping science.

This intent becomes clear through a single anecdote. Kant was attending a lecture by a materialistic astronomer on the topic of man's place in the universe. The astronomer concluded his lecture with: "So you see that astronomically speaking, man is utterly insignificant." Kant replied: "Professor, you forgot the most important thing, man is the astronomer."

Kant, more than any other thinker, gave impetus to the typically modern turn from the objective to the subjective. This may sound fine until we realize that it meant for him the redefinition of truth itself as subjective. And the consequences of this idea have been catastrophic.

Posted: 5/8/04

Read this entire article on the Catholic Education website.



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