Kant, Bernard-Henri Levy and the Obscurity of Philosophers

It appears that French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy has committed a serious faux pas by attempting to debunk Kant based on the authority of a rather obscure 20th century thinker by the name of Jean-Baptiste Botul.  Unfortunately, as we are informed by the London Times Online (hattip Nick Gillespie at Hit & Run), “Botul was invented by a journalist in 1999 as an elaborate joke, and BHL has become the laughing stock of the Left Bank…”

I will refrain from kicking Mr. Levy while he’s down, but I point out in passing that it’s unlikely he would have made his attack to begin with if Kant had been capable of making himself comprehensible to more than a handful of people.  Had Kant been as lucid as, say, Voltaire, or Stendhal, or John Stuart Mill, enough people might actually have had enough of an inkling what he was talking about to make it risky for his detractors to launch such transparently flimsy assaults on his work.  While it’s not out of the question that the man was actually such a deep thinker that it was actually absolutely necessary for him to begin his books with sentences of turgid German a page and a half long, I suspect it is rather more likely that he lacked the ability to express himself simply and clearly, or perhaps thought it necessary to be obscure in order to be taken seriously in those days of extreme philosophical one-upmanship.  As this case illustrates, there are liabilities to being obscure.  People have trouble understanding what you’re talking about.

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

Leave a Reply