Cognition and Eros: A Critique of the Kantian Paradigm

Pennsylvania State University Press (1988)
Abstract
In the dissertation I examine the split between cognition and eros in Kant's notion of objectivity, which has become paradigmatic for modern theories about knowledge. I argue that the split between cognition, on the one hand, and feelings and desires, on the other, does not capture the necessary conditions of knowledge, as Kant claims, but involves a suppression of erotic factors of existence. ;The split between pure knowledge and sensual existence in Kant's thought reflects an ascetic tradition inherited from both Greek and Christian sources, which views the body, sexuality, and in particular women's sexuality as a source of pollution. According to this tradition, since thought must be divested of the pollution of sensuous existence, women's sexuality precludes them from rational activity. Consequently, the philosophical commitment to purity has justified the exclusion of women from the practice of knowledge. ;The particular form of asceticism which is evident in Kant's treatment of sensibility of objective knowledge, of morality, and of aesthetic judgement, reflects the reified nature of relations in an emerging capitalist economy. The suppression of the immediate, sensual qualities in both the subject and object of knowledge, in Kant's system, corresponds to the suppression of the immediate, qualitative features of the subject and object in the process of commodity production. Both persons and things become reduced to a formal abstract equivalence. Kant's notion of objectivity makes normative this objectification of relations between persons and things. ;Thus, the paradigm of objective knowledge is not only damaging to the thinker, who must detach himself from the emotional and sensual facets of existence. It serves as an ideology which has justified the exclusion of women from the pursuit of knowledge, and which more generally legitimates the distorted human relations generated by the world of commodity production. ;By considering Kant's commitment to pure knowledge in the context of the genealogy of the concept of purity, the themes of asceticism and fetishism emerged as mutually illuminating. Implicit in the ascetic denial of sensuality is a dialectic which leads to an objectification of persons and things. Moreover, the fetishism of commodities involves a detachment of erotic interests from persons which results in an obsessive interest in objects
Keywords Objectivity History  Knowledge, Theory of History  Asceticism History  Sensuality History  Women History
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Call number B2798.S32 1993
ISBN(s) 0271009365   0271025549   9780271025544  
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