Kant, Marx, Fichte.
Interview by Richard Marshall.
Allen W Wood is a philosopher working on the history of modern philosophy, especially Kant and German idealism, and in ethics and social philosophy. Here he discusses Kant’s impact on contemporary ethics, Rawls and the ‘constructivist’ reading of Kantian ethics, why this is an error, Kantian autonomy and corrects a flurry of traditional invidious readings of Kant. He goes on to discuss Kant’s moral religion, the problem with consequentialism, Kant’s notion of freewill, Kant’s rational theology, Kant’s relationship with Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics before turning to Marx. He discusses Marx’s real attitude towards Capitalism, the main difference between Adam Smith and Marx, on the absurdity of equating Soviet Marxism with Marx and on why it’s self-evident that studying the best thoughts of the past is worthwhile before turning to Fichte. He discusses the difference between Fichte’s approach to freedom and Kant’s, on Fichte and Hegel’s Dialectic of Recognition, on why Fichte is a necessary step to both Hegel and Marx, on Fichte being the key to the entire tradition of continental philosophy and whether Fichte took Kant’s idea of natural religion further than Kant. Take a big breath, this one covers all the territory…
3:AM: What made you become a philosopher?
Allen Wood: I’m happy to be interviewed by 3:AM magazine, owing to the fact that its motto is drawn from a song sung by Professor Quincy Wagstaff (Groucho Marx) in the movie Horsefeathers: “Whatever it is, I’m against it!” Perhaps that motto plays a role in whatever it is that makes anyone into a philosopher. But in my case, the more detailed history is this:
Until I was a junior in high school, I was a “boy scientist” type and expected to go into chemistry. Then I discovered the humanities. I read the plays of Shakespeare voraciously, some novels, such as Pasternack’s Dr. Zhivago and Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street, and I got into philosophy by reading Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. When I got to Reed College, I was given a reading list of existentialist philosophers by one of my freshman instructors. It included many religious writers, such as Berdyaev, Unamuno, and Marcel, but I took more to Sartre and Beauvoir — I think (though I say this only in retrospect) because I was then in the process of bidding a slow farewell to my religious upbringing. I read some Kant, and when I went to graduate school at Yale, I already had the idea of writing a dissertation about Kant’s philosophy of religion (which, as it turns out, is what I did do). My interests were in what was then called “continental” philosophy, and studied Heidegger, but while at Yale I also became increasingly interested in analytical philosophy as well. In the mid-1960s, as hard to believe as it may be now, choosing to go into academic philosophy was not an imprudent career choice. There were lots of academic jobs in philosophy then. My third year in graduate school, before I had even written up a CV or thought of going on the job market, I got two job offers. I declined them because I thought I’d get a better job when my dissertation was close to completion. And I did — I got the job at Cornell, where I stayed 28 years.
As to why I went into philosophy: As I now see it, teaching and writing about philosophy is about the only thing I’ve ever been really good at. My younger brother Roger, who died of cancer at age 61 in 2008, did a dozen things for a living: he was a postman in Seattle, a short-order cook on Fisherman’s Wharf, a carpenter, a hospital orderly, a social worker (I’m sure I’m leaving out some jobs he did), then for over ten years he made his living as a folk singer and guitar player, and finally he went into computers, edited home computer magazines while they were popular, and afterward did half a dozen different things related to both hardware and software. I could never have made a living in any of the ways Roger did. I am a one-trick pony. But I have worked hard at something I would have liked to do even if I weren’t paid a penny for it, and made a good living at it. You can’t be luckier than that in this life, no matter who you are or what you do. I am not sure if this is what you wanted from me in asking this first question, but it is what occurs to me to say in answer to it.
3:AM: You’re a leading Kantian scholar. Can we start with his ethics. Was Kantian ethics dead until Rawls came along in 1971 and revitalized it – and is Kantianism now the default position of most contemporary ethics? Can you say something about why Kant’s return radically changed the landscape of contemporary ethics – what did he bring to the table that philosophers of the twentieth century had until then missed – and what was the alternative vision they were working with?
AW: In my view, there was a long period in which analytical philosophy had little to say about ethics. I think their intellectual tools did not do well with it, and analytical philosophy was above all about revolutionizing the philosophical tool box. It was more or less assumed that the Truth about ethics was some form of utilitarianism (perhaps because some consequentialist calculus looked to them like a respectable tool). Kantian ethics was then interpreted as a particularly odious version of the False — “deontology” — and treated with contempt. Those who seriously studied utilitarianism began seeing that its substantive commitments were interesting, but controversial, and even limited. I think my longtime Cornell colleague David Lyons was part of this, with his book The Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism (1965).
John Rawls was another Cornell moral philosopher, though he had left for Harvard several years before I arrived at Cornell. It was indeed a major revolution in 20th Century ethics when he published A Theory of Justice in 1971. It is often difficult to know about one’s own era which philosophers in it will be remembered as the most important ones, but I think it is already clear that Rawls is the greatest moral philosopher of the twentieth century. Rawls did bring Kant back into the conversation about ethics, and since then I think some form of Kantianism has been generally seen as the central position in ethics in the way that utilitarianism was seen before Rawls came along.
Rawls combined Kantian ideas with an older tradition, deriving from the greatest nineteenth century moral philosopher — Henry Sidgwick. The Rawlsian methodology of “reflective equilibrium” is really Sidgwick’s method, and like Sidgwick, Rawls saw the options in ethics as basically three: utilitiarianism, Kant, and rational intuitionism (in the British tradition). Rawls’s reading of Kant was a rather traditional one for the time, despite the creative use he made of Kantian ideas. My own work on Kant has been largely an attempt to provide a more accurate picture of what Kantian ethics really is, freeing it from many misunderstandings due to its 19th Century reception and its inividious depiction by consequentialist critics. I would also say, as many of Rawls’ own followers would, that there are still utilitarian elements in Rawls from which a truly Kantian ethics ought to free itself. One reason Rawls was so important is the way he influenced some of the best moral philosophers of the following generation. Many of these are women: Onora O’Neill, Barbara Herman, Christine Korsgaard (the list could be extended). I never knew Rawls as well as they did, but I also think there was something about Rawls’ personality that played a role here. He was a genuinely decent human being, and a truly modest man. When the greatest moral philosopher of your lifetime is immune to that self-conceit which is all too common among philosophers who get that kind of attention, it more or less tells the rest of us where we fit into the scheme of things. Philosophy as a field is a lot better for the life and work of John Rawls. It also makes us respect his work more, even at points where we disagree with him.
3:AM: The default reading of mainstream Kantian ethics post-Rawls was a ‘constructivist’ position wasn’t it? Can you sketch what you take the salient features of this position are?
AW: Is it your judgment that “constructivism” is the “default” reading of Kant? I hope that is not true, or at least if it is, that it won’t continue to be true. I think the term “Kantian constructivism” as an oxymoron. Kant was a constructivist about mathematics, but not about ethics. My work on Kantian ethics has been aimed, not directly or deliberately, but nevertheless pretty consistently, at offering a reading of Kant that I take to be a clear alternative to to “Kantian constructivism.”
The “constructivist” reading of Kantian ethics was first introduced by John Rawls in his Dewey lectures, several years after A Theory of Justice. Rawls appears to have endorsed “Kantian constructivism” for a certain period and many of his students and followers picked up the term and seem to have thought of themselves as “Kantian constructivists”, perhaps partly out of personal loyalty to Rawls — a loyalty I can well understand. Samuel Freeman, who probably knows more about this than anyone else, thinks Rawls had himself abandoned what he called “Kantian constructivism” by the time of his later political writings. But we can see that he still read Kant as a “Rawlsian constructivist” (if I may use that term) in his posthumously published lectures on the history of moral philosophy, edited by Barbara Herman. I am not sure Rawls’ followers, who called themselves ‘constructivists,’ all understood the position the same way, and I do not myself regard it as a very clear position. That is perhaps the main reason I do not feel comfortable either expounding or criticizing it, but it is also one reason I have never been able to endorse it, either as an interpretation of Kant or as an ethical (or metaethical) position in its own right.It is probably not a good idea to ask someone to expound a position they do not accept and do not feel they even fully understand. You should read my response to your question below with this point firmly in mind.
As I understand it, Kantian constructivism is partly a position in normative ethics and partly a position in metaethics. In metaethics, it is the position that ethical claims have truth values, but their truth conditions consist not in a set of objective facts to which they correspond, but instead in the outcome of some procedure of deliberation resulting in decisions about what to do.I speculate that Rawls saw the constructivist approach to metaethics against the background of both utilitarian and rational intuitionist theories. This conception of the alternatives seems to have been inherited from Sidgwick. Rawls sees both theories as presupposing that ethical claims have truth conditions constituted by a set of moral “facts” that are independent of our procedures in making decisions. Such procedures, according to these theories are merely instruments for getting our moral beliefs in line with these independent facts. For the utilitarian, there is a fact of the matter about the good (the general happiness, or whatever conception of the good the utilitarian adopts) and about which actions or moral rules would contribute to maximizing the good. For the rational intuitionist, there are truths about which actions should be done and not done, which Rawls likes to depict as grounded in an “independent order of values” (given a Platonistic reading, or seen as Moorean non-natural objective properties). In contrast to these positions, Rawls thinks Kantian ethics locates the truth-conditions for ethical claims in a procedure for deciding what to do. Our procedures of deliberation are not ways of finding out independent moral truths but instead ways of “constructing” these truths, in the process of deciding what to do.
Here is one point where, if I understand constructivism, I have to part company with it. Being aware of truths about what is good or right or about what we ought to do is not the same as deciding what to do. Nor can the former truths be derived from decisions about what to do, or about procedures for making such decisions, unless these procedures themselves rest in some way on the apprehension of truths about what we ought to do. Our decisions need not be seen as resting on procedures that are merely instrumental in making judgments that are reliably truth-tracking. The procedures might be more directly related than that to truths about what is right or good, or about what we ought to do, or to principles that tell us what is true about these matters. And I have no metaphysical theory about the truth-conditions of such truths, except to say that as objective truths, they must be independent of the attitudes, decisions or actions that they are supposed to justify or for which they are to offer reasons. But I think it is clear that what we ought to do has to be independent of our decisions about what to do, and independent of any procedures we might use in making such decisions. In any matter of moral importance, our first task, before we plunge ahead and decide what to do, is to figure out what we ought to do. We can make mistakes about what we ought to do, and these are not the same as making bad decisions about what to do. If we decide rightly what to do, or use a correct procedure for making such decisions, that has to be because the decisions or the procedure rest on good reasons, and these reasons consist in the apprehension of truths about what we ought to do. Because these truths must constitute reasons for our decisions, and because in the rational order, reasons must always precede the decisions based on them, the truth conditions of claims about what we ought to cannot be reduced to, or constructed out of, decisions about what to do, or procedures for making such decisions. If constructivism denies this last claim, as it appears to do, then it gets things exactly backwards.
Rawls seems to have thought of Kant’s Formula of Universal Law (FUL) as a “CI-procedure” that enables us to make decisions about how to act and not to act. It is unclear to me how the procedure is supposed to work, or whether the procedure is supposed to result in positive decisions or only in a test for maxims that determines them to be either permissible or impermissible. I will say below what I think Kant meant FUL (and its variant, the Formula of the Law of Nature, FLN) to do. I do not think Kant meant either formula to be a procedure telling us what to do, or even a procedure for testing maxims for permissibility except under very restricted conditions and for a quite definite purpose. The idea — which I admit has long been part of the way Kant’s ethics has been understood — that FUL (or FLN) could be used as a procedure telling us what to do or not to do in general, seems to me a serious misunderstanding of Kant. One serious flaw in “Kantian constructivism” is the all too traditional error of thinking that these formulas were intended by Kant to serve as such a general procedure.
In order to say why I think Rawls (along with a long tradition of misinterpretation) misread Kant regarding FUL and FLN, I need to say a bit about how I think Kantian ethics is actually structured, and what role FUL (FLN) plays in it. Kantian ethical theory distinguishes three levels: First, that of a fundamental principle (the categorical imperative, formulated in three main ways in Kant’s Groundwork); second, a set of duties, not deduced from but derived from this principle, by way of its interpretation or specification, its application to the general conditions of human life — which Kant does in the Doctrine of virtue, the second main part of the Metaphysics of Morals; and then finally an act of judgment, through which these duties are applied to particular cases. In the Doctrine of Virtue, this is understood as the task of ‘casuistry’. Kant thinks of judgment as a special faculty or talent of the mind, not reducible to discursive reasoning but cultivated through experience and practice.
The three formulas of the moral law derived in the Second Section of the Groundwork are distinguished by Kant as giving us the form, the matter and the complete determination of the categorical imperative. FUL (FLN) provide the form, the Formula of Humanity as End in Itself (FH) provides the matter, and then the two are combined to give us the Formula of Autonomy (FA, and its variant the Formula of the Realm of Ends, FRE), which give us the complete determination of the moral law.
These three formulas also have have distinctive functions regarding ethical practice. There is a clear division of labor between them. FUL (FLN) is an aid to (or canon of) judgment: these formulas help us guard against misapplying duties, especially in a specific way, to which Kant think human moral agents are especially susceptible, namely through biases in favor of oneself or one’s own inclinations. The use of FUL(FLN) is always against a background of some specific duty (not derivable from FUL or FLN themselves, though it is derived from another formula of the law, FH). FUL(FLN) are employed when we seek to exempt ourselves from this duty, and to rationalize doing this through the formulation of a maxim that would appear to justify making an exception of ourselves. The aim of FUL (FLN) is to get us to reflect on whether our maxim is one we could will all others to follow as a universal law or law of nature. If we could not rationally will this, then we can see that the exception is not warranted. This keeps our moral judgment in applyig the duty on the right path. Once we see that this is their function, we can see why FUL and FLN are not any kind of general decision procedure in deciding what to do. They operate only against the background of some specific duty and a temptation to evade it through a maxim that would rationalize the evasion.
The Formula of Humanity as End In Itself (FH) is the formula that specifies the motivating incentive for obeying a categorical imperative — that incentive is our respect for the dignity of rational nature as end in itself — and which also provides the means of interpreting or specifying the duties required by the moral principle. It is from FH that we are to derive the duties presupposed by the use of FUL (FLN) as the canon of judgment. Thus FH functions at the second level of Kantian ethical theory — that of specific duties, whereas FUL (FLN) function at the third level, that of judgment.
It is the third formula, FA (the one resulting from the combination of the other two) which presents the moral law in its fullest and most proper form. It is this formula that states most fully and directly the truth about what we ought to do. It is this formula whose validity is equated with our freedom, and thus the formula through which the moral law receives a deduction. FA is not a decision procedure. It is a conception of the law (the imperative) that constitutes the truth about what we ought to do. I will say more about this in response to your next question, which asks about the Kantian notion of autonomy.
There is no “CI- Procedure” in Kantian ethics, Kantian ethics has no decision procedure. It is grounded on a general principle (FA), which is then specified or interpreted (by way of FH) as a system of duties. Some of these are strict duties, identifying kinds of actions we must perform or omit. But most of them are wide duties, indicating kinds of ends we ought to adopt and which actions are morally meritorious. Kant’s system of duties constitutes a Doctrine of Virtue because the duties also indicate what kinds of attitudes, dispositions and feelings are morally virtuous or vicious. Kant’s description of most ethical duties reads more like a description of moral virtues and vices. Once we see this, we see that Kantian ethics is indeed a kind of virtue ethics, and that it does not “divide the heart from the head” (to anticipate one of your later questions) but instead recognizes the deep truth that reason and emotion are not opposites. Reason necessarily expresses itself through emotions and emotions are healthy only insofar as they are expressions of reason.
I hope this brief sketch explains why I think Rawls goes wrong in understanding Kant as a “constructivist”. For Kant, the criterion of moral truth is a principle — formulated in three main ways, but chiefly in the comprehensive formulation it receives in FA. This principle is not a procedure for deciding what to do. It gives us reasons for making decisions, and is not the outcome of any decision or decision procedure. FUL (FLN) do not offer us a decision procedure, but only an aid to (or canon of) moral judgment. Their use presupposes that we already recognize some specific duty, and their function is to keep us from being motivated by self-preference to misjudge in a particular case how the duty applies.
3:AM: So you don’t think this is a good reading of the Kantian position. How does it misconstrue Kant’s important notion of ‘autonomy’?
AW: From the beginning, there has been a tension in the reception of the Kantian idea of autonomy. If you emphasize the ‘nomos’ (the law), then you get one picture: the objectivity of ethics. If you emphasize the ‘autos’ — the self — you get the idea that we make the law. Kant never hesitated in his choice between the two emphases. He emphasizes the nomos (the universal and objective validity of the law). The relation of the law to the self is only a helpful way of thinking about the law, that helps us better understand its validity for us.
Kant does not think that any being, not God, not we ourselves, authors or legislates this principle, but that it is simply valid in itself. Its validity, Kant says, “lies in the nature of things, the essence of things.” This is not necessarily the Platonic or Moorean account of moral truth from which Rawls was trying to distance both Kant and himself, but it is some sort of account of an objective moral truth that is independent of any decision of ours or any decision procedure.
Kant says that we may regard ourselves as legislator of the moral law, and consider ourselves as its author, but not that we are legislators or authors of the law (G 4:431). If you look at what he says about the matter in the Metaphysics of Morals or his lectures, it is clear that there is no author or legislator of the moral law. It is simply valid in itself in the nature or essence of things. We become autonomous only when we obey it, because then our will aligns itself with the objectively valid law, and our choice follows the same law as that we give ourselves. We can think of rational faculty (or the idea – the pure rational concept, not exhibitable in experience) as the legislator or author of the law because reason recognizes an objective standard, and to that extent is already aligned with objective moral truth.
3:AM: You disagree with many received views about Kant don’t you – not just the constructivist reading. So doesn’t Kant divide the heart from the head, isn’t there a sharp divide between nature and freedom, isn’t he a theological Robespierre and shouldn’t we universalize our maxims? Aren’t these the very essence of the iron headed rationalist ethicist without which we lose what makes him interesting? Are these misunderstandings of what is really going on in Kant due to the fact that he’s doing ethics in a completely different way from other moral philosophers such as J.S. Mill?
AW: This offers us quite a flurry of traditional invidious misunderstandings of Kant. I can’t correct all these in one short interview, and what I say in response is bound to sound curt, stubborn and in part opaque. Many of the misunderstandings are so silly that I am afraid my responses will seem not only dismissive but derisive. I gather from your tone that you intend to be presenting me with some things standardly said about Kantian ethics, and you don’t necessarily endorse them yourself. So I assume that you won’t find my dismissive attitude personally insulting. I do honestly think many of these silly criticisms are so ill-informed and maliciously motivated that they deserve ridicule rather than a serious response. But I will try to say enough to indicate what the general line of response should be.
Heart and head. The idea that Kantian ethics “divides the heart from the head” is based largely on a traditional misreading of about two pages early in the Groundwork (G 4:397-399). This passage is usually totally misunderstood, and the misunderstanding conditions the grotesquely distorted image of Kant’s ethics most people (except those who have seriously studied Kant) carry around in their heads. Let me try briefly to correct the horrendous errors involved:
Kant does not think there is anything wrong with being beneficent from sympathy. He thinks we have a duty to cultivate sympathetic feelings by participating in the situations of others and acquiring an understanding of them. He thinks we also have a duty to make ourselves into the kind of person for whom the recognition that something is our duty would be a sufficient incentive to do it (if no other incentives were available to us). That’s what he means by “the duty to act from the motive of duty”. Kant does not think that along with choice of an action we also choose in each case the motive from which we do it. He thinks all is well if I act beneficently, realizing that it is my duty but also having sympathetic feelings for the person I help. But I ought to strive to be the sort of person who would still help even if these feelings were absent. And it is such a case that he presents when the sympathetic friend of humanity finds his sympathetic feelings overclouded by his own sorrows, and still acts beneficently from duty. Kant says that in such a case he “tears himself out of this deadly insensibility and does the action without any inclination just from duty”. Notice that tearing oneself out of the insensible state is the opposite of remaining in it; the man who is beneficent from duty nevertheless acts with feelings, if not with empirical inclinations. The feeling it is most plausible to attribute to him is what Kant calls “love of humanity” — a feeling Kant thinks arises directly from the influence of reason on sensibility (MS 6:399-400). This is a feeling which, if a person totally lacked any capacity for it, would disqualify the person from being a moral agent at all. If being “iron headed” is to be lacking such feelings, then Kant’s position is that an ironheaded person could not be a moral agent because such a person would not be rational. A
When Kant says that only such beneficence “from duty” has “authentic moral worth” that is not a negative judgment about beneficence from sympathy, but an attempt to identify what is absolutely central to morality. Kant’s answer is that what is central to morality is rational self-constraint (acting from duty), in cease where there is no other incentive to do your duty except that the moral law commands it. This is part of his strategy for arriving at a formula of the moral law, by looking at the form of the law that constrains us in such extreme cases, where no other incentive is present. In fact, if you read what Kant has to say about feeling, desire and emotion, you see that he is not at all hostile to these. He is suspicious of them insofar as they represent the corruption of social life (here he follows Rousseau), but he also thinks a variety of feelings (including respect and love of humanity) arise directly from reason — there is, in other words, no daylight between the heart and the head regarding such feelings. And some empirical feelings, such as sympathy, are indispensable parts of certain moral virtues. Kant’s ethics is presented in a “Doctrine of Virtue,” and if you bother to look, you can see that virtues consist not only of acting in certain ways, but in ways of caring and feeling.
Nature and Freedom. There is a very common, though also very silly, picture of Kant according to which as empirical beings we are not free at all, and we are free only as noumenal jellyfish floating about in an intelligible sea above the heavens, outside any context in which our supposedly “free” choices could have any conceivable human meaning or significance. Part of the problem here is that Kant faces up honestly to the fact that how freedom is possible is a deep philosophical problem to which there is no solution we can rationally comprehend. He regards — correctly, in my view — the standard “compatibilist” attempts to solve the problem as shallow and even dishonest. They do not face up to it. I think if there were to be a solution to the problem of free will, it would have to be a compatibilist one. Unfortunately, from that it does not follow that there is such a solution. Many philosophers find this an unwelcome message, and as often happens in philosophy, they punish the messenger by ascribing to him an entirely imaginary but untenable position. In this case, the punishment takes the form of ascribing to Kant an absurd metaphysical theory that his own philosophy declares to be uncognizable and even unintelligible. I will return to this topic in answering your next question.
“Universalize your maxims.” I have already explained above how FUL (FLN) are misunderstood if they are taken to be some sort of general decision procedure. We have already seen that Kant regards the universalizability test for maxims as focused on a very special sort of situation: one where the agent is tempted to make an exception to a recognized duty out of self-preference. The universalizability test is supposed help the agent to see, in a particular case of moral judgment, that self-preference is not a satisfactory reason for exempting yourself from a duty you recognize. Kant thinks, as a matter of human nature, that this situation arises often enough and that we need a canon of judgment to guard against it. But he does not think that the silly commandment “universalize your maxims” is the be-all and end-all of ethics or that it provides us with some sort of general decision procedure that is supposed to tell us what to do under all circumstances.
Kant and theism. The picture of Kant as the ‘theological Robespierre’ or the “world-crusher” was first suggested by someone with whom Kant stood in a relation of philosophical disagreement but also great mutual respect: namely, Moses Mendelssohn. It was an important part of Mendelssohn’s philosophical and religious view that the traditional rationalist proofs for God’s existence should be sound an convincing. Kant thought they were not. So Kant’s critique was world-shaking for Mendelssohn. Kant did think he had a moral route back to rational faith in God, for those who need it, and he thought that at some level, we all do need something like it.
This is almost where we came in with this interview, since my PhD thesis, also my first book Kant’s Moral Religion (1970, reissued 2009), was an attempt to reconstruct Kant’s moral argument for faith in God. I think Kant’s approach, though much more formidable than it is usually credited with being, was much more appealing in his own time than it is in ours. I don’t think Kant’s approach to religion is any longer viable in its original form. But that does not mean it is simply wrong or that we cannot learn from it. Kant attempted to work out a view of religion and religious belief according to which existing religions could be brought into harmony with modernity, science and reason. Since the Enlightenment, popular religion has rejected the Enlightenment path and transformed itself into a bastion of resistance against reason. Many who are committed to reason and science have turned against religion altogether and treat it with fear and contempt. These developments, whose evil consequences for our culture are beyond calculation, are not Kant’s fault. Sometimes when a philosopher’s views are widely rejected by the world, the fault is not with the philosopher but with the world.
Kant and Consequentialism. As I’ve already said, I think it was a major change — I think it a change for the better — when Rawls brought Kant back to the center of ethical inquiry, replacing the position utilitarianism occupied for a long time. But in fact, despite their basic differences on substantive questions, I think Kant and Mill conceive the job of philosophical ethics in fundamentally the same way, and this is a way that contrasts with the approach initiated by Sidgwick and then reinterpreted by Rawls. Mill has a lot more in common with Kant in these ways than either of them have with Sidgwick or Rawls. I have argued this point in Chapter 3 of my book Kantian Ethics (2008). I think that both Mill and Sidgwick are great and admirable philosophers, from whom we still have a lot to learn. I would not favor a form of Kantianism (if there is such a form) that treats Mill’s or Sidgwick’s moral philosophy with disrespect.
The problem I see with utilitarianism, or any form of consequentialism, is not that it gets the wrong answers to moral questions. I think just about any moral theory, worked out intelligently, and applied with good judgment, would get just about the same results as any other. Mill developed utilitarianism with great humanity and insight. Perhaps that is why many utilitarians (those with less humanity, insight and judgment) say he is not a true utilitarian. I have said to two of my friends: David Lyons and John Skorupski — both excellent philosophers, who have made a deep study of utilitarianism — that they are my favorite utilitarians. The reaction of both was the same: “But I am not a utilitarian!” To this my reply was: “Ah, so that explains it.”
Consequentialist theories begin with a very simple and undoubtedly valid point: Every action aims at a future end, and is seen as a means to it. (This is precisely Kant’s conception of action.) So one rational standard of action is how well it promotes the end it seeks. Another standard is whether it aims at ends which are good. Both of these, but especially the former, depend on judgments of fact. Utilitarians are usually empiricists who think they can solve every problem by accumulating enough empirical facts. They do not realize that thinking as well as experience is necessary to know anything or get anything right.Philosophy is about getting the facts right, but it is also about thinking rightly about them. Philosophy is more about the latter than the former. That’s why empiricist philosophy always tends to be anti-philosophy (and is often proud of it). People are often most proud of precisely those things of which they should most be ashamed. (The rightward side of American politics illustrates this very well.)
The big problem for consequentialism is that facts of this last form are hard to obtain except for a few determinate ends in the fairly short run. Consequentialist theories pretend that we can set some great big ends (the general happiness, human flourishing), provide ourselves with definite enough conceptions of them to make them the objects of instrumental reasoning, and then obtain enough reliable information about what actions will best promote them that we could regulate our conduct by these considerations alone. In fact people do not know enough about themselves and what is good for them to form a sufficiently definite conception of the general happiness (or whatever the end is) to establish definite rules for its pursuit.
Further, we cannot predict the effects of our actions, especially our collective actions over generations or centuries, to use instrumental reasoning toward these big final ends to tell us what we ought to do. As a result, it is possible to use the simple point that it is rational to choose the right means to your ends to develop very elegant abstract formal theories of rational choice, and then turn these into what look like moral theories. Philosophers tend to be ravished by the formal beauty of such theories, and they don’t pay much attention to the fact that our human limitations make them pretty useless in practice, while the simple point about instrumental reasoning is too shallow to be of much real moral interest.
When consequentialist theories are developed in terms of an equally shallow psychology of the good — such as a crude form of hedonism — the results can sometimes strike sensible people as revolting and inhuman. People can be reduced to simple repositories of positive or negative sensory states, and their humanity is lost sight of entirely. When people think that moral problems can be solved by some simple strategy of calculation, that sets them up for ghastly overreaching. They think they can turn everything into a “science” the way mechanics was turned into a science in the seventeeth century. They want to turn everything over to technocrats and social engineers. They become shortsighted or simplistic about their ends, and they disastrously overestimate their ability to acquire the information they need to make the needed calculations. Utilitarians of the caliber of Mill and Sidgwick do not do these things, at least on particular moral issues about which they reflect as human beings.
Theories like Kant’s have a different starting point — how we should regard ourselves and one another as human beings and rational agents. They too can be too abstract to be of much practical value, but I think they at least start in the right place — how human beings should relate to their own and one another’s humanity.This is why, if they are sterile, their sterility is easier to see. I don’t think Kant’s theory looks bad to people except insofar as they have misunderstood it (for instance, as heartless and ironheaded, or as committed to an absurd metaphysical conception of freedom that violates Kant’s own philosophy). Some of Kant’s particular moral opinions, either because he shared the prejudices of his time, or because of his own personal crotchets, can strike sensible people as ridiculous or offensive. But in my view, his own theory provides us with the resources (the best resources available, I believe) to correct his own personal errors or cultural prejudices.
3:AM: Isn’t Kant’s view about freewill problematic – isn’t he saying we don’t have freewill but nevertheless we must assume we have? Is this part of his argument for saying that the highest good isn’t knowledge but faith?
AW: Kant is not saying — about freedom or any other subject — anything of the form: “Not-p but we must assume that p.” That’s close to self-contradictory, like Moore’s paradox: “p, but I don’t believe that p”.
What Kant thinks is this: We can’t coherently deny, or even decline to affirm, that we are free. Not only our moral life, but even our use of theoretical reason — on which we rely in rationally inquiring into nature — presupposes that we are free. Not only in order to act morally, but even to formulate theoretical questions, devise experiments, choose which ones to perform and what conclusions to draw from then — we must presuppose that we are free. That’s the sense in which it is true that for Kant “we must assume we are free.”
Kant thinks we can show that there is no contradiction in supposing we are free. We can also establish empirical criteria for free actions, and investigate human actions on the presupposition we are free. We can treat human responses to cognitions as involving law-like connections grounded on free choices which show themselves in our character. But we can never prove that we are free or integrate our freedom in any way into our objective conception of the causal order of nature. If the problem of free will is to see how freedom fits into the order of nature, then Kant’s basic view about the free will problem is that it is insoluble. He puts it bluntly: “Freedom can never be comprehended, nor even can insight into it be gained” (Groundwork 4:459).
Kant’s position is therefore indeed “problematic” in the sense that he thinks freedom is a permanent problem for us, both unavoidable and insoluble. As with many metaphysical and religious questions, Kant thinks they lie beyond our power to answer them. If you can’t stand the frustration involved in accepting this, and insist on finding some more stable position which affords you peace of mind and intellectual self-complacency, then you will find Kant’s position “problematic” in the sense that you can’t bring yourself to accept it. You may try to kid yourself into accepting either some naturalistic deflationary answer to the problem or some dishonest supernaturalist answer. It would be nice, wouldn’t it? if we could get comfortable about the problem of freedom. Kant thinks that we can’t.
Kant considers belief in God and immortality to be items of “faith” because he relates faith to the pursuit of ends — in this case, the highest good. I’ve commented briefly on Kant’s moral argument for theism above, and I won’t try to say more about that here. Kant does not regard freedom as an item of faith because it is too basic to our agency to be related to any end. Freedom is an unprovable but unavoidable presupposition, not an article of faith.
3:AM: You’ve written extensively about Kant’s God and rational theology. You’ve commented that although he’s famous for his criticism of traditional ontological arguments not many philosophers have taken serious time to examine his theological views. So what was Kant’s religion and his God – how does he square it with his support for the Enlightenment? Is Kant a theologian?
AW: Kant was a rational theologian. He did not pretend to be a biblical or revealed theologian. In fact, it was his contention that the censors should not have made trouble for his publication of the Religion because his aim in it was not a theological one (belonging to the province of theology within the Prussian university of the day) but purely philosophical.
Kant’s aim was to develop a religion within the boundaries of mere reason (that is, reason unaided by special empirical revelation) and then to ask about existing ecclesiastical faith (especially about Christianity, and the Lutheran Christianity of his time and place) how this revealed faith must be interpreted if it is to be reconciled with reason, and even seen as a wider (though morally optional) extension of a religion of reason.
We know that Kant’ s attempt to do this was treated harshly by the repressive regime of Friedrich Wilhelm II, and his philosophy of religion has usually been met with a combination of incomprehension and hostility since then. The religious think of it as shallowly rationalistic and religiously impoverished, the rationalistic and irreligious cannot forgive Kant for trying to make peace with the superstition. I’ve already said why I regard both reactions as deplorable. We are generally forced to choose one way or the other of distancing ourselves from Kant. I suppose I tend to choose the irreligious way. But I regret that Kant’s path has not been followed. I wish that our culture could retain the symbolism and emotional power of traditional religion while combining it with reason and science and using the combination to enhance our humanity rather than impoverishing it by choosing the one side or the other.
3:AM: Does it help us to understand what he was doing in his theology by understanding the tradition of metaphysics he was attacking with his own? Or is it a mistake – begun with Heine perhaps – to see Kant as being unsympathetic to that old tradition?
AW: Kant certainly was sympathetic with the metaphysical tradition of rational theology that he criticized. Heine is picking up the reaction to Kant that came from Mendelssohn — as I mentioned earlier — and popularizing it for a 19th Century audience. In those days, uncritical acceptance of traditional rational theology was one principal form taken by anti-enlightenment religion. Nowadays, that is much less common, though it still plays a role in Roman Catholicism. The species of anti-Enlightenment religion we find among evangelical protestants is far more impoverished, anti-intellectual and downright wretched. There is a tradition of “modernist” theology arising out of post-Kantian thought — Fichte was the real father of it, but Schleiermacher and others also developed it — which might have more promise if it had greater influence on popular religion.
3:AM: Is Kant, in his work in metaphysics and rational theology, aiming to work out what ethically follows from insoluble problems of human reason? Is this why he argued that rational psychology, rational cosmology and rational theology were merely pseudo-sciences?
AW: Kant’s treatments of rational theology and metaphysics were aimed primarily at theoretical questions. His attitude toward the pseudo-sciences of “special metaphysics” in Wolff and Baumgarten was always double-edged. He did see them as pseudo-sciences but also valued their doctrinal value and especially their regulative value for the empirical sciences. Like his views about religion, I don’t think any of this is any longer viable in its original form. But Kant can provide, and has provided, a good model for philosophers to think about the relation of metaphysics to science and scientific methodology. On this point, I recommend the work of my Stanford colleague Michael Friedman, who is simultaneously a first-rate Kant scholar and an important philosopher of science.
3:AM: Did Kant’s new conception of human nature mean that the terms of the classical ethics based on happiness formulated by Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics have to be rejected or at least radically reformulated?
AW: Kant has been famous for his rejection of eudaimonism, but I think Kantian ethics has a great deal in common with Aristotle, and some things in common with Stoicism as well. The traditions tend, I believe, to talk past each other when it comes to happiness or eudaimonia. My own view is that Kant’s conception of the duality of the good (morality and happiness, the good of our person and the good of our state or condition) is a distinctively modern view. (It was anticipated, almost alone, by St. Anselm, in his wonderful treatise On the Fall of the Devil. You would not think that a work on this topic by a 10th Century philosopher would have anything to teach us. But you would be wrong. This is one of the deepest treatments of moral psychology you can find anywhere in the history of philosophy.) It’s beyond what I can do in an interview of this kind to try to say where I think Kantian ethics agrees and disagrees with ancient eudaimonism. That tradition, however, has some formidable representatives in philosophers like Julia Annas and Rosalind Hursthouse. I do not think there is as much difference between them and Kantian ethics as many suppose. Kant does represents a distinctively modern view of the human condition in contrast to that of ancient high culture, found in ancient Greek ethics and also in ancient Chinese ethics.
3:AM: You’ve also written about Marx and in lined up with him in sharing his implacable hatred for capitalism. Is your relationship with this thinker motivated by both your own dismay at the contemporary socio-economic-political situation and the way Marx has been misread and distorted by both friend and foe alike?
AW: Marx is thought of as an implacable foe of capitalism. But go back and read the first section of the Communist Manifesto. Notice how it contains a paean of praise for the way capitalism and the bourgeoisie have both enriched the human powers of production and also enabled us to see with clear vision the nature of human society and human history. It has taken me a long time to realize where I most disagree with Marx. His assessment of capitalism is far too favorable. He took its instability, inhumanity and irrationality to be signs that it was a merely transitional form, which had delivered into humanity’s hands the means to a much better way of life than any that have ever existed on earth. Marx could not bring himself to believe that our species is so benighted, irrational and slavish that it would put up with such a monstrous way of life. He thought that it was inevitable that people would find a better way. We now see that this was not so. Capitalism has not proven to be a transitional form, a gateway to a higher human future. Capitalism now seems more likely a swamp, a bog, a quicksand in which humanity is presently flailing about, unable to extricate itself, perhaps doomed to perish within a few generations from the long term effects of the technology which seemed to Marx its greatest gift to humanity. Capitalism has proven to be a far more terrible system than Marx could ever bring himself to imagine. Those who are so deluded as to find something good in it, or even feel loyalty toward it, are its most pitiful victims.
3:AM: You say that Marx analysis of the modern economic order was matched only by one other theorist – Adam Smith. Smith wasn’t the blinkered defender of capitalism some have portrayed him to be, but nevertheless there were differences between these two. Can you sketch out the salient points of disagreement captured in Marx’s ‘capitalist society’ and Smith’s ‘ commercial society’?
AW: The basic differences, beside which others pale into insignificance, is that they were studying modern society at different stages of development. What Smith and Marx have in common is that they were both philosophers of great vision and perceptiveness, deep humanity, and a sense of social reality that has been lost in the abstractly formalistic economic theories that have dominated the field since the last third of the nineteenth century. Those who see Smith as a defender of capitalism — as it existed in Marx’s day, or as it exists today — show above all that they are not living in the real world. They are behaving as though the undeveloped form of capitalism Smith studied is still with us. In general, those who defend capitalism are basically out of touch with reality. One form this takes is thinking that what Smith wrote about nascent capitalism in the eighteenth century still applies to nineteenth century capitalism or to present day capitalism. Smith was not delusional in this way.
Smith could not be expected to have anticipated the horrors that were to come. But even in his own time, he was a defender of certain state actions that he thought necessary in order to safeguard the good effects of commercial society (Smith did not speak of ‘capitalism’ and was acquainted only with an early undeveloped form of it). Among these state actions the chief was general public education. Smith was also aware of the way that economic interests could have a distorting and destructive effect both on the market and on politics. Smith saw the greed of modern capitalism for what it was — a form of destructive ambition that may have favorable effects on the productive capacities of society, but which is of no direct benefit to anyone — not even to the greedy themselves, whose illusory chase after a will-o-the-wisp leaves them morally bankrupt and unhappy. There is a lot in Smith that reflects the insights of Rousseau and anticipates those of Marx.
3:AM: Do you think Marxism is still important as a philosopher of modernity even after the fall of the Soviets , the strange mutation of contemporary China and the Capital of Thomas Picketty?
AW: The Russian revolution did not occur until a generation after Marx’s death. He was not involved with it, or with what came after it. His works do not describe post-capitalist society, and a fortiori they do not recommend any part of what the Soviet Union did. It is absurd for anyone to think that Soviet “Marxism” is a correct application of the thought of Karl Marx. No doubt Soviet propaganda represented it this way. But who believes Soviet propaganda? It is remarkable (but maybe not so remarkable after all, when you consider their motives) that apologists for capitalism, who would not accept Soviet propaganda on any other point, are eager to agree with it on this point.
Marx’s own illusion was to think that the working class movement, which he devoted his life to creating and strengthening, would both be socially and politically successful in the industrial nations of Western Europe, and that it would develop an entirely new way of human social life that would retain and even enhance the productive benefits of capitalism while overcoming the inhumanity and exploitation of capitalist social relations. Marx himself had no solutions to these problems. His object of study was capitalism itself. He left it to others to find the way beyond capitalism to a higher form of society. He saw his role as giving them as accurate a theory as he could of how capitalism works, which would also show them the reasons why it needs to be abolished and replaced by a freer and more human form of society. Clearly no working class movement ever came about that was able to do what Marx was hoping for. We totally misunderstand both his aims and his contribution if we try to read into Marx some anticipation of either the modest successes or the disastrous failures of those who later thought they were acting in his name. Marx’s writings still have something to teach us about capitalism. They have little or nothing to teach us about any alternatives to it. Anyone who had read them knows that. The problem is that many who reject Marx do not read him, or read him only by bringing prejudices to their reading that prevent them from understanding him.
Picketty’s work is to be commended for attempting to renew, a century and a half later, the critical examination of capitalist society as it has evolved since Marx. I won’t try to say more about it than that at present.
3:AM: Do you think the sort of engagement you have practiced over your philosophical career with ethical and political thinkers of modernity like Kant, Hegel, Marx is important given the current state of economics, politics and culture? I guess I’m asking why we should heed the philosophers, and whether what dead philosophers mean should be important to more than just living ones?
AW: It seems to me self-evident that it is worthwhile to understand the best thoughts of the past, to appropriate them, to criticize them. If someone cannot understand something as obvious and important as that, I can’t begin to explain it to them in this interview. Focusing on the topics of my own work, surely the world will be a better place, at least marginally, if people have a better understanding of Kant and Hegel, if Marx’s thought its studied and appreciated, if people gain a better understanding of Fichte, whose philosophy is far more important than people realize. On this last point. I should not let this interview end without working in a plug for my forthcoming book: Fichte’s Ethical Thought (Oxford, 2016). But I have no idea how many people will benefit from this book, or from anything else I have written. More generally, I do not know how much my own work has achieved, and I must not pretend it has done more than it has. As I’ve said, in my acquaintance with John Rawls, I found him to be a simple and honest man, who just by chance also happened to be the greatest moral philosopher of the twentieth century. I would like to think that I could emulate at least his modesty — his refusal to exaggerate his perception of himself and his place in the larger scheme of things — even if my work never compares with his in its importance. Or consider the greatest moral philosopher of the eighteenth century. Fairly early in his career, after becoming acquainted with the writings of Rousseau, Kant wrote this about himself:
“I am myself by inclination an investigator. I feel a complete thirst for knowledge and an eager unrest to go further in it as well as satisfaction at every acquisition. There was a time when I believed that this alone could constitute the honor of mankind, and I had contempt for the ignorant rabble who know nothing. Rousseau brought me around. This blinding superiority disappeared. I learned to honor human beings, and I would find myself far more useless than the common laborer if I did not believe that this consideration could impart to all others a value establishing the rights of humanity.”
We usually can’t know how, and we probably should not even ask, how our lives contribute to a better world. Those who employ their modest talents as best they can do make a contribution to a better human future. My brother did, as a folk singer and in a dozen other ways. As Kant says, the contribution of any common laborer would be greater than that of the greatest philosopher unless the philosopher makes some contribution to establishing the rights of humanity. I think the contribution people make is not proportionate to their fame or success. In fact, I think the relation is often inverse. Leaders of nations, and people whose wealth or fame gives them power over the lives of others quite often do more harm than good. People who enjoy the privileges of success must use these privileges to benefit those who do not have them. These privileges constitute a deep hole they need to climb out of if they are to prevent its being the case that the world would have been better off if they had never been born.
Since we cannot know too much about the long term effects of our particular lives, and since success and fame are not good measures of the value of what we have done, it should be enough for any of us that as far as we can tell, in some small way we have made humanity’s future better rather than worse. What I most fear now is that within a century or so there may not be any human future at all. What are we to think of the shortsightedness of the great mass of people who are content to do nothing about it, and even worse, the greed or venality of the rich and powerful who deliberately bar the way to human survival?
3:AM: How was Fichte’s approach to freedom subtly different from Kant’s?
AW: Kant takes a free will to be a being or substance with the power to cause a state of the world (or a whole series of such states) spontaneously or from itself. Fichte takes an I or free will to be not a thing or being but an act which is not undetermined but self-determined, in accordance with reasons or norms rationally self-given. Kant thinks that a free will is a will under moral laws and that freedom and the moral law are distinct thoughts that reciprocally imply each other. Fichte thinks they are the same thought. The moral law is simply the way we think our own freedom as self-determination. I realize this short version is very compressed and obscure. See Chapters 3 and 4 of my book Fichte’s Ethical Thought for a fuller explanation.
3:AM: How did Fichte’s ideas about intersubjectivity being a transcendental condition for the possibility of being a free agent overcome the Cartesian tradition in the philosophy of mind? Is Fichte arguing – or does it follow from Fichte’s arguments – that human thoughts are not to be understood as being located as states or processes going on in our brains?
AW: Fichte would identify all states of our minds with states of our body — perhaps not merely of our brain, but the whole body as an acting organism. But no theory about our bodies as mere objects of observation and calculation (as distinct from partners in communicative interaction, assumed to be free) can comprehend human nature. We commit not only theoretical error but also moral wrong in objectifying ourselves or other rational beings, ignoring their capacities for free action and communicative interaction with us. It is both theoretically mistaken and morally wrong to regard others as objects of investigation rather than partners in free rational communication.
It is actually a nice question how far Descartes himself endorses the monological and metaphysically dualistic theory of mind associated with his name and his legacy in early modern philosophy. But Fichte does reject this tradition, by suggesting that an immaterial thinking substance is an incoherent notion, and a rational being whose rationality was not developed through communication with others is a transcendental impossibility.
3:AM: What is Fichte’s notion of external freedom – is this fundamentally about being free from the oppression of another?
AW: Fichte is concerned with freedom as non-domination (what Pettit and others call ‘republican’ or ‘neo-republican’ freedom.) Fichte thinks that the mutual recognition of one another as free beings belongs among the transcendental conditions of self-consciousness itself.
3:AM: Does this Fichtean idea of freedom inform Hegel’s Dialectic of Recognition?
AW: Yes, Hegel’s theory of recognition is basically derived from Fichte, who is its real author. But the master-servant dialectic found in Phenomenology of Spirit, Chapter 4 is a highly creative “indirect proof” of the same conclusions for which Fichte offers a direct proof early in the Foundations of Natural Right. That Hegel’s theory is derivative from Fichte’s does not prevent it from being strikingly original and of independent value.
3:AM: Would it be fair to see Fichte as a bridge not only between Kant and Hegel but also Kant and Marx, and doesn’t this make Fichte an interesting figure when trying to decide whether Marxist Materialism is really a break with the Kantian Idealist tradition?
AW: Fichte is a necessary step to both Hegel and Marx. When Marx, in the Theses on Feuerbach, says that only idealism up to now has understood the active side of material Praxis, what he says is more true of Fichte than of any other philosopher in the classical German tradition.
3:AM: Why do you say that Fichte a key to the entire tradition of continental philosophy?
AW: I could identify for virtually every important figure in the history of modern continental philosophy an idea (or more than one) absolutely central to that philosopher’s thought, whose original author was Fichte. Below I try to do this as follows (but I do not list all the figures, nor do I list all the ideas of which this is true, nor do I attempt to justify the implied claims):
Schelling — Transcendental idealism
Hegel — the dialectical method; the theory of recognition; the concept of ethical life
Schopenhauer (and Nietzsche): the will
Kierkegaard: the concept of stages of spiritual development; the concept of the ethical stage; the concept of the self and despair
Feuerbach: The thesis that religion is the alienation of our human nature and its projection as an independent being
Marx: The idea of reification, the idea that true human liberation lies beyond the political state
Husserl: The concept of phenomenological method
Heidegger: Worldhood, authenticity
Sartre: the pre-reflective cogito; the for-itself as a being which is what it is not and is not what it is; the concept of the salaud (political conservative) as someone in flight from his own freedom and the
freedom of others
Merleau-Ponty: the lived body; that our relation to our body is different from our relation to other objects; the perceptual environment
Levinas: The other as the condition of free action
Habermas: Dialogical reason; domination-free communication as the ground of the possibility of a the free society\
3:AM: Early on Fichte developed an idea of natural religion – but did he take it further than Kant by arguing for the possibility of a revealed religion consistent with Kantian principles? And did not any revealed religion end up being committed to its own obsolescence?
AW: I think Fichte did take it further than Kant by arguing that we can regard the moral law as objectively valid only by seeing it as addressed to us by another being, even though F thought God could not literally be a person who could address us. I am not sure what you mean by the suggestion that revealed religion is committed to its own obsolescence, Both Kant and Fichte thought of traditions of revealed religion as ways of symbolically (that is, with aesthetic emotional power) thinking about our moral condition. Both thought that religion would become more and not less powerful, emotionally and morally, if the claims of scriptures and religious teachings were taken symbolically rather than literally (whatever ‘literally’ might mean in the case of claims that are either nonsensical or outdated or historically unsupportable if taken as metaphysical or historical assertions). It is a culturally interesting (but also deeply depressing) fact that many religious claims seem to retain their emotional power for believers only if taken in ways that are intellectually unsupportable and even morally contemptible. Popular religion since the time of Kant and Fichte has gone in a direction they tried to prevent and that has been disastrous for the humanity both of believers and of the rest of us. Look at the role of religion in Republican presidential primaries if you need any confirmation of this last statement.
It is a cause of shame to any member of the human race to be a member of the same species some of whose members could vote for any candidate for president that has been offered by the Republican party. Such people seem to be motivated only by short-sighted greed, ignorance, fear and hatred. It is sad to witness the persistence in our society of the racism and xenophobia that seems to be a permanent part of our political culture. It is shameful to see politicians exploiting these human weaknesses in order to gain political power. It is most depressing of all to contemplate a future in which politicians who do this will continue to have influence over people’s lives. As long as this party exists in its present form, our nation cannot endure as a free society. Still worse, under their policies the human race is being rapidly propelled toward its extinction. It is not possible to exaggerate the importance of what is at stake in our politics at present.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
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First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, May 7th, 2016.