Krohn, Conservatism, Kant, and the Destruction of Values

Jonathan Krohn first captured the national spotlight when he authored the book Defining Conservatism and delivered a speech at CPAC in 2009.  He had accomplished all of these major feats when he was only 13 years old.  At 17, he’s now making the necessary preparations to enroll at NYU.  However, according to a recent Politico article, Krohn has made a massive ideological shift…backwards.  In fact, Krohn will neither call himself a conservative or reject the ideology outright.  As the article states, “Krohn won’t go so far as to say he’s liberal, in part because his move away from conservatism was a move away from ideological boxes in general.”

Krohn explains it this way:

“One of the first things that changed was that I stopped being a social conservative,” said Krohn. “It just didn’t seem right to me anymore. From there, it branched into other issues, everything from health care to economic issues.… I think I’ve changed a lot, and it’s not because I’ve become a liberal from being a conservative — it’s just that I thought about it more. The issues are so complex, you can’t just go with some ideological mantra for each substantive issue.”

Indeed, “conservatism” is quite similar to the concept of a mixed economy.  Where a mixed economy is a volatile mix of freedoms and controls, conservatism is a slap-dashed conglomerate of free market principles and mysticism–or an appeal to the Dark Ages.  Ayn Rand put it this way:

The most immoral contradiction—in the chaos of today’s anti-ideological groups—is that of the so-called “conservatives,” who posture as defenders of individual rights, particularly property rights, but uphold and advocate the draft. By what infernal evasion can they hope to justify the proposition that creatures who have no right to life, have the right to a bank account?

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 227

However, this doesn’t answer the fundamental question of why Krohn consciously decided to abandon the importance of principles altogether.  What Krohn reveals is most disturbing:

“I started reflecting on a lot of what I wrote, just thinking about what I had said and what I had done and started reading a lot of other stuff, and not just political stuff,” Krohn said. “I started getting into philosophy — Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Kant and lots of other German philosophers. And then into present philosophers — Saul Kripke, David Chalmers. It was really reading philosophy that didn’t have anything to do with politics that gave me a breather and made me realize that a lot of what I said was ideological blather that really wasn’t meaningful.”

Of all the philosophers Krohn lists as important to him; the one who lived and wrote before the rest, and who remains a titan in the field is–Immanuel Kant.  I’ll refer to Ayn Rand once more to elaborate why Kant is such a destructive force in the realm of philosophy:

The man who . . . closed the door of philosophy to reason, was Immanuel Kant. . . .

Kant’s expressly stated purpose was to save the morality of self-abnegation and self-sacrifice. He knew that it could not survive without a mystic base—and what it had to be saved from was reason.

Attila’s share of Kant’s universe includes this earth, physical reality, man’s senses, perceptions, reason and science, all of it labeled the “phenomenal” world. The Witch Doctor’s share is another, “higher,” reality, labeled the “noumenal” world, and a special manifestation, labeled the “categorical imperative,” which dictates to man the rules of morality and which makes itself known by means of afeeling, as a special sense of duty.

The “phenomenal” world, said Kant, is not real: reality, as perceived by man’s mind, is a distortion. The distorting mechanism is man’s conceptual faculty: man’s basic concepts (such as time, space, existence) are not derived from experience or reality, but come from an automatic system of filters in his consciousness (labeled “categories” and “forms of perception”) which impose their own design on his perception of the external world and make him incapable of perceiving it in any manner other than the one in which he does perceive it. This proves, said Kant, that man’s concepts are only a delusion, but a collective delusion which no one has the power to escape. Thus reason and science are “limited,” said Kant; they are valid only so long as they deal with this world, with a permanent, pre-determined collective delusion (and thus the criterion of reason’s validity was switched from theobjective to the collective), but they are impotent to deal with the fundamental, metaphysical issues of existence, which belong to the “noumenal” world. The “noumenal” world is unknowable; it is the world of “real” reality, “superior” truth and “things in themselves” or “things as they are”—which means: things as they are not perceived by man.

Even apart from the fact that Kant’s theory of the “categories” as the source of man’s concepts was a preposterous invention, his argument amounted to a negation, not only of man’s consciousness, but ofany consciousness, of consciousness as such. His argument, in essence, ran as follows: man islimited to a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others, therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind, because he has eyes—deaf, because he has ears—deluded, because he has a mind—and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them.

For The New Intellectual, 30

And there you have it.  The story of a young boy who embraced “conservatism,” with all its contradictions and logical loopholes, as a viable ideology only to discover that it’s not.  Subsequently, he has gone on to learn that attempting to understand reality and existence is merely a futile effort due to the construction of the human brain–at least according to Kant.  Krohn was right to reject “conservatism” but he has escaped flagrant contradictions only to fall for evasion (His exposure to the former helps explain his attraction to the latter as well).  Here’s hoping Jonathan will read his way to Ayn Rand soon–before the NYU faculty gets to him.