Monday, July 16, 2012

Feeling One's Own Excellence

It is therefore a reproach as unwise as unjust, voiced by shallow minds against great men who work with laborious diligence at the sciences, when they ask: What is that good for? If one wants to apply oneself to science, this question must never be raised. Supposing a science could make disclosures only about some possible object; it would be, for that reason, already useful enough. Every logically perfect cognition has always some possible use which, although as yet unknown to us, may perhaps be found by posterity. If in the cultivation of sciences one had always looked for material gain or their usefulness, we should have no arithmetic or geometry. Moreover, our understanding is so organized that it finds satisfaction in mere insight, even more than in the utility arising from it. Plato had already observed this. Man herein feels his own excellence, he sees what it means to have understanding.

Immanuel Kant, Logic, Hartman & Schwarz, trs; Dover [New York: 1974] p. 47. The basic argument is certainly right. On the other hand, the division of the practical and speculative suggested by some of the stronger phrases here is rather sharper than is plausible.

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