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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Carter's RACE 6: The Triumphal March of White Bodies and Purified Reason

Carter sets out to demonstrate that Kant’s critical work is not merely an ahistorical project to purify reason by purging the clouds of prejudice and bad thinking that have mostly clouded human reason. He argues that it has a powerful driving teleology of the emergence and growth of the Enlightenment as the universal destiny of humanity. In making this case, he shows that the teleology is inextricably tied to a theory of human races which finds its center and purpose in the unfolding of the exemplary and ultimately perfectible white race.

The teleology is driven on the one hand by the seeds of human nature. The development of humanity in this way is rooted in the seeds of human nature which give rise to the various capacities of the human species, although this natural driving force does not by itself tend toward the full development of humanity toward its destiny. Thus he must identify another driving force for teleology which is not confined by the materiality of human existence and sensory perception. This other teleological factor must unfold in human reason.

Human reason’s emergence as Enlightenment has occurred in the white race of Europe. The white race, transcending the limitations of races, constitutes the nature and destiny of the human race which remains to be perfected. These other races will ultimately be stamped out by their own limitations, through a kind of “inner rotting or decay” (92). They are too embedded in the materiality of humanity and its passions, and they lack full capacity for educability. They will never reach full self-governance, but the white race is exempted from this failing.

This second driving force of a purified rationality is what Kant worked in his Critiques to identify. The Enlightened human race must now embark on its world-historical task of extending its autonomy and freedom throughout the globe. Apparently, this process will accompany the process by which the other races are stamped out.

This destiny of the spread of Enlightenment (whiteness) must now face its challenges. The great challenge is that humanity would become sidetracked or stunted in its advance toward perfection. As Kant’s theory of race describes this process, certain developments of human nature are partial and lack balance. Having become imbalanced, these “wayward reproductions” cannot be brought back into balance. Such alien humanity must not become intermixed with the Enlightened, balanced portion of the race. Miscegenation becomes the great fear, whether in the periphery of the lands where Europe is only beginning to exercise dominance, or in the heart of Europe itself. If alien races contaminate the humanity that is destined to emerge, then the rise of Enlightenment (whiteness) may be hindered.

Frankly, Kant is getting creepy here. The party line in looking at European philosophers in relation to European history has been to show how Hegel believed in the inevitable advance and rise of an Enlightened race through the dialectical struggles of history, building a foundation for race theory in the concepts of thesis and antithesis and the inevitable overcoming of such contradictions. Then the close of the Enlightenment with Nietzsche provided the theory of the Übermensch who through the sheer force of his will to power reshapes the world in his image. These philosophers, therefore, get assigned indirect blame for the rise of German National Socialism and of Hitler.

Often, Kant gets offered as the antidote to that stream of German philosophy because his theory of a common human nature exhibited in reason supports doctrines of universal human rights. A few dissenting voices have raised the claim that Kant’s theory of the rational human leaves many gaps through which certain humans might be considered less than fully human. Human rights only apply to those who are defined as human. The debates in the Bush administration’s efforts to apply different rules of war and justice to some persons, deemed not to deserve the same rights as other persons, illustrates the ways that such theories of human rights can be shown to have loopholes.

What Carter has shown in this analysis of Kant is that what some might call loopholes turn out to be the engine driving the argument. Some animals are more equal than others. Some races, even recognizing that their development is part of the essential potentiality of the human species, remain imbalanced and deficient, and must ultimately pass off the scene if the true humanity is to emerge. That sounds plenty useful to a theory of the rise of the Aryan race.

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