Excerpts from The Philosophy of Cult (4): Plato and Kant Compared

Excerpt 1: What is orthodoxy?
Excerpt 2: Liturgy and Emotion; The Titanic Principle
Excerpt 3: Cult at the Center of Classical Culture

III. Cult and Philosophy

[Plato and Kant Compared]

The so-called philosophy of Plato is a philosophy of cult. It is cult as seen by a profound and wise thinker. Not without reason Plato expounds his most substantial questions in the form of myths, in many of which there are clearly hidden torments and sufferings, for example in Phaedrus and Republic, in the accounts of Hydra and others. This are the myth-parables of Plato. Therefore Kant’s philosophic design, the negation of Plato’s, is nothing else than the negation of cult.

This means that Kant too takes his starting point from cult and founds his system entirely upon it. But he does not maintain a positive orientation to it, as Plato does, but rather negative, not reaching out toward it, but fearing to reach it, like a pirate who avoids a port.

While the gaze of Plato, turned upon the profundity of the human spirit, was concerned with something objective, that of Kant, interested in exterior experience, was dedicated to pure subjectivity. The former was precise, the second evasive. Plato was a wealthy aristocrat, Kant a penurious plebeian, but while Plato frequented every kind of place in search of anything that was worthy of attention, Kant sought knowledge like a wealthy noble man. Plato traveled his whole life, running great risks and even ending up in slavery. Kant never left Konigsberg and lived among the influential.

Plato was a poet, pervaded with erotic impulses, who struggled to spiritualize his own sensuality. Kant was a grand ascetic, far removed from eros, a “castrato”, he busied himself with commodities, with goods and with his table. While Plato sought the divine-humanity, Kant sought the human-divinity. While Plato was always and everywhere a gentleman, despite the danger of the subjects he treated, Kant, despite his disinterest for everything dangerous, was always and everywhere a Philistine. Plato sought sanctity, Kant sought correctness. Thus Plato’s humble acceptance of reality led in the end to the idea of deification–theosis–and thus the proud self-exultation to heaven, the proud construction of objects by the self in Kant.

Everything in one is also in the other, but the convexities of one or the concavities and empty spaces of the other. One is more, the other is less. And if this is the case, if two of the greatest philosophers, who together have defined all philosophy, move in two opposite directions, if the sense of their divergence is defined precisely in the question of the concrete reality of the spiritual world that manifests itself in cult, we must say that philosophy defines herself in general by her relationship with cult, derives from it and make sit the object of its efforts to understand.

[…]

Of its nature philosophy is nothing other than coming to comprehension and consciousness of a spiritual, elevated, celestial, transcendental world. But we know this world only as cult, as the incarnation of the superior world in our concrete symbols. This is because philosophy is idealism, meant not as a matter of ideas, but as the concrete contemplation and experience of spiritual realities, which is to say, of cult.

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