Last week when we moved on from The Aeneid and onto philosophers, ruins, and paintings, I was disappointed. Like said in discussion, the first weeks of lecture were just facts. Facts I can understand – it’s pretty straightforward, but philosophy is a different story. I took a philosophy class in high school once, and when the name Immanuel Kant came up in lecture, I recognized it, but could not remember what theories he came up with. What surprised me was the fact that Kant is both a racist and a sexist. Now it might have been the fact that I went to a Catholic, private high school in Texas, but I know we never went over this before with any of the philosophers we studied, which included names such as Descartes, Aristotle, and John Locke. So while, Kant is considered one of the great philosophers, his non-progressive line of thinking is his ruin. His quote highlighted by the Friday Forum that “Man should be more perfect as a man, and the woman as a wife” lines with the stereotypical line of thought during that time that a woman should just serve her husband. Now whenever I see anything written by him, I know that he was actually a garbage human being.
Similarly, Jean Jacques Rousseau is another philosopher whose ruin is their sexism and racism. Saying things such as “Men will always be what is pleasing to women” is both offensive and untrue (The Basic Political Writings 17). Sorry to break it to you, Rousseau but a woman’s purpose in life does not surround men. Getting married to a man is not the end all be all for a woman, especially in today’s world. Not to mention that he is leaving out women who are lesbian, bisexual, and pansexual, who are not only attracted to men, but why would he since Rousseau is most likely homophobic as well. Also his line of reason to use Enlightenment ideas to argue against Enlightenment ideas is hypocritical and frankly doesn’t make much sense, though I am sure that he made some good points against the Enlightenment using this method. So, much like Kant, Rousseau is also a garbage human being.
How does this all relate back to Empire then? Well, the way I see it is that Kant and Rousseau are the “emperors” of their philosophies and the people who believe in those philosophies are the people who make up the empire. So, while there aren’t really any physical innovations or some sort of army involved, like aqueducts or the Roman army, there are mental innovations since humans never thought so in-depth about human essence, reason, arts and sciences, etc. And Rousseau and Kant being the “emperors” of these philosophies means that they have the power, or supreme authority, which is how they get away with contradicting themselves. But much like empires, they fall to ruins, as you can tell from my points above, which explains why there is a lot of debate about whether or not we should continue studying Kant and Rousseau. My personal belief is that we should study the more non-biased parts of their works, though I think it is important to teach people that Kant and Rousseau were sexist and racist, which is what my high school failed to teach me.