September 18, 2013
German philosophy nerd argument ends in gunfire
by Kirsten Reach
A twenty-six year old philosophy nerd fell into conversation with a twenty-eight year old philosophy nerd while they waited in line for beer in an outdoor stall in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Several sources report they were talking about Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason when the discussion became heated.
“They decided to find out which of them is a bigger fan of this philosopher, and a tempestuous argument escalated into a fist fight,” said the Rostov region Interior Ministry in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
The fistfight grew so intense, one of the debaters pulled out a “nonlethal pistol”—one that shoots rubber bullets—and fired multiple shots at his opponent’s head. The victim has been hospitalized and is expected to recover. His opponent has been arrested and charged with “intentional infliction of serious harm.”
But what specific points were the two men arguing? Neither could be reached for comment. Peter Thompson of The Guardian speculates:
No one knows what the exact cause of the dispute was but it is hard to imagine murderous intent emerging from the categorical imperative, not least because it was designed precisely to prevent that happening. If human beings are “ends in themselves”, as the saying goes, then the injunction to do unto others as one would have done unto oneself means that the shooter was pretty mixed up. Maybe the argument was about the Jacques Lacan’s conjunction of Kant and Sade? In the Critique of Practical Reason Kant famously posits that an irresistible desire to do something can be countered by imagining a gallows in front of you on which you will be hung the moment the desire is gratified. As Slavoj Žižek has pointed out, Lacan asked whether it was more the case that some people only get gratification precisely when there was a gallows placed in front of them. An argument about Kant that ends in the shooting of one’s interlocutor would therefore be the perfect argument against Kant.
I’m just going to leave Lars Iyer‘s novels and “The Philosopher’s Drinking Song” here.
Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.