A while ago, under urging from a friend I stuck up an essay about Kant, the Jewish Enlightenment and the evolution of the nation state. It is quite an honour for your work to be taken seriously by serious people, even if they take it up to in some senses cut it up. So that Eoin O’Mahony decided to enter into agonistic dispute filled me with glee.

Future public intellectual, Eoin O'Mahony

Eoin writes:

Kevin’s paper contains an error that besets much discussion about European identity and the enlightenment: it defines this enlightenment as a priori, that is to say, not arising from experience.

But don’t get defensive on my behalf, for the Geographic Genius clarifies:

My comments are meant as a discursive reaction,
not corrections.

Eoin’s discursive reaction illicits a positive suggestion:

If we want to cast aside an a priori conception of the modern nation state, then we have to look at the relationship between those who saw themselves as moderns and those who they defined themselves against.

Eoin is concerned that when I unpack Kant’s thoughts on the “Jewish question” as a distinctively Enlightenment era query I am therefore “believing that teleology”. This is a nuance I doubt I could ever have unpacked without O’Mahony’s guidance. It might seem too subtle for your interest. Hell the essay in the first place might have seemed utterly obscure to you! But as I take Eoin’s guidance I think that his point has real weight. The “Judenfrage” can be construed under a constellation of interlinked projects that we can call Modernity but it is not an necessary connection. It can be understood from different angles that offer their own helpful illuminations. The Haskalah then is “a form of attempting to recuperate universal reason’s legitimating power” in the face of an attempt by those with the power to set the boundaries to draw them in a fashion that excludes Jews.

Your Correspondent, He has been laughably wrong; sandpaper, paper mache, chalk and hung out wet

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