Love in Vain

Southern Journal of Philosophy 36 (S1):45-50 (1998)
Abstract
Kant famously argued in the Groundwork that our fundamental moral obligation is simply to respect the humanity in persons. However, his fuller view, found in the Metaphysic of Morals, is that the humanity in persons not only demands our respect, but also our love. Neither of these demands, of course, requires that we feel anything for others, and Kant is much more specific here about what constitutes respect between persons. But in elaborating this position he also claims that these demands are somehow opposed, as though love were a sort of moral gravity and respect a sort of moral centrifugal force, which together create a cohesive moral/social bond, but alone would allow “nothingness (immorality)... [to] drink up the whole kingdom of (moral) beings” (MdS 6:449). Marcia Baron, in her illuminating paper, argues that this and related remarks are surely an exaggeration. After all, respect sometimes requires that we come closer and love sometimes imposes limits. And not only does Kant ground all duties in respect, but this is the same philosopher who, early on in the Groundwork, claimed that the Christian command to “love our neighbor” must be understood as commanding, not a feeling, but “beneficence from duty” (G 4:399). Since acting from duty is acting out of respect, “practical” love itself requires respect. So why does he think that they are opposing forces?
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