What is the proper task of Kantian ethical theory? This paper seeks to answer this question with reference to Kant's reply to Christian Garve in Section I of his 1793 essay on Theory and Practice . Kant reasserts the distinctness and natural authority of our consciousness of the moral law. Every mature human being is a moral professional—even philosophers like Garve, if only they forget about their ill-conceived ethical systems and listen to the voice of pure practical (...) reason. Normative theory, Kant argues, cannot be refuted with reference to alleged experience. It is the proper task of the moral philosopher to emphasize this fact. The paper also discusses Kant's attempts to clarify his moral psychology, philosophy of value and conception of the highest good in the course of replying to Garve's challenge. Key Words: Christian Garve ethical theory and practice Immanuel Kant moral psychology theory of value. (shrink)
Denis, Lara. Moral Self-Regard: Duties to Oneself in Kant's Moral Theory. New York: Garland Publishing. 2001. Engstrom, Stephen. “The Concept ofthe Highest Good in Kant's Moral The- ory.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52, ...
In this bold and innovative new work, Adrian Moore provides a refreshing but challenging new interpretation of Kant'smoralphilosophy and argues that it can enrich our understanding of a central problem in contemporary ethical debate: the problem of rationality. Noble in Reason, Infinite in Faculty is essential reading for all those interested in Kant, ethics and philosophy of religion.
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative” (CI). Immorality thus involves a violation of the CI and is thereby irrational. Other philosophers, such as Locke and Hobbes, had also argued that moral requirements are based on standards of rationality. However, these standards were either desirebased instrumental principles of rationality or based on sui generis rational intuitions. Kant agreed with many of his predecessors that an analysis of (...) practical reason will reveal only the requirement that rational agents must conform to instrumental principles. Yet he argued that conformity to the CI (a non-instrumental principle) and hence to moral requirements themselves, can nevertheless be shown to be essential to rational agency. This argument was based on his striking doctrine that a rational will must be regarded as autonomous, or free in the sense of being the author of the law that binds it. The fundamental principle of morality — the CI — is none other than the law of an autonomous will. Thus, at the heart of Kant'smoralphilosophy is a conception of reason whose reach in practical affairs goes well beyond that of a Humean ‘slave’ to the passions. Moreover, it is the presence of this self-governing reason in each person that Kant thought offered decisive grounds for viewing each as possessed of equal worth and deserving of equal respect. (shrink)
: This paper discusses the function and scope of incompatibilist or transcendental freedom in Kant'smoralphilosophy. The prevailing view among scholars, most notably Allison, is that the function of transcendental freedom is to enable us to articulate a first-person conception of ourselves as rational agents involved in deliberation and choice. Thus, the scope of transcendental freedom is rational agency in general. In order to perform this function, freedom has to be merely conceivable. Pace Allison, I argue (...) that our first-person conception is neutral with respect to causal determinism, and that the function of transcendental freedom is to provide the metaphysical conditions of the possibility of genuine moral responsibility and perfect justice, and to get rid of moral luck. In order to perform this function, transcendental freedom has to be not just conceivable, but metaphysically real. My view suggests that we only have reason to attribute freedom to ourselves in situations in which we are aware that the moral law commands us categorically. We do not have a similar reason to believe we are free in purely prudential choices. Thus, the scope of transcendental freedom is not rational agency in general, but only moral agency. (shrink)
This study deals with the place and meaning of "legality" in Kant'smoralphilosophy. Although the return to Kantianism dominates contemporary political and legal thought, the boundaries of the analyses of the relationship between morality and legality in Kant'smoralphilosophy are confined to the boundaries drawn by John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas. While Rawls and Habermas consider law and morality as intersecting sets of rules and rights, they mostly consider this relationship in terms (...) of the question of the legitimacy of law. By contrast, this study is an attempt to reconsider the Kantian link between morality and legality beyond the question of the legitimacy of law. Without the deontological filters of the Rawlsian and Habermasian political and legal theory, and therefore without leaving teleological and axiological concerns outside of the field of application, this study is an attempt to analyze the possible ways of understanding the conceptual connection between morality and legality in Kant'smoralphilosophy. Hence in this study, by paying particular attention to The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and The Metaphysics of Morals, I will analyze the role of legality in Kant's morality. The study first explains the goals of Groundwork and Metaphysics as Kant describes them. The study then turns to the discussion of duty as the central concept of Kant's thought. In the process, the study questions the possible ways of understanding the conceptual relationship between moral and legal obligation in Kant's thought, and mainly emphasizes two possible different conceptualizations of that relationship, (a) The first understanding can be constructed on the claim that the obligation of the moral subject is also to follow the fundamental principles of morality, the Categorical Imperative, in the legal order, which is part of the phenomenal world. The main point of this understanding lies in the idea that Kant's understanding of legal obligation presupposes the will's capacity to abstract from inclinations, (b) The second understanding, in contrast to the first one, can be built on the belief that moral and legal obligations should be conceived as completely distinct and non-intersecting in Kant'smoralphilosophy. From this perspective, neither moral obligation nor legal obligation can affect each other. The study concludes by focusing on moderate interventionism as a possible third option for linking moral and legal obligations in Kant'smoralphilosophy. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant (17241804) argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the Categorical Imperative (CI). Immorality thus involves a violation of the CI and is thereby irrational. Other philosophers, such as Locke and Hobbes, had also argued that moral requirements are based on standards of rationality. However, these standards were either desire-based instrumental principles of rationality or based on sui generis rational intuitions. Kant agreed with many of his predecessors that an analysis of (...) practical reason will reveal only the requirement that rational agents must conform to instrumental principles. Yet he argued that conformity to the CI (a non-instrumental principle) and hence to moral requirements themselves, can nevertheless be shown to be essential to rational agency. This argument was based on his striking doctrine that a rational will must be regarded as autonomous, or free in the sense of being the author of the law that binds it. The fundamental principle of morality the CI is none other than the law of an autonomous will. Thus, at the heart of Kant'smoralphilosophy is a conception of reason whose reach in practical affairs goes well beyond that of a Humean slave to the passions. Moreover, it is the presence of this self-governing reason in each person that Kant thought offered decisive grounds for viewing each as possessed of equal worth and deserving of equal respect. Kant's most influential positions are found in The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (hereafter, Groundwork) but he developed, enriched, and in some cases modified those views in later works such as The Critique of Practical Reason, The Metaphysics of Morals, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View and Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. I will focus on the foundational doctrines of the Groundwork, even though in recent years some scholars have become dissatisfied with this standard approach to Kant's views and have turned their attention to the later works. I myself still find the standard approach most illuminating, though I will highlight important positions from the later works where needed. (shrink)
This book is the first comprehensive account of Kant's theory of freedom and his moral anthropology. The point of departure is the apparent conflict between three claims to which Kant is committed: that human beings are transcendentally free, that moral anthropology studies the empirical influences on human beings, and that more anthropology is morally relevant. Frierson shows why this conflict is only apparent. He draws on Kant's transcendental idealism and his theory of the will and describes (...) how empirical influences can affect the empirical expression of one's will in a way that is morally significant but still consistent with Kant's concept of freedom. As the first work on Kant to integrate his anthropology with his philosophy as a whole, this book will be an unusually important source of study for all Kant scholars and advanced students of Kant. (shrink)
Kant’s use of the terms ‘Nature’ and ‘Providence’ in his essays on history has long puzzled commentators. Kant personifies Nature and Providence in a curious way, by speaking of them as “deciding” to give humankind certain predispositions, “wanting” these to be developed, and “knowing” what is best for humans Moreover, he leaves the relationship between the two terms unclear. In this essay, I argue that Kant’s use of ‘Nature’ and ‘Providence’ can be clarified and explained. Moreover, I show that Kant’s (...) use of the terms is symptomatic of a much more important and not sufficiently appreciated fact about Kant’s philosophy of history, viz., that it fulfils a function in both his theoretical and his practical philosophy. (shrink)
Many contemporaries criticized him for smashing the Age of Reason. Goethe, however, remarked that reading a page of Immanuel Kant was like entering a bright and well-lighted room: The great eighteenth-century philosopher illuminated everything he ever pondered. The twelve essays in this volume reveal Kant's towering importance as an ethical and social thinker as well as his enduring influence on the shape of philosophy. Included are excerpts from Dreams of a Visionary, Prolegomena to Every Future Metaphysics, Metaphysical Foundations (...) of Morals, Critique of Judgement , and Eternal Peace . As Professor Friedrich writes in his introduction to this volume: "The problem of freedom, the freedom of the human personality to unfold and fulfill its higher destiny, is the central issue of all of Kant's philosophizing.". (shrink)
Kant speaks of our capacity to be “self-determining [...] in certain [...] laws hold- ing firm a priori” (KrV, B 430). Here the “laws” refer to the categories of freedom introduced in KpV. The categories of freedom, then, are necessary for self-determination. I first explain how Kant employs the notion of determination in his theoretical philosophy. I then explain how the notion is utilized also in his practical philosophy, particularly in connection to the act of determining the forms (...) of willing that make morality possible. I conclude by answering the question, Why are the categories of freedom necessary for self-determination? Under- standing why the categories of freedom are required for self-determination will also help clarify the nature and function of Kant’s categories of freedom, which have puzzled many scholars. (shrink)
Kant identifies the “highest moral-physical good” as that combination of “good living” and “true humanity” which best harmonises in a “good meal in good company”. Why does Kant privilege the dinner party in this way? By examining Kant’s accounts of enlightenment, cosmopolitanism, love and respect, and gratitude and friendship, the answer to this question becomes clear. Kant’s moral ideal is that of an enlightened and just cosmopolitan human being who feels and acts with respect and love for all (...) persons and such an ideal is temporarily manifested in the sort of social interaction achievable at a good dinner party. (shrink)
In contemporary discussions on practical ethics, the concepts of autonomy and dignity have frequently been opposed. This tendency has been particularly visible in controversies regarding cloning, abortion, organ sales, and euthanasia. Freedom of research and freedom of choice, as instances of professional and personal autonomy, have been cited in arguments favouring these practices, while the dignity and sanctity of human life have been evoked in arguments against them. In the moral theory of Immanuel Kant, however, the concepts of autonomy (...) and dignity seem to coexist in mutual harmony. Respect for the freely chosen moral law and respect for the absolute value of humanity coincide, and give rise to a unified understanding of our duties toward ourselves and others. My question in this paper is, was Kant on to something here? Can autonomy and dignity, in the sense in which they are used in current debates, be brought together, and can the arguments be settled in a way that would satisfy both (or all) disagreeing parties? My answer to the question is, yes and no. Kant was definitely on to something in that he recognized two competing views in modern moralphilosophy, and tried to consolidate them in an attempt to create a universal model of ethics. But in the end, he failed to fuse the two views together on equal terms. Instead, he sacrificed the modern idea of the self-governance of individuals on the altar of the premodern notion of the absolute inner worth of humanity. (shrink)
For more than two centuries, Kant scholars have operated on the unquestioned premise that Kant's three Critiques offered a systematic exposition of his philosophy. But this unitary view, argues T. K. Seung, is gravely mistaken. Here Seung shows how each of the three works represents a major reformulation of the initial commitment to Platonism which Kant had made in his Inaugural Dissertation of 1770.
Kant famously insisted that “the idea of the will of every rational being as a universally legislative will” is the supreme principle of morality. Recent interpreters have taken this emphasis on the self-legislation of the moral law as evidence that Kant endorsed a distinctively constructivist conception of morality according to which the moral law is a positive law, created by us. But a closer historical examination suggests otherwise. Kant developed his conception of legislation in the context of his (...) opposition to theological voluntarist accounts of morality and his engagement with conceptions of obligation found in his Wolffian predecessors. In order to defend important claims about the necessity and immediacy of moral obligation, Kant drew and refined a distinction between the legislation and authorship of the moral law in a way that precludes standard theological voluntarist theories and presents an obstacle to recent constructivist interpretations. A correct understanding of Kant's development and use of this distinction reveals that his conception of legislation leaves little room for constructivist moral anti-realism. (shrink)
Following Kant, it is clear that, but probably not completely how we are morally obligated. I will point out that there are three possible ways to struggle for an understanding of how we can be obligated as rational beings and also as ordinary human beings. There is (a) the argument from rational feeling (‘Achtung’), (b) the argument from language, and finally (c) the argument from systematization. Reading the later passages of the ‘Critique of pure Reason’ and following its instructions, we (...) will understand why education has to be founded by the same kind of argumentation as the natural sciences. The systematical analysis of Kant’s analogy between the physical body and the moral obligation will explain the suspected gap between our just rational and our whole selves. The most important part of the demanded bridge will be Kant’s Moral Laboratory. (shrink)
There has been much discussion concerning whether or not some of Sartre's views on morality may be understood as endorsing Kant's views. Perhaps the most controversial issue has been whether in various places in his corpus Sartre invokes Kant's “universalizability principle.” Indeed, Sartre's frequent use of Kantian language, including the idea of universalizability and “kingdom of ends,” strongly suggests that there is some appreciable convergence between his views and those of Kant. While it is true that Sartre borrows (...)Kant's language and expressions, he does not, I argue, use them in the same sense as Kant does. (shrink)
While Kant's pedagogical lectures present an account of moral education, his theory of freedom and morality seems to leave no room for the possibility of an education for freedom and morality. In this paper, it is first shown that Kant'smoralphilosophy and his educational philosophy are developed within different theoretical paradigms: whereas the former is situated within a transcendentalist framework, the latter relies on a teleological notion of human nature. The second part of (...) this paper demonstrates that the core ideas of Kant'smoralphilosophy are also present in his pedagogy. This means that the problem of moral education must be solved within the transcendentalist framework. It is finally claimed that Kant himself outlines a solution to this problem in his pedagogical lectures. (shrink)
Although Kant is often interpreted as an Enlightenment Deist, Kant scholars are increasingly recognizing aspects of his philosophy that are more amenable to theism. If Kant regarded himself as a theist, what kind of theist was he? The theological approach that best fits Kant’s model of God is panentheism, whereby God is viewed as a living being pervading the entire natural world, present ‘in’ every part of nature, yet going beyond the physical world. The purpose of Kant’s restrictions on (...) our knowledge of God is not to cast doubt on God’s existence, but to preserve a mystery in God’s reality so that God is always more than the world as we experience it. The same God who is theoretically unknowable is also an aspect of the moral substratum of the physical world. Kant’s moral Trinity (God as righteous Lawgiver, benevolent Ruler, and just Judge) permeates everything, as the ultimate unifier of reason and nature. This Paper was delivered during the 2007 APA Pacific Mini-Conference on Models of God, together with papers published in Philosophia 35:3–4. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant is often viewed by educational theorists as an individualist, who put education on “an individual track,” paving the way for political liberal conceptions of education such as that of John Rawls. One can easily find evidence for such a view, in “Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’,” as well as in his more metaphysical, moral inquiries. However, the place of reason in Kant’s philosophy––what I call the “autonomy of reason”––spells out a negative rather than positive (...) conception of freedom, from which stems a less individualistic or political liberal education than many presume. I cite both well known and lesser known works in the essay to demonstrate that Kant defended universal freedom only as a means towards developing the “autonomy of reason”, and I consider comparatively the education it entails with that spelled out by Rawls, despite the common conflation of the two. (shrink)
During the 1760s and 1770s, Kant entertained a naturalistic approach to ethics based on the supposed psychological fact of a human love for freedom. During the critical period, especially in the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant clearly rejected such an approach. But his attempt at a metaphysical foundation for ethics in section III of the Groundwork was equally clearly a failure. Kant recognized this in his appeal to the "fact of reason" argument in the Critique of Practical Reason, (...) but thereby gave up on any attempt to ground the fundamental principle of morality at all. So it is of interest to see how far we might now proceed along the lines of his original naturalistic approach. (shrink)
This book argues that an essential part of Hegel's historical-political thinking has escaped the notice of its interpreters. It is well known that Hegel conceives of history as the gradual progress of rational thought and of forms of political life. But he is usually thought to place himself at the end of this process—his philosophical end is to give a rational account of the end of this process, namely, modern ethical life. This overlooks the question of how a new shape (...) of ethical life is founded. Hegel holds that the founding act of a new form of life is the act of an unwitting agent, and it necessarily meets with the violent incomprehension of the society it transforms. The tragedy of Antigone, the French Revolution and its aftermath (the Terror and the Napoleonic Wars), and wars generally are all examples of the tragically violent foundation of a new form of life. Moreover, Hegel does not claim that the foundation of modern ethical life is a fact of the past—it lies in the future. (shrink)