Kant: Moral Progress, Politics, and the Highest Good

Dissertation, Tulane University (1997)
This dissertation is a critical examination of Kant's use of the notion of "moral progress" throughout all of his writings. The dissertation is divided into two sections. The first looks at Kant's analysis of history and teleology. I argue, against many commentators, that Kant is already aware of the limitations of the concept of teleology with the writing of the first Critique, and thus his important notion of moral progress does not go beyond the bounds set by the first Critique, nor is it merely a misconstrued notion of teleology which is eliminated with the third Critique. ;In the first section I make three main points. First, I argue that Kant gives us two locations for the highest good: in an afterlife and on earth. I argue that we ought to take this division and its implications seriously. Second, I argue that Kant uses the notion of moral progress as a postulate of pure practical reason, necessary for the defense of a highest good on earth. Third, I show that there is a strong connection between moral progress and politics, arguing that political institutions are a necessary but not sufficient condition for moral progress. ;The second section is constructive, attempting to show exactly how this notion of moral progress operates in Kant's philosophy. In the first half, I present an intensive analysis of Kant's concept of the highest good, several problems with its conceivability, and its link between morality and politics. Next, I outline what I take to be the five steps involved in moral progress. In the last chapters I argue that the notion of moral progress is indeed a necessary postulate of practical reason given the rest of Kant's philosophical system. I conclude by showing how my interpretation strengthens Kant's position and gives new insight to his understanding of political theory
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