The Role and Meaning of Community in Kant's Ethics

Dissertation, Harvard University (1986)

Abstract
One of the most frequent misunderstandings of Kant's ethics has been that it is an ethics of "empty formalism" that ignores the importance of the context, ends and consequences of moral action. The formalist reading has not only failed to take account of the "material" elements in Kant's ethics; it has also obscured its social side. Kant's ethics is frequently treated as if it had no social dimension. The aim of this thesis is to uncover and give a systematic account of the notion of ethical community in Kant's ethics. It argues that, contrary to the traditional reading, Kant employs a well-developed idea of community, one that is central to his ethics. ;The first chapter of the thesis explores the formulas of the "end in itself" and the "kingdom of ends" and shows how they function as the foundation for a theory of ethical community. Chapter Two investigates the systematic functions of community in Kant's ethics and sets forth its primary characteristics. The third chapter compares Kant's notion of the ethical community to his conception of the political community, and shows how the latter functions as a necessary prerequisite for bringing about an ethical community on earth. Chapter Four explores the religious dimension of Kant's notion of ethical community, and examines its function in the moral life as an object of hope
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