Dissertation, (2012)

Authors
Alice Pinheiro Walla
McMaster University
Abstract
This doctoral thesis analyzes the systematic role of Kant’s conception of happiness in his moral, legal and political theory. Although many of his conclusions and arguments are directly or indirectly influenced by his conception of human happiness, Kant’s underlying assumptions are rarely overtly discussed or given much detail in his works. Kant also provides different and apparently incompatible definitions of happiness. This research explores the domains of Kant’s practical philosophy in which his conception of happiness plays a systematic role: the relation between the natural need of human beings to pursue happiness and the ends-oriented structure of the human will; Kant’s anti-eudaimonism in ethical theory; Kant’s claim that we have an indirect duty to promote our own happiness and the problem that under certain circumstances, the indeterminacy of happiness makes it not irrational to choose short term satisfaction at the costs of one’s overall, long term happiness, given Kant’s conception of non-moral choice as expectation of pleasure; Kant’s justification of the duty to adopt the happiness of others as our ends and the latitude and eventual demandingness of this duty; finally, since Kant also subsumes subsistence needs and welfare under the concept of happiness of individuals, I also engage with the question of state provision for the poor in the Kantian Rechtsstaat and explore Kant’s conception of equity or fairness as an alternative to the traditional minimalist and the welfare interpretations of the Kantian state.
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