This is a major new study of Kant's ethics that will transform the way students and scholars approach the subject in future. Allen Wood argues that Kant's ethical vision is grounded in the idea of the dignity of the rational nature of every human being. Undergoing both natural competitiveness and social antagonism the human species, according to Kant, develops the rational capacity to struggle against its impulses towards a human community in which the ends of all are to harmonize and (...) coincide. The distinctive features of the book are twofold. First, it focuses for the first time on the central role played in Kant's ethical theory by the value of rational nature as an end itself. Second, it shows the importance of Kant's systematic theory of human nature and history, and its implications for the structure, formulation, and application of Kant's moral principles. This comprehensive study will be of critical importance to students of moral philosophy, the history of ideas, political theory, and religious studies. (shrink)
In this book, Allen Wood investigates Kant's conception of ethical theory, using it to develop a viable approach to the rights and moral duties of human beings. By remaining closer to Kant's own view of the aims of ethics, Wood's understanding of Kantian ethics differs from the received 'constructivist' interpretation, especially on such matters as the ground and function of ethical principles, the nature of ethical reasoning and autonomy as the ground of ethics. Wood does not hesitate to criticize and (...) modify Kant's conclusions when they seem inconsistent with his basic principles or fail to make the best use of the resources Kantian principles make available. Of special interest are the book's treatment of such topics as freedom of the will, the state's role in securing economic justice, sexual morality, the justification of punishment, and the prohibition on lying. (shrink)
This book follows hard upon Korsgaard's The Sources of Normativity. Both present the author's influential version of a Kantian theory of normative ethics and metaethics. Whereas The Sources of Normativity was a systematic investigation of "normativity" written as a single unit, the present volume is a collection of previously published papers, some of them already well known and much discussed, dating between 1983 and 1993. By the nature of the case, one might expect less thematic unity in this book than (...) in the other one, but the present book is a deeper and more wide ranging presentation of the author's views. Korsgaard's historical focus in The Sources of Normativity is less on Kant and more on the British moralists. Creating the Kingdom of Ends deals quite explicitly with the interpretation of Kant's moral philosophy. The papers in this book contain, in my judgment, the heart of Korsgaard's work: a variety of fresh and illuminating insights into Kant's moral theory and its relation to contemporary ethical theory which have helped to reshape the image of Kant's ethics and to refocus the issues dealt with in current moral philosophy. Or to make claims less grand but of more immediate relevance to this review, there is no question that some of the papers in this book have helped to reshape both the present writer's image of Kant's ethics and his conception of the way questions of ethical theory should be addressed. I hope below to say something both about where I think Korsgaard has gotten these matters right, and where I find her position either unclear or dubious. (shrink)
This important new study offers a powerful exposition of the ethical theory underlying Hegel's philosophy of society, politics, and history. Professor Woodshows how Hegel applies his theory to such topics as human rights, the justification of legal punishment, criteria of moral responsibility, and the authority of individual conscience. The book includes a critical discussion of Hegel's treatment of other moral philosophers, provides an account of the controversial concept of 'ethical life', and shows the relation between the theory and Hegel's critical (...) assessment of modern social institutions. The book is nontechnical and should interest anyone concerned with Hegel's ethical and political thought, including philosophers, political scientists, intellectual historians and students of German culture. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that exploitation is unjust; some think it is part of the very meaning of the word 'exploitation' that it is unjust. Those who think this will suppose that the just society has to be one in which people do not exploit one another, at least on a large scale. I will argue that exploitation is not unjust by definition, and that a society (such as Our own) might be fundamentally just while nevertheless being pervasively exploitative. I (...) do think that exploitation is nearly always a bad thing, and will try to identify the moral belief which makes most of us think it is. But I will argue that its badness does not always consist in its being unjust. (shrink)
This book explores Kant's views on the concept of God and on the attempt to demonstrate God's existence as a means of understanding Kant's work as a whole and of achieving a proper appreciation of the contents of Kant's moral faith.
When we read Karl M&IX,S descriptions of the capitalist mode of production in Capital amd other writings, all our instincts tell us that these are descriptions of an unjust social system. Marx describes a. society in which one small class of persons lives in comfort and idleness while another class, in ever-increasing numbers, lives in want and vvrctchedncss, laboring to produce thc Wealth enjoyed by the fixst. Marx speaks constantly of capitalist "exploitation" of the worker, and refers to the creation (...) of surplus value as the appropriation of his "unpaid 1abor" by capital. Not 0nly docs capitalist society, as Marx describes it, strike us as unjust, but his own descriptions of it themselves seem to connote injustice. When we look in the writings of Marx and Engels for a detailed account 0f the injustices of capitalism, however, We discover at once that not only is there no attempt at all in their writings to provide an argument that capitalism is unjust, but there is not even the explicit claim that capitalism is unjust 01* incquitablc, 01* that it violatcs anyonds rights. We find, in fact, explicit denunciations and sustained criticisms of social thinkers (such as Pierre P:roudhon and Ferdinand Lassalle) who did condemn capitalism for its injustices or advocated some form of socialism as a. means of securing justice, equality, or the rights of man. We even find, perhaps to our surprise, some faixly explicit statements to the effect that capitalism, with all its manifold defects, cannot be faultcd as far as justice is concerned. Whatever else capitalism may be for Marx, it docs not seem that it is unjust. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that exploitation is unjust; some think it is part of the very meaning of the word ‘exploitation’ that it is unjust. Those who think this will suppose that the just society has to be one in which people do not exploit one another, at least on a large scale. I will argue that exploitation is not unjust by definition, and that a society might be fundamentally just while nevertheless being pervasively exploitative. I do think that exploitation (...) is nearly always a bad thing, and wul try to identify the moral belief which makes most of us think it is. But I will argue that its badness does not always consist in its being unjust. (shrink)
Allen Wood “What is the human being?” Kant sometimes treated this question as the most fundamental question of all philosophy: “The field of philosophy in the cosmopolitan sense can be brought down to the following questions: 1. What can I know? 1. What ought I to do? 1. What may I hope? 1. What is the human being? Metaphysics answers the first question, morals the second, religion the third, and anthropology the fourth. Fundamentally, however, we could reckon all of this (...) to anthropology, because the first three questions refer to the last one”.[i]. (shrink)
Allen W. Wood presents the first book-length systematic exposition in English of Fichte's most important ethical work, the System of Ethics. He places this work in the context of Fichte's life and career, of his philosophical system, and in relation to his philosophy of right or justice and politics. Wood discusses Fichte's defense of freedom of the will, his grounding of the moral principle, theory of moral conscience, transcendental deduction of intersubjectivity, and his conception of free rational communication and the (...) rational society. He develops and emphasizes the social and political radicalism of Fichte's moral and political philosophy, and brings out the philosophical interest of Fichte's positions and arguments for present day philosophy. Fichte's Ethical Thought argues that Fichte is a major thinker in the history of ethics, and the most important figure in the history of modern continental philosophy in the past two centuries. (shrink)
Kant's moral philosophy is grounded on the dignity of humanity as its sole fundamental value, and involves the claim that human beings are to be regarded as the ultimate end of nature. It might be thought that a theory of this kind would be incapable of grounding any conception of our relation to other living things or to the natural world which would value nonhuman creatures or respect humanity's natural environment. This paper criticizes Kant's argumentative strategy for dealing with our (...) duties in regard to animals, but defends both his theory and most of his conclusions on these topics. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant’s _Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals _is_ _one of the most important texts in the history of ethics. In it Kant searches for the supreme principle of morality and argues for a conception of the moral life that has made this work a continuing source of controversy and an object of reinterpretation for over two centuries. This new edition of Kant’s work provides a fresh translation that is uniquely faithful to the German original and more fully annotated than (...) any previous translation. There are also four essays by well-known scholars that discuss Kant’s views and the philosophical issues raised by the _Groundwork. _J.B. Schneewind defends the continuing interest in Kantian ethics by examining its historical relation both to the ethical thought that preceded it and to its influence on the ethical theories that came after it; Marcia Baron sheds light on Kant’s famous views about moral motivation; and Shelly Kagan and Allen W. Wood advocate contrasting interpretations of Kantian ethics and its practical implications. (shrink)
Should we hold beliefs only insofar as they are rationally supportable? According to Allen W. Wood, we're morally obliged to do so—and yet how does this apply to religious beliefs? _Unsettling Obligations_ examines these and related ethical and philosophical issues, taking and defending stances on many of them. Along with the theme of belief and evidence, other topics include a historical perspective of philosophy based on the Enlightenment rationalist tradition and a study of how our practical commitments help define truth (...) and value. (shrink)
The Free Development of Each collects twelve essays on the history of German philosophy by Allen W. Wood, one of the leading scholars in the field. They explore moral philosophy, politics, society, and history in the works of Kant, Herder, Fichte, Hegel, and Marx, and share the basic theme of freedom, as it appears in morality and in politics.
Kant holds that the moral principle is a priori, not empirical. But consistently with this, important parts of Kantian ethics, including his formulations of the moral principle, depend on a rich and interesting empirical theory of human nature.
In his reading of Kant’s moral philosophy and its grounding in freedom of the will, Allison is best know for giving an exclusively “practical” reading to doctrines about noumenal agency, so that they are taken to have none of the outlandish metaphysical implications often thought to be associated with the Kantian conception of freedom. The central feature of Allison’s interpretation is that Kant operates with a theory of agency in which, from the agent’s standpoint, reasons do not act as causes, (...) but operate only insofar as they are taken up by the agent into principles or “maxims.” According to this “Incorporation Thesis,” sensuous impulses or desires are not causes of an action. So there is no reason to regard the motive of duty as a “noumenal” cause competing with sensuous or “phenomenal” causes. Instead, Kant’s “two standpoints theory” is to be understood as distinguishing the action as viewed from the agent’s practical standpoint from causal conceptions governing the theoretical standpoint. (shrink)
One of the principal aims of Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals, especially of the Doctrine of Virtue, is to present a taxonomy of our duties as human beings. The basic division of duties is between juridical duties and ethical duties, which determines the division of the Metaphysics of Morals into the Doctrine of Right and the Doctrine of Virtue. Juridical duties are duties that may be coercively enforced from outside the agent, as by the civil or criminal laws, or other social (...) pressures. Ethical duties must not be externally enforced (to do so violates the right of the person coerced). Instead, the subject herself, through her own reason and the feelings and motives arising a priori from her rational capacities -- the feelings of respect, conscience, moral feeling and love of other human beings, must constrain herself to follow them (MS 6:399-404).1 Among ethical duties, the fundamental division is between duties to oneself and duties to others. Within each of these two main divisions of ethical duty, there is a further division between duties that are strictly owed, requiring specific actions or omissions, and whose violation incurs moral blame, and duties that are wide or meritorious, the specific actions not strictly owed, but deserving of moral credit or merit. Kant treats these latter as ‘duties’ (eschewing any category such as ‘supererogation’) because the actions in question are conceived as fit objects of self-constraint – things we can make ourselves do through the exercise of reason and the moral feelings arising from the application of practical reason to our faculty of desire. Regarding duties to oneself, this division is between ‘perfect’ and ‘imperfect’ duty; regarding duties to others, the strict or narrow... (shrink)
In the Preface to his best known work on moral philosophy, Kant states his purpose very clearly and succinctly: “The present groundwork is, however, nothing more than the search for and establishment of the supreme principle of morality, which already constitutes an enterprise whole in its aim and to be separated from every other moral investigation” (Groundwork 4:392). This paper will deal with the outcome of the first part of this task, namely, Kant’s attempt to formulate the supreme principle of (...) morality, which is the intended outcome of the search. It will consider this formulation in light of Kant’s conception of the historical antecedents of his attempt. (shrink)
The challenge to philosophy of mind for the past two hundred years has been to overcome the Cartesian conception of mind. This essay explores the attempt to do this by J. G. Fichte, especially regarding intersubjectivity or the knowledge of other minds. Fichte provides a transcendental deduction of the concept of the other I, as a condition for experiencing the individuality of our own I. The basis of this argument is the concept of the "summons", which Fichte argues is necessary (...) for us to form the concept of an end of our own action. (shrink)
This volume collects for the first time in a single volume all of Kant's writings on religion and rational theology. These works were written during a period of conflict between Kant and the Prussian authorities over his religious teachings. His final statement of religion was made after the death of King Frederick William II in 1797. The historical context and progression of this conflict are charted in the general introduction to the volume and in the translators' introductions to particular texts. (...) All the translations are new with the exception of The Conflict of the Faculties, where the translation has been revised and re-edited to conform to the guidelines of the Cambridge Edition. As is standard with all the volumes in this edition, there are copious linguistic and explanatory notes, and a glossary of key terms. (shrink)
Allen W.Wood Stanford University Fichte’s overall aim in the Second Chapter of the System of Ethics is to derive the applicability of the moral principle he has deduced in the First Chapter. That principle was: To determine one’s freedom solely in accordance with the concept of selfdetermination.1 To show that this principle can be applied is to derive its application from the conditions of free agency in which we find ourselves. In the section of the Second Chapter that will concern (...) us, Fichte attempts to do this starting with our awareness of ourselves as organic beings of nature, and deriving from this awareness our consciousness of the moral principle as an activity of our freedom, together with the general object of this activity, our interest in this activity, and some preliminary indications of the way we are to identify the particular objects and actions that fall under it. It is important to keep in mind that throughout this discussion, Fichte’s concern is not with deducing philosophical propositions from the transcendental standpoint but rather with comprehending, in the light of this, the standpoint of everyday or nonphilosophical consciousness. The aim will therefore be to help us recognize the transcendental source and estimate the significance for moral philosophy of such ordinary facts of practical consciousness as drive, desire, the ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ faculties of desire, our awareness of freedom. (shrink)
[Allen W. Wood] Kant's moral philosophy is grounded on the dignity of humanity as its sole fundamental value, and involves the claim that human beings are to be regarded as the ultimate end of nature. It might be thought that a theory of this kind would be incapable of grounding any conception of our relation to other living things or to the natural world which would value nonhuman creatures or respect humanity's natural environment. This paper criticizes Kant's argumentative strategy for (...) dealing with our duties in regard to animals, but defends both his theory and most of his conclusions on these topics. /// [Onora O'Neill] Kant's ethics, like others, has unavoidable anthropocentric starting points: only humans, or other 'rational natures', can hold obligations. Seemingly this should not make speciesist conclusions unavoidable: might not rational natures have obligations to the non-rational? However, Kant's argument for the unconditional value of rational natures cannot readily be extended to show that all non-human animals have unconditional value, or rights. Nevertheless Kant's speciesism is not thoroughgoing. He does not view non-rational animals as mere items for use. He allows for indirect duties 'with regard to' them which afford welfare but not rights, and can allow for indirect duties 'with regard to' abstract and dispersed aspects of nature, such as biodiversity, species and habitats. (shrink)
Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason is a key element of the system of philosophy which Kant introduced with his Critique of Pure Reason, and a work of major importance in the history of Western religious thought. It represents a great philosopher's attempt to spell out the form and content of a type of religion that would be grounded in moral reason and would meet the needs of ethical life. It includes sharply critical and boldly constructive discussions on topics (...) not often treated by philosophers, including such traditional theological concepts as original sin and the salvation or 'justification' of a sinner, and the idea of the proper role of a church. This volume presents it and three short essays that illuminate it in new translations by Allen Wood and George di Giovanni, with an introduction by Robert Merrihew Adams that locates it in its historical and philosophical context. (shrink)
Wood reiterated his previous papers of view - "For Marx, economic, trade or social system of justice or not depends on its mode of production with the established relationship" that Hussami the "justice is not only determined by the mode of production and determined by class position, "the view attributed to Marx is a misconception that Marx was a capitalist from the standards of justice to go after the critique of capitalist society, it is a misreading of Marx's text. In (...) his view, Marx's critique of capitalism is based on the analysis of the overall critique of social production, the criticism is based on freedom, community and self-realization and other non-moral good criticism, and not based on moral rights or justice, good criticism. (shrink)
It is well known that Hegel contrasts the “Moral standpoint” or “morality” with the higher standpoint of “social ethics” or “ethical life”, and that he regards Kant’s ethical theory as an expression of the moral standpoint. Hegel finds many shortcomings in the moral standpoint, but probably the most famous of Hegel’s criticisms of Kantian moral theory is the charge that Kant’s theory is an “empty formalism,” incapable of providing any “immanent doctrine of duties,” The Kantian moral law, says Hegel, has (...) no content; its only criterion of morally right action is non-contradictoriness, and that proves to be no criterion at all, because it is a criterion which even the most immoral actions are able to satisfy. (shrink)
Fichte founded a revolutionary philosophical movement and invented an entirely new kind of philosophy; and he did so knowingly and intentionally. Yet, paradoxically, he did all this merely in the course of attempting to complete the philosophical project of Kant and protect critical philosophy against the possibility of skeptical..
People talk about rats deserting a sinking ship, but they don't usually ask where the rats go. Perhaps this is only because the answer is so obvious: of course, most of the rats climb aboard the sounder ships, the ships that ride high in the water despite being laden with rich cargoes of cheese and grain and other things rats love, the ships that bring prosperity to ports like eighteenth-century Königsberg and firms such as Green & Motherby. By making the (...) insulting comparison - as I am in the course of doing – between us Kant scholars and a horde of noxious vermin, my more or less transparent aim is to mitigate, or at least to distract attention from, the collective immodesty of what I am saying about us. For my point is that, in the past half-century or so, Kant studies has become a very prosperous ship indeed. Its success has even been the chief thing that has buoyed all its sister ships in the fleet of modern philosophy, most of which are also doing very well. (shrink)
Kant was among the first[i] to break decisively with the eudaimonistic tradition of classical ethics by declaring that the moral principle is entirely distinct and divergent from the principle of happiness (G 4:393, KpV 5:21-27).[ii] I am going to argue that what is at issue in Kant’s rejection of eudaimonism is not fundamentally any question of ethical value or the priority among values. On the contrary, on these matters Kant shares the views which led classical ethical theory from Socrates onward (...) to embrace eudaimonism. Instead, where Kant breaks with classical ethics is in the conception of human nature. Kant’s conception of human nature so altered the application of moral principles that it forced a change in the way happiness was conceived, leading to a reversal of what had earlier been thought about the relation of the principle morality to the pursuit of happiness. (shrink)
Kant was not a very knowledgeable historian of philosophy. He came to the study of philosophy from natural science, and later the fields of ethics, aesthetics, politics and religion came to occupy his central concerns, but his approach to philosophical issues never came by way of reflection on their history. He was well acquainted, of course, with the recent tradition of German philosophy: Leibniz, Wolff, Baumgarten and Crusius, and he seems also to have had knowledge of eighteenth century French philosophy, (...) and of as much of Anglophone philosophy as had been translated into either French or German. But like many modern philosophers, he had an inadequate appreciation of the scholastic tradition, and his knowledge of classical Greek philosophy was mostly at second hand. (shrink)
This paper is a critical examination of one central theme in Jon Elster's Making Sense of Marx; Elster's defense of ?methodological individualism? in social science and his related critique of Marx's use of ?functional explanation?. The paper does not quarrel with Elster's claim that the particular instances of functional explanation advanced by Marx are defective; what it criticizes is Elster's attempt to raise principled, philosophical objections to this type of explanation in the social sciences. It is argued that Elster's philosophical (...) critique of functional explanation rests on a caricature of this kind of explanation, just as his critique of Marx's use of teleology in the philosophy of history rests on a caricature of the kinds of teleological claims Marx is concerned to make. The paper ends with a brief discussion of a recently published passage from Marx's notebooks of 1861?1863, where Elster claims to have found Marx explicitly criticizing capitalist exploitation as an injustice to the workers. (shrink)