Serious doubts have been raised about the coherence of theories of the sublime and the usefulness of the concept. By contrast, the sublime is increasingly studied as a key function in Kant's moral psychology and in his ethics. This article combines methodological conservatism, approaching the topic from within Kant's discussion of aesthetic judgment, with reconstruction of a conception of human agency that is tenable on Kantian grounds. I argue that a coherent theory of the sublime is possible and useful, and (...) the experience of the sublime is significant for our self-conception as agents. However, the chief interest in the sublime is not moral. (shrink)
(2017) 'Interest and Agency', in Gabriel, Markus and Rasmussen, Anders Moe (eds.) German Idealism Today. De Guyter Verlag. -/- Abstract: Undeterred by Kant’s cautionary advice, contemporary defenders of free will advance substantive metaphysical theses in support of their views. This is perhaps unsurprising given the mixed reception of Kant’s solution of the conflict between freedom and natural necessity, which is supposed to vindicate reason’s withdrawal from speculation. Kant argues that neither libertarians nor determinists can win, because they deal with concepts (...) of unrestricted scope, and proposes instead to regiment the reference conditions of each concept and to specify the domain, ‘world’, proper to each. However, the precise character of this solution, its conceptual and metaphysical commitments, continues to be a matter of controversy among Kant scholars. In particular, there is ever-renewed concern about the incipient dualism of the position. Although I will be examining some of this material, my primary aim in this paper is not to make a contribution to the interpretative debate about the antinomy. Rather, I want to draw on two lessons from Kant’s treatment of the antinomy to argue for the importance of a certain way of putting the problem of human freedom. (shrink)
The paper examines Schiller’s argument concerning the subjective experience of adopting a morality based on Kantian principles. On Schiller’s view, such experience must be marked by a continuous struggle to suppress nature, because the moral law is a purely rational and categorically commanding law that addresses beings who are natural as well as rational. Essential for Schiller’s conclusion is the account he has of what it takes to follow the law, that is, the mental states and functions that encapsulate the (...) idea of moral self contained in Kant’s ethics. Focusing on the fundamental psychological elements and processes to which Kant’s theory appeals and on which it depends to have application, the paper defends an alternative idea of moral self to the one Schiller attributes to Kant. (shrink)
Kant's conception of autonomy presents the following problem. If, following Kant's explicit lead, we consider autonomy as the universal principle of morality and ground of the actions of rational beings (e.g. G 4:452), then self-legislation is best understood as a prescription by reason to itself. Applied to individual cases of willing, the term 'autonomy' describes the bringing of a set of practical attitudes under rational legislation. Agents may count as autonomous then, insofar as and only to the extent that they (...) are able to implement reason's prescription. This is the bare Kantian picture. The problem, as Schiller originally put it, is that this is also a picture of self-alienation, since parts of one's identity, feelings, emotions, and attachments, are kept at arm's length and treated with suspicion (e.g. AW XXb: 280). Schiller's point is that there must be something that makes autonomy different from mere rationomy. For Schiller this matters because he thinks that a rationalist prescriptive ethic is deeply unattractive and because, anticipating contemporary theories of personal autonomy, he wants to defend an integrative conception of autonomous agency. No such further commitments are needed, however, to see that the bare picture needs adding to it, to show how the principle of reason's self-legislation not only has a grip on individual agents, but also can express their autonomy. (shrink)
Autonomy in bioethics is coming under sustained criticism from a variety of perspectives. The criticisms, which target personal or individual autonomy, are largely justified. Moral conceptions of autonomy, such as Kant’s, on the other hand, cannot simply be applied in bioethical situations without moralizing care provision and recipience. The discussion concludes with a proposal for re-thinking autonomy by focusing on what different agents count as reasons for choosing one rather than another course of action, thus recognising their involvement in the (...) decision process. (shrink)
Does Hegel have anything to contribute to moral philosophy? If moral philosophy presupposes the soundness of what he calls the 'standpoint of morality [Moralität]' (PR §137), then Hegel's contribution is likely to be negative. As is well known, he argues that morality fails to provide us with substantive answers to questions about what is good or morally required and tends to gives us a distorted, subject-centred view of our practical lives; moral concerns are best addressed from the 'standpoint of ethical (...) life [Sittlichkeit]' (ibid.). Hegel's criticism of morality has had a decisive influence in the reception of his thought. By general acknowledgement, while his writings support a broadly neo-Aristotelian ethics of self-actualization, his views on moral philosophy are exhausted by his criticisms of Kant, whom he treats as paradigmatic exponent of the standpoint of morality. My aim in this essay is to correct this received view and show that Hegel offers a positive argument about the nature of moral willing. (shrink)
Our philosophical moral vocabulary expresses a predilection for depth; we customarily probe feelings, intentions, reasons for action. Friedrich Schiller's concept of grace offers an alternative: moral guidance is best sought in what we train ourselves to set aside, facial expression, sound of voice, movement. This surprising proposal merits our attention and speaks to some of our current concerns.
Abstract In this paper I set the debate between Kant and Schiller in terms of the role that an ideal of life can play within an autonomist ethic. I begin by examining the critical role Schiller gives to emotions in tackling specific motivational concerns in Kant's ethics. In the Kantian response I offer to these criticisms, I emphasise the role of metaphysics for a proper understanding of Kant's position whilst allowing that with respect to moral psychology, Kant and Schiller are (...) in agreement about the importance of emotions in our moral lives. I conclude by returning to the themes broached in the introduction to consider the extent to which the teleological concerns that motivate Schiller can be addressed within Kant's autonomist ethics. (shrink)
Hegelian ethics, which gives pride of place to the roles and relations that give substance to our moral life, is seen as a rejection of Kant's a priori treatment of morality, moral law and moral agency. Analysis of the so-called religious writings from the late 1790s to the early 1800s, 'The Positivity of the Christian Religion', the 'Love' fragment, and the essay 'On the Scientific Treatment of Natural Law', shows Hegel engaging profoundly with recognizably Kantian problems of moral metaphysics about (...) moral agency, the moral law, nature and freedom. The almost experimental approach of these early pieces yields independently interesting results as well as offering an important insight into the development of Hegel's thought. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to show how concern with agency, expressed in the idea that history is the doing of agents, shapes both Kant’s and Hegel’s conceptions of history and, by extension, the roles they accord philosophical historiography.
The paper starts with outlining the problems of determinism presented in Ulrich's Eleuthériologie and then examines what resources are available to Kant to address these problems. Although the initial focus is historical, one of the aims is to show that the problems with determinism continue to be live problems for those who seek to defend Kant's theory. So the attempt to seek resources in Kant to address these problems will also involve an attempt to offer a diagnosis of what is (...) needed for such defenses of Kant to succeed. (shrink)
Tom Hanauer's thoughtful discussion of my article “The Pleasures of Contra-purposiveness: Kant, the Sublime, and Being Human” puts pressure on two important issues concerning the affective phenomenology of the sublime. My aim in that article was to present an analysis of the sublime that does not suffer from the problems identified by Jane Forsey in “Is a Theory of the Sublime Possible?”. I argued that Kant's notion of reflective judgment can help with this task, because it allows us to capture (...) the experience of failure that characterizes the sublime without committing us to ontologically transcendent items. In a significant departure from Kant, however, my account does not require references to our moral vocation to explain the pleasure we take in the sublime; the pleasure comes from getting the right measure of our agency. For Hanauer, trouble for my analysis comes both from the discursive presentation of the sublime, its focus on judgment, and from the removal of references to our moral vocation. (shrink)
Over the last decade renewed interest in Hegel's thought and its legacy, especially in Anglo-American philosophy, has combined with the publication of new critical editions of his work in German to underline the value of Hegel for contemporary philosophy. "Hegel: New Directions" takes stock of this re-evaluation and presents an assessment of current thinking on this seminal philosopher. Leading scholars, who have spearheaded the reappraisal, bring the history of philosophy into dialogue with contemporary philosophical questions. Drawing on a broad range (...) of themes, the essays offer a critical and stimulating guide to Hegel's thought, whilst addressing central questions of contemporary philosophy in epistemology, ethics, political and social theory, religion, philosophy of nature and aesthetics. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to show how certain distinctive elements of Hegel's theory of action can provide a fresh philosophical perspective on the phenomenon of addiction. What motivates the turn to Hegel is a set of puzzles that arise out of contemporary medical and philosophical discussions of addiction. Starting with questions concerning ongoing attempts to define addiction, the paper examines the resources needed for addiction to be classed as a disorder, as it commonly is. Provisionally settling with the (...) notion of akrasia, the paper turns to Hegel for a theory of agency that fills in the gaps of the account of akrasia used in the contemporary literature on addiction and helps resolve the puzzles that occasioned the paper. (shrink)