This paper focuses on a single question that highlights some of the most puzzling aspects of Kants disposition to duty, or strength of will? I argue that a dominant strand of Kant’s approach to moral striving does not fit familiar models of striving. I seek to address this problem in a way that avoids the flaws of synchronic and atomistic approaches to moral self-discipline by developing an account of Kantian moral striving as an ongoing contemplative activity complexly engaged with multiple (...) forms of self-knowledge. (shrink)
This paper develops an account of moral friendship that both draws on and revises Kant’s conception of moral friendship for the purpose of explaining how trusting and being trusted in the way that Kant describes supports moral self-perfection beyond increased self-knowledge and refinement of judgment. I will argue that cultivation of the virtues of friendship is important to the pursuit of moral self-perfection, specifically with respect to combatting the unsociable side of our unsociable sociability. Reciprocal trust shelters the individual’s predisposition (...) to goodness, which comes under attack by the passions in social relations wherein distrust is the default. Reciprocal trust also enables communion, the importance of which has been undervalued in analyses of moral self-perfection. (shrink)
This paper argues that recent accounts of Kantian virtue as “strengthened” inner freedom apply much more clearly to the avoidance of violations of perfect duties than to the fulfillment of imperfect duties, leaving us with the question of how inadequate commitment to morally required ends impacts the exercise of inner freedom. The question is answered through the development of a model of inner freedom that emphasizes the relationship between moral self‐governance and participation in an ethical community.
This paper develops the basis for a new account of radical moral imagination, understood as the transformation of moral understandings through creative response to the sensed inadequacy of one's moral concepts or morally significant appraisals of lived experience. Against Miranda Fricker, I argue that this kind of transition from moral perplexity to increased moral insight is not primarily a matter of the “top-down” use of concepts. Against Susan Babbitt, I argue that it is not primarily a matter of “bottom-up” intuitive (...) responsiveness to experience. Beyond courage and hope, radical moral imagination involves the articulation of inchoate experience, which allows individuals to make new kinds of moral moves and to lay claim to others' acknowledgment of the meaning of these moves. (shrink)
To fulfill a perfect duty an agent must avoid vice, yet when an agent refrains from acting on a prohibited maxim she still must do something. I argue that the setting of morally required ends ought to consistently inform an agent's judgment regarding what is to be done beyond compliance with perfect, negative duties. Kant's assertion of a puzzling version of latitude of choice within his discussion of perfect duties motivates and complicates the case I make for a more expansive (...) interpretation of the duty to pursue virtue. (shrink)
Aristotle's emphasis on sameness of character in his description of the virtuous friend as "another self" figures centrally in all his arguments for the necessity of friendship to self-knowledge. Although the attribution of the Magna Moralia to Aristotle is disputed, the comparison of the friend to a mirror in this work has encouraged many commentators to view the friend as a mirror that provides the clearest and most immediate image of one's own virtue. I will offer my own reading of (...) Aristotle's theory of friendship, suggesting that the friend constitutes "another self" not as a mirror image but rather as a partner in moral perception. (shrink)
This paper develops an account of moral imagination that identifies the ways in which imaginative capacities contribute to our ability to make reason practical in the world, beyond their roles in moral perception and moral judgment. In section 1, I explain my understanding of what it means to qualify imagination as ‘moral,’ and go on in section 2 to identify four main conceptions of moral imagination as an aspect of practical reason in philosophical ethics. I briefly situate these alternative ideas (...) in relation to standard accounts of moral perception and judgment with reference to some guiding examples. In section 3, I argue that the fourth conception of moral imagination, moral imagination understood as the capacity to generate new possibilities for morally good action, is not well accounted for within the standard categories of practical reason. Section 4 clarifies the scope and importance of this capacity and defends its claim to increased theoretical attention. (shrink)
In her 1958 book The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt points to the potential of human action to initiate new beginnings, a capacity she calls natality, as the source of political renewal that could save the modern age from ruin. The question of the relationship between natality and theological concepts is one of the most perplexing points of dispute in the Arendt scholarship of the last two decades. The overall function of the concept of natality in Arendt’s thought has been variously (...) categorized as ontological, political, “covertly” theological and “inconspicuously” messianic. This essay addresses the question of whether Arendt’s understanding of the essential natality of human action should be read as straightforwardly philosophical, as secularized theology or as “covert” or “inconspicuous” theology with a focus on how textual and contextual elements might be assessed in a way that does justice to the complexity of Arendt’s thought. (shrink)
This paper addresses the problem of explaining the relationship between social recognition and justification of moral action, or “the problem of reception.” It is an especially acute and distinctive problem for agents who resist oppression by challenging established norms because action may be necessary even when good reception cannot be expected. I draw on recent work in Kantian ethics that acknowledges the conditions of socially embedded rational agency to argue that moral resisters’ misread actions may count as moral achievements, despite (...) the fact that failed reception may frustrate the realization of moral ends, threaten moral confidence and inhibit rational flourishing. (shrink)
To a greater extent than other theorists, Claudia Card in her analysis of moral luck considers the impact of attempts to transform moral meanings on the development of the agent's character and her responsibilities, over time and in relation to other agents. This essay argues that this wider frame of reference captures more of what is at stake in the efforts of those who resist oppression by attempting to implement radically revised meanings.
This essay discusses an interdisciplinary art history/philosophy course cotaught by a professor from each discipline. Fundamental questions about how we experience, understand, and communicate about art can be answered more effectively through such interdisciplinary collaboration than through each discipline alone. Students in the course tended to think of art either in purely subjective terms, in which art was simply an expression of personal taste, or entirely essentialist ones, in which the artness of a work resided completely within the object. Readings (...) and class discussions helped students articulate these extreme viewpoints and challenge them. As a result, many of the students developed more sophisticated understandings of art and the experiences of art that avoided the pitfalls of subjectivism and essentialism. Insights from selected student papers are presented to demonstrate the kinds of thinking fostered by the course. In sum, the essay argues for the importance and success of interdisciplinary approaches to teaching art, art history, and the philosophy of art. (shrink)
This chapter explores the implications of Claudia Card's analyses of moral luck and taking responsibility in a book, The Unnatural Lottery for an account of "radical moral imagination". Overcoming bad moral luck may require transforming oneself and also transforming the meanings of one's actions through the modification of concepts and the creation of new social practices. A particular "progressive move in moral consciousness" may be necessary but not sufficient for taking responsibility for oneself, and attempts at taking responsibility through exceptional (...) social moves can be quite morally risky. Card's assessment of risky undertakings is more complex than Fricker's because of Card's attention to aspects of moral life that are outside even the most imaginative agent's control. There is moral meaning and value in the kind of self‐care that transforms the self and its possibilities that is not reducible to the value of fulfilling a duty. (shrink)
Against the background of not-so-distant debate regarding “enhanced” interrogation techniques used by the United States during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which many understand to be torture, this essay explores the moral complexities of “ordinary” interrogation practices, those that are clearly not forms of torture. Based on analysis of the written reflections of two United States interrogators on the work they did during the Iraq war, I categorize the roles played by multiple modes of empathy within interrogation and argue (...) that empathetic responsiveness within the context of military interrogation poses a significant threat to the moral integrity of interrogators. (shrink)
In “Imagination and Judgment” W.P. Ker argues, contrary to the “ordinary teaching” of the moralists of his day, that we have good reason to consider imagination as “the highest form of practical wisdom or prudence” (475). Modes of imaginative thought that direct human passion towards morally valuable ends are best understood as a form of reason or an intellectual virtue, as opposed to a dangerous distraction from reality and threat to good judgment. Ker’s piece remains of interest partly because it (...) anticipates some of the most important contributions to moral theory made by philosophers, most notably Iris Murdoch and Martha Nussbaum, who have developed conceptions of ‘moral imagination’ in more recent decades. More significantly, reflecting on Ker’s catalogue of the positive and direct roles played by imagination in moral reasoning reveals that there is further work to be done in clarifying the concept of imagination in relation to practical reason. (shrink)