Kant takes the idea of autonomy of the will to be his distinctive contribution to moral philosophy. However, this idea is more nuanced and complicated than one might think. In this chapter, I sketch the rough outlines of Kant’s idea of autonomy of the will while also highlighting contentious exegetical issues that give rise to various possible interpretations. I tentatively defend four basic claims. First, autonomy primarily features in Kant’s account of moral agency, as the condition of the possibility of (...) moral obligation. Second, autonomy amounts to a metaphysical property as well as a normative principle and a psychological capacity. Third, although there is legitimate scholarly disagreement about whether or not autonomy involves self-legislation of the moral law, there is good reason to believe it underwrites an ‘inside-out’ (as opposed to ‘outside-in’) conception of the relationship between the will and moral requirements. Fourth, persons have dignity because their autonomy makes them members in the set of beings over whom the categorical imperative requires us to universalise our maxims, not because autonomy is an independently important property. (shrink)
According to the objection from positive duties, Kant's Formula of Universal Law is flawed because it cannot be used to derive any affirmative moral requirements. This paper offers a response to that objection and proposes a novel way to derive positive duties from Kant's formula. The Formula of Universal Law yields positive duties to adopt our own perfection and others’ happiness as ends because we could not rationally fail to will those ends as universal ends.
Kant famously claims that there is only a single supreme principle of morality: the Categorical Imperative. This claim is often treated with skepticism. After all, Kant proceeds to provide no fewer than six formulations of this purportedly single supreme principle—formulations which appear to differ significantly. But appearances can be deceptive. In this paper, I argue that Kant was right. There is only a single Categorical Imperative, and each of its formulations expresses the very same moral principle.
In this paper I critically engage with Pauline Kleingeld’s ‘volitional self-contradiction’ interpretation of Kant’s formula of universal law. I make three remarks: first, I seek to clarify what it means for a contradiction to be volitional as opposed to logical; second, I suggest that her interpretation might need to be closer to Korsgaard’s ‘practical contradiction’ interpretation than she thinks; and third, I suggest that more work needs to be done to explain how a volitional self-contradiction generates both a ‘contradiction in (...) conception’ and a ‘contradiction in will.’. (shrink)
Kant’s formula of universal law (FUL) is standardly understood as a test of the moral permissibility of an agent’s maxim: maxims which pass the test are morally neutral, and so permissible, while those which do not are morally impermissible. In contrast, I argue that the FUL tests whether a maxim is the cause or determining ground of an action at all. According to Kant’s general account of causality, nothing can be a cause of some effect unless there is a law-like (...) relation between the putative cause and effect. Applied to the case of action, no maxim can be the cause of an agent’s action unless there is a law-like relation between maxims of that kind and actions of that kind. The special capacity to act according to maxims as law-like causes is what Kant calls a will; the basic constitutive principle of the will is a non-normative principle I call the categorical declarative. While the actions of a perfectly good will would be described by the categorical declarative alone, human action is determined not only by the causality of the will, but also by competing causes, namely those stemming from inclination. There is thus need for a causal test for putative maxims. The test contained in the FUL is meant to determine whether an action could be grounded solely on the agent’s maxim, or whether it requires a cause external to the will. This account permits one to build eventual distinctions concerning the morality of actions on prior and independent distinctions concerning their causality. (shrink)
The Discourse of Universalism , Moral Relativism & Utilitarianism Table of Contents: Chapter 1. Moral relativism: history and theory of moral relativism: Ancient Greece and Early Modern Era Chapter 2. Universalism and Relativism Chapter 3. Hume's Universalism Chapter 4. Plato's Universalism Chapter 5. Problems with Rawls Theory Chapter 6. Aristotle's Relativism Chapter 7. Is Aristotle an ethical relativist? Chapter 8. John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism Chapter 9. Mill and Principle of Utility Chapter 10. Kant and Moral Theory The historian Herodotus gives (...) the anecdote of Darius, King of Persia, who summoned the Greeks and asked them if they would be willing to eat the bodies of their dead fathers. They replied they would not for any money in the world. Later, Darius asked some Indians of the tribe called Callatiae, who do eat their dead parents’ bodies, if they would ever consider burning the bodies, as was the custom among Greeks. “One can see by this what custom can do” writes Herodotus. He draws the conclusion that this story vindicates the view some acts may be right for some and wrong for others, depending on their individual conceptions of morality. The Sophists were also associated with relativistic thinking, notably Protagoras who asserts that “man is the measure of all things”. However, this view was quite uncommon and moral relativism hardly flourished, as Plato and Aristotle both defended forms of moral absolutism. Ancient Greek philosophers acknowledged moral diversity, but more often under the form of moral scepticism, which states that there is no moral knowledge (rather than moral truth is relative to a culture). (shrink)
Ever since Hegel famously objected to Kant’s universalization formulations of the Categorical Imperative on the grounds that they are nothing but an empty formalism, there has been continual debate about whether he was right. In this paper I argue that Hegel got things at least half-right: I argue that even if negative duties (duties to omit actions or not to adopt maxims) can be derived from the universalization formulations, positive duties (duties to commit actions or to adopt maxims) cannot. The (...) paper is divided into three main sections. In the first, I set out the procedures generally accepted among Kantians for deriving positive duties from the universalization formulations. In the second, I set out the arguments from section 1 in more detail and explain why they do not work. In the third, I examine a strategy that might be used to supplement the arguments from section 2 and I argue that it also does not work. (shrink)
I want to distinguish between maxims at three levels of abstraction. At the first level are what I shall call individual maxims, or i‐maxims: maxim tokens as adopted by particular rational beings. At the second level are abstract maxims, or a‐maxims: abstract principles distinct from any individual who adopts them. At the third level are maxim kinds, or k‐maxims: sets of various action‐guiding principles that are grouped on the basis of their content. In this paper, I argue for the thesis (...) that i‐maxims are the locus of assessment in Kant's ethics. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to show that, if Kant’s universalization formulations of the Categorical Imperative are our only standards for judging right from wrong and permissible from impermissible, then we have no obligations. I shall do this by examining five different views of how obligations can be derived from the universalization formulations and arguing that each one fails. I shall argue that the first view rests on a misunderstanding of the universalization formulations; the second on a misunderstanding of (...) the concept of an obligation; the third on a misunderstanding of the concept of a maxim; the fourth on a misunderstanding of the limits of action description; and the fifth on a misunderstanding of the universalization formulations again. (shrink)
Kant’s ethics provides surprising resources for addressing duties with respect to climate change. First, I show how Kant’s moral metaphysics, according to which the self is a phenomenon, provides a distinctive ground to mitigate the harm of climate change for future generations. In short, the physical appearances of our actions are grounded in an atemporal existence from which our intrinsic moral value derives. As such, the a priori basis for addressing climate duties to the present is no different from that (...) of duties to address climate duties to the future, though we must consider present circumstances in order to act effectively. Second, I show that recent helpful contributions towards understanding the resources of Kantian ethics for addressing climate face the following prima facie dilemma: perfect duties to reduce emissions are overly demanding because it requires reduction below subsistence levels, while imperfect duties to reduce emissions are not demanding enough to address the climate crisis. Without ruling out the existence of perfect duties to address climate, I analyze the latter horn of the dilemma and show how imperfect duties can be more demanding than one might have thought, given that we are in a climate emergency. Recent work on the role of emergency in Kant’s ethics has shown that there are resources for making sense of the prioritization of some concerns as more pressing. Overall, the aim of this contribution is to highlight some of the prospects and problems that face Kantian approaches to climate ethics. (shrink)
Kant’s argument against suicide is widely dismissed by scholars and often avoided by teachers because it is deemed inconsistent with Kant’s moral philosophy. This paper attempts to show a way to make sense of Kant’s injunction against suicide that is consistent with his moral system. One of the strategies adopted in order to accomplish my goal is a de-secularization of Kant’s ethics. I argue that all actions of self-killing (or suicide) are morally impermissible because they are inconsistent with God’s established (...) nature and order. It is argued that the existence of God as the locus of moral value and duty in Kant’s moral system, and not belief in God, can explain the consistency of Kant’s injunction against suicide. A synergistic view is offered, which rests on three arguments: First, suicide goes against God’s authority. Second, suicide is inconsistent with our self-perpetuating nature. Third, suicide goes against the rational will. (shrink)
Are acts of violence performed in virtual environments ever morally wrong, even when no other persons are affected? While some such acts surely reflect deficient moral character, I focus on the moral rightness or wrongness of acts. Typically it’s thought that, on Kant’s moral theory, an act of virtual violence is morally wrong (i.e., violate the Categorical Imperative) only if the act mistreats another person. But I argue that, on Kant’s moral theory, some acts of virtual violence can be morally (...) wrong, even when no other persons or their avatars are affected. First, I explain why many have thought that, in general on Kant’s moral theory, virtual acts affecting no other persons or their avatars can’t violate the Categorical Imperative. For there are real world acts that clearly do, but it seems that when we consider the same sorts of acts done alone in a virtual environment, they don’t violate the Categorical Imperative, because no others persons were involved. But then, how could any virtual acts like these, that affect no other persons or their avatars, violate the Categorical Imperative? I then argue that there indeed can be such cases of morally wrong virtual acts—some due to an actor’s having erroneous beliefs about morally relevant facts, and others due not to error, but to the actor’s intention leaving out morally relevant facts while immersed in a virtual environment. I conclude by considering some implications of my arguments for both our present technological context as well as the future. (shrink)
My goal in this piece is to show that there is a problem lurking in the shadows of recent attempts to derive positive duties from Kant’s so-called universalizability tests and, further, to show that the most obvious way of fixing these attempts renders them unable to fulfill their function. I shall begin by motivating and explaining such an attempt.
In this paper, I confront Parfit’s Mixed Maxims Objection. I argue that recent attempts to respond to this objection fail, and I argue that their failure is compounded by the failure of recent attempts to show how the Formula of Universal Law can be used to demarcate the category of obligatory maxims. I then set out my own response to the objection, drawing on remarks from Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals for inspiration and developing a novel account of how the Formula (...) of Universal Law can be employed to determine the deontic status of action tokens, action types, and maxims. (shrink)
In this article, I reply to Jens Timmermann’s critical discussion of my essay “Contradiction and Kant’s Formula of Universal Law”. I first consider Timmermann’s reasons for rejecting my interpretation of the Formula of Universal Law. I argue that the self-contradiction relevant to determining a maxim’s moral status should not be sought in the imagined world in which the maxim is a universal law. I then discuss Timmermann’s suggestion that something like a volitional self-contradiction is found within the will of the (...) immoral agent. I deny this and clarify that the relevant contradiction is diagnosed counterfactually in moral reflection. Finally, I explain the differences between Timmermann’s account, Korsgaard’s Practical Contradiction interpretation, and my own Volitional Self-Contradiction interpretation. (shrink)
Kant’s formula of universal law says that it is morally impermissible to act on maxims which lead to a contradiction, when universalized. Korsgaard famously argues that we should understand the contradiction involved in Kant’s formula of universal law test as practical contradiction. In her later works, Korsgaard provides an argument for the truth of Kant’s moral law from the principles that are, on her view, constitutive of human agency, including the principle of publicity, the principle of universality and the hypothetical (...) imperative. In this paper I will, first, clarify Korsgaard’s argument, and, then, argue that her argument cannot vindicate Kant’s moral law. More specifically, I will argue that Korsgaard’s principles, contrary to what she aims, fail to occupy a middle ground between agent-neutral and agent-relative morality; for they rest upon an ambiguity in the notion of sharing the ends of other agents. As a result, Korsgaard’s constitutive principles are either implausible, or too weak to be able to ground our ordinary moral obligations. (shrink)
This book presents a comprehensive analysis of Kant’s justification of the categorical imperative. The book contests the standard interpretation of Kant’s views by arguing that he never abandoned his view about this as expressed in his Groundwork. It is distinctive in the way in which it places Kant’s argument in the context of his transcendental philosophy as a whole, which is essential to understand it as an argument from within human agential self-understanding. The book reviews that existing literature, then presents (...) a logical construction of Kant’s argument, which it defends by examining what Kant has to say about synthetic a priori practical propositions in the context of his transcendental philosophy as a whole, and by a detailed examination of how he presents his argument in the Second Critique and the Groundwork. Particular attention is given to the views of two scholars who share many of the views expressed in this book: Klaus Steigleder and Michael Wolff. Special attention is also given to the views of Owen Ware, who, while sharing many of our arguments has a very different overall view. The concluding chapter provides a statement about the validity of Kant’s argument. (shrink)
In this paper I am going to raise a problem for recent attempts to derive positive duties from Kant’s universalizability tests. In particular, I argue that these recent attempts are subject to reductio and that the most obvious way of patching them renders them impracticable. I begin by explaining the motivation for these attempts. Then I describe how they work and begin my attack. I conclude by considering some patches.
We discuss Kant’s conception of beneficence against the background of the overdemandingness debate. We argue that Kant’s conception of beneficence constitutes a sweet spot between overdemandingess and undemandingess. To this end we defend four key claims that together constitute a novel interpretation of Kant’s account of beneficence: 1) for the same reason that we are obligated to be beneficent to others we are permitted to be beneficent to ourselves; 2) we can prioritise our own ends; 3) it is more virtuous (...) to do more rather than less when it comes to helping others; and 4) indifference to others is vicious. Finally, we explain how this represents a system of duties that gives our personal ends a moral standing without unacceptably moralising them. (shrink)
In this paper I defend the traditional interpretations of Kant’s Formula of a Law of Nature from recent attacks leveled by Faviola Rivera-Castro, James Furner, Ido Geiger, Pauline Kleingeld and Sven Nyholm. After a short introduction, the paper is divided into four main sections. In the first, I set out the basics of the three traditional interpretations, the Logical Contradiction Interpretation, the Practical Contradiction Interpretation and the Teleological Contradiction Interpretation. In the second, I examine the work of Geiger, Kleingeld and (...) Nyholm: these three commentators reject the traditional interpretations entirely, but I argue that this rejection is ill-founded. In the third and fourth, I take a detailed look at Furner’s work, work in which he seeks to revise (rather than reject) the traditional interpretations. I argue that, despite his more modest aims, Furner’s revision is also ill-founded. (shrink)
One of the most important difficulties facing Kant’s Formula of Universal Law (FUL) is its apparent inability to show that it is always impermissible to kill others for the sake of convenience. This difficulty has led current Kantian ethicists to de-emphasize the FUL or at least complement it with other Kantian principles when dealing with murder. The difficulty stems from the fact that the maxim of convenience killing fails to generate a ‘contradiction in conception’, producing only a ‘contradiction in the (...) will’ when subjected to the two-fold test associated with the FUL. This result is thought to imply that the FUL allows us sometimes to kill for the sake of convenience. In this essay, I argue that the very diagnosis of the problem rests on a mistake, and that if the maxim of convenience killing generates a contradiction in the will, then acting on it is never permissible. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals ranks alongside Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics as one of the most profound and influential works in moral philosophy ever written.
Kantian ethics today is dominated followers of Rawls, many of them his former students. Following Rawls they interpret Kant as a moral constructivist who defines the good in terms of the reasonable. Such readings give priority to the first formulation of the categorical imperative and argue that the other two formulations are (ontologically or definitionally) dependent upon it. In contrast the aim of my paper will be to show that Kant should be interpreted firstly as a moral idealist and secondly (...) as, it least in a certain sense a particularist who takes morality to involve the exercise of recognitional capacities rather than following principles or rules. In claiming that Kant is a moral idealist we won’t mean to imply that he is an anti-realist, indeed we believe that he is a realist. Instead, by ‘moral idealism’ it is meant the position that maintains that to be moral is to instantiate an ideal. And so understood moral idealism can be seen as offering an alternative to both constructivism and utilitarianism. (shrink)
Misrepresentations can be innocuous or even useful, but Kant’s corollary to the formula of universal law appears to involve a pernicious one: “act as if the maxim of your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature”. Humans obviously cannot make their maxims into laws of nature, and it seems preposterous to claim that we are morally required to pretend that we can. Given that Kant was careful to eradicate pernicious misrepresentations from theoretical metaphysics, the imperative (...) to act as if I have this supernatural power has typically been treated as an embarrassment meriting apology. The wording of the corollary may be vindicated, however, by recognizing that “as if” (als ob) is a technical term both in the Critique of Pure Reason and here. It signals a modal shift from the assertoric to the problematic mode of cognition, one that is necessitated by the attempt to incorporate the natural effects of a free will into a universal moral imperative that is philosophically practical. In this paper I sketch how the modal shift makes sense of the corollary as a subjectively necessary, philosophically practical idealization of the extension of human freedom into nature, one that accurately represents a necessary parameter of moral conduct: moral ambition. (shrink)
Traditional rule consequentialism faces a problem sometimes called the ideal world objection—the worry that by looking only at the consequences in worlds where rules are universally adhered to, the theory fails to account for problems that arise because adherence to rules in the real world is inevitably imperfect. In response, recent theorists have defended sophisticated versions of rule consequentialism which are sensitive to the consequences in worlds with less utopian levels of adherence. In this paper, I argue that these attempts (...) underestimate the problem they are designed to avoid—the worry about ideal worlds is only one manifestation of a deeper and more general problem, the distant world objection, which threatens not only the sophisticated revisions of rule consequentialism, but any view which determines what we ought to do by evaluating worlds that differ from ours in more than what is up to us. (shrink)
This book provides an entry-level introduction to philosophical ethics, theories of moral reasoning, and selected issues in applied ethics. Chapter 1 describes the importance of philosophical approaches to ethical issues, the general dialectical form of moral reasoning, and the broad landscape of moral philosophy. Chapter 2 presents egoism and relativism as challenges to the presumed objectivity and unconditionality of morality. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 discuss utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics, respectively. Each chapter begins with a general overview of the (...) characteristic theory of value and moral reasoning and proceeds to present a more refined account based on a prominent historical source (Mill, Kant, and Aristotle, respectively). It then discusses strengths and weaknesses of the theory from a contemporary perspective, including more recent developments, defenses, and critiques. Each chapter includes an appendix in which secondary, less prominent, or more complex issues are discussed. Chapters 6-9 address in detail a prominent area of applied ethics: 6. abortion, 7. assisted dying, 8. Biotechnology, 9. Animals and eating. Each of these chapters presents an introduction to the topic, including definitions, historical and contemporary developments and contexts, etc.; the various questions and issues involved; and an application of each theory from multiple points of view. Each chapter also includes a set of primary readings along with an extensive bibliography. Chapter 10 discusses four more areas of applied ethics: War, Torture, and Terrorism; Capital Punishment; Environmental Ethics; and Same-Sex Marriage. The treatment of these topics focuses mainly on the introductory material. While there is some discussion of the various ethical arguments, it is less comprehensive or detailed compared to other chapters. However, several primary resources are listed to supplement the discussion in the textbook. (shrink)
Kant uses ‘wish’ as a technical term to denote a strange species of desire. It is an instance in which someone wills an object that she simultaneously knows she cannot bring about. Or in more Kantian garb: it is an instance of the faculty of desire’s (or will’s) failing insofar as a desire (representation) cannot be the cause of the realization of its corresponding object in reality. As a result, Kant originally maintained it to be antithetical to morality, which deals (...) with ‘ought implies can’. However, Kant’s notion of wish is not static. On the contrary, I argue in this article that Kant re-evaluated the capacity to wish as (to some extent) causally efficacious and, further, of moral relevance. This re-evaluation has not been discussed in the literature, yet has been lurking in plain sight in a subtle but decisive shift evident in two versions of a footnote from the *Critique of the Power of Judgement* (KU). (shrink)
In this volume Paul Formosa sets out a novel approach to Kantian ethics as an ethics of dignity by focusing on the Formula of Humanity as a normative principle distinct from the Formula of Universal Law. By situating the Kantian conception of dignity within the wider literature on dignity, he develops an important distinction between status dignity, which all rational agents have, and achievement dignity, which all rational agents should aspire to. He then explores constructivist and realist views on the (...) foundation of the dignity of rational agents, before developing a compelling account of who does and does not have status dignity and of what kind of achievement dignity or virtue we, as vulnerable rational agents, can and should strive for. His study will be highly valuable for those interested in Kant's ethical, moral and political philosophies. (shrink)
My goal in this paper is to show that it is not the case that positive duties can be derived from Kant’s so-called universalizability tests. I begin by explaining in detail what I mean by this and distinguishing it from a few things that I am not doing in this paper. After that, I confront the idea of a maxim contradictory, a concept that is advanced by many com- mentators in the attempt to derive positive duties from the universalizability tests. (...) I ex- plain what a maxim contradictory is and how the concept is used to derive positive duties. Then I argue that the notion of a maxim contradictory presupposes an objectionable form of maxim realism. I move from there to the idea of a maxim contrary and the deliberative field. These two ideas are used in tandem by commentators who do not appeal to maxim contradictories. I explain how these concepts are used to derive positive duties and then I argue that there is a systematic error in the derivations that enables one to see that they cannot work. (shrink)
In a series of well known publications, Christine Korsgaard argues for the claim that an agent acts morally just in case s/he acts autonomously. Two of Korsgaard's signature arguments for the connection between morality and autonomy are the "argument from spontaneity" and the "regress argument." In this paper, I argue that neither the argument from spontaneity nor the regress argument is able to show that an agent would be acting wrongly even if s/he acts in a paradigmatically heteronomous fashion.
Kant’s most prominent formulation of the Categorical Imperative, known as the Formula of Universal Law (FUL), is generally thought to demand that one act only on maxims that one can will as universal laws without this generating a contradiction. Kant's view is standardly summarized as requiring the 'universalizability' of one's maxims and described in terms of the distinction between 'contradictions in conception' and 'contradictions in the will'. Focusing on the underappreciated significance of the simultaneity condition included in the FUL, I (...) argue, by contrast, that the principle is better read as requiring that one be able to will two things simultaneously without self-contradiction, namely, that a maxim be one's own and that it be a universal law. This amounts to a new interpretation of the FUL with significant interpretive and philosophical advantages. (shrink)
This collection features 10 essays on a variety of topics in Kant's ethics. Part 1 addresses questions about the interpretation and justification of the categorical imperative. Part 2 is concerned with the doctrine of virtue, while part 3 delves into various issues pertaining to Kant's moral psychology of evil.
Artificial intelligence and robotics is pervasive in daily life and set to expand to new levels potentially replacing human decision-making and action. Self-driving cars, home and healthcare robots, and autonomous weapons are some examples. A distinction appears to be emerging between potentially benevolent civilian uses of the technology (eg unmanned aerial vehicles delivering medicines), and potentially malevolent military uses (eg lethal autonomous weapons killing human com- batants). Machine-mediated human interaction challenges the philosophical basis of human existence and ethical conduct. Aside (...) from technical challenges of ensuring ethical conduct in artificial intelligence and robotics, there are moral questions about the desirability of replacing human functions and the human mind with such technology. How will artificial intelligence and robotics engage in moral reasoning in order to act ethically? Is there a need for a new set of moral rules? What happens to human interaction when it is mediated by technology? Should such technology be used to end human life? Who bears responsibility for wrongdoing or harmful conduct by artificial intelligence and robotics? -/- Whilst Kant may be familiar to international lawyers for setting restraints on the use of force and rules for perpetual peace, his foundational work on ethics provides an inclusive moral philosophy for assessing ethical conduct of individuals and states and, thus, is relevant to discussions on the use and development of artificial intelligence and robotics. His philosophy is inclusive because it incorporates justifications for morals and legitimate responses to immoral conduct, and applies to all human agents irrespective of whether they are wrongdoers, unlawful combatants, or unjust enemies. Humans are at the centre of rational thinking, action, and norm-creation so that the rationale for restraints on methods and means of warfare, for example, is based on preserving human dignity as well as ensuring conditions for perpetual peace among states. Unlike utilitarian arguments which favour use of autonomous weapons on the basis of cost-benefit reasoning or the potential to save lives, Kantian ethics establish non-consequentialist and deontological rules which are good in themselves to follow and not dependent on expediency or achieving a greater public good. -/- Kantian ethics make two distinct contributions to the debate. First, they provide a human-centric ethical framework whereby human exist- ence and capacity are at the centre of a norm-creating moral philosophy guiding our understanding of moral conduct. Second, the ultimate aim of Kantian ethics is practical philosophy that is relevant and applicable to achieving moral conduct. -/- I will seek to address the moral questions outlined above by exploring how core elements of Kantian ethics relate to use of artificial intelli- gence and robotics in the civilian and military spheres. Section 2 sets out and examines core elements of Kantian ethics: the categorical imperative; autonomy of the will; rational beings and rational thinking capacity; and human dignity and humanity as an end in itself. Sections 3-7 consider how these core elements apply to artificial intelligence and robotics with discussion of fully autonomous and human-machine rule-generating approaches; types of moral reasoning; the difference be- tween ‘human will’ and ‘machine will’; and respecting human dignity. (shrink)
A publicação do volume XX dos escritos completos de Kant publicado pela Academia de Berlin, editado por Lehmann em 1942, representou uma contribuição fundamental para a interpretação do desenvolvimento da filosofia moral de Kant, uma vez que, pela primeira vez, os intérpretes tiveram acesso ao extrato completo das decisivas Anotações (Bemerkungen) kantianas em seu exemplar particular de Observações sobre o Sentimento do Belo e do Sublime. De fato, pouca progressão havia sido observada no trabalho dos primeiros intérpretes do desenvolvimento, que, (...) com acesso apenas aos excertos incompletos organizados anteriormente por Schubert, não foram capazes de avaliar adequadamente os problemas fundamentais da filosofia moral com os quais Kant, em sigilo, estava preocupado nesse contexto. Em certo ponto, estas anotações deixam de ser um adendo aos temas da obra de Observações para tornarem-se reflexões críticas profundas sobre os escritos rousseaunianos, que, surpreendentemente,nos permite reconhecer os traços mais básicos da teoria ética que, mais tarde, seria apresentada na Fundamentação da Metafísica dos Costumes. Com efeito, isso levou a literatura, desde a segunda metade do século XX, a reconhecer“uma perfeição inicial” da ética kantiana, uma vez que, já naquele tempo, Kant parece compreendera consciência moral “totalmente a partir da essência da vontade”, o que o conduz à“fórmula do imperativo categórico a partir da universalidade da vontade”. (shrink)
RESUMO Neste artigo, busco identificar, por meio de algumas passagens da "Fundamentação da Metafísica dos Costumes" e da "Crítica da Razão Prática", o debate de Kant com a Filosofia Prática Universal de Wolff. Em um primeiro momento, apresento, de forma sucinta, alguns aspectos gerais da metafísica e da ética wolffiana com o intuito de, em um segundo momento, explicitar como algumas considerações de Kant, em suas duas primeiras obras morais, incidem diretamente nas teses de seu predecessor. A crítica de Kant (...) é apresentada nas seguintes etapas. Primeiro, destaco, diante das teses de Wolff, o argumento kantiano sobre a impossibilidade de se estabelecerem os princípios da faculdade superior de apetição e da obrigação moral a partir do prazer baseado nas representações e, por conseguinte, no princípio da felicidade. Em um segundo momento, sublinho a reivindicação kantiana de uma razão prática pura como a única base da faculdade superior de apetição. A partir disso, é notável o surgimento dos novos conceitos kantianos de lei formal, de liberdade e de perfeição moral. Por último, destaco, ainda em diálogo com Wolff, como a razão prática pura, compreendida como faculdade superior de apetição, pode representar não apenas as bases da necessidade moral, mas também uma fonte adequada de motivação. ABSTRACT In this Paper, I seek to identify Kant's debate with Wolff`s Universal Practical Philosophy in some passages of the "Foundations of Metaphysics of Morals" and of the "Critique of Practical Reason". At first, I briefly present some general aspects of Wolff`s metaphysics and ethics aiming at, in a second step, stressing how some of Kant's considerations, in his first two moral works, have a direct impact on the theses of his predecessor. First, stressing the discussion with Wolff, I highlight Kant's argument about the impossibility of establishing the principles of the superior faculty of desire and of moral obligation from the pleasure on the representations and, therefore, in the principle of happiness. In a second step, I stress the Kantian claim of pure practical reason as the basis of the superior faculty of desire. Thence, I show how the new Kantian concepts of formal law, freedom and moral perfection emerge. Finally, I highlight, still in a dialogue with Wolff, how the pure practical reason may represent not only the foundations of moral necessity, but also how it may be a proper source of motivation. (shrink)
Writers like Christine Korsgaard and Allen Wood understand Kant's idea of rational nature as an end in itself as a commitment to a substantive value. This makes it hard for them to explain the supposed equivalence between the universal law and humanity formulations of the categorical imperative, since the former does not appear to assert any substantive value. Nor is it easy for defenders of value-based readings to explain Kant's claim that the law-giving nature of practical reason makes all beings (...) with practical reason regard the idea of a rational nature as an end in itself. This article seeks to replace these value-based readings with a reading of the idea of rational nature as an end that fits better with the overall argument of the Groundwork. (shrink)
To use Kantian ethics in an applied context, decision makers typically try to determine whether the “maxim” of their possible action conforms to Kant’s supreme principle of morality: “I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law” (4:402). The action’s maxim is a way of expressing the decision maker’s (a) putative action and (b) conditions that prompt the action in a (c) preposition of a form that (...) will allow her to perform (d) tests, specified by Kant’s moral principle, which determine the action’s moral permissibility. Despite the clear importance of crafting this maxim—e.g., so it meets standards (a)-(d)—for using Kantian ethics to answer real and pressing ethical questions, existing accounts do not offer sustained guidance about maxim crafting. This paper offers such guidance. The paper also shows that properly crafting maxims, using guidelines that Kant implies but does not himself set forth, allows Kantian ethics to defeat classic objections. Both projects contribute to the aim of showing that Kantian ethics should play a role both in debating current ethical challenges and in teaching ethics. (shrink)
This paper provides a methodologically original construction of Kant’s “Formula of Universal Law” . A formal structure consisting of possible worlds and games—a “game frame”—is used to implement Kant’s concept of a maxim and to define the two tests FUL comprises: the “contradiction in conception” and “contradiction in the will” tests. The paper makes two contributions. Firstly, the model provides a formal account of the variables that are built into FUL: agents, maxims, intentions, actions, and outcomes. This establishes a clear (...) benchmark for understanding how the mechanics of FUL actually work. Secondly, the analysis of the resulting framework sheds new light on discussions about the implications of FUL. On the basis of this, we suggest a move to “comprehensive Kantianism’, which is the application of FUL to systems of maxims rather than to isolated maxims. (shrink)
The categorical imperative can be construed as a universalization test for moral permissibility. False negatives of the categorical imperative would be maxims failing this test, despite the permissibility of their actions; maxims like: ‘I’ll withdraw all my savings on April 15th’. Examples of purported false negatives familiar from the literature can be grouped into three general categories, and dispatched by applying category-specific methods for proper formulation of their maxims, or for proper testing. Methods for reformulating failing maxims, such as the (...) addition of appropriate conditional clauses, do not generate false-positive counterexamples in other instances. (shrink)
This book offers new readings of Kant’s “universal law” and “humanity” formulations of the categorical imperative. It shows how, on these readings, the formulas do indeed turn out being alternative statements of the same basic moral law, and in the process responds to many of the standard objections raised against Kant’s theory. Its first chapter briefly explores the ways in which Kant draws on his philosophical predecessors such as Plato (and especially Plato’s Republic) and Jean-Jacque Rousseau. The second chapter offers (...) a new reading of the relation between the universal law and humanity formulas by relating both of these to a third formula of Kant’s, viz. the “law of nature” formula, and also to Kant’s ideas about laws in general and human nature in particular. The third chapter considers and rejects some influential recent attempts to understand Kant’s argument for the humanity formula, and offers an alternative reconstruction instead. Chapter four considers what it is to flourish as a human being in line with Kant’s basic formulas of morality, and argues that the standard readings of the humanity formula cannot properly account for its relation to Kant’s views about the highest human good. (shrink)
Kantians are increasingly deserting the universal law formula in favor of the humanity formula. The former, they argue, is open to various decisive objections; the two are not equivalent; and it is only by appealing to the humanity formula that Kant can reliably generate substantive implications from his theory of an acceptable sort. These assessments of the universal law formula, which clash starkly with Kant's own assessment of it, are based on various widely accepted interpretative assumptions. These assumptions, it is (...) argued in this article, depend on misleading translations of key terms; selective attention to Kant's concrete examples; not taking seriously Kant's theoretical claims about the relations among his various ideas; and a failure to take into account Kant's idiosyncratic definitions of key concepts. The article seeks to right these interpretative wrongs, and finds that the universal law formula is not open to many of the standard objections. (shrink)
Kant’s moral philosophy usually considers two types of duties: negative duties that prohibit certain actions and positive duties commanding action. With that, Kant insists on deriving all morality from reason alone. Such is the Categorical Imperative that Kant lays at the basis of ethics. Yet while negative duties can be derived from the Categorical Imperative and thus from reason, the paper argues that this is not the case with positive duties. After answering a number of attempts to derive positive duties (...) from the Categorical Imperative, most notably those of Barbara Herman, it sketches an alternative approach to understanding the relationship between the universal moral law and specific moral contents. (shrink)
In recent years, the claim of the unrepresentability of the Shoah has stirred vivid debates, especially following the strong positions taken by the French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann and author of Shoah (1986). This claim of unrepresentability, it can be shown, draws part of its attraction from the fact that it oscillates undecidedly between a claim of logical impossibility (“the Shoah can’t be represented”) and a normative demand (“the Shoah shouldn’t be represented”). This essay analyzes the argumentative structure of the advocates (...) of the unrepresentability and shows why the often made connection to Kant is flawed. Although his Critique of the Power of Judgment affirms indeed that the prohibition of representation is the “perhaps most sublime passage in the Jewish Law”, turning the prohibition of representation into a supposedly Kantian claim does not hold grounds. The essay reconstructs the political framework of the debate, situates the Kantian passage in its precise philosophical context and then successively assesses the main arguments put forward by Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière and Georges Didi-Huberman in their critique of Lanzmann’s categorical imperative. While showing why the rhetoric of the “unrepresentable” bear troubling structural analogies to what they want to fight (i.e. the politics of erasure, which always also include the erasure of the traces of erasure), a certain notion of the “unrepresentable” is rescued nevertheless at the end of the essay. Representation, so it is argued by returning to a Kantian distinction, is not a matter of Kanon, but a matter of Organon, which then puts the debate about the Sublime (which took place between Lyotard and Rancière in the 90’s) into a new perspective. (shrink)
Moral criticism sometimes takes the form of asking: What if everyone acted the way you do? Such criticism seems to be grounded in some form of moral reasoning, which has in the past been the aim of various efforts of clarification, refutation and defense, in the guise of interpretations of Kant's Categorical Imperative as well as in Analytic Ethics. The book forms the first monographic attempt since decades to establish systematic order among contributions to the field. It examines a wide (...) spectrum of generalization procedures with respect to the plausibility of their outputs, analyses their shortcomings and arrives at novel results. (shrink)
In this paper I look at the connection between willing and believing for Kant’s and Kantian ethics. I argue that the two main formulations of the categorical imperative are relativized to agents according to their beliefs. I then point out three different ways in which Kant or a present-day Kantian might defend this position. I conclude with some remarks about the contrast between Kant’s legal theory and his ethical theory.