Kant on Ethical Institutions

Southern Journal of Philosophy 57 (1):30-55 (2019)
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This paper analyzes the ethical-political dilemma in Kant’s work, sometimes expressed through the metaphor of the “crooked wood of humanity.” Kant separates external and internal freedom and the types of legislation each form of freedom requires (coercive and noncoercive). Yet, he also argues that corrupt political institutions adversely affect individual ethical development, and, reciprocally, corrupt inner dispositions of a populace adversely affect the establishment of just political institutions. I argue that a major way in which Kant addresses this vicious circle is through ethical institutions, that is, noncoercive public resources for articulating and disseminating the principles of the moral law. I discuss the idea of an ethico-civil society or ethical community formulated in the Religion as an ideal model for ethical institutions mediating the ethical and the legal-political in a noncoercive, progressive manner.



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