Radical Evil As A Regulative Idea

Journal of the History of Philosophy 55 (4):641-673 (2017)
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Abstract

Kant's doctrine of the radical evil in human nature invites at least two serious worries: first, it is unclear how Kant could establish the claim that all human beings adopt an evil maxim; second, this claim seems to conflict with central features of Kant's doctrine of freedom. I argue, via criticisms of various charitable interpretations, that these problems are indeed insuperable if we read Kant as trying to establish that all human beings are evil as a matter of fact. I then develop an alternative reading that avoids these problems. On my reading, Kant transforms the complaint that humans are evil into a prescriptive regulative principle. Although we cannot know whether all human beings really are evil, we ought to presuppose “inextirpable” human evil in the context of moral “ascetic”, the practical field that answers to the duty of moral self-perfection and that aims at the development of virtue.

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Markus Kohl
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Citations of this work

Noumenal Freedom and Kant’s Modal Antinomy.Uygar Abaci - 2022 - Kantian Review 27 (2):175-194.
Every man has his price: Kant's argument for universal radical evil.Jonas Jervell Indregard - 2022 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 65 (4):414-436.

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