Moral and Political Prudence in Kant

International Philosophical Quarterly 44 (3):305-319 (2004)
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This paper challenges the standard view that Kant ignored the role of prudence in moral life by arguing that there are two notions of prudence at work in his moral and political thought. First, prudence is ordinarily understood as a technical imperative of skill that consists in reasoning about the means to achieve a particular conditional end. Second, prudence functions as a secondary form of practical thought that plays a significant role in the development of applied moral and political judgment. The political judgment of citizens and politicians is prudence regulatively guided by right and virtue. As informed by regulative ideas, prudential judgment negotiates the demands of these ideas in relation to the cultural, political, and social realities of a particular form of life. This sense of prudence is empirically informed and involves a context-sensitive application of morality as well as conceptions of individual and general welfare

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Eric S. Nelson
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

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