Kant, Vice, and Global Poverty

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (2):271-286 (2023)
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In this paper, I argue that within Kantianism, widespread indifference of the global rich to the suffering of the global poor should be understood as resulting at least partly from vice. Kant had much more to say about vice than is often recognized, and it forms a crucial part of his moral anthropology. Kantians should thus attend to the ways in which vice functions as a practical obstacle to fulfilling duties of beneficence. In vice-fueled indifference, inclinations associated with self-love and self-conceit work their way into our wills, interfering with our moral commitments by impeding our ability to recognize moral requirements and our motivation to act on them. Vice distorts our reasoning in ways that promote self-deception and rationalization about the extent to which we are fulfilling moral demands. Kantian vice also has social dimensions. I argue that widespread indifference exacerbates our individual vices through social norms and practices that legitimize ignoring the needs of others. I conclude by offering some potential remedies to indifference within the Kantian framework.

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Karen Stohr
Georgetown University

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